Sunday, November 25, 2018

Moulton Falls and other Falls

Since the cold ugly months rolled in Me and the wife have decided to go back to exploring little things we might avoid in better weather. A literal fog advisory rolled in on Portland two days after Thanksgiving, but it was okay because we headed north to the east fork Lewis River.

Our destination this go-around was Moulton Falls park, a weeny little park on the river east of Battle Ground, Washington. It lies in the western foothills of Silver Star Mountain and the Yacolt Burn area. It offers a lot of areas to swim and picnic, as well as places to almost die at the hands of your dickhead friends. 

The "falls" are located next to a little parking lot on the road. Moulton Falls is more of a big rapid than anything else, but because the river gets so rocky you can practically walk out on it.

A quick walk past the house to the crosswalk across the road leads you on a short path up a side creek to another waterfall, this one much more interesting. There is a train station up a further path and a nice grate bridge over the creek. Excellent photo opportunities abound.


The remains of an unlucky picnic table

The trail loops back across the road to the bathroom and the overflow parking. Then it dips down to the river for excellent photos of the east fork high bridge. We were lucky to get to this park early, even on a late Nov. Saturday it filled up fast and any later would have given us no picture opportunities without randos in them.

The trail hikes up to the bridge and the bridge offers a great view of the gorge. A path upstream before crossing offers a way to walk further up the river to yet another falls but with all the rocks being so wet and an annoying dog we turned around.

From the other side of the bridge a converted road follows the river for 2.5 miles to the Hantwick trailhead. There is one junction along the way to Bells Mountain, and you can reach Silver Star from here if you hate yourself and want to hike 10 miles and then 10 back.

The trail to Hantwick is boring but flat. A section near the end is paved. There is lots of horsepoop. Once at Hantwick we elected to try a little backdoor sneaking into Lucia Falls park. If you walk another 2/3rds mile or so from the trailhead you can cross the river again and sneak behind a fence onto the public land of Lucia Falls park. Another quarter mile and you can see Lucia Falls, which is actually really nice. The falls itself isn't too amazing, but the rock formations in the area are really fun to wander and explore.

After wandering around we headed the long way back to the car. All in all, with our random wanderings and extra walking to Lucia Falls we managed 9 miles out of maybe 2 miles of interesting land. Moulton Falls is a neat little spot but I can tell it is likely a mob of families on summer days.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Lewis River Trail plus a few other things

It's been a rough few months for hiking. Keeley had the emergency surgery to deal with her appendix, and that sidelined us for roughly a month. 

Right when she was on the mend we finally got out again to Table Rock, where we had essentially the exact same hike as last time in that we got 5 minutes of beauty before it dumped rain on us. We got some nice pictures though.

People for scale

The weekend after that, I went for a bike ride and hit a mud patch, falling pretty hard on my side and bruising my ribs pretty bad. I was miserable for 2 weeks and still unable to really get out and enjoy myself without pain for another 2. As a consequence the only thing I really got to explore was Dark Souls.

Last weekend I finally felt fine enough to get back out and I had the weekend to myself so I decided to clean up a few loose ends. It involved 3 different short hikes that added up to roughly 6.5 miles. First up was Beacon Rock.

There was supposedly a trail from Beacon Rock down to the river, but I could never find it off of the Beacon Rock trail. Turns out I had to pass the Beacon Rock trail for about 20 yards to the less official parking lot, where the trailhead for the "Rock to River" trail starts. This trail is a short .75 miles down past the marshy remnants of Ridell Lake to the Beacon Rock boat launch area. Then I walked around the meadows and went all the way down to the river. It was strange, because this is the first time I'd ever really gone to the waterfront of the Columbia and stood at the river. Normally I park and walk away from the river. It offered a nice view of the Nesmith point region. Probably would have been even nicer on a less gloomy day.

Multnomah Falls

A quick hike back to Beacon Rock left me with another option. Off to the left side of the bathroom structure lies a small path used only by rock climbers. It shoots downhill and actually climbs around the front of Beacon Rock where it terminates on a cliff. What's interesting here is being right below the cliffs, and the 3 mysterious caves that go back really far into the rock. I wasn't crawling on my knees to explore that stuff, but they certainly were creepy.

My next quest was a short connection trail from Bridge of the Gods to the Bonneville Trailhead. It is part of the PCT that eventually loops to Gillette Lake and Table Mountain. It is just a mild 1.5 mile connector that runs under power lines and is in fact, very ugly. Starting at the Bonneville Trailhead to explore this area is the better idea.

My final and least remarkable excursion was the St. Cloud area. It is just a small picnic field on the river, even less interesting than the park by Beacon Rock. It offers a short 1/4 mile loop through apple trees that make apples you can't eat. There's nothing of value outside a nice riverview and picnic tables that are probably empty even in the best seasons.

After clearing up those loose ends and marking them off on my map we finally had a weekend to take a nice proper hike. We chose to try something new and drove 2 hours to the Gifford Pincot forest to find the Lewis River Trail.

The Lewis River Trail is a wonderful stretch of 3.5 miles. It starts at the Lewis River Campground, a fairly large area with a small parking lot dedicated to the trailhead. The trail starts with a bang, a glorious view of Lower Falls. The falls is a wide, complicated beast that isn't too tall but makes up for it in intricacies and interesting rock formations. The area is slippery but careful people can get some good photos from the top. I couldn't find any way to the bottom that looked safe. 

The trail stays mostly level heading northeast from here. At one point the trail switchbacks due to a landslide, and climbs out of the river gorge to the Middle Falls parking lot via a rock pile. You can hear little pikas in the rocks, which thrilled our dog. 

The trail then goes through a beautiful grove on a wide path and loops back around a smaller falls on Copper Creek down to rejoin the actual trail at Middle Falls. Middle falls is smaller than Lower Falls and you can't get a great view of it due to the angle (unless you ford the river, a dangerous idea, at least in Nov).

The trail then continues through old growth and mega-huge fir trees to Upper Falls, which you can climb to various amazing viewpoints of. The lower views offer great pictures, and once you take the short, steep climb out of the gorge you can get an overlook view of the amazing channels above the falls. 

This is a solid turn around point, but if you go another .75 miles you can hit Quartz Creek trailhead, which is the official "end". It's an easy ramble through quiet woods and offers a distant view of Taitnapum Falls. Yeah I don't know how to pronounce that either. From here offers a nice turnaround for completionists.

Total was about 8.5 miles with 1300 elevation gain. Outside the short steep climb out of the Upper Falls area, the trail is largely just gentle undulations and anyone can do it. It's a bit of a drive from anywhere, but it was worth it.