Gorge Two-fer, it's all about the salamanders!

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miah66
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Gorge Two-fer, it's all about the salamanders!

Post by miah66 » December 2nd, 2014, 4:23 pm

Opening pic:

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After missing out on an Opal Creek hiking meetup on Friday, I felt pretty lame. Granted, the weather was awful here on Friday so staying warm and dry on the couch could be forgiven. ;) I was bound and determined to give meaning to Saturday, however, regardless of the forecast.

The day's weather started out pretty typical for Portland winters. It was chilly and gray, but not raining at least. My wife and I were thinking of doing Multnomah Falls/Wahkeena Loop, but with all the trail damage, we weren't sure if it would be possible. We opted for 2 short hikes, both new spots to my wife. Last winter during the big freeze, I took my buddy to upper Latourell Falls and it was so easy AND cool, that I decided to show the better half.

There were plenty of parking spots left at the lot when we arrived around 10:15 am. Angel's Rest lot wasn't even full yet. We decided to do the full loop in reverse, starting at the lot and heading West to the lower park & picnic area of Guy Talbot Park, then back across the road and up the hill on the Western bank of Latourell Creek. This trail begins away from the water and goes up through the trees at a steep grade before leveling off and approaching the creek at the top of the falls. There is a steep use trail down to the edge of the falls, but no real good views, just water disappearing 224' down over the basalt cliff face. If you look closely, you might see hikers on the paved trail below. DO NOT APPROACH THE CLIFF EDGE Continuing up the main trail, there are several forks down to the water, or high water trails. Stay on the main path and soon you hear the water roar as you begin to approach the upper falls.

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It's kind of an interesting falls in that there is are two drops, one into a narrow chasm where the water is then funneled to the side where it drops again into the main splash pool. A bridge allows you to cross to continue the hike back on the Eastern side of Latourell Creek.

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You can also approach the falls and get a picture similar to this :lol: :

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Rabbit Ears extra:

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It was sleeting a bit as we hiked, but nothing really dampened our spirits since we were happy to be hiking! We passed several families w/ small children, a group from Sweden who were visiting a local family (nice meeting you!) and a couple of dogs (on leashes!).

I like hiking the trail in this direction. It starts out slow, but gradually builds to the upper falls, a true highlight, and then you wind your way down the creek where you have peaks through the trees at the astounding lower Latourell falls.

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Eventually you come back to the parking lot, but you have to take the lower portion of the trail to the true highlight of the hike, the lower falls.

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I never tire of this waterfall.
2.6 mi, 600' e.g.

The parking lot was pretty full when we got back, and swarms of people were in/out of their cars for photos in the cold at the parking lot viewpoint. After a quick bite in the car, we went to Cascade Locks to hike Dry Creek falls. Angel's Rest was now full and cars lined the road. Wahkeena Trailhead was a construction disaster area. Fortunately things quieted as we headed East. The hike begins at the PCT winter trailhead off Moody Rd, as the parking lot near the Bridge of the Gods is now gated. There were about 7 cars parked under I-84 when we arrived. The sky was heavy gray clouds alternating with patches of blue sky and the cliffs of the Gorge were coated in a light dusting of snow on both sides of the river.

The trail is never steep and it winds happily through lovely forest as the din of the highway gradually disappears. The trail crosses a powerline right-of-way and soon you come to the old Dry Creek access road, where you make a right and head up along Dry Creek. Only a few hundred feet before you see the 75 foot falls gushing through the trees. Before that however, what's this? On the trail in front of me is a brown glob w/ 4 legs!

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It's a Pacific Giant Salamander! I've waited almost 7 years to see one! I took way too many pictures of this momentous event. :lol:

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Ok, mugging with the waterfall:

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It's a really beautiful falls. Staring at it for awhile, you notice that there are several tiers behind the visible one, but it would be almost impossible to see them w/o rappelling or dangerous climbing. The notch this falls has carved is massive! It's almost taller than the falls themselves. I wondered as I watched, did the falls carve the notch at the same rate it scoured the splash pool? If so, then it has always been the same height. If not, then it was once much taller.

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Notch pano:

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4.5 mi, 850' eg.

We were the last car left at the parking area upon our return, though we only saw a few other groups of people the whole time.

Finished the day off w/ a stop at Thunder Island Brewing. They are gonna have a new Stout by next week, hopefully. Looking forward to more gorge hikes this winter!
"The top...is not the top" - Mile...Mile & a Half

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MarsIsCobra
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Re: Gorge Two-fer, it's all about the salamanders!

Post by MarsIsCobra » December 2nd, 2014, 7:51 pm

wow. i am in on that salamander! nice

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Crusak
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Re: Gorge Two-fer, it's all about the salamanders!

Post by Crusak » December 2nd, 2014, 8:10 pm

I enjoyed your TR. It seemed like a relaxing day of exploration. Those elusive salamanders! Nice find. I haven't found one of those in many years.
miah66 wrote:Finished the day off w/ a stop at Thunder Island Brewing. They are gonna have a new Stout by next week, hopefully. Looking forward to more gorge hikes this winter!
Excellent way to cap off the day! :D
Jim's Hikes

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Peabody
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Re: Gorge Two-fer, it's all about the salamanders!

Post by Peabody » December 2nd, 2014, 9:53 pm

Both of those are great hikes, I need to make sure I do those this winter.

I'm jealous of the Salamander pictures. I've yet to see one, small, medium or Giant. :cry: Is there some kinda secret to finding/spotting them?

Mrs. P and I love stopping by Thunder Island Brewing after a hike. So much so, that we've started referring to the Thunder Island Brewing parking lot as "the trail head" and consider the the walk to the front door "a hike".
"I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
― E.B. White

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miah66
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Re: Gorge Two-fer, it's all about the salamanders!

Post by miah66 » December 3rd, 2014, 10:40 am

Crusak wrote:Those elusive salamanders! Nice find. I haven't found one of those in many years.
Peabody wrote:I'm jealous of the Salamander pictures. I've yet to see one, small, medium or Giant. :cry: Is there some kinda secret to finding/spotting them?
If there is, I don't know it. This is the first one I've ever seen in 8 years in the NW. Truthfully it didn't move the entire time I was looking at it, and I nearly stepped on it!
Peabody wrote:Mrs. P and I love stopping by Thunder Island Brewing after a hike. So much so, that we've started referring to the Thunder Island Brewing parking lot as "the trail head" and consider the the walk to the front door "a hike".
:lol: :lol:
"The top...is not the top" - Mile...Mile & a Half

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CraigG
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Re: Gorge Two-fer, it's all about the salamanders!

Post by CraigG » December 3rd, 2014, 4:02 pm

Excellent TR - thanks for posting miah!

-CraigG

ebishop
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Re: Gorge Two-fer, it's all about the salamanders!

Post by ebishop » December 3rd, 2014, 11:03 pm

Excellent use of the day. Just an aside, I'm pretty sure Sean's sighting method is to carry a giant salamander in his pack and strategically run off ahead of his hiking partners so he can "find" one on almost every hike... ;)

aywolfpac
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Re: Gorge Two-fer, it's all about the salamanders!

Post by aywolfpac » December 5th, 2014, 4:43 pm

Those salamanders are awesome. I've seen two of them and it's always a big highlight.

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drm
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Re: Gorge Two-fer, it's all about the salamanders!

Post by drm » December 6th, 2014, 8:01 am

ebishop wrote:Just an aside, I'm pretty sure Sean's sighting method is to carry a giant salamander in his pack and strategically run off ahead of his hiking partners so he can "find" one on almost every hike... ;)
Sean - say it ain't so! We need to have faith in our PH heroes!

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