With both the heat and smoke making it difficult to enjoy the garden this week, while also discouraging any hiking escapes, I thought I'd finally share pictures of a hike I did in June. The following are photos from my hike up Eagle Creek in the Columbia River Gorge to Twister Falls. This is a very photo heavy post, perfect to while away part of a hot afternoon.

I didn't take as many photos as I normally would, because it's a 13-mile hike and I was hoping to stop at Xera on the way home (I made it in time). So I made speed a higher priority than usual. My first photographic stop was at Punch Bowl Falls, a short side trip off the main trail. No, I did not walk across this log below the lower falls. I just liked this scene. That cool water would be marvelous right now. I'm fairly certain I could hear Metlako Falls just a bit earlier on the trail. Unfortunately, the viewpoint for this fall, down a short side trail, collapsed into the canyon and hikers may never be able to view these falls again (except for the really intrepid daredevils with special equipment to climb down into the canyon, not something the average hiker can do).

 The top of the lower falls, with the upper falls out of sight beyond the steep canyon walls, covered in greenery.

This is a fantastic spot to enjoy the cool morning. Basalt walls covered in moss and shadows enclose you while Eagle Creek flows across gravel beds and solid rock. Just get there before the obnoxious crowds hike up the trail to turn this spot into a pool party. No trail etiquette and the area above, where the trail to the falls splits off the main trail, has more TP than any other trail I've seen. Luckily, you leave 90% of the crowds behind once you hike back up to the main trail and past Punch Bowl Falls.

At least in the morning, though, it's a beautiful place to enjoy. I wasn't prepared to wade  upstream for a closer view of Punch Bowl Falls, so this will have to do. I don't normally try to alter my photos, but I made an exception for this one, attempting to lighten the shadows and lower the highlights to combat the extreme lighting.

Back up on the main trail now. Linnaea borealis is one of my favorite natives. A lovely name for a beautiful little ground cover.

Looking down at the basin below Punch Bowl Falls from up above. This hike is one of the most tortuously teasing I've been on, in that you spend most of the time far above the creek and only get occluded views like this one, at best. You hear more waterfalls than you see.

The trail is mostly forested and doesn't offer the intense floral displays of other Gorge hikes, like Dog Mountain on the Washington side, but it had a great variety of plants, some of which I had never seen before.

This is the first time I've seen Galium oreganum, or Oregon bedstraw. It has much wider leaves than its garden relative, Galium odoratum.

Lush maidenhair ferns growing in a seep along the trail.

And more maidenhair ferns dotting a wall of columnar basalt dripping with water.

A tumbled hillside of rocks and boulders covered in moss, cradling patches of Sedum spathulifolium.

This mossy slope covered in a shiny-leaved native heuchera was beautiful to behold.

The canyon is a place of extremes, and I don't just mean the steep slopes. Almost everywhere seemed to either be extremely dry, or a seepage dripping with ferns.

There were a few trail-side showers along the way, refreshing for a hiker pushing their speed as the temperatures rise.

Here and there, the view opens up to beautiful canyon scenes.

The Gilia capitata here was so cute and little. Only a foot tall at most. Last year in the garden, this flower grew over 5 feet tall. This year, most of them are smaller, but still twice as big on average as the wild plants here.

This was such an alluring set of water falls on the opposite side of the canyon, in a section where the stream bed is solid basalt. This Loowit Falls is not to be confused with the Loowit Falls that comes out of the Mt. St. Helens crater. A tributary falls down the wall into an elevated pool, before dropping again to join Eagle Creek. You can just see a third cascade in the lower right corner. I would love to lounge in that pool.

Mossy little oaks perch along the trail

Around the corner, the top of yet another fall (High Bridge Falls) is revealed just above where the smaller tributary joins the main creek. At least four waterfalls all in this one small section of creek.

Another wider view I enjoyed, with a large waterfall in the distance.

Here's a closer view of those falls. A little research reveals this to be Skoonichuk Falls.

The trail had a couple low bridges. This was one. No way to go but under, but this one wasn't difficult to manage.

Looking downstream from 4.5-mile Bridge crossing Eagle Creek. The shelf cut into the rock in this photo appears to be a short side-trail to 4-mile falls, an unofficially named small waterfall. If I do this hike again I may add in this little side trip, just because. The main trail continues out of frame to the right, taking you further upstream.

Now we reach Tunnel Falls, creatively named for the tunnel blasted into the rock behind the falls. You don't get a clear view of the falls until after you reach the trail on the other side of the tunnel.

The basin below the falls is an amazing display of moss-covered columnar basalt.

Naturally, people love stopping here for a photo op of them with the falls. It's really annoying if you don't like people in your photos. They just hang around forever, you know? It is useful to show the scale, though, so here's a photo with some random hiker next to the falls so you can appreciate how big a 160-foot waterfall is.

 My fellow hikers did eventually move on, so I was able to capture this image of Tunnel Falls sans-humans.

The trail between Tunnel Falls and Twister Falls is known as the Vertigo Mile. It's a narrow section of the trail cut into tall cliffs high above the creek, a wall of rock pressing at you from one side and a 200-foot drop on the other. Cozy, yeah? I took the photo below on my return trip from Twister Falls.

The rock face is covered in mosses and lichens, with a few tenacious plants like this Penstemon rupicola hanging from the rock.

The trail rounds a sharp corner and suddenly you have an open view upstream, with the top of 200-foot Twister Falls (an unofficial name). Due to the narrow, twisted canyon, the full waterfall can never be viewed all at once. Seeing the larger, lower portion of the falls requires a dangerous scramble down about 200 feet of loose rock and poison oak. I was content with seeing the upper part of the falls, with the unique criss-cross that gives the falls its various names.

I ate lunch just upstream from the top of Twister Falls. As I was eating, I noticed these salal leaves someone had made holes in, like little kodama faces.

Water rushing to the drop of Twister Falls.

 I had made good time hiking to Twister Falls, so I took a few more photos on the way back. Including a couple more shots of the tunnel behind Tunnel Falls.

This section of trail is interesting as it cuts through giant crystals of columnar basalt. You walk through with the upper sections of the columns hanging overhead as you step on the tops of the lower sections.

Known as The Potholes, according to some hiking guides, these are the tops of basalt columns. It was really cool to walk across these.

This tree was a little harder to pass than the other. There was only a little over 2 feet of clearance under the log. The downhill side looked uncomfortably steep, with the log creating too high a barrier, to safely cross that way, and the uphill side was a pretty steep climb, too. I chose to crawl underneath.

A Lorquin's Admiral butterfly came to rest on this branch, smoothed by the passing hikers using it as a handhold to cross a stream, and I took a few photos before completed the crossing.

Native clarkia.

And one last photo of a narrow slot canyon about 3.2 miles from the trailhead. You can just see High Bridge (aptly named) at the top of the photo, 120 feet above Eagle Creek.

Those cool falls would have been a nice escape this week, if it weren't too hot to even make the hike to them. Not to mention the smoke in the air. 

I've spent most of the last few weeks on heavy watering duty, which turned out to be a good thing given the heat that hit this week. I haven't even made time to take photographs of the garden beyond a few quick snaps with my phone for Instagram. Thankfully the temperature here peaked right around 100 on Thursday, instead of the 105 (or higher) that kept showing up in forecasts. I'll take what small mercies I can get. Unfortunately, this summer the garden has become an unwelcome drain on time and energy I would rather devote to other pursuits. It's not a happy thought, but there it is. I keep thinking "if only the garden were a few years older so I didn't have to water or weed so much," but the reality of a drought-tolerant garden is that it still needs supplemental water for at least the first year, especially if you're impatient and want things to grow faster.

Most of the garden made it through the heat just fine. In fact, a lot of plants probably loved it, but there were a few injuries and casualties. A new Corylus avellana 'Red Dragon' that we purchased just before the heatwave appeared in forecasts, and planted about a week ago, got a little crisp before I remembered just how fast a very leafy, recently-planted Corylus can dry out. It has spent the rest of the heatwave under a shade cloth with daily watering. A couple Umbellularia  californica seedlings planted last fall along the fence for screening unfortunately dried to a crisp. Apparently they weren't ready to grow solo, but I've had my hands full with watering the garden proper. I planted 10 Salvia sonomensis two or three weeks ago when the weather was mostly cool. I lost 2 or 3 to moles or voles tunneling inconveniently under the newly-planted salvias. After this heatwave, I think I only have 2 or 3 left, plus one rooted cutting in a container. I'll have to see if my friends at Cistus will trust me with more when it cools down in fall. Most depressing of all is a Notholithocarpus densiflorus var. echinoides   planted at the end of the driveway. It was doing so well, and I had watered it a few times over the summer despite the difficulty of running a hose to that location, but apparently I ignored it just long enough before the heatwave. The dwarf Umbellularia in the same area are still alive, though. I was hoping my Arctostaphylos seedlings would be big enough to plant a couple in that area this fall, but they aren't growing as fast as I'd hoped.


  1. A 13-mile hike, a stellar collection of photos, and a visit to a plant nursery - I think you did great! I don't have a problem with heights but I think a couple of the vantage points you took pictures from would give me pause. I liked the photo of Tunnel Falls with the anonymous hiker as he did provide perspective and he didn't look like anything more than a stick figure.

    I'm sorry that all of you up there in the PNW have been plagued by a truly nasty heatwave - we're not nearly as hot down this way, which is a weird flip on our respective summer norms (even if my friends still complain relentlessly about how hot and humid it is here). I hope your break comes soon!

    1. Thanks, Kris! Unfortunately, we're looking at low 90's for the next week. I suppose it's a small break, but still very uncomfortable by my standards. For now, at least, there's an 84F in the forecast for next Friday. I can't believe I'm looking forward to 84F! Honestly, the smoke is the worst part. The air is clearer today, but we have an air quality warning at least until Tuesday evening. I can't even enjoy the relatively cool mornings outside.

  2. Beautiful photos, it must have been mentally cooling to work through them for this post. We did hit 105 here, thank god for a/c! Since it doesn't look like there's much cooling in the forecast (although thankfully back down to the 90's) the watering regimen will continue...

    1. Thanks, Loree. Yes, I needed a mental escape from the endless watering and scorching heat. I hope your garden made it through without damage. No rain in sight, and no end to the watering.

  3. This is so beautiful. I have got to start getting out more and do some exploring. There is so much to see.

    1. It's the only hike I've managed to do this summer. I need to get out more, too!

  4. A beautiful hike. I read the post in installments: I need to take my time to immerse myself in the pictures when I join you on a trek. Frankly, why hurry a good thing. I'd be grateful for the metal rails in places: such heights could get me dizzy.
    I love the look and your description of "maidenhair ferns dotting a wall of columnar basalt dripping with water". I was always apprehensive about growing this fern because I don't have those conditions (wish I did). Since dangergarden recently posted a picture of her amazing looking maidenhair fern, I think I'll give it try, dripping water or not.
    I'm sick of the heat and smoke in Seattle. Autumn can't come fast enough for me.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it! It was a lot of pictures. I've seen maidenhair ferns growing beautifully in normal garden situations. They don't need a dripping rock wall or seep, though they certainly enjoy it. The smoke is supposed to clear up tomorrow here. I hope the air clears around Seattle, too.


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