Carly and I were still coming off the high and sleep deprivation from having completed the Portland Cotopaxi Questival less than 36 hours earlier which was sure to make for an interesting day 1 of our Oregon waterfall road trip. On the agenda today…Multnomah Falls and Ramona Falls. Multnomah Falls had proven to be quite easy to get to. It was right off the highway and a short walk to get to the entrance of the hike. So far so good with successfully making it to our first waterfall on this tour.
When we arrived there, it appeared to be quite a popular destination for tourists as the trail was nicely paved and had switchbacks all the way to the top of the falls. With Carly’s pup Jax in tow we made our way up the trail to the bridge that crosses the falls right where the first tier of it goes crashing down to the bottom. The beauty of this waterfall was simply breathtaking. It gracefully fell from the top of the first tier then to another tier further down. What I didn’t know about this waterfall was that it’s the second largest in the US, following the Niagara Falls and it wasn’t short of impressive.
As we started to cross the bridge I noticed that Jax was starting to do what looked like a dog’s version of the splits. Carly nervously laughed and explained that he isn’t exactly the biggest fan of heights. Good to know! Haha This was clearly the first of many trails we would be doing that increased in elevation so it would be interesting to see how Jax fared the next 7 days. On the other side of the bridge I assisted Carly in putting Jax into her backpack. You heard right…the pup went into her backpack! Not going to lie, this may be one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen and I knew it wouldn’t be the last time he ended up in backpack on this trip. Once situated we continued all the way to the top of the falls and took in the breathtaking view that looked over the Columbia Gorge. We didn’t dawdle too long at the top since Jax even though safely in a backpack, was shaking pretty fiercely. On our way back down we were taken by surprise when a woman stopped us to explain, “there are stories of a dog in a backpack all the way to the bottom!” Other hikers would say things like, “He’s got it easy, want to carry me?” Entertaining hike for sure.
We finished our hike to the bottom, took a few more pictures and videos, and then it was time to head on to waterfall number 2 of the day. Off to Mount Hood National Park we went to find the Instagram famous Ramona Falls. One thing is for sure, I definitely underestimated the size of Mount Hood. After about 45 minutes into the park we were clearly lost, there hadn’t been a sign or other cars for a while. After finally admitting to myself that we were in fact lost, I turned around and stopped at a park office near the bottom of one of the ski resorts, hoping the park ranger there could point us in the right direction. For being a National Park, there sure weren’t an abundance of signs. Inside the office, the woman was extremely friendly and helpful. She even printed off a map for us. Come to find out, we weren’t exactly on the right side of the mountain that the Ramona Falls are located so she suggested a different and closer waterfall. This waterfall was called Tamanawa Falls. Tongue twister of a name!
After a long, wet day of driving, we finally made it to the trail that led to the falls. We parked Orange Crush (that’s what we named our burnt orange rental RAV4..we think it suited her well) and headed to the trail entrance. I took notice right away at the abundance of warnings for bears and bear-proof garbage cans. Trying to keep on a brave face and not show any signs that I was second guessing this hike, I ignored the pit forming in my stomach and the three of us, Jax included pressed on. As we started the trail, just to confirm my fear of bears, Carly started telling me what we should do IF we happened to encounter any. Not helping the pit in my stomach go away, she explained that if we encountered a brown bear that we were basically SOL, bear food. If we encountered a black bear, we stood a chance. Jax may have to be sacrificed though. An image appeared in my head of Carly and I offering Jax as a peace offering to a black bear. Surely it wouldn’t go down like that but I couldn’t help but imagine it. She also said she was equipped with bear mace so there was a tiny ounce of comfort knowing that.
We continued the 1.5 miles of the trail to the Tamanawa Falls unscathed and my was it a sight to behold. Even from 50+ yards away, you could feel the force of the waterfall in your chest. It came falling off the edge of limestone with an incredible power ant you could tell all the vegetation within reach of the constant spray from the falls was a vivid green. Carly decided it was a grand idea to get as close as possible to the waterfall for a photo opp. I decided that I’d be the smart one on the picture taking end. So she proceeded as close as possible and definitely slipped a few times. Jax was clearly not thrilled about getting that close, when she made her way back to me he was shaking like a leaf and past ready to head back to the car. As impressive as the waterfall was, I was with him on that one. So we began our journey back to the car.
Not 10 minutes into the hike back, I heard a large branch snap which stopped me dead in my tracks. Up to our left at the top of a ridge was a black bear. Carly made sure to take an extra long time pointing it out to me so I would always remember my first time seeing a bear. I just hoped it wasn’t my last time too.
Now there is something you must understand, Carly and I process fear in extremely different ways. I take the more common approach and freeze up. It’s like I’m holding my breath, eyes as wide as they can get and I get this “flight” response coursing through my nerves. Carly on the other hand gets extremely chatty and is more careful and slow than you would expect. Maybe there was something to her approach that I could learn even though every part of my body was telling me to run. Once we both spotted the bear she started chattering about how there is usually more than one bear, that they can sense our fear, and that they can run like 40 mph or something ridiculous. Well looks like running was out of the question. She explained that we needed to make ourselves large, walk side by side, be loud, and make ourselves known. A bear had clearly spotted us so we were past the point of sneaking by quietly.
She kept trying to keep me talking but my brain didn’t want to form sentences. I tried my hardest to speak as much as possible even if none of what I said made sense. I still had this innate flight response and let’s just say my walking speed kept increasing and increasing. Carly had to keep reminding me that we needed to stay close together so for a few seconds I’d slow up my pace before I had no control over my body again and my pace would quicken. When I spotted the road over the ridge, I knew it was a matter of time before the best vision we’d ever seen would be Orange Crush sitting there waiting patiently for us. We were so close, I wasn’t about to be bear food this close to the car. Then Carly tripped and fell and I thought…well this is it. At least they’ll get her first which may give me a chance still! I made sure Carly was okay and we pressed on, still not bear food. Finally…Orange Crush was within eyesight! We power walked back to the car and took off never looking back. Although we did eventually look back at the pictures we captured but only once our heartbeats returned to normal.