Memorial Day weekend. Normally, by this time, I’ve abandoned the gorge to the hoards of day hikers evident in it’s easy to reach places. Too crowded, too humid, and the higher places are opening up, calling me into the alpine.
Not this day though.
|Andy, stopping to contemplate some of the giants|
Today though, we are looking for something a little different- an unpopular, almost abandoned trail that fits the overcast skies, someplace we’ve never been before.
Bell Creek fits.
|single beargrass on the Oneonta trail|
It has a reputation as one of the loneliest trails in the gorge, mostly due to its lack of accessibility. Until the Larch Mountain road opens up, it’s a minimum fifteen mile hike just to walk among these trees. From Larch, it’s what I like to call a reverse hike: all downhill on the way in, all uphill on the way out.
47 ° at the trailhead, the temp has dropped considerably since we left Portland. A reminder not to be too cavalier in the wilderness, even one this close to home.
We wind our way down, staying in clouds, the trail lined with avalanche lilies and trilliums (little stars), guiding the way.
|trilliums and avalanche lilies|
There is a primal, quiet feel among this cathedral of ancient trees, the forest floor hollow and soft. No sounds beyond the quiet noises of water and wind and the occasional owl. The sun was never really present, only offering fleeting glimpses of itself, but it didn't really need to be. When the gorge looks like this, all fog and water and gray, it feels like its true self. It feels secretive, aloof, cocooned and wild. It feels like home.
|Bell Creek trail|
|It's almost June. Welcome to the PNW|
We only saw six hikers, briefly, their forms appearing out of the fog, exchanged a quick greeting, and disappeared into silence again. For a holiday weekend in Portland less than forty minutes from home, this is an absolute win.
ONEONTA-BELL CREEK-HORSETAIL CREEK
Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Oregon
~10 miles, ~1000 feet elevation gain