On the third day of highschool friend Dan’s visit, we headed into the Columbia River Gorge. The easterly winds were unmerciful, causing the Columbia River to be covered with large whitecaps. The day before, hurricane-level winds had been recorded at Vista House in the western mouth of the Gorge. The gale force winds had not abated much in the previous 24 hours. But, knowing the Gorge well, I drove to the Eagle Creek Trailhead near Cascade Locks.The Eagle Creek Canyon cuts a north-to-south slot through the 4,000 foot cliffs of the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, about 39 air miles east of home. The cliffs effectively stopped the easterly flow of heavy winds, creating a calm oasis in the slot canyon.
In the early 1900s, building the 13 miles of Eagle Creek Trail took 13 years of labor and a tremendous amount of dynamite before reaching Wahtum Lake. Parts of the Trail are blasted out of the walls of sheer cliffs, including a section behind Tunnel Falls. It is probably the most spectacular low-elevation trail I have ever hiked. However, it’s not for folks with a fear of heights. (The Trail has cable handrails in difficult spots, some with 100 foot drops to Eagle Creek below.) We decided to hike 1 1/2 miles to 100-foot Metlako Falls. It made for an enjoyable trek with sunshine, no wind, views of the Creek, various misty waterfalls dropping down the high cliff walls, large Douglas firs and cedars in the shady areas, white oak copses in sunny areas and one of the prettier major falls in the Gorge. A nice day indeed.
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