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  • Writer's pictureBlaine Hoppenrath

Cascade Locks, OR

2015 was a rough year. Work was hard and I didn't get much of a break. I struggled to adapt to a new city where the mountains were not part of my daily routine. While the Twin Cities are a great place to live, the people love hockey, and a short drive to Duluth provides amazing views of the shore of Lake Superior it wasn't the same as living in Flagstaff.

After 9 months of Minnesota, I was still longing for an adventure and I knew that I needed to get away. There were so many places that I wanted to go, but at the end of the day my heart lead me back to the PNW. I started my trip in Portland, and the best part about the town is how close it is to the Oregon Coast, Mt. Hood, and the Columbia River Gorge. Even though my plane was delayed (thanks to winter storm Goliath) I was still able to run to Latourell Falls for a quick hike and make it back to Portland before sunset.

But the true beauty came the next day. A 12 mile round trip hike to Tunnel Falls along Eagle Creek. It had been a while since I had made a hike of that difficulty, and I was't quite sure my body was ready for it. But my heart was. I drove up and paid my $5 day use fee and started off on the hike in the less than stellar weather. The trail follows a side gorge (that may not be technically what is is called) of the Columbia River Gorge along Eagle Creek. It began to snow not quite 20 minuted into the hike, and while I thought about turning around, I knew that wasn't an option. So I kept on going.

The walls of the gorge were tree lined and there was an eerie feeling as the low fog and snow prevented me from being able to see out of the walls or the Gorge. I was walking into a literal winter wonderland. But the sound of the creek below and the snow flakes falling around me gave my heart the reassurance to know that I was in a place I was supposed to be.

I came across the first major waterfall, Metlako Falls and just couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The black walls with the green pine trees with the clear blue waters of the creek made for the perfect color combination to start. But the white snow added to to color combination it took the magical world to new levels.

As I kept walking the snow starting to pick up. The trail came to the High Bridge and walking over the bridge was a bit of rush in itself. The drop was incredible and the blue on black on green was once again the colors of dreams.

The hike became pretty demanding, but that didn't matter, I was determined to get to Tunnel Falls. Six miles after I began the hike and several waterfalls later I made it. It was nothing short of impressive and terrifying at the same time. I loved it. Walking behind the falls in the tunnel was a rush and the I took my time walking around the falls to ensure I wasn't going to slip. I didn’t really want to leave, so I walked around for a while before turning back.

It wasn’t much longer before I was back at my car and done for the day. I cried a little when I saw the my destination. I had felt like myself for the first time in a long time and wanted that feeling to stay with me indefinitely. It was one of the best days of 2015 in one of my favorite states. Followed by a dinner with one of my favorite human beings back in Portland.

I hung around Portland and Seattle for a few more days I didn't want to leave the PNW when my vacation was over. However, the visit was an afformation of where I want to live one day. If you would have asked me where I wanted to be when I left college I would have told you the bright lights of Chicago. But four years later I know that I am just not a city girl. Don't get me wrong I am definitely not a country girl either. But I am a mountain girl and I know when I am in the presence of those giants then I really can't go wrong.

Latourell Falls, a short drive from Portland

The View Looking Down from the High Bridge

Tunnel Falls

Metlako Falls

Another view of color combinations of the day from High Bridge

Tunnel Falls and the View Below

The yellow-green moss in the winter wonderland

One Last View of Tunnel Falls

#oregon #waterfall #cascadelockes #columbiariver #gorge #eaglecreek #tunnelfalls #portland #PNW #hike

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