Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Shhh...don't tell anyone but my secret trail in Washington has old growth, a beautiful river, no hills and very few people.  Living in Portland, Oregon USA I am surrounded by lush green forests with spectacular hiking opportunities.  Waterfalls are a common sight.  Rivers are in abundance.

But if I want to escape it all and really feel nature, I have a secret place in Southern Washington that I go to recharge in the summer and fall.  It is the Lewis River Trail and is about 1.5 hours drive outside of the Portland metro area.

Now most people would suggest hiking up some mountain for some spectacular view.  I've done those hikes and yes, the views can be spectacular, but most days I don't feel like killing myself slogging up some mountain and then blowing my knees out on the way down just so I can have some brief vewpoint.  So I look for river hikes because they tend to be flatter.  I like the water flowing by.  The closer the trail is, the better!  I recently hiked a "river trail" and all the trail did was parallel the river at a far enough distance you really couldn't see it for 95% of the time.  Ridiculous!  Why call it a river trail at all?  The point of a river trail is to actually hike by the river itself...duh!

Anyway, most people from Portland would send you into the Columbia Gorge area.  That is an area of scenic beauty and outdoor recreation that is just east of Portland.  It is along both sides of the Columbia River.  The Columbia River is one of the longest rivers in the USA and divides Oregon and Washington.  These "people" would probably send a would-be hiker enthusiast to Eagle Creek and that would be a great choice as it has 7.5 miles of spectacular river hiking among amazing waterfalls, one that the trail even goes behind it through a small cave where the trail got carved out of the cliff-side.

The trail goes through the tunnel behind the waterfall!
The only thing about suggesting and doing Eagle Creek is that 15 miles is a long hike for most people and most of the time there are so many people hiking the first few miles you'll feel like your in some outdoor mall on Black Friday fighting to get to the next door-buster sale!  The effort and the crowds tend to turn off a lot of people and so even though this might be my single-most favorite hike ever, I avoid it.  It's not my sanctuary.

The fallen tree was so large its end seems to hang in space over the trail
Instead, the Lewis River Trail, located off remote Hwy 90 North of Carson, Washington can be reached by driving a bit further than the Gorge and you will experience very few people.  Most of the people on the trail are mountain bikers.  The trail is a joint-use trail and I've found that I've never had any problem on it between hikers and bikers and I've tried it both ways.

Some of the fallen trees are large enough to use as your own trail...
One of my favorite spots is an old camping building (that has since been restored) and inside is a picture of some fisherman on the same spot from 1912.  It's a testament to just how few people go on this trail and the nature of the people that this photo has stayed there all these years without somebody stealing it.

Sitting next to an ancient Cedar tree
The trees along the trail have been spared from logging so you have 800 year old Cedar and Fir trees to hike among.  The forest canopy in this area is more sparse and so it lets in more light and feels a bit like somewhere along Middle Earth where you might see an Elf or a Hobbit perhaps or differently, maybe you'll run into Robin Hood.  Of course, that hasn't happened but it has that peaceful relaxing vibe about the whole place. It isn't just a bunch of spectacular natural beauty features, it's the entire experience along this trail that makes me long for relaxing summer or falls days hiking under the giant trees with the river flowing endlessly on.  So tranquil...

Start of the trail, nothing grand about the trailhead at all.
Vibrant Orange fungi...apparently they are edible't try them
Not deep...but plenty cool on a hot day

Through the ferns, moss and giant trees along the riverside...

The trail follows this close to the river for miles...

Make-shift bridge across a feeder stream

Camp spot rope swing into a calm portion of the river

More vibrant orange fungi...

Some of the fall down require a little maintenance to get through

A convenient slot so mountain bikers don't hit their head

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