This is my fourth winter back in Oregon after thirteen years in the Bay Area, and I have yet to figure out how to make it through the winter season without feeling like I need to go down for a long winter’s nap every day around noon. Much to my dismay, I think there is no single remedy to making it through the Oregon winter unscathed, but rather a series of remedies that require one to be proactive both in body and mind. So, in an effort to avoid spending entire days in bed dreaming about booking a one-way ticket to Hawaii, I entered 2019 determined to make the best of this winter. In addition to taking vitamin D, getting an alarm clock that simulates the sunrise, and trying to have a better attitude (insert exasperated tone), one of the things my family is trying this year is to get out on what we’re calling “mini-adventures.” This involves anything from seeking out a new coffee shop or driving through a neighborhood we’ve never seen to exploring the multitude of hikes in the Columbia River Gorge or maybe making the trek out to Mt. Hood to play in the snow.
Mini-Adventure #1 - Multnomah Falls
The well-known Oregon destination of Multnomah Falls was our first mini-adventure of 2019. It was the second weekend in January and the weather forecast called for chilly but sunny, and if there’s any sun to be found, I’m getting outside. Almost 20 years had passed since I last visited Multnomah Falls with a group of college friends (What?! How can I possibly old enough that I can say it’s been 20 years since . . . ?!) and a random Saturday in January seemed like a time we might beat the throngs of visitors who have made Multnomah Falls the most visited natural recreation site in the Pacific Northwest. Even so, we left the house early having heard tales of the parking lots filling up early requiring visitors to take a shuttle.
On the drive out I was feeling a bit skeptical about our choice – Would we get parking? Would it be not as great as I remembered or just another tourist trap? Was the trail to the top still closed from the 2017 fire? Was it going to be so windy it would be miserable? I can be kind of a pain in the ass. We arrived around 10 a.m. and easily found parking. Still skeptical as we walked through the tunnel that connects the parking lot to the falls with the cold wind whipping behind us, we emerged below the falls and I instantly knew we’d make the right choice. There is a reason so many people visit each year – it’s breathtaking.
If you’re looking for a quick-fix or if you have smaller children, the view from the lower viewing platform is reason enough to make the trip or you can go just a bit further for a close-up of the falls by taking the short trail up to Bensen Bridge. We thought this would be where our journey would end as we’d heard the upper trails were still closed, but we were delighted to find that the trail to the top of the waterfall was open (when I say “we” were delighted, I mean my husband and I – our son, not so much). While I believe it’s just over a mile to the top of the waterfall, it is a pretty steep climb up a switchback trail with some parts being very narrow with abrupt drop-offs on the outer side. Our son did do some complaining on the way up (because you can’t be 11 and not complain when your parents force you to go on a beautiful hike), but he made it just fine and he loved the view from the top where you are quite literally standing on top of the 620’ waterfall.
Speaking of the view from the top, this is where I tell you that halfway up the mountain both my husband and I found we had dead phones. I was disappointed at first as we came upon view after view that I would have been snapping photos of, but at some point I stopped being disappointed and started enjoying the freedom of not thinking about pulling my phone out to take a picture.
We were off the trail just after noon, and by then cars were circling the parking lot so if you’re going on a weekend, go early. The Multnomah Falls Lodge sits just below the lower deck of the falls and looks as if it was pulled out of the pages of a storybook (our said it made him feel like he was in Disneyland). We considered eating at the restaurant in the lodge but decided instead to extend our adventure with a stop for lunch in Portland. On the list of my absolute favorite things to do is to get food after a weekend run or hike–it feels so nourishing, so indulgent, and so relaxing. After a quick Yelp search, we decided to try Olympia Provisions on SE Division. The sun was out, the patio heaters were on, the beer was cold, and the fries were delicious.
Mini-adventure #1 = success.