ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Hiking to the Top of Multnomah Falls

Updated on September 6, 2013
The Mystical Multnomah Falls
The Mystical Multnomah Falls | Source

Water rushing past huge rocks and falling great lengths over immense cliffs have long held man spellbound. But if you were to ask people what the fascination with waterfalls was all about, more often than not, they would be hard pressed to articulate their reasons.

Hailing from the islands, I have a fond appreciation for the majestic landscapes God has artfully created on nature's abundant palette.

Case in point: The Amazing MULTNOMAH FALLS!

Located thirty miles east of Portland, Multnomah Falls is a very popular tourist attraction that draws nearly two million visitors each year. En route from College Place to Portland a short time ago to fulfill some business obligations, I contributed to that statistic when I stopped to visit this historic landmark.

And so, for the first time ever, I had occasion to not only reflect upon the question but to also find an answer that settled congruently and peacefully with my heart. You'll find my answer at the close of this article.

Both the picturesque splendor and the 1.25 mile zigzag walk (comprised of eleven switchbacks) to the top of the falls figuratively and literally took my breath away. With one hand holding onto a bottle of water and the other on my digital camera to keep it from swinging as it dangled on a cord hanging from my neck, I made the daunting trek up the side of the mountain. Every forty yards or so of laboring forward and upward on what appeared to be a 45-degree incline, I had to stop to catch my breath. It was encouraging to observe that the same was true for many other hikers.

On this particular Sunday, the temperature was somewhere in the mid to upper 80's. The evergreens and other trees that generously bordered the trail provided ample shade, and a gentle breeze helped to keep me cool.

Every now and then, I would stop to take a photo to mark the progress I had made. At strategic points along the trail, markers indicated either how far one had hiked or how many switchbacks out of the eleven had already been negotiated. I reminded myself to keep a steady pace and to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other instead of dwelling on how strenuous the climb was or how far I had yet to travel.

And--yes!--as I am often inclined to do, I thought of the climb in metaphorical terms. Hawaiian Odysseus scaling the mountain of life. I kept telling myself, a la Miley Cyrus, what's truly valuable is not the finish. It's THE CLIMB!

I exchanged encouraging words with fellow climbers traveling in either direction along the narrow path. Those returning to the base had smiles on their faces, most assuredly due to the comfort of finally being able to travel downhill. Every now and then, I would pause with others going up the mountain. Casual banter liberally spiced with smiles and chuckles as we gulped for oxygen helped to somehow ease our discomfort.

A young Mexican father was actually pushing his baby in a stroller up the hill as his wife followed close behind. What a loving and dedicated family man, I thought. Another Hispanic family paused as often as I did. The conversation, though labored, and the empathy among us fellow hikers grew as we got closer to the summit.

A young princess, according to Native American mythology, sought a private place to bathe. To win her heart, a handsome suitor created this beautiful waterfall.
A young princess, according to Native American mythology, sought a private place to bathe. To win her heart, a handsome suitor created this beautiful waterfall.

Benson Bridge spans the falls at the base of the first tier. The bridge is named after Simon Benson, a prominent Portland businessman who actually owned Multnomah Falls in the early 1900's. He gave the falls to the city of Portland just before his death. Ownership of the falls was later transferred to the USDA Forest Service.

Multnomah Falls is actually a two-tiered natural panorama of awesome strength and beauty. Frigid water falls for 542 feet to form the upper portion. There is a large pool at the bottom where, conceivably, one could imagine the beautiful princess taking her morning bath. A gradual 9-foot decline assists the overflow of the pool to fall another 69 feet...thus, the second tier. Add the numbers and you get the conventionally recognized total of 620 feet. This makes Multnomah Falls the tallest waterfall in Oregon. Although a sign located near the falls claims that Multnomah is the second tallest perennial waterfall in America, it is a point of debate among the waterfall experts.

Every now and then, more to look like I wasn't laboring too hard in my walk, I uncapped the lens cover of my camera and snapped a few photographs of the scenery below. If I needed more time to seize my increasingly elusive breath, I took pictures of the same elevation I was on. If I was really tired and wanted to do even more faking (hey, what can I say? I'm a proud 60-year-old!), I took shots of the evergreen canopy above me.

Perspective from Benson Bridge
Perspective from Benson Bridge
Large boulder at the foot of the top tier of Multnomah Falls.
Large boulder at the foot of the top tier of Multnomah Falls.
 This shot was taken from about the midpoint of my climb.  I used my camera's zoom capability.
This shot was taken from about the midpoint of my climb. I used my camera's zoom capability.

After almost an hour of climbing (I could've done it in 45 minutes, but I didn't want to embarrass the young adults and teenagers) and a surprising two or three switchbacks that actually were downhill walks, I finally arrived at the top of the falls. Several groups of people huddled near the gently flowing creek's edge. Braver souls waded in the icy water.

In the distance, the Columbia River Gorge forms a natural border between Washington on the right and Oregon on the left.
In the distance, the Columbia River Gorge forms a natural border between Washington on the right and Oregon on the left.
A medium sized circular platform served as a lookout point where one could easily watch as the water spilled over the crest of the top tier of Multnomah Falls.
A medium sized circular platform served as a lookout point where one could easily watch as the water spilled over the crest of the top tier of Multnomah Falls.
This was a small reservoir of water at the top of the falls.
This was a small reservoir of water at the top of the falls.
Hey, what happened to Walla Walla?
Hey, what happened to Walla Walla?
One last look at the evergreen landscape just east of Multnomah Falls.
One last look at the evergreen landscape just east of Multnomah Falls.

There was genuine relief in finally being able to walk downhill. I mentally prepared myself for the moderate aches I would feel in the morning. Even so, what a memorable privilege to have participated in this adventurous and challenging experience.

As promised above, here is my answer~

The thought sat like a jovial and chubby cherub on my shoulder...

This mile-plus climb is a metaphor for life. The closer we get to the top, the more inclined we are to recognize that the journey is so much more pleasant when we can stop and engage in moments of revelry as we gasp for air. This is the way I want to leave this earth, not incapacitated by despair as I waste away in a white hospital gown, lying on white sheets stained with my body fluids and wastes, my last mortal view of earth restricted to a small white room with cheerful sayings that fail miserably with their intent.

No, give me mud and sweat and the camaraderie of others who are leaving the way we all came in--kicking and screaming and gasping for breath.

Then, and only then, will I know before I go that I fought a valiant fight.

The waterfall fascinates me because it is a reminder that my mortal life is so short and so insignificant. Water rushing past huge rocks and falling great lengths over immense cliffs was here eons before I was even a glint in my father's eye as he gazed upon my mother for the first time. The waterfall will be here long after I am gone.

This moment, then...this very golden moment as I stand in awe looking upward at the majestic waterfall whose trail I just survived, is a moment of incredible truth.

Goodbye and thank you, Multnomah Falls!

Thanks for reading and commenting! Welcome back anytime!
Thanks for reading and commenting! Welcome back anytime!

Comments

Submit a Comment

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Thank you very much for your visit to my hub and your most gracious comments. I sincerely hope and pray that you and your loved ones are safe. Regardless of how geographically near or far one might have been from that devastating typhoon and related events, the effect on just one person affects the lives of an entire nation. God bless you, and may you find wonderful success and the dearest of friendships here on HubPages. Aloha!

    ~Joe

  • JPSO138 profile image

    JPSO138 3 years ago from Cebu, Philippines, International

    This is the first time i have see this falls. Definitely amazing. How i wish to visit the place and see it myself. But your hubs are good enough ad of this moment, they certainly show me what i need to see.

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @epbooks

    Hi, Liz!

    Thanks for stopping by and joining in the fun! : ) So, I'm curious about where it was in Hawai'i that you hiked. Was it on Kaua'i? That's my island of origin. There are a few notable waterfalls there, but the two most popular ones are Opaeka'a and Wailua. Of course, the neighbor islands have their own fascinating falls. Shucks, I'm getting really homesick now. : ) Aloha, my friend, and welcome back anytime!

    Joe

  • epbooks profile image

    Elizabeth Parker 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

    Wow- this hike looks amazing. It reminds me of one that we took while vacationing in Hawaii. I was very brave in the beginning...but my fear of heights coupled with the biting mosquitoes got to me a little before I was able to appreciate just how beautiful it truly was. I only wish that I had taken pictures! Voted up!

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Hi, Mary! Your name was one of the first girls' names I heard in my life. There was, of course, the mother of Jesus. Mary was the contrarian girl with the exceptional green thumb. And when Mary Tyler Moore hit the scene, I was old enough to wonder about her in a different kind of way. Why am I sharing all of this with you? Well, it's a mortality thing. Yep, it's there like a pesky mosquito on the back of my neck. I'm mindful of who I am in the present, yet I feel like a yo-yo as my thoughts get pulled back and forth between the past, the present, AND the future. So, to remain grounded, I think about the simple things...like names I first learned in life. Names...like...Mary.

    Yep...I think I'm losing it over this Challenge...: )

  • tillsontitan profile image

    Mary Craig 3 years ago from New York

    Okay, you are five years younger than I but I have doubts I would've made it to the top of that beautiful waterfall, so I thank you for the incredible pictures. I'm glad you had to stop along the way and take those pictures...any excuse will do!

    Mortality is something I've been looking at a lot lately as we care for my aging in-laws, so, I couldn't agree with you more! My father used to say, "I hope I wake up dead"...the easy way out perhaps but the one we would like best.

    You are giving the 30/30 a hell of a ride my friend! Keep up the good work.

    Voted all the way across except funny...humorous perhaps, but not funny. Shared and pinned.

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Hi, Kathryn!

    I don't think one can have an enjoyable weekend during the 30 Days Challenge. That said, I wish YOU a wonderful weekend. I wish it were Day One all over again. I certainly would've done things better to make a success of this. Oh, well...live and learn. In the meantime, I want to thank you for stopping by so faithfully and providing the 3 of us with your supportive and positive statements. I mean it, Kathryn--it's like having a drink of fresh water while running a marathon! Take care!

    Joe

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Thank you, Sharkye, for sharing in this hub experience. I did experience vertigo looking both up and down at this magnificent site. I'm glad I took my digital camera along that day. Thanks for the vote of support! Aloha!

    Joe

  • Sharkye11 profile image

    Jayme Kinsey 3 years ago from Oklahoma

    Ooooh! I've been there! Its been a long time ago, but you don't forget grandeur and beauty like that easily. You have really captured the falls well in your amazing photo spread, especially the sheer vertigo of Benson bridge. Love this hub. Voting up!

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Hi, Bill!

    Funny you should ask...growing up on Kaua'i, I saw quite a few locals working as tour guides, whether on the charter buses, river boat rides, or inter-island flights. But I was super shy from kindergarten through my college years, so being in front of people and talking seemed like the last thing I would want to do. Ironically, yet understandably, it was different being a thespian because in that capacity, I could be someone else, and the lines were only as challenging as my ability to memorize them. Go figure, huh? Ah, if only I knew then what I know now. Ha-ha! Bill, on a serious note, I hope the issues you and family have been recently challenged by are finding resolution or are at least easing up. You bring to the front burner real life and how it impacts a writer's schedule...knowing you, however, you will find a way to harness the energy of crises, big and small, and utilize it in your eloquent personal essays. Thanks, Bill, for taking time to stop by and visit! Oh, don't forget the vanilla latte and maple bar! : ) Aloha, my friend!

    Joe

  • Kathryn Stratford profile image

    Kathryn 3 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

    Joe,

    Thank you for sharing this with us. The photos are so beautiful, and I enjoy hearing about the journey, as well as your thoughts.

    I hope you're having an enjoyable weekend!

    ~ Kathryn

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Yes, Liz, that Pendleton is one and the same. Very observant. I cracked up reading your comments. That Dunedin wit will take you far, my friend...perhaps as far as Orlando! : ) I watched the video where you and your daughter were attaching the trailer to the bike. Great job! I'm honored to be on the ground floor of your YouTube presence because you're only going to go UP from here! Take care, Liz, and have a great Sunday with your family! Aloha!

    Joe

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

    Good morning Joe and Happy Sunday!

    Been there and done that my friend. I love the Columbia River Gorge...one of the great natural wonders in this country and a must see for any adventurer. Thanks for the tour and the pictures are great.....have you ever thought of being a tour guide. :) You are a natural.

    Gotta run, as I have been doing all week it seems. Have a peaceful Sunday buddy.

    Aloha,

    bill

  • Radcliff profile image

    Liz Davis 3 years ago from Hudson, FL

    Isn't it amazing how nature's wonders always remind us of our own mortality? Your reflection on why the falls are so alluring is a beautiful illustration of this fact.

    I'm glad you were so kind as to stop to take these photos to share with us, keeping those young 'uns from the embarrassment of getting smoked by Grandpa.

    Is the Pendleton on that sign the one of wool-shirt fame? Sorry, got a little distracted there . . .

    Awesome as always, Joe! Thank you for sharing this part of your journey.

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Thank you, Karen! As you can see by the summary, the other tough ascent I was thinking about was this 30 Hubs Challenge. : ) I'm stopping a lot to catch my breath, it seems! But I'm plodding along as best I can! Take care, and have a nice Sunday!

    Joe

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Hi, Faythe!

    I apologize for the long delay. Thought I responded to your lovely message last night, but it must've got lost in a systems glitch. I've been there twice, and seeing it and taking pictures and a video of it from the ground level were rewarding in a different yet equal way. A beautiful restaurant at the base of the falls would be a wonderful experience as well. This park area has something for everyone, even a pond area for the kids of all ages to cool their feet in. Hope you get to go someday! You'll see what I mean about how it gives one perspective to reflect on life in general. Aloha, my friend!

    Joe

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Thank you, Bill D! I highly recommend this picturesque icon should you and your family ever visit the Portland area (the drive to Multnomah Falls isn't that far, and the scenery is wonderful). The switchback trails are rugged yet adequate, and there are areas to catch one's breath while taking wonderful photos of the scenes on the adjacent hillsides, parts of the Falls, and the people and nature sights below. There is a lovely--and busy--restaurant below. Thanks for kind words, Bill, and the generous votes and sharing. Aloha, and have a great Sunday!

    Joe

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Thanks, WND! I'll give it my best shot! Glad you liked this one. So much to do, but hopefully, I'll have His blessing in getting it done. Aloha!

    Joe

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Thank you, Margaret!

    As huge as these falls are, they can be hard to see when passing in either a westerly or an easterly direction. It's the way they're situated on the small mountain and a little bit away from the highway, hidden by all the lush foliage and trees. The signs signalling one's approach to the area are not, in my opinion, remarkable, and so it's easy to pass up if you're not consciously looking out for the park area. In any event, it was worth finding and experiencing. Thanks for stopping by! Aloha!

    Joe

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Yes, ologsinquito, if you ever have the opportunity, you'll enjoy the camaraderie as well as the celebration of the visual feast you'll encounter. Thanks for sharing in this hub experience! Aloha!

    Joe

  • Karen Hellier profile image

    Karen Hellier 3 years ago from Georgia

    Such beautiful pictures that really bring your words to life. Some of them almost made me dizzy because heights scare me a bit! Great job of describing your walk up to the top. Reading your words made me feel as though I was there on your walk with you, stopping to catch my breath along with you and other hikers. Great Job!

  • mperrottet profile image

    Margaret Perrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

    I've been in the Columbia River Gorge area, but didn't see these falls. They look beautiful and well worth the climb. I'm with you - better to go out kicking and screaming! Loved this - voted up, interesting, awesome and beautiful. Wonderful addition to your 30 hub challenge.

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

    Very cool article. I've only been to the base of these amazing falls. Climbing to the base would give you a whole new perspective on God's creation.

  • wetnosedogs profile image

    wetnosedogs 3 years ago from Alabama

    This is beautiful. That had to be the most glorious day to see such a sight.

    God surely has given us exciting and beautiful things to be in awe of.

    Thanks for sharing this grand day with us.

    I have faith in you that you can get this challenge done. You are doing a superb job with awesome hubs.

  • bdegiulio profile image

    Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

    Hi Joe. What an absolutely beautiful place. I have never heard of Multnomah Falls before. Looks like a great way to spend an afternoon and the hike up looks worth every step. Great photos and I love the metaphor on life, so very true. Voted up, shared, pinned ,etc. Have a great Sunday.

  • faythef profile image

    Faythe F. 3 years ago from USA

    Absolutely beautiful..well written...this is the first I have heard of this place...and now I want to be there..not sure I can make the climb. voting up and sharing..and more

Click to Rate This Article