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Photo Journal: Spirit Falls

After hiking / drowning in 5 miles of snow the previous day, my sore hamstrings didn’t feel up to the task of more snow.

Sadly, I had exhausted the accessible landmarks around Mount Hood and the Columbia River Gorge. My original destination, Bend Oregon, was swamped in snow. North of the gorge, Mount Rainier was locked in snow. I texted home for recommendations for a nearby region that wasn’t in a second ice age.

“I want to see mountains, Gandalf. Lakes and vistas too. Any recommends, hobbits?”

“Did you see Spirit Falls, precious?”

Spirit Falls

Just north of the Oregon-Washington border lies one of the truly hidden gems of the Columbia River Gorge. Spirit Falls has no public trail, and until recently the only known trail down the steep gorge crossed illegally into private land.

I drove to the bend in the road described in a hiking forum, but found the shoulder peppered with signs, “No public access to Spirit Falls.” Defeated by a sign! I hopped in the car to head back to Oregon, but first decided to do a little more research on the forums.

Spirit Falls Gorge

A fellow hiker mentioned an alternate trail in the comments section. He described a steep descent which skirts around the property and goes through an area owned by a hiker-friendly company. It was definitely an at-your-own-risk path with some steep muddy spots that my hamstrings sharply protested. But with GPS and careful footing (or kayaking), it was much easier than descriptions of the previous (illegal) path.

I was the only one in the gorge all morning. The trees and pounding mist made it difficult to find a composition my 24–105mm lens could squeeze in, but Spirit Falls was easily the most idyllic falls in the region. Simply stunning.

Spirit Falls

I think my camera was also thrilled: it crashed three times.

Jonathan Lee Martin

Jonathan Lee Martin

Globetrotting digital nomad and fine art landscape photographer in Atlanta. Working remotely as a developer + international trainer, scaling mountains at twilight to discover non-touristy landscapes.

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