Hike to Ramona Falls

I had plans on Saturday so Sunday was my day to hike this weekend. The forecast called for 90% chance of rain. Bah! I’m not a fan of hiking in the rain, but I really needed to get out for a hike. So Dawn, Buddy, and Timmy, and I headed up there with our rain gear. Fortunately when we got to the trailhead it wasn’t raining, just very overcast. So we shoved the rain gear in our packs and headed out.

The bridge over the Sandy River is in a different spot than the last time (2009) I was here. Last time with Greg:

This time:

Mt. Hood was just barely visible through the clouds. (See the yellow tent? Someone camped here the night before.)

We saw quite a few pentsemon in bloom:

And LOTS of rhododendrons in bloom (yay!). I think we hit them at just the right time. Beautiful!

There’s a spiffy new bridge over Ramona Creek that I don’t remember being there four years ago.

Dawn tested out the old bridge:

Ramona Creek is SUCH a lovely creek. I was too lazy to get out the tripod for these shots, but I couldn’t resist taking some pictures of this prettiest of creeks.

The forest along here is just so beautiful.

There was a large Meetup group that we kept encountering. At one point they were all coming back to the trail from the forest and we asked what was back there. They said the old PCT was over there and they had been checking out an old footbridge. Anyone here know the scoop on that?

And then we were at Ramona Falls! I always kind of “forget” just how huge this waterfall is. Every time I see it in person I’m just as blown away as I was the first time I saw it. It’s one of my faves!

By the way, if you’ve ever been curious about how this waterfall got its name, Oregon Geographic Names says that John E. Mills, a USFS employee, discovered and named the falls on August 8, 1933, while locating trail. He was courting his wife-to-be and his head was full of the romantic song “Ramona”.

We all enjoyed some snacks at the falls, including the dogs. Did someone say “treats”?

After a break and some waterfall admiration we continued down the trail towards the Sandy River to complete our loop. We took a short detour to check out the old 1935 Upper Sandy Guard Station on our way back. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in September 2009, but it hasn’t been preserved. (Read the nomination form here for lots of great history.)

Funded by the Emergency Relief Appropriations (ERA) Act of 1935, and cooperating funds from the City of Portland, the cabin was built along the newly constructed Timberline Trail specifically to provide housing for an administrative guard to protect the Bull Run Division watershed, the source of the City of Portland’s drinking water supply, from public entry.

The cabin has been abandoned for a long time and the roof is in bad shape. The tarp that was put up there several years ago is now in tatters and a gaping hole in the roof is letting in the elements.

I’ve been told by the current Forest Service historian that because it sits inside a wilderness area the wilderness laws trump the historic preservation laws, so the building is being allowed to deteriorate. (Although, I was under the impression that if a building already existed in a wilderness area the Forest Service was allowed to perform maintenance/upkeep on it. Am I wrong?)

It’s a real shame, especially since the Forest Service seemed willing to preserve the building back in 2009 (see a March 16, 2009 article here). The Northwest Forest Conservancy, the group that was interested in seeing the building preserved, seems to be defunct/inactive.

It’s also interesting that the building doesn’t show up on current topo maps anymore.

After that little side trip we had an uneventful hike back to the car. Got a good view of some of the flood destruction along the Sandy River. Never underestimate the power of Mother Nature!

About halfway back to the footbridge over the Sandy we came across three women who were hiking in and they asked us if they were headed in the right direction for Ramona Falls. They said they had gotten turned around and had been hiking for a long time. We told them they were on the right track and Dawn gave them her photocopy of the hike description and map from Sullivan’s book, but I’d be real surprised if they actually made it all the way to the waterfall. One of them was wearing sparkly flip-flops and I was surprised she had made it even that far.

Back at the river crossing the mountain was showing a little bit more, but was still mostly in the clouds.

There had been spits and sprinkles all day, but nothing significant. And it was super mild, in the 60s at least. I had on long sleeves and wished I had my tank top instead. We were both pleasantly surprised that the crummy forecast hadn’t come true. And then as we were driving away from the trailhead the skies opened up. By the time we crossed the Sandy River the windshield wipers were going full speed. Wow, did we time that well or what?!

Great hike! It was nice to get out here again after a four-year absence.


Date of visit: May 26, 2012
Population: 21 (2010 Census)

Lonerock is a tiny little town in the middle of nowhere, named after an enormous 35-foot-tall rock behind the church. The community was established in 1881 as a service center for the surrounding ranches, then incorporated in 1901. The town is so tiny that its population peaked at 82 in 1930 and has been in decline ever since.

The nearest town is Condon, about 20 miles away, about half of that being gravel road.

Welcome to Lonerock
Welcome to Lonerock

Post office
The “post office”

Old Community Hall
Old community hall

New Community Hall
New community hall

The lone rock
The famous rock behind the church

Former schoolhouse
The old schoolhouse is now a private home

Town jail
The old town jail

Map of Lonerock

Oregon Towns Project


Date of visit: May 26, 2012
Population: 1,291 (2010 Census)

Heppner is a little town with a picturesque creek (Willow Creek) flowing through it. That creek wasn’t so lovely on June 14, 1903. A severe thunderstorm hit the area, producing lightning, rain, and hail. A flash flood raced through town, a wall of water sweeping away homes and businesses. The flood carried along trees and other debris which only made the devastation worse.

Some residents were able to escape to high ground and some were able to climb trees to escape the raging water. But the flood happened so fast that about 250 people were killed. When the water receded two-thirds of the houses in Heppner were gone and all but three businesses were destroyed. The railroad spur line from Lexington was also destroyed, along with the telegraph and telephone lines. Clean-up took weeks.

Willow Creek flooded again in 1948 and 1971, but much less severely than in 1903. In 1983 a $55 million dam was built on Willow Creek just outside of town to help control future flood events.


Welcome to Heppner

Welcome to Heppner

Morrow County Courthouse
Morrow County Courthouse

Judge Ellis House
The 1885 Judge Ellis House

Blarney Stone
Heppner’s very own Blarney Stone

Post office
Post Office

Library and museum
Library and Museum

Flood control
The dam that on Willow Creek

Morrow County Agricultural Museum
Morrow County Agricultural Collection


Map of Heppner

Oregon Towns Project

Cook Hill

On Sunday Greg and I were supposed to meet up with geocaching friends to do the Cook Hill hike. They got a bit of a head-start on us and we got delayed, so we ended up about an hour behind them on the “trail.”

We started hiking up the old logging road and came to the famous chair.

Road hiking.

More road hiking.

That road is surprisingly steep and I was really struggling. Greg had on sandals (hiking boots sitting outside the front door, whoops!) and he was barely winded.

Saw some coralroot which was growing right up through some ferns.

One patch of lupine alongside the old road.

We reached the junction where the Russ Jolley “trail” branches off and found a note from our friends. We had caught up a bit and were now only 30 minutes behind them.

We had to battle this tall vegetation, which would have been a lot worse if our friends hadn’t bushwhacked through here 30 minutes earlier.

Then we broke out into the meadow where some balsamroot were in bloom. They were past peak but still nice.

The wind was AWFUL. I thought we were going to get blown off the mountain! Photographing the wildflowers was difficult. All my photos are full of blurry bits of yellow.

Views to the west.

And the Hood River Valley to the east.

We still had a lot more climbing to do before reaching the summit. There wasn’t really a trail, just flagging. The underbrush was low, but even then it’s surprising how slow the going is when there is no established trail.

Almost there. We finally caught up with our friends a few minutes after I took this picture.

We finally reached the summit and I was disappointed to see that the meadows there were not wildflower meadows like on Dog Mountain. There were a few flowers here and there, but it was mostly just grass. This was the largest concentration of flowers in the whole meadow:

It was hard to stay upright with the wind blowing so hard. Here’s Greg being blown backward.

View down to the Columbia and the Oregon side of the Gorge.

The clouds parted just enough to give us a peek at Mt. Hood.

And there’s Dog Mountain next door.

We had a GPS track that showed you can continue along the summit and connect up with the road system to loop back down, but going further along the summit would have required some serious bushwhacking and our friends had also heard that the upper part of the road had a lot more blowdown than the lower part. So we returned the way we came.

For all the accolades this hike gets online, I was expecting some spectacular results. Unfortunately this hike turned out to be more work than Dog Mountain with less reward than Dog Mountain. That one balsamroot meadow was nice, but the summit was not worth the work it took to get there. So the final verdict is that it’s good to check this one off the list, but I don’t plan to hike it again.

Wauna Viewpoint

My geocache at Wauna Viewpoint needed to be replaced so I decided to celebrate National Trails Day on Saturday by hiking up there with a new cache. I invited my friend Dawn to join me.

We started out at the Tooth Rock trailhead and headed east on the historic highway, now a nice paved bike path.

As we neared Eagle Creek we got a view of Bonneville Dam. See all those clouds? It was cloudy and warm and it made for a pretty muggy morning!

We saw a number of tiger lilies blooming (or about to bloom) on our hike. I love these!

Since we were so close we headed over to the bathrooms at Eagle Creek before continuing on our hike. We had been hearing loud music for awhile and it seemed to be coming from the Eagle Creek area. We couldn’t see where it was coming from (not yet, anyway), but the thumping bass followed us on our hike for most of the day.

After our bathroom break we headed up the trail to connect with old Road 777. We spotted this carving on a log.

Everything is green and lush, including the moss on this giant fallen tree.

The ferns in this one area were huge, almost as tall as we were!

Since the hike to Wauna Viewpoint is relatively short we decided to first take a two-mile round-trip detour up Road 777 to the old Wauna Point trailhead, where some lovely little waterfalls are located. The sun had just started coming out so the photos were a bit tricky. I love these falls, though. So pretty!

Then we headed back down the road and picked up the Gorge Trail, then the side trail up to Wauna Viewpoint.

We could see across to Washington.

And there was a big distant waterfall between the two mountains. Greenleaf Falls?

Bonneville Dam

Looking east to Bridge of the Gods and Cascade Locks. Man I love all that beautiful green!!

Looking up the canyon of Eagle Creek.

Looking west.

The skies had cleared up quite a bit and the views were so nice. I hid my cache, we enjoyed a snack, and then sat and soaked up the views. I don’t think this viewpoint sees too many visitors, which is a shame. It’s a short and not difficult hike and the payoff is pretty big.

After we got back to the car we stopped at Eagle Creek to try and locate the source of the obnoxious music that had we had been hearing for most of the day. We finally found it at the reservable group use area on the north side of the freeway at Eagle Creek. There was a huge group camped out there and they had music thumping out of a bunch of amps. I wonder if that was even legal.

Great hike and great company!