Our week in the Columbia River Gorge area was excellent. After luckily finding a spot at Memaloose State Park for Sunday night, we moved on to nearby Ainsworth State Park for the remainder of the week. For the most part, I have been really pleased with Oregon’s parks but I was even more pleased when I learned that Ainsworth was one of the parks in which, with a coupon from the internet, you could stay two nights and get the third for free. Additionally, it was a first come-first served park so once we claimed our spot, it was ours for up to 14 days. If I could do cartwheels around our campsite without embarrassing myself, I totally would have. That is how excited I was to find this park.
Situated along the historic Columbia River Highway, we were 30 miles east of Portland, 30 miles west of Hood River (which makes me hum “Moon River“ every time I say or see the name and now I dare you not to do the same), and only minutes from the Columbia River, the area’s popular waterfalls and recreational activities, such as kiteboarding…an activity that Chris now wants to attempt. [Attempt = Go out and buy all the equipment necessary and then participate in this activity no more than five times].
After Chris finished work on Wednesday, we decided to explore the historic highway and its waterfalls. Multnomah Falls is the second highest year-round waterfall in the United States, falling 620 feet. The sight of this tiered waterfall was spectacular and we hiked the short trail to the bridge that crosses over the falls to get a closer look. The park, however, like the many others along this highway, was crowded so we took a few pictures and quickly moved along.
Our next stop was Wahkeena Falls, my favorite waterfall. We couldn’t really see the falls from the parking lot, so we followed a trail and arrived at a bridge that crossed right at the base of the falls. To my amazement, there was no one here. I stood on the bridge staring at the water as it came crashing down. The mist of the spray was refreshing after our uphill hike on a hot day. It was standing on this bridge with the mist hitting my face where I had a flashback to my childhood. And, yes, it is a happy memory (for my family who thinks I have no happy memories!) Picture it: Six Flags over Georgia. 1980s. My cousin, Gina, and I loved the water rides, especially Splashwater Falls. We’d go to the park in our bathing suits and stand in the ridiculous long line to ride the two-minute ride which literally takes you up a hill and then down another splashing you into a pool of water, hence the name. It was great fun. The best part, however, came after exiting the ride when we’d quickly go and stand on the bridge that overlooked the pool of water, stake out our spot, and impatiently wait for the next boat to drop down the hill causing water to pour over the bridge at a force powerful enough to nearly knock two small 10-year olds to the ground. We loved every second of it. So much, that I think we repeated that process dozens of time (probably annoying my incredibly patient parents).
Standing on the bridge at Wahkeena Falls with the water rushing beneath me and feeling the cool mist of the falls on my skin took me back to those fun childhood days when my only worry was whether I was standing on the part of the bridge where I would get sprayed by the most water. Here I was at my very own Splashwater Falls (minus the long lines, pushy people, amusement park smell, and, well…the mist wasn‘t exactly a powerful splash over the bridge…but you get the idea). It was a perfectly peaceful moment captured in photo by my husband who was perched on a rock high above the clearly marked trail and the signs that read, “Please stay on the trail.”