If you didn't know the entrance was there you would drive right past it. Along a stretch of old Highway 30 sandwiched between the Columbia River and the sheer cliffs of the Columbia Gorge, just past one of the iconic waterfalls that have drawn visitors here by car for more than a hundred years, a set of battered steps descends to a paltry pool of water and a pile of logs and debris. So why are there so many car parked here? We passed a trailhead - but saw no one going up or down.
All along the roadside people are changing from hiking boots to sandals, and heading down the stairway to wade in the water and clamber around the log jam (despite the US Forest Service Warnings that the jam could shift suddenly). But the number of people and number of cars are mysteriously disparate. Unless you had been tipped off, as we had been by the guy at the bike store in Portland, that clambering over the logs and negotiating the rocky creek bed will lead you to another world.
The two story high log jam was not trivial to get over; some logs were loose, others pretty slippery. At one point I looked down as I stepped over a gap to see a clear shaft to the creek bed 15 feet below. I didn't want to fall! Once over the top, we found ourselves in a narrow gorge, so narrow no sunlight made it down, though the sun was only 30 minutes past its zenith, so narrow that toppled trees at the top of the 100 foot cliffs formed bridges from one side to the other. There was no path to follow, the creek filled the bottom from side to side. At points the water was waist deep (or deeper on those of us who were short!). I kept my camera tucked into a dry bag -- since I was loathe to take this trek without it.
You turn one final corner to find a waterfall that looks like it came out of an Indian Jones movie: mossy cliffs, with a deep pool at the bottom, a shelf behind the falls, places to jump off into the swirling waters. It was one of the most amazing places I've been. Barnacle Boy and Crash were enchanted. In the end we dragged them blue-lipped and shivering from the waters, to return to the real world.