A very large and exciting dream of mine is to through-hike the Pacific Crest Trail (the 2,650 mile trail running from Mexico through to Canada), and living within short distance of it, I decided it was time to experience a small piece of this behemoth. So I set my sights out to Dry Creek Falls near Cascade Locks.
First, just in getting there, there is one important thing to note: there is summer parking, and then there is ‘rest of the year’ parking. In summer, the parking lot is literally at the last right turn before driving over The Bridge of the Gods to Washington. Before and after summer, they close off that lot. When I hiked this just a few days ago, the winter parking area was not at all obvious, and I sort of found it through dumb luck (since my trail book gave me no information on its alternate parking area). After you pull off exit 44 on 84-East, keep going about a mile until Wasco St. on your right. Drive up there and make a right turn to the dead end. That’s the winter trailhead.
When I started my trek just past the trailhead and saw the famous PCT marker nailed to a tree, I literally squealed.
It was there, I was on it, it was real! I’ve been reading countless memoirs, trail blogs, and watching all sorts of videos and documentaries about the PCT that to actually be stepping foot onto it was more exciting for me than I realized. It made knowing I was going to be through-hiking it that much more real for me. It was no longer this thing I had imagined, I was actually seeing for myself a small part of it. In a wonderfully corny way, it was magical.
There was a trail maintenance crew working to clear some of the summer overgrowth on the trail, and I just thought, ‘what a fun job!’ I assume they were likely a volunteer crew, but thought how amazing it would be to be able to make a buck working in such a beautiful environment for a living. I’ll have to look into that some day.
The hike out to Dry Creek Falls was very dense, lush, and straightforward. For a little more than two and a half miles, the trail gently climbs away from the Columbia River and into incredibly verdant forest thick with gorgeous old growth. It was very lovely and serene.
The trees were stripped of almost all autumn colors this early in winter, so the remaining forest green was abundant in the ferns, pines, and moss. It was a gorgeous trail. Finally you’ll reach an intersection with a wooden bridge stretching over Dry Creek. One would think with a name like that, the creek would be low and trickling, but it was full and roaring.
Here you have the option of continuing south on the PCT, or you can turn right up a half mile ascent to the base of Dry Creek Falls, so ascend to the falls I did. What I found was nothing short of majestic:
Standing there at the base of this gushing beauty, it washed over me that this is just one of the hundreds upon hundreds of visual delights that await through-hikers on the PCT. It was almost too much to wrap my head around. And then a second thought came to me: one day I will be back there again, but it will have taken me over 2,000 miles and just my own two feet to reach that spot. What a dizzying thought! I also reflected on Cheryl Strayed as I sat by the falls. This was the last waterfall she experienced before ending her PCT journey at The Bridge of the Gods. The overwhelming sense for her as her trek was coming to an end, having come as far as the California Desert, I can’t imagine what she must have been feeling as she drank this vision in.
This trail is exactly what I needed, and I didn’t even know I needed it. But I did. I needed to step out onto this thing that has been floating around my head for a couple of months now and to make it real. All I felt was extreme excitement. That definitely bodes well as the next year or so of planning becomes a flurry of activity in preparation for the big trek.
Treks Down: 38, Treks to Go: 14