Category Archives: Postcards

Postcard: Ramona Falls (no exaggeration required)

A hiker stands on the footbridge at the base of Ramona Falls, Mt. Hood National Forest, Ore. Courtesy photo by Catherine "Cat" Caruso.

Like many Pacific Northwest residents, I didn’t actually grow up here. I often call myself a “northeasterner by upbringing, northwesterner by choice.” While I know firsthand the way one’s hometown maintains a powerful hold on their heart, I also never tire of finding reasons to love my adopted home.

So, when one of my younger brothers came to visit this month, I steered him towards the travel and tourism kiosk located in the baggage claim area at Portland International Airport. As an anime fan, I thought he’d be especially delighted by Travel Oregon’s colorful “Oregon. Only slightly exaggerated” campaign… and he was! But even my heart skipped a beat when I recognized one of the locations in the brochure as Ramona Falls.

I’d hiked there just two weeks earlier.

An image from the “Oregon, Only slightly exaggerated,” ad campaign (Travel Oregon)

It’s as beautiful as what you see in this illustration.

The area around the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, which includes the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Hood National Forest, is said to have the largest concentration of waterfalls in the United States.

Oregon’s most-famous waterfall is probably Multnomah Falls. My brother and I made a point to visit it during his trip; a spectacular sight, water plunging hundreds of feet to the pool below. It draws visitors from around the world, daily.

But to me, Ramona Falls is more beautiful.

The view looking up at the top of Ramona Falls. Courtesy photo by Catherine “Cat” Caruso.

Before I go any further, I want to share some words of warning: Ramona Falls is located in a wilderness area.

Never go into a wilderness without the ‘10 Outdoors Essentials!”

Outdoor Eseentials: Be prepared and carry these essential items any time you head out into the outdoors! 1. Appropriate footwear. 2. Printed map. 3. Extra water. 4. Extra food. 5. Extra clothes. 6. Emergency items. 7. First aid kit. 8. Knife or multi-purpose tool. 9. Backpack. 10. Sun hat, sunscreen, sunglasses.
Outdoor Eseentials: Be prepared and carry these essential items any time you head out into the outdoors! 1. Appropriate footwear. 2. Printed map. 3. Extra water. 4. Extra food. 5. Extra clothes. 6. Emergency items. 7. First aid kit. 8. Knife or multi-purpose tool. 9. Backpack. 10. Sun hat, sunscreen, sunglasses.

During my hike, I encountered many day hikers who seemed to take the lesson of 2017’s Eagle Creek fire, which occurred in the nearby Columbia River Gorge, to heart. During that fire, more than 100 day use visitors were stranded on the trail, and forced to undertake a long, difficult hike to safety.

But I also saw many people who not well-prepared, carrying only a bottle of water and whatever fit in their pockets.

As you approach the Sandy River, the trail is clearly marked with signs that warn about the dangers of crossing. Pay attention: If you can’t safely secure your child or pet to you and carry them across an improvised footbridge mad from a fallen tree or log without losing your balance, don’t try!

I’m sharing this from my own experience: Many people bring their dogs on this hike; I assumed I’d one of them, and it was a mistake. While I believed my young pup had done enough work on a balance beam to handle a log crossing, I failed to account for how much he likes to swim. While the current was safe – though, still quite strong – against the body of an adult human, it was much too deep and too swift for my Siberian Husky. Intellectually, I’d known the river can be dangerous, emotionally, it left me far more nervous for some of the small children I saw on this trail after I’d jumped into the current myself and fought to haul 65 pounds of wriggling, wet dog to the shore.

Shortly after this photo was taken, he jumped into the river for the second time. He’s cuter than he is bright. He’s also no longer invited on hikes with unimproved water crossings. Courtesy photo by Catherine “Cat” Caruso.

Signs that warn about the dangers of river crossings are posted alongside this trail for a reason: hikers have died here, after flash floods caused by heavy rainfall, in 2004 and 2014.

It’s easy be lulled into a false sense of security when you see others navigate a risky situation successfully; I know, I made the same mistake.

My advice is to read trip reports, check weather listings, and use more caution than you think you need to. Just because nothing seems to have gone wrong for many others, doesn’t mean it can’t.

Still: At the right time of year, when the river crossing is approached with appropriate caution and care, the Ramona Falls loop trail is a beautiful hike.

The 7-to-8 mile loop has a relatively gentle grade, with a cumulative 1000 feet of elevation gain.

The trail culminates with a spectacular view from the base of Ramona Falls, which really do look like something out of a fairy tale; truly, they need no exaggeration.

Children play at the base of the “real” Ramona Falls; Mt. Hood National Forest, Ore., which needs no exaggeration. Courtesy photo by Catherine “Cat” Caruso.

More information:

Ramona Falls trail # 797 – Mt. Hood National Forest:

The Enchanting Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge – Travel Oregon

Source information: Catherine “Cat” Caruso works in the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region Office of Communications and Community Engagement. When she’s not editing the “Your Northwest Forests” blog, she’s usually shopping for fur-repellent office wear. She considers her outdoorsmanship skills to be “average,” which means there’s a 50 percent chance yours are better – but also, an equal chance that they’re worse.

Postcard from: Get Outdoors Day

The USDA Forest Service’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest staffers team up with colleagues from the National Park Service to host an event for national Get Outdoors Day at Fort Vancouver, Wash. each year.

Get Outdoors Day has evolved into a major community event, with visitors from throughout the greater Portland, Ore. and Vancouver, Wash. metro area and partners from local organizations, businesses, government partners, and even historical re-enactors, all working together to encourage and inspire members of the public to “GO” – Get Outdoors – and explore!

The 2019 National Get Outdoors Day was also a fee-free day on National Forests in Washington and Oregon.

Fee-free days offer no-cost access to Forest Service -managed trail heads and recreation sites, in an effort to encourage outdoors experiences and ensure all Americans have opportunities to access and enjoy recreation opportunities on their public lands.

USDA Forest Service -designated -fee-free days may not extend to some vendor, or concessionaire, -managed sites, or to sites managed by other federal agencies.

Gallery: Photos from the Get Outdoors Day event, hosted by the USDA Forest Service – Gifford Pinchot National Forest and National Parks Service – Fort Vancouver June 8, 2019 at the fort, located in Vancouver, Wash.

USDA Forest Service photos provided by Gala Miller and Heather Ibsen, Gifford Pinchot National Forest staff

A postcard from: Panther Creek Falls

a series of small waterfalls is formed by tiers of moss-covered boulders and large fallen logs along a forest stream

While more famous waterfalls like Multnomah Falls and Bridal Veil Falls draw thousands of visitors to the Columbia River Gorge, but the entire area offers plenty of extraordinary sights for waterfall-watchers; in fact, the region is home to the largest concentration of waterfalls in the U.S. One waterfall worth visiting is Panther Creek Falls, accessible via a short, half-mile hike from National Forest Service Rd. 65 (Panther Creek Rd.) on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Olivia Rivera, a research assistant who works in the USDA Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Regional Office, recently visited Panther Creek Falls. She sent us these photos and a few words about one of her favorite places in Your Northwest Forests:

“Panther Creek is easily my favorite sight yet,” she writes. “It’s a photographer’s dream. Easily one of the most unique spots in the Gorge area, this place really is gorgeous (no pun intended).

“There are dozens of smaller waterfalls and streams flowing down in all sorts of arrangements, creating an array of colors. A short quarter-mile path leads to a viewpoint above the falls, providing a great top-down view. You can also get a good look at the creek flowing into the falls from there.

“It is not possible to get to the base of the falls directly from the viewpoint… That said, the view of the falls is stunning from the base, where you can feel the water spraying all around and moss at your feet.”

Rivera said the short trek to the viewing platform is suitable for hikers of almost any age or ability level, but warns visitors to to steer clear of the treacherously slick rocks and cliff faces leading to the base of the falls.

For more information:
Panther Creek Falls (USDA Forest Service official site)

a waterfall is viewed from the base as water streams down a series of tall, steep rock faces and moss from in a small gorge

Panther Creek Falls, April 1, 2018. Courtesy photo by Olivia Rivera, used by the USDA Forest Service with permission. All rights reserved. Photographer Instagram: @_0liveee.

Image gallery:

Olivia Rivera is a USDA Forest Service resource assistant. She works with collaborative groups on the Mt. Hood National Forest from the Pacific Northwest regional office in Portland, Ore. Olivia is a biologist and environmental scientist by training, and a nature and wildlife photographer at heart. You can find more of her photography on Instagram at @_0liveee.