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Trip Report: Hiking Wahkeena Falls Loop After the Columbia Gorge Fire
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Trip Report: Hiking Wahkeena Falls Loop After the Columbia Gorge Fire

Trip Report: Hiking Wahkeena Falls Loop After the Columbia Gorge Fire

When: 01/02/2019
Location: Wahkeena Falls Loop
Conditions: Mid '40s, Overcast, intermittent light rain
Duration: 3 Hours (about 6 miles depending on route)
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult (Due to current trail conditions)
Kid Friendly: No (Due to current trail conditions)
Pet Friendly: Yes
Usefull links: www.oregonhikers.org

Wahkeena Falls Loop

The Full Report:
I hadn’t been out on the Wahkeena Trail since before the Eagle Creek fire in 2017 and its beauty remains intact, but the destruction of the landscape adds more dramatic features as you reach the top of your elevation gain. Evidence of the fire stretches down to the trailhead where a majority of the brush is gone and beginning to be replaced with new growth. As you gain elevation, more and more bases of trees are scorched and, in some cases, you can tell that the tree is no longer alive and is just waiting to rot out and fall over.

Wahkeena Falls Loop Wahkeena Falls Loop

Once you reach the peak of your elevation gain, the true extent of the fire damage is realized. Over 90 percent of the trees in some areas were completely burned out and have little to no chance of recovering. On the ascent and the descent as you come down the Multnomah falls side there are many instances of mass wasting events that have wiped out small portions of the trail or sent a hefty amount of debris and rocks onto the trail. Almost every offshoot trail is gated off and there are warning signs spread out at most junctions to warn people of the traveling danger.

Wahkeena Falls Loop Wahkeena Falls Loop

It is a truly humbling experience to see the destructive potential that fire can have on this kind of landscape, but at the same time, you can see the forest beginning its recovery process. Obviously, it took decades for this area to get where it was before the fire and will most likely take a few more decades if not a century to completely recover. I am looking forward to getting out into the rest of the Columbia River Gorge as the trails open up to discover what differences await me in terms of landscape changes. If you are looking for a good workout combined with the awe of the destructive potential of fires than this hike is for you.

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