My mom has a beloved quote, “Every step of the journey is the journey.” As a lover of endings and a hater of middles, the lesson of that quip has eluded me until very recently. Zach and I have been taking off to fill up our eyeballs with beautiful things for the majority of the past dozen weekends, and these road trips have basically become necessary for my mental health and are mostly, honestly, more about the getting there than the arriving. Sometimes we’re in the car for upwards of 4 hours total just to walk around for 30 minutes, but it never feels like a waste because we also got to see things and hang out for the whole ride in the car, too. The landscape here is so vastly different from Atlanta, and even from mile to mile, that I could just look out the passenger window for a couple hours and consider that a trip well-spent. Our house is only 5 minutes from downtown Vancouver, but travel 15 more and you’re out in the country, driving past vineyards and cattle. It’s wild to think that I moved here because I wanted to be close to the city, but I spend all my free time getting as far away from it as I can. WHO AM I?
Saturday we checked out Panther Creek Falls which I located by the now tried-and-true method of just looking on Google maps for something blue and hoping it’s a body of water large enough to justify the existence of a park. We’ve gotten used to the intense twists and turns of the Lewis & Clark Highway after a few visits out that direction, but the route to PCF takes off north after some miles down the highway and then goes pretty far off the beaten path from anywhere we’ve previously been. The narrow road to the Falls was strewn with boulders and rubble, and lacked any barriers between the road and the vast drop-off into the creek. Zach’s a safe driver and I’m always (mostly) game for an adventure but when we encountered a passing vehicle I nearly shat myself worrying we’d be edged off the road–this drive was SERIOUSLY the journey, y’all. The signs claimed the road went on for 30 miles and when I thought we must have gone half that distance I looked over at the trip odometer and saw we had gone only one, single, solitary mile. I was 99% sure we would die if we had to go 29 more miles, but after just one more we saw a cluster of other vehicles (including an RV, which…those people are insane) and figured we must be at the right place. The signage is minimal and the path down to the falls is hidden–we would have completely missed it if not for this handy message.
The well-worn trail isn’t too physically challenging but it’s a mental minefield for clumsy anxious fat people, personally speaking. The way down is perilously steep and narrow, if not a long distance. I wore my trusty Crocs rainboots and felt like a real outdoorslady, but then I saw a woman in a denim miniskirt and knee-high heeled boots, so uh, you could probably just wear whatever and stroll right down if you’re a physically capable person.
There’s a wood decked viewing area and some security ropes, but this waterfall is about a zillion times less commercial or crowded than Multnomah Falls and I would say it’s possibly even more impressive in person. The hike itself was a little outside of my comfort level due to the incline and the isolation; when we’re somewhere without cell signal I start getting antsy, and since this particular park is basically just in the wilderness, the amenities are lacking (i.e., non-existent). We saw a few people with tents set up along the way, but there were no bathrooms (UGH) or even picnic tables, making this one of the more rural trips we’ve done. The drive-to-payoff ratio was sorta skewed on the “drive” end of the scale so I’m not sure if we’ll be back here any time soon (unless I buy a GoGirl–the road trip sized iced latte + the gushing waterfalls were a poor combination) (and unless you visit and want to go–I will totally go with you!) but I’m glad we went.
We had some sandwiches in the car so we stopped at the Bonneville dam again on the way home and made use of their picnic table (and bathroom, PHEW).
Skeeter says “Life is dam good!” And my sanity is extended for another week.