Monthly Archives: May 2014

Beyond the Fall: A Latourell Loop Hike

Most of us, when we go to Latourell Falls, pull off the Historic Columbia River Highway into the parking lot, walk the 25 yards or so to the viewing point, snap a few photos, and then jump back in our vehicles to zoom off to the next waterfall.  I’ll admit, I’ve done this very thing numerous times. 

A few of us walk down to the base of the falls and then wind around under the Highway to find ourselves in some weird park we’ve never seen before and then scurry back to where our vehicles are parked.  I’ve done this, too.

Even fewer of us do what I (after rangering for nearly 7 years in the waterfall wonderland of Silver Falls) now highly recommend.  Which is this:  Park at Guy W. Talbot State Park on the north side of the Historic Columbia River Highway just west of Latourell Falls (follow a state park shield with a picnic table) – technically, Latourell Falls is IN Guy W. Talbot, but few know this or park here.  Use the very nice restroom if needed.  Follow the braided, paved path uphill, keeping right.

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Penny postcard of Latourell Falls. What has changed since this was taken?  (Besides the spelling?)

What you’re about to do is hike the Latourell Falls loop backwards.

Backwards, you ask?  Yes.  Here’s why.  If you’re willing to hike 2+ miles, it is worth it to see the upper and lower falls at Latourell – most of us, as I mentioned, only see the lower falls and miss out the upper.  Waterfalls, as we all know, are quite a treat.  So, for this (and I’d argue, all) waterfall hikes, do the work first – hike uphill in the forest first, and then, as you wind downhill, you’ll be rewarded with first the upper falls, and, finally, the lower falls.  A couple more hundred yards, and you’ll be back at your vehicle.  And a nice restroom.

I just hiked the loop backwards (having already completed frontwards) and confirmed, at least for myself, that it is the best direction.  And don’t worry, your forested hike up has a few things in store for you, too.  Take a look . . .

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Fairybells. Easily confused with a handful of other similar lilies.

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Larkspur – what a handsome flower!

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Piggy-back Plant is in the saxifrage family; one of the odd purple-brownish flowers in the Pacific Northwest forest.

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The Salmonberry flower is always an eye-catcher and typically one of the early bloomers.

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Pacific Bleeding Heart – about ready to seed!

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Our striking white Trillium flowers turn a gorgeous purple as they age.

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Fringe Cup, also from the Saxifrage family.

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Corydalis – somewhat similar in looks to a Bleeding Heart when you first learn wildflowers, these two blossom around the same time and can be find in similar habitats.

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Banana Slugs are everywhere once you train your eyes to see them. This one was about 4 inches long, but they can be over 9!

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Happy Birthday, Vista House

Join us for Vista House’s Birthday celebration on Sunday, May 4th from 11 AM to 3 PM.  

A second, smaller celebration will take place on Monday, May 5th – the day of Vista House’s dedication.


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Dedicated on May 5, 1918 – Vista House is nearing 100 years old!

Recently, I visited the Pittock Mansion in Portland for the first time. A fascinating building, one of the things I was struck by was the similarity between Pittock Mansion and Vista House. Marble interior, sandstone exterior, mahogany woodwork . . . the buildings have the same sort of geometric lines and ornate flair. Undoubtedly, the same movers and shakers that were behind the Historic Columbia River Highway and Vista House were in the same circles as those in Portland. It’s a microcosmic era of architecture in a sense. And now, at both Pittock and Vista House, nearly 100 years later, the doors are open to all and visitors are traveling from afar, piling into these grand buildings, and standing for a moment in awe.

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People have been driving up to Vista House for 96 years – the cars have changed, but for the most part, the building has not!

The other morning, as I was putting on my park uniform, I was thinking about Pittock Mansion and Vista House. And instead of wondering what everyone must see and think as they enter the doors, I started to think about the Vista House building, itself. What has Vista House seen since its opening? How have things changed since 1918? As we all know, if you spend enough time with an inanimate object (today, typically, a vehicle, computer, or phone) eventually, you gain a “sense” of that object—it begins to take on a personality of its own. Buildings, especially those with a rich history, are no different. Spend enough time with Vista House—wash her floors, scrub her toilets, patch her leaks, paint her walls, and set her clock—hang out with her through howling winds, torrential downpours, and stunningly silent sunrises and sets—and you start to get a sense of Vista House.

So, as we prepare to celebrate her birthday on May 5, imagine with me. What has Vista House seen over the past 96 years? What was life like in 1918?

Our U.S. history course remind us that in 1918, WWI came to a close on the 11th hour of the 11th  day of the 11th  month—taking 16 million lives in four years.  The Flu Pandemic of 1918 took three times as many (50 million) in less than a year.  As for every-day life, we Vista House fans know that in 1918, cars were becoming increasingly common as were the roads they traveled upon—although trains remained the primary mode of transportation.

In 1918, people relied on telegraphs and letters for their main communication.  Telephones existed, but were expensive and unreliable.  Radio existed, but commercial broadcasts did not.  Americans spent their free time at roller rinks, pool and dance halls, movie theaters, and saloons.  Films were silent and about 20 minutes in length.

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How does Vista House and the area around it look different today?

In 1918, life expectancy was 53 years for men, 54 for women.  Women began stepping outside of the home, working as teachers and secretaries; some, for the war effort, took traditionally male jobs in factories.  Soon, women would be given the right to vote.  Sports fans could tell us that the Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 1918 and wouldn’t do so again until 2004.  In July of 1918, revolutionary Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, was born.  Mandela passed just last year.

Nearly 100 years.  I can only begin to imagine all that Vista House has seen since her doors first opened.  And all of the work that has been done to keep them open.

Here’s to Vista House—Happy Birthday; to you—“Thank you”; and to another 96-plus years of service for all of us.

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Happy 96th Birthday, Vista House!