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Monday, May 7, 2007

Ramona Falls Trail (Super-sized) Part Two

In my April 30th entry (, I previewed the road to the Ramona Falls Trailhead and chronicled the conditions that currently exist after flooding that occurred in November.

Although the bridge that spans the Sandy River is intact, the southern bank of the Sandy River is not – that is, a substantial gap between the bridge and the land makes vehicular traffic to the Ramona Falls Trailhead impossible. This ultimately adds approximately three miles inbound to the existing seven mile loop. Add the extra three miles outbound, and overall, you can expect a new super-sized 13 mile hike.

This is the alternate bridge I used to cross the river where the road is closed. The third trunk on the right provides a fairly steady platform for your feet and you can use the middle trunk for balance.

It is kind of eerie to walk on Forest Road 1825 and never see a car (Saturday I didn’t see any other hikers either). I was reminded of a scene in that zombie movie, 28 Days Later, where the guy wakes up in the deserted hospital and wanders the empty streets of London. Occasionally, the clouds would part and reveal Mt. Hood looming above the river valley.

I found myself wondering about the dynamics of the flooding in November. According to the Oregonian (Fall Rains Dampen Spring Hiking, April 27, 2007), the Sandy river is a glacier fed stream on a strato-volcano. Years of above-average temperatures and shrinking glaciers have uncovered massive amounts of unconsolidated debris. Presumably this uncovered material, when mixed with record November rains, helped provide the scouring action that carved away multiple sections of the Ramona Falls Trail.
I tried to imagine the water filling this channel to the rim, but couldn’t believe it…mostly.

As noted in the previous entry, this is approximately the position where I reckon the seasonal bridge is usually placed. While it wouldn’t be too much trouble to wade several steps through the water, I chose to use the green branched tree (above) lying across the river as my sky bridge.

However, once you scramble up the opposite bank, regaining the trail becomes problematical. It looked to me like a new river, or a temporary secondary river had washed away my hopes of finding the Mt. Hood Wilderness registration area. It occurred to me that maybe the Forest Service had the foresight to refrain from building registration areas in the middle of glacial scouring zones, so I continued walking diagonally up-river and bank-ward, occasionally observing clues like cut stump ends, until I stumbled upon an upward leading path. The path turned out to be what I was looking for, and for those of you with GPS devices, I made a waypoint for the Wilderness Permit box and trail signs at 45° 23.451N and 121° 48.502W.

From the registration area, I chose to travel onward toward the falls on the loop portion that parallels the Sandy River. The trail climbs steadily, though gradually, and here and there disappears. From this vantage point, you can see a timid little stream innocently meandering through a vast wasteland. The fallen tree below almost looks as if it is bleeding from a massive trunk wound. I fought a compelling urge to go down and trace a chalk outline around the murdered river-victim.

An inexplicable finger of snow reminds me that: 1. This is a wilderness area. 2. The road is cut off from the rest of the world. 3. It is likely to get cold at night. 4. I am wearing shorts.

The trail runs right up next to the falls which ordinarily would give you a pretty good view…except somebody put a bridge in front of it.

A little further down the trail a river of trees (in imitation of Ramona falls) cascade lemming-like, down a sheer rock face.

The return portion of the loop follows the stream – the dynamic element of Ramona Falls – back toward the registration intersection.

The terrain changes constantly from what could pass as lush rain forest to…

…dry eastern-Oregon-like-stunted-desert pine trees.

Over-confident that I could easily follow the trail out, I got lost temporarily and had to rely on my GPS device to locate the area where I crossed the river. Note how water-carried-unconsolidated-debris beat the bark off these trees on the up-river side.

At last, the sky-bridge!

From the sky-bridge, looking downriver to the setting sun.

Just a matter of time.

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