After double checking that I had the mini barbeque, ice chest full of food, plenty of water, sleeping bags/pads, some fire wood, and s’more fixings, I hopped into my mom’s snazzy new and sparkling blue car that she so generously has loaned me while I am home for the month, and I zipped into Astoria to pick Nhakira up around 7am this morning.
After loading up the tent, more food, and other camping supplies that Nhakira was bringing, her mother snapped this pre-trip photo of us and wished us well with tears in her eyes as we headed to Portland to pick up Kathy.
While driving is not my favorite thing to do, I did not mind it at all this trip since my other option was to be the navigator. I gladly left all of the navigation duties in Nhakira’s hands and she did a wonderful job helping me drive through Portland to get Kathy.
Once we had Kathy’s things squished into the car, we were officially ready to start our trip! Since Kathy was working while Nhakira and I planned our road trip, she was truly along for the ride and had no idea what our itinerary included. The first destination that we were off to was Abiqua Falls.
Knowing that this fall is fairly popular, neither Nhakira or I thought it would be hard to find at all. We assumed (yes, there it is, that word that forebodes plans gone amiss….) that our printed instructions from online, plus the road signs that we assumed would be along the road, would get us where we needed to go.
However, once the winding country road we were traveling along suddenly turned into gravel, GPS/cell reception was lost, and our printed instructions had come to an end without any sight of a trail head, we realized we were in for an adventure just to find the beginning of our first hike.
Not ashamed to be a bit off course, when we passed another vehicle coming from the opposite way, we asked for some directions. The driver confidently proceeded to tell us to go back the way we came, take a left, drive straight until we found a gate, and to keep going until we arrived at the parking lot. Or was there a left turn or possibly a right thrown in there somewhere? While I was not sure I could repeat those directions back to him, Nhakira was nodding along understandingly; so, I figured she caught all of his instructions. After all, she was the chief navigator of this trip.
As soon as we said our thanks, Nhakira turned to me. “Did you catch all of those instructions?” I asked. “Not at all,” she replied. But, we figured that between the two of us we could remember what he had said. So, we turned around and went back the way we came and were surprised to find a log truck sitting in the middle of the one lane gravel road where we thought perhaps the falls were waiting from us. We decided to have lunch and try to wait out the log truck since it looked like it almost had a full load.
During lunch, we noticed another car with two hikers about our age looking around as well. We figured we were all having trouble finding the allusive Abiqua Falls. I decided to go ask them what information they had about the falls to see if between the six of us, we could figure this out. It turned out that they did not know much more than us. So, the search continued. Down a gravel road, then back up when it got too narrow or seemed to go too far. After an hour and a half or so of searching, we decided that we had to say goodbye to Abiqua Falls before even finding the trail head. We still had a couple of hours to drive to our second planned hike for the day and we didn’t want the whole day to be a loss.
We laughed all the way to the Mount Hood National Forest about how crazy it seemed that there wasn’t a single sign for Abiqua Falls. This had our eyes zeroed in on all other signs that we passed, though. We were looking for “Pup Creek Falls” next. During the time that we had cell reception, Nhakira did some investigating on this trail head and actually learned that it is also called Trail #715. As we were driving along, we had passed the end of our written instructions once again an were wondering where we had gone astray for the second time in the same day. That’s when Kathy piped up from the back seat saying that she had thought she had seen a sign for trail #715 farther back. Nhakira and I both thought that she was dozing off, but it turns out that Kathy had woken up just in time and saw the one sign that Nhakira and I had missed!
We turned around and zipped back down the road and found the sign that read Trail #715 that Kathy had so thankfully seen. We parked across the street from the sign at the boat ramp/parking lot, paid our $5 day-use fee, and all made a pit-stop to the pit-toilet before we very eagerly hit the trail around 2:30pm.
The hike to Pup Creek Falls is an “out and back” hike with a round-trip distance of 8 miles. The trail followed the Clackamas River fairly close as well as the accompanying highway on the other side of the river. So, we never felt that far from civilization.
Along the way, we stopped for many photos, snack breaks, and water breaks while enjoying our strolling pace. But, internally I was rushing along as fast as I could. Since this was our first hike, I was not sure how fast our pace would end up being and I certainly did not want us to still be hiking while the sun was setting and the canyon was darkening.
Over all, this trail was moderate in difficulty. There was one spot where at first glance, the trail seemed to disappear, but in reality, it just got very skinny along a loose dirt slope. The photo below is of my favorite part of the trail. The rocks placed across the little stream reminded me of lily pads.
After hiking and hiking and hiking, we finally saw the turn off we were looking for. We only had 0.2 miles left to the first water fall of our trip and we could not be more ready! However, there was one last obstacle along the trail that we had to pass before seeing the falls in all of its beauty. After you get your first glimpse of the falls, there is this huge log across the trail. It is a bit tricky to get over, but it is well worth it.
Pup Creek Falls is a gorgeous 237 foot three-tiered water fall that is well worth the hike, if you have the time. We arrived at the falls a little after 4:00pm and stayed until 4:30 to enjoy the view and refuel.
One the way back out, we hiked the same pace, but it I was not as worried about running out of day light, since it was plenty light still along the trail and I knew we would be done around 6:30pm. On our way back out, we stopped for a quick photo-op in this old snag that was hollowed out by a past forest fire.
Once we returned to the parking lot, we were ready to sit for a bit as we drove about 20 minutes to the Roaring River Campground where we had a reservation to stay the night.
Once we got to camp, we were surprised that no one else was here. As soon as we found our spot, we got to work. Kathy and Nhakira set up the tent while I grilled us all burgers. It seemed like in no time at all, we were sitting around the picnic table eating our dinners like zombies. We were all so tired; and it was only 8:30pm! After taking some time to rest, we worked up the energy to roast some s’mores and then climbed into bed.
Although we may not have been able to find the first water fall we were looking for, Pup Creek Falls sure was a beautiful sight and we all had a great time on the first day of our N.K.R. Road Trip.