Recapping the Hangover Hike

A few friends started a tradition last year two years ago that they called the Hangover Hike. It goes like this: Whoever’s around on New Year’s Day gets up early and hikes, no excuses.  I wasn’t around for the first one and was out of town last year for New Year’s Eve. Needless to say, I was excited for this year’s hike along the Wahkeena Falls-to-Multnomah Falls loop.

We started up Wahkeena Falls, and it didn’t take long for me to feel the burn. I wasn’t hung over, but I had other forces working against me. The first, a bruised ankle that hasn’t fully recovered from last month’s trip up the north jetty near Astoria. The second, myself. I’ve kept busy with friends over the past few weeks, which left precious little time for working out. My energy isn’t what it once was, and I need to change that; this hike is difficult, but it shouldn’t have beat me down like it did today.

We made it to the top of Wahkeena Falls and started toward Multnomah Falls. It reminded me of what I love about the hike, which I’ve done at least four times now; we followed either waterfalls or a creek through the initial ascent, and though it leveled out, the rushing waters that feed Wahkeena Falls provided a lively soundtrack. Once they faded into silence, we arrived at the creek that feeds Multnomah Falls — more water!  And we followed that all the way back to the car. We were never far from a scenic waterfall or creek.

This particular waterfall, well away from the tourist throngs that make Multnomah Falls Oregon’s most popular tourist destination, stood out to me. Ninety percent people hike up the 11 switchbacks on the one-mile Multnomah Falls trail, get to the end of the paved path, and turn around. But if they just push themselves a little further and follow the trail for a few minutes, they would run into this waterfall. It’s gorgeous. Waterfalls like this are all over this trail, itself one of dozens of hikes in the Gorge.

We live in one of the most scenic areas in the entire country. Multnomah Falls is certainly breathtaking, but there’s so much more out there than what most people see. So much of it is easily accessible. I get that the Gorge trails are often busy and aren’t underused by any stretch. But there’s just so much beauty to appreciate and take in. Why more people aren’t out exploring, I’ll never know.

Okay, the sub-40-degree temperatures might have something to do with it.

There’s another reason to love this hike. We finish by coming down the Multnomah Falls trail, whereas most other “hikers” — I use that term loosely — come up the paved path. There’s such a smug feeling that screams “Yeah, we got up and have already hiked five miles in the bitter cold. Have fun scurrying up the paved path.” The people we pass are rarely prepared for the ascent and are often winded; they clearly don’t approach hiking with the same dedication as my friends and I. I’m not especially proud to admit this, but there is absolutely a sense of smug superiority and no small amount of pride that comes with that descent. Stop judging me.

We made it back to the Lodge, where Dusty bought a face-sized chocolate chip cookie. It was delicious. And that seems like a good place to end this trip report.

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