What’s at the End of Trail?

Even with all of the rain, there is plenty to love about spring in Oregon.

A few of my favorite things include tulips, cherry blossoms, warmer temperatures, and knowing that the sunny and dry days of summer are right around the corner. But at the top of my list is waterfalls. Spring is the perfect time to see them. The rivers and streams are full, making the falls bigger and more impressive than they will be in late summer.

Luckily for me, my daughter Natalie’s birthday is at the end of March, and one of her favorite things is to hike. To celebrate her 18th birthday this year, I took her and a couple of her friends to the Columbia River Gorge area to see some waterfalls.

Multnomah Falls

We’d previously been to the Gorge for her 16th birthday. That was before the terrible fire that scarred this beautiful section of Oregon. Many of the trails on the Gorge remain closed due to the destruction the fire left behind, including the Eagle Creek trail, which had been Natalie’s favorite. Given the closures and fire damage, we were a bit hesitant to go for her 18th birthday, knowing what we would see this time may be quite different than the awe-inspiring beauty we’d experienced two years before.

But the Gorge is still beautiful, and we found enough hiking trails to keep us busy for a couple of days. One of them started at the famous Multnomah Falls.

Natalie didn’t want to go to Multnomah Falls the last time we visited because it was too crowded. She didn’t want to go this time either, but it was only half a mile down the road from Wahkeena, the waterfall she did want to see. So we stopped.

We planned to walk only to the viewing point and take a picture (or twenty). Then Natalie noticed the sign that said the hike to the top of the falls was mere .8 miles. “Have you ever been to the top?”

Beautiful views from the Multnomah trail

As I craned my neck to see the top of the falls, I told her I hadn’t. We decided we should go.

It felt like we were walking uphill forever when I saw a sign that said “Switchback 2 of 11.” Stopping at a viewing point, I informed the girls we had nine more switchbacks to go. We were on a time crunch to get back home, and I didn’t want Natalie to miss Wahkeena Falls. Another young woman standing at the viewpoint with us said, “But this is number three, so you’re already one-third of the way there.” The girls agreed we should continue to the top.

Let me tell you, .8 miles is a long way when it’s all up hill, and a bit scary when the trail is narrow, but we made it. The top of the waterfall was actually not that impressive, due to the placement of the viewing area. We saw a sign pointing to a trail that would take us to Wahkeena Falls. We knew that by road Wahkeena was only half a mile from Multnomah, so we figured it couldn’t be too far of a hike.

We followed the Larch Mountain Trail signs, coming to an area that looked like it was straight from a fairy tale. Beams of sunlight landed on the water, making it sparkle as if filled with tiny diamonds. We met another woman who told us there were several waterfalls on the trail leading us to Wahkeena Falls. We eagerly continued down the path.

The Larch Mountain Trail was a bit treacherous (there were signs warning of this, so it wasn’t completely unexpected.), and it went up and across, nearing the top of the mountain before zig-zagging back down to Wahkeena Falls.

Up until this point, Natalie mourned not being able to go to Eagle Creek. Its beauty and the trail during the trek are breathtaking. On the Larch Mountain trail, amidst the trees still blackened by fire, Natalie found the same kind of thrill she experienced at Eagle Creek. The trail was far less crowded than the trek up to Multnomah. It was sketchy in areas, parts of it were still covered in snow, and it had a bit of danger and don’t-look-down moments. It was what she wanted all along, yet she would have never found it if she’d passed up seeing Multnomah.

The hike ended up being much longer than we anticipated (about eight miles) and we didn’t make it home when we were supposed to, but it was well worth it.

While Natalie and I were hiking up Larch Mountain, my oldest daughter, Katie, was at home and facing a trail she didn’t want to go down. Katie had a meeting she dreaded because it involved having a conversation she didn’t want to have. She had called me earlier, telling me she didn’t think she could go through with it. I understood. I’d been there before. My advice to her: “My only concern is how you’re going to feel if you don’t go through with it.” I wasn’t worried so much with the end result of the conversation as I was with what would happen to my daughter’s confidence and sense of self-worth if she didn’t follow through.

All I could do was pray. God knew what my daughter needed, and He knew what the other person involved needed to hear.

Katie made it to her meeting. She spoke what was on her heart. It was well received. None of the bad scenarios Katie had played out in her mind came to pass.

She made it to the top of the hill, and the view was better than she had ever hoped.

How many times is life like the trail we didn’t think was worth our time, or the conversation we didn’t think we could have? If we overcome our assumptions, misconceptions and fears, what we will we find at the top of the hill? At the end of the trail?

An unexpected waterfall.

A breathtaking view.

A new sense of self-confidence.

Maybe we will find a surprise God has for us. He is the One who knows what’s in our best interest, and He waits for us to find our way. We only need to show up and put one foot in front of the other.

Show me your ways, Lord,
    teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my Savior,
    and my hope is in you all day long.

Psalm 25:4-5

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