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My Saturday afternoon cleared up so I decided to give this a go. I made it to the John B Yeon trailhead around 2 in the afternoon. The parking lot was packed with EMS and sheriff vehicles which I thought was odd. I ended up parking along the shoulder and walking up to the trailhead. On the way up I crossed a few small parties that quickly thinned out after Elowah falls.
I stopped, took a break and ate a snack at the first viewpoint on the way up to Munra point. As I continued climbing I decided to lighten my load. I ditched my pack and sticks as it was mostly scrambling up the slick rocks at this point. Right before I made it to the top I came across my first and only fellow hiker, he mentioned I would be the only one at the top, asked if I had a flashlight and wished me good luck. Once I finally summited I took a few pictures, enjoyed the view and began to make my way back. The sun set a lot faster than I had anticipated forcing me to use my handheld flashlight as the rest of my gear was further down trail. The chimney was fairly challenging holding the flashlight in my mouth but by taking it slow and feeling out the footholds I made it down without issue. About an hour of scrambling and carefully checking the trail later I made it back to my pack. I stopped and again enjoyed the view from the first viewpoint. There were a few helicopters circling over head that I thought were odd but didn't look much into. With my headlamp on and sticks back in hand I continued my decent without issue. It was fairly muddy do to the rain/snow that had been coming down the last hour but the exposed roots offered solid footing. Once I made it to the bottom I enjoyed the mostly level trek back.
At the fork to Elowah Falls and Upper McCord falls I came across a SAR team working on locating and recovering a hiker that had fallen earlier in the day. I stopped and talked to them briefly, mentioned I had not seen or heard anything and continued on my way. Once I made it to the parking lot EMS, SAR and sheriff vehicles occupied all the open spots. Looking back on the ridges I could see headlamps and spot lights from the helicopter all converging on one point.
I checked the news the next morning and learned they had recovered the hiker shortly after that with non life threatening injuries. They had fallen before I even started my hike and it took SAR crews over 6 hours to successfully airlift them out.
On that note, I would not recommend this hike unless it is dry and you have plenty of daylight. I did not anticipate it to be nearly that difficult or involve that difficult of terrain. Bring water, bring good shoes, pack a flashlight, snacks and a shell, take your time and enjoy one of the best views in all of the gorge.
Reviewing the timestamps on my photos:
I started shortly after 2PM
Made it past Elowah falls to the bike trail around 2:45
Made it to the first view point on the way up around 3:30
Stopped and took a break until about 4:00
Made it past the chimney around 4:30
Started heading back down around 5:00
Made it back to my gear around 5:45
Made it back to my car around 7
Good luck and be safe.
We completed this kayak adventure several times while living in the Portland / McMinnville area of OR because it was one of our favorite paddles. The river starts at the ocean where you can play in the bay before venturing up river (mindful of the tides). There is a wetland area where a sojourn through grasses and cattails is great fun but careful on watching the route in as it is easy to lose your sense of direction back to the main river. The river has lots of wildlife including otters, bald eagles and osprey. There are wide areas of the river that can get quite rough with the combination of the tide and wind but this just adds to the fun. As you continue the river narrows but stays deep with steep banks so there is no problem of bottoming out. One spot requires a “limbo” under a pole used as a walkway over the river. Travelling through farmer’s field you encounter cows watering on the bank. Just keep “moooving” as not to disturb their relaxation. Overall, this is a fantastic kayak trip for a full day of paddling. Enjoy!
Kimberly K. on Drift Creek Falls Trail
beautiful trail through second growth first trees. it's a different hike to the waterfall as most you hike up to this one you hike down. so you have to hike back out. it's a bit muddy but well maintained. the road up to the trailhead is narrow and winding.