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Hikers hunt for ‘hidden jewel’

SKIP AND Jan Tschanz are on a quest to reach Upper Bridal Veils Falls in the gorge and enjoying scenic vistas along the way. Pictured above is Palmer Road they believe will lead them to the right trail.

SKIP AND Jan Tschanz are on a quest to reach Upper Bridal Veils Falls in the gorge and enjoying scenic vistas along the way. Pictured above is Palmer Road they believe will lead them to the right trail. Contributed Photo/Skip Tschanz

The first seed for this adventure was planted on February 23, 2014. On that day I wrote the following sentence. “The Gorge is home to 70 year-round waterfalls but only nine of them are visible from the highway. To see the rest of them will take some foot power.” I found this number on a website no names or locations were listed.

I guess I’m kind of like an old bull dog. I just couldn’t walk away from a question that I had no answer for. The question was: “Is this number correct and, if so, where in the heck are the 10 or 12 waterfalls that I couldn’t account for?”

After a lot of hunting on the internet, I found a website that not only listed the waterfalls but also rated them and the difficulty in reaching them. An example would be Multnomah Falls; it gets a five-star rating and is easy to see.

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SKIP AND Jan Tschanz are on a quest to reach Upper Bridal Veils Falls in the gorge and enjoying scenic vistas along the way. Pictured above is a side stream that captured their attention as they searched for the right path.

I scanned the list for unfamiliar waterfalls and found a few that were new to me. Most had one or two star ratings, not something I would hike several miles to see. But one waterfall stopped me in my tracks — Upper Bridal Veil Falls.

Almost everyone knows about Bridal Veil Falls near the historic highway. It has a big parking area and lots of visitors almost every day of the year. But an upper falls, that was news to me. Not only was it new to me, it also had a five-star rating and was listed as extremely difficult to reach. This hidden jewel is over 90-feet high and 50-feet wide.

Okay, the bug had bitten me, I had to give it at least the old college try, find the elusive treasure. I found directions to the falls on a still different website. They were both exact and vague enough to the point where I continued to believe that I had to see everything for myself.

My wife, Janet, and I made a pact. The first day the weather was too inclement to hike the east- end open slopes, we would take the opportunity to go on a hunt. The directions to Upper Bridal Veil Falls were short and to the point. Drive to the scenic highway, go past Multnomah Falls and head to the trailhead for Angels Rest. Watch on the left for Palmer Mill Road.

Now is as good a time as any to tell the story of Bridal Veil Creek drainage. This drainage at one time saw some of the most intense logging operations in the gorge.

You can still see some of the remnants of the Bridal Veil lumber mill just off the highway. Today all that’s left is a post office and a cemetery.

Ninety years ago, Bridal Veil and the neighboring town of Palmer were boom towns. Both had mills, Palmer rough cut planks and floated them to Bridal Veil via a log flume. The Palmer Mill Road is a one lane, with turnouts, logging road that connected the two towns.

Now back to our story. My directions said go up Palmer Mill Road for one mile, watch for a side stream coming from the left, go another 300 feet and stop — you are near the trail.

Janet and I found the road and the side stream, but the stopping spot was too muddy for parking.

We did a U-turn and drove back down the mountain to a wide pullout about 200 yards from where we felt the trail was.

One thing I must say about Palmer Mill Road — it’s steep. I have hiked trails that were much easier than walking up this road. We found a foot path that wandered toward the canyon. At first it was easy to follow, but suddenly it was just gone. We thought that we may have turned left when we should have turned right. We searched and searched to find where the trail appeared. No luck. Everything was soggy and the footing was sketchy at best. We walked back to the road and decide to try our luck walking further up Palmer Mill Road. We found nothing.

Our decision was to give it up and try again when the gorge had dried out. We would come back with full backpacks and our good ankle high boots. And guess what? I found a trail map.

Watch for part 2 of this story soon.

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