Gorge Waterfalls 50k 2022

 

Gorge Waterfalls 2013 courtesy @stevenmortinson

Gorge Waterfalls 2022 courtesy @stevenmortinson

When we ran the Gorge Waterfalls 50k nine years ago, in 2013, we were still new to the sport. It was a big deal for us to run the distance, and we had some good luck superstitions like wearing our Performance Enhancing Kokopellis (PEKs). The course was out-and-back, which isn't normally a favorite, but allowed us to be a bit starstruck seeing some of our favorite runners as they ran back past us. While we enjoyed the route, there was a sizable amount of painful road, and since we already run in the Columbia River Gorge regularly, we didn't consider the race again for a while.

Selfie at the finish line while waiting for the shuttle
Selfie at the finish line while waiting for the shuttle

The massive Eagle Creek fire destroyed much of Gorge in 2017, and the race was cancelled for a few years. Then, of course, the COVID pandemic put a halt to all events. So when we learned the event would be held this year, in 2022, on a modified course with only a little* out and back, we were excited to sign up.

Selfie in front of Wahkeena Falls, the first on the route
Selfie in front of Wahkeena Falls, the first on the route

Saturday evening before the race, we drove out to Cascade Locks and spent the night in Ann's van so we'd be close to the start. Ann made dinner and discovered that the van's water tank was empty; luckily we both had our full two-liter hydration bladders as well as water bottle for after the race. We had enough water for dinner, teeth-brushing, and washing our hands, knowing we'd be able to fill up before, during, and after the event. Ultrarunners are nothing if not well prepared!

Susan on Larch Mt Trail, courtesy xxx
Susan on Larch Mt Trail, courtesy @somerrunner
Ann on Larch Mt Trail, courtesy xxx
Ann on Larch Mt Trail, courtesy @somerrunner

Sunday morning we arrived at the finish line to take shuttles to the start. It was very strange to be on a school bus full of people, and with the mask mandate recently lifted, most folks didn't bother with masks. It definitely felt like the first day of school, with many people participating in their first group event IRL since the before the pandemic.

Wiesendanger Falls
Wiesendanger Falls

Once at Benson State Park, we all gathered for the race director's talk and a Native blessing, then took off in a wide arc around Benson Lake, along the highway, to the parking lot of Multnomah Falls and onto trail #442. The first few miles were the major climb, switchbacks up Wahkeena Trail past Wahkeena and Fairy Falls. Finally at the top, we cruised down Larch Mountain trail past lovely falls in Multnomah Creek, skirting around the top of grand Multnomah Falls to turn off the main trail and out on Gorge Trail #400. 

Ann & Susan clowning on the trail
Ann & Susan clowning on the trail

Now we were settled in, often within sight and sound of Interstate 84, a few times running some miles on the Historic Columbia River Highway. Finally, we got to the out-and-back section, eager to get to the last aid station-- hosted by Wy'East Wolfpack, hands down the best at it-- that we'd be passing through twice. It felt interminable, and we were thrilled to come upon them, dressed up with a prom theme. Yassine wore a tux, and served us cola in champagne flutes. It doesn't get much better than that! 

Selfie at Oneonta Falls
Selfie at Oneonta Falls

Our spirits lifted, we shuffled on, up and down rolling hills, until we reached a card table with a tote bag full of tokens, each grabbing one to prove we made it to the turnaround point. We made it back to the prom aid station, excited now that we knew just how far until we could turn off the out-and-back section and onto the final push.

Susan and Ann have had enough of this pavement
Susan and Ann have had enough of this pavement

And that final part was all paved-- ouch. Under the highway, and then alongside, we sloped gently down back up on a wooded blacktop path which let us out onto sidewalk in Cascade Locks. We plodded past people waiting in line for burgers and ice cream at the vintage Eastwind Drive-In, and suddenly there was our turn into Marine Park, where we had started that morning. It was uplifting to be cheered in by runners and their friends & family who were hanging out in the grass around the finish line. 

We got our turnaround tokens
We got our turnaround tokens

We checked the prize boards (you never know, but neither of us won anything), grabbed some delicious kombucha, and headed to the van to change clothes and eat snacks on the way back to Portland. We agreed that we enjoyed our day and the camaraderie of the event, but there was more road than we would've liked on the route, and the last half was harder than we expected. This would be a great race at which to volunteer.

Getting silly near the end of the race
Getting silly near the end of the race








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