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Discovering unnamed waterfalls and hidden hot springs—Worth every ounce of effort

This blog post is part of our Discover the Northwest story series where we work with some of our favorite local explorers by asking them to go on an adventure, take over our Instagram Stories and create a blog post about the adventure life. This post was written by Erika Vikander, Representing the USA as the sole female snowboarder on the elite Freeride World Tour, Erika Vikander has climbed to the top of the ranks in both Slopestyle Snowboarding and most recently Big Mountain Freeride snowboarding with the ranking of 3rd overall in the world last season. An avid lover of the outdoors she calls Mt. Hood home for its unbelievable landscape and loves coming back to the PNW after traveling the world competing both for the scenery, the people, and the beer!

Fall in the Pacific Northwest is one of the most beautiful times of year. Some say our region doesn’t have much color in the foliage, but I beg to differ. One of the toughest parts of any adventure in the PNW is the fact that you are bound to encounter almost every type of weather from sun, to clouds, to rain, to sleet, to snow and back to torrential downpour at any minute, but that’s half the fun!

Being prepared for all of these weather events can be difficult at times, but having the proper gear makes all of the difference in the world. The two most important items that I recommend having above all other luxuries are a waterproof rain jacket and good boots. Aside from that, always, and I mean always bring an extra pair of wool socks.

Erika Vikander the snowboarder enjoying beer with friends in the Pacific Northwest Unnamed waterfall on the Little White Salmon River

Sometimes you set out on adventures like this and every single thing goes wrong. Another very important thing to bring with you is a positive attitude; seeing beautiful places is always exciting, but some of that excitement can be erased if you are uncomfortable, wet, and cold. However, these are the kinds of things that make the PNW the beautiful place it is. A tasty craft beer from Pyramid can help with the positive attitude part. After slogging around in wet, cold weather — perfect conditions for finding waterfalls — a good beer is the ultimate reward.

We set out to Southern Washington, along the Columbia River to roam around the woods in the rain, catch some of the beautiful fall colors, and seek out a lesser known, unnamed waterfall on the Little White Salmon River.

We certainly encountered every type of weather, and tested the waterproofing of our gear tenfold. Upon reaching the unmarked trailhead off the side of the road, we were lucky to find the only other people who were adventurous enough to tackle the treacherous trail were coming back up the trail just as we embarked.

Views of Mount Hood while drinking Pyramid Hefeweizen

Nothing makes me happier than being in nature exploring incredible places and being able to enjoy them without interruption or the presence of other people aside from those in my group. The half mile hike down to the unnamed falls takes you straight from the top of a gorge down some of the steepest, slipperiest, terrain I’ve ever been on. The downpour made it even more interesting and needless to say I was very grateful to have my trusty waterproof hiking boots, and extra socks for later.

When we arrived at the bottom of the canyon we were greeted by the site of a thundering waterfall, made even louder by the commanding rain that even the big trees couldn’t protect us from. We took in the site and the energy from the falls, enjoyed a Pyramid brew, and plotted our return trip to this very spot. Something about the energy of moving water really feeds the soul.

Fording a river with a blow up kayak to reach hidden Washington hot springs

The following morning we set out to find a lesser known hot spring along the Wind River. From the beta we gathered, we knew we were really in for an adventure as you have to cross the river to actually access the spring along the other side of the bank. Luckily my friends are river guides and had an inflatable kayak with them. But unfortunately we forgot a paddle! You know that expression “up the creek without a paddle?” Well, we were living proof that with a little bit of willpower, improvisation, and determination you can find a way across.

Drinking craft Pyramid ales in a hidden Washington hot spring. (Left) Southern Washington secret hot spring. (Right) Enjoying beer at a secret hot spring after a long hike near the Columbia River Gorge

The rain was still pouring, which added an extra layer of chilliness to the air and made the already slick rocks we were jumping to and from ever more slippery. Part of the walk we were able to keep our feet dry, while the rest of the time we found ourselves in knee deep glacial runoff water—yet another reason to always have an extra pair of wool socks to change into at the car. The Salmon are spawning right now as well and were putting on quite the show for us as we made our way up the river. As they thrashed up the river and through the air, we bushwhacked and climbed our way through the foliage and around rock bands. Even if we couldn’t find the hot spring, we knew we had seen a beautiful new place and we could be happy with just that. But we did finally come upon a pristine pool with hot water that hadn’t been washed out by the rain just yet. As soon as we sat down in that hot water with the rain still falling, watching the fish jump, we cracked open a well earned Pyramid beer and high fived each other for our efforts. It was worth every ounce of energy we put into the trek.

Erika Vikander
@erikathevikingvikander