Sunday, June 24, 2018

Second Multnomah Creek Bridge

The next stop on our grand tour is a bridge the Oregon Hikers Field Guide calls the "Second Multnomah Creek Bridge", where the Larch Mountain Trail #441 crosses Multnomah Creek a bit upstream of Multnomah Falls. I suppose they count going upstream, so the Benson Bridge counts as the first one, this is the second one, and then there are third, fourth, and fifth bridges further upstream along the trail, and yet another along a different trail along the same creek. After I took the photos here I branched off onto the Wahkeena Trail #420 and don't have any photos of the bridges further upstream, at least not yet. In related news, I think I may expand the Gorge bridge project to trail bridges in the area. It's true that most of them aren't that amazing or unique, but I think of it as a little extra motivation to get out more and go a little further. Although this obviously has to wait until the area reopens after the big Eagle Creek Fire, and nobody knows when that's going to happen.

Other than the OregonHikers link above I couldn't really find anything else about this bridge. If you look closely you can see it's built around a corrugated steel pipe, with stone added along the visible parts to make it blend in with the bridge piers, which look older. If I had to guess I'd say it dates to maybe the 80s or 90s, just based on the amount of moss growing on it, but I'm just guessing here. The lack of info is a shame because I'd really like to know how they got the pipe up here. It seems too big to go on an ATV or to be carried up the trail by a work crew. A helicopter seems more likely, but I didn't see any old news articles to that effect, so who knows?

Up until the late 1990s this spot was a major trail junction. Where the Larch Mountain Trail continues upstream, the Perdition Trail branched off and headed due west toward Wahkeena Falls, making a shorter and easier loop than the Wahkeena Trail one. At one point along the Perdition Trail there was a long wooden staircase, which burned in an October 1991 forest fire. The Forest Service built replacement stairs out of concrete, to prevent the new ones from suffering the same fate, but they washed out a few years later, I think during the 1996 floods. At that point they just sort of shrugged and wrote it off. The trail is still there but it's been marked as officially closed for over 20 years now and no longer appears on official maps of the area. Despite that, a lot of people still know it's there, and hikers regularly wander past the closed signs and occasionally need rescuing. Legal says I have to tell you not to do this, and I personally haven't been on it since I was a kid, long before the closure. And of course the whole area's closed due to the big fire, so I suppose the Perdition Trail is currently double closed, so if forest rangers catch you there they probably feed you to Bigfoot or a forest Sarlacc or something. I do remember the old trail was pretty scenic in parts, so if they ever get around to fixing & reopening it (like a couple of forum threads speculate about), I'd consider that a great use of federal tax dollars. I mean, imagine what you could do through the entire Gorge for the price of a single F-35. I mean, along with improving health care, schools, and housing, obviously.

One fun thing I ran across, searching for info on this little bridge, was a reminder that the trails around this area are all quite old. "Following the Trails Above the Columbia" (in the August 28th 1921 Oregonian) explores the familiar Multnomah-Wahkeena loop, featuring all the same sights as it does today. The only difference I see is that there wasn't a Return Trail #442 yet, so in those days you had to walk along the highway between Multnomah & Wahkeena Falls and hope nobody ran you down in a Model T.

In other vintage motoring and travel news, that article was immediately followed by a news item about the California car dealers' association planning a huge party in Tijuana, from a more innocent time when people announced that sort of thing in the newspapers:

These two days will be gala ones in the exotic town of whirring wheels, dancing señoritas, snapping castanets, and hot tamale cabarets, according to the announcement of the San Diego County Auto Trade association.

It is the latter organization that is going to stage this party (or “fiesta” as one says in Española) and the members are urging their fellow members from far and wide to come and partake of the unvolsteaded enjoyment that will be offered in six-cylinder style.

The cutout of joy will be wide open and their will be no speed limit on jazz whatsoever — the two days will be devoted to a “reg’lar” high jinks, according to U.S. Grant, president of the San Diego trade dealers.

"Unvolsteaded" is the key detail here. That was a cute way of saying the Volstead Act -- federal Prohibition legislation -- was adamantly not in force south of the border.

Um, anyway, a September 7th 1915 article about the grand opening of the new highway includes a brief mention of excited crowds hiking the trail loop, so the trail is at least that old and there would've been some sort of bridge here back then. The article spends more time on the main event, a grand picnic at the base of Multnomah Falls or somewhere thereabouts, with bands, speeches, and wholesome athletic events, because that's what people did for fun in 1915. The article even lists event winners for posterity; there were a few categories of 50 yard dash, plus picnic staples like a three legged race, a sack race, a wheelbarrow race, and a tug-of-war. There was also a "ladies' nail-driving contest, three nails", a pie-eating contest -- Helen Hidenrieck won the girls' division by virtue of being the only entry -- and a "fat men's race". That immortal event was won by one B. Ruella, with G.W. Long placing second. No third place was announced because "judges could not decide in the scramble".

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