Explore the Gorge: A Labyrinth free of David Bowie

June 15, 2011

If you are a child of the 1980s like me, you probably saw the movie "Labyrinth" growing up. If you are not a child of the '80s, you were likely responsible for traumatizing people my age by making them watch it because it was made by the same folks who made the Muppets. If you a child of the '90s, go watch the movie, I'm sure you'll wonder what I'm complaining about.

The film features a creepy David Bowie in the role of the Goblin King, a role that creeped out many a young kiddie in the '80s.

I don't even think I ever made it through the entire movie, and still haven't to this day.

Monday afternoon I decided to confront my fears. No, not by watching the film, but by hiking the Labyrinth.

The Gorge version of the Labyrinth is a hidden gem on the Washington side, and so named because of the small maze-like rock formations and trees that dot the trail.

The Labyrinth hike is just across the Columbia and a few miles east of Bingen. It starts at the intersection of Highway 14 and the abandoned Highway 8.

From the trailhead you walk up the old highway, passing a small waterfall as you go.

You can stop here to take some pictures, but this is just the appetizer.

About a half-mile farther down the pavement you will see a dirt trail break off to the right. Follow this trail to the north.

The trail winds through some rocks and is surrounded by beautiful blue and purple wildflowers.

As you follow the trail you can see hawks soaring high above and sparrows swooping low overhead.

You wind through more rocks and will see a small cave to your left. The cave looks pretty neat but would have been a tight squeeze for me to explore. It looks like it goes back a ways into the rock. I didn't dare go in. David Bowie might be living down there.

Soon you will hear another waterfall, which shortly comes into view. There is really no way to get an up-close look at the waterfall, at least that I could find, but you can get right up to the creek which spills out of it.

Next to the falls is the hardest portion of this trail; a steep dirt track without much to offer in the way of traction. However, there are some trees toward the top that offer convenient handholds, which also come in handy on the way back, to help you scramble to the top.

Once you've reached the top, you can get a nice view of the upper level of the creek as well as smaller waterfall.

You also have beautiful view of the Gorge to the east and some plateaus to the south.

The trail soon narrows as you have to scramble up some more rocks, but this is not as difficult as the last scramble.

Soon you will hear the creek again and come to a small bridge; actually nothing more than a board across the creek. Cross it and you are drawing closer to your final destination.

The trail now moves more through canopy. Up ahead you will see a grove of trees, with the trail weaving through them.

As you burst through the trees into a clearing you have reached the reward for the hike. The open space ahead is dotted with rocks and other small trees. A small trail to your right takes you out to a breathtaking view of the Gorge and of more birds of prey soaring.

My guidebooks said this was a perfect spot to take off your pack and relax. So I did, sitting for a few moments listening to the crickets and birds chirping and listening to the wind rustling through the leaves.

If you want to make a longer hike of this, you can go back to the main trail and continue to follow it the south where it is part of a 10-mile loop.

However, I just sat and soaked in the view and listened to the wind. It was a good spot, a beautiful spot, a beautiful labyrinth free of David Bowie.

Getting there: Take the Hood River Bridge to Highway 14. Turn right and drive through Bingen. The intersection of Highway 14 and Abandoned Highway 8 is about 4 miles down the road. There are a few spots for parking on the side of the road, and the trail starts on the left side of the road.

Cost: None.

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