With Mother’s Day dawning bright and blue, finding some alone time on the trail with my wife and our one-year-old son sounded about as far flung as Betty White hosting a SNL episode. Especially since we had decided to do our celebrating with a waterfall hike out in the Gorge. But what the heck—if an 80-something granny could knock the facebook-generation dead with her stand-up, anything seemed possible.

After some deliberation—and cross-referencing about eight jillion guidebooks—we decided that Dry Creek Falls, a relatively unheard of gem outside of Cascade Locks, offered our best chance to beat the holiday rush. Still, after passing perennially crowded spots along I-84 like Multnomah Falls and Eagle Creek, I had my doubts as to whether there were indeed any overlooked scenic wonders in the Gorge. But when we pulled into the trailhead we found only three other cars in the parking lot. Not bad considering that after enjoying a leisurely breakfast of chilaquiles (cooked up for the wife by yours truly) we had arrived at 10:30 a.m.—prime hiking time.

Whatever cares I had about crowds drifted away on the trail. After a quick scramble across the road and back underneath an underpass, we found ourselves headed up the well-graded Pacific Crest Trail ogling at a smattering of tiny wildflowers including bronze bells, fairy slipper orchids, and white fairy bells and laughing at the cooing from our son, Ben. Better yet, when we reached the base of the falls—the cool spray of which could be felt from several yards away—we had the entire scene to ourselves. And Dry Creek did not disappoint: Rocketing out of a massive V-shaped slab of basalt that’s been smeared with a liberal paintjob of moss and lichens, the roughly 50-foot-tall sheet of water crashes into the boulder- and log-strewn Dry Creek with a constant thundering report.

With our memory card maxing out (it was Mother’s Day after all) and Ben’s hungry protests coming on, we reluctantly bid adieu to the falls and started back down. After sighting a Mule Deer loping up a steep, fern-choked hillside, we passed one lone hiker admiring some wildflowers. He stepped aside and said, “Hello.” Sporting a wispy gray mustache and a pair of trekking poles he looked like he had seen his fair share of miles in the woods. For a moment, I considered telling him that the trail ahead was all his. But something told me he already knew.

Get there: From I-84 take exit 44 for Cascade Locks. Follow the signs for Bridge of the Gods, and look for the Bridge of the Gods Trailhead on your right. Northwest Forest Pass Required.
Distance 4.2 miles, round trip
Guidebook: Afoot & Afield Portland/Vancouver.