Saturday, November 2, 2013

Silver Falls

Just another day on the calendar but this particular day holds an uneasy significance for me, marking yet another year since the October evening I entered this world, crying and screaming because the doctor spanked my little baby butt. It was probably then I was instilled with the desire to hike, mostly to get as far away from the stethoscoped baby-spanker as I could get. So the days have since circled by on the calendar, in their own little circle of life ritual.

Look, it's a little old man!

I have attempted to stave off the effects of having too many birthdays by keeping physically fit and acting immature. But it is ironic that having too many birthdays makes it harder and harder to do the things to counteract having too many birthdays. Life is a terminal disease though, and despite my best efforts to do otherwise I will eventually become a little old man scaring the great-grandchildren by taking out my teeth and yelling "Hah!" at them.

One of 1,000 marathoners
However, the circle of life that interested me last weekend was the circular loop trail in Silver Falls State Park, Oregon's largest park. The spectacular scenery boasts ten waterfalls and because of the park's proximity to Salem, the park is visited by thousands of people.  I just didn't expect the thousands of people to all show up on the same cold and rainy day that Dollie and I visited the park.

A camera is required marathon gear

Turns out there was a marathon taking place on the muddy trails in the park and there were over 1,000 runners on the trail, each attempting to delay becoming little old men and little old ladies with way too much exercise. We spent a lot of time stepping aside to make way for the competitors in deference to a level of fitness far surpassing ours.

Oregon "duck" country
The hoots of the crowd acknowledging yet another marathoner crossing the finish line was a noisy backdrop to thundering South Falls, the first waterfall encountered on the hike. I noticed the marathoners were walking but not running up the stairs taking them from the Silver Creek canyon up to the finish line. What is cool about South Falls is that the trail ducks behind the waterfall. Fear of bonking heads on rocky ceilings is a great equalizer and hikers and marathoners alike had to duck underneath the rocky shelf above the trail.

Lower South Falls
The aptly named (and paved) Trail of Ten Falls continued downstream, losing elevation nearly all at once at Lower South Falls, a wider and more picturesque version of South Falls. A steady rain pitter-pattered on my hat brim as we stepped around mud puddles surrounded by waterlogged vegetation along the creek.

Wet trail and wet wife
At the confluence of the South and North Fork(s) of Silver Creek, we left the South Fork and began following the North Fork upstream on a muddy trail, sans pavement. The canyon became more pronounced with rocky cliffs looming above with one small creek contributing its own anonymous little waterfall to the hike. Ferns sprouted on the rock walls and mushrooms popped up everywhere. 

Double Falls, aptly named

A short walk on a side trail took us to Double Falls, the park's tallest waterfall at 178 feet. Shortly after Double Falls, a side trail crosses the North Fork and heads over to Winter Falls. The Winter Falls Trail bisects the Trail of Ten Falls loop, allowing hikers to see most of the ten falls on a shorter loop, if they are so inclined. Those so inclined were several packs of feral Cub Scouts; between the cub scouts and the marathoners, the trail was indeed a very busy place. We were doing the 8 mile longer loop and eschewed the Winter Falls shortcut and the noisy young lads.

Middle North Falls
The trail climbed gently up the canyon with ferns and moss festooning the rocks and trees along the trail and in short order we splashed our way to Drake Falls, Middle North Falls, and Twin Falls. A short side trail runs behind Middle North Falls and we availed ourselves of the wet opportunity to get close to the aqueous jet stream.

Noisy North Falls
After passing Twin Falls, a roar signaled our impending arrival at North Falls, probably the park's most spectacular cascade. Because of the recent rains, some of which was still falling, the creek was carrying a pretty good flow and the falls were deafening. The trail here also ducks behind a large grotto behind the falls. There are a number of benches here for those who enjoy wet butts with their prolonged waterfall viewing. 

Real runners would run up those
A climb up a seemingly endless staircase of mossy and wet stone steps took us to the North Falls parking lot where we crossed under Highway 214 for the short hike to Upper North Falls. The falls were impressive with fallen trees strewn pell-mell in testimony to the power and size of the waterfall.

My view for the last two miles
From here it was several miles of viewless forest on the return to the park headquarters at South Falls. The last of the marathoners had long since passed by and we had the place to ourselves as the temperature dropped and the heavens opened up while thunder boomed. Wet and cold was the story on the return and the camera was put away as we concentrated on getting back to the car as soon as possible.

Mushrooms hiking on a log
It would be easy to complain about the weather conditions and we did do so, but it sure beats being a little old man any day. For more pictures of this watery wonderland, see the Flickr Album.

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  1. Nice shots Richard, tell Dollie I feel sorry for her getting wet :) Cheers Robyn :)

  2. We remember hiking this same trail, at the time with our kids while camping at the State Park. Beautiful area and great hike. Hope to do it again. Will have to make sure to not time it with a marathon!!!!

  3. Interesting - wet enough to be a Richard Hike