Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Fall Creek Falls

Oh, what an effete snob I am! "This hike is too small" and "this hike is too large" and I'm not sure I've ever found a hike that is just right. Because the walk (I deign to call it a hike) to Fall Creek Falls lands in the too-short category, that would be why I've only hiked there just once, and that was back when I was a single parent and the kids were small. But the opportunity to get out with friends I hadn't seen in a while cropped up, so I decided to be more tolerant and accepting, and take the namby-pamby "hike" to the falls. And hey, I can always take a small walk and turn it into a big photo shoot in the hiking equivalent of making mountains out of molehills.

Slow shot of a fast creek
So, inclining my head towards the horizon so as not to snootily look down my nose at this tiny stroll, I joined Jennifer, John, Dianne, and Connie for the amble to the falls. Right at the start, it was obvious this would be all about the creek. It had been raining off and on during the week, filling up the North Umpqua River and all its tributary streams (of which, Fall Creek is one) with water. That would explain why the creek was so noisy and vociferous as it bounded from pool to pool below the trail. I don't think there was any other color to the water besides white. 

Green and white all day long
The hike was bichromatic as colorwise, there was only the white of the creek and the green of literally everything else. The falls and creek fill up the narrow canyon with moisture, providing watery sustenance to all the thriving ferns, moss, trees, lichen, and other assorted vegetation. Since this was a short walk-cum-photo shoot, I set out to photographically document everything I saw growing and flowing around the trail. Didn't take long, naturally, for me to find myself walking solo, lagging well behind my camera-free comrades.

Trail shot 
A point of interest on this trail, besides the waterfall, is a large house-sized rock squatting on the trail like an oversized mossy river troll. It probably fell eons ago from the slopes above and when it did fall, it cracked in two like a geologic Humpty-Dumpty. Nowadays, the split between the two halves of what used to be one whole is the actual trail. The narrow cleft is not a place for those who dislike confined spaces and reminded me I really should start my diet soon. Back in the day, my children thought it was the coolest thing ever to run back and forth through the rocky confine.

Fall Creek Falls
After a green mile with the whitewatered creek churning next to the trail, a larger roar began to permeate through the forest. Yup, it was Fall Creek Falls, in all its thundering glory. Using the shoot-and-wipe technique, which consists of hurriedly snapping a photograph and then wiping off the ample moisture from the falls that managed to accumulate on the lens' surface (on my glasses too, I might add) in the 1/100th of a second that it took for the camera shutter to trip. Not really done hiking (it had been just over a mile, I think) at this point, I continued on the trail as it headed up to a trailhead above the falls, but not before stopping at a viewpoint with a bench to admire the falls some more. 

Fall Creek was always reliably photogenic
The trail ended at a gravel road and I knew that Jennifer and John had continued hiking on the road for extra mileage but in which direction? Not sure and not wanting to confuse my people as to my whereabouts, I dallied where the roadway crossed Fall Creek. The creek was particularly photo-friendly here where it streamed in a series of attractive stair-step cascades and pools. After a bit, Diane popped out from the trailhead and pointed me in the right direction and the two of us continued hiking along the gravel road.

It's starting to rain
The air had that liquidity that hovered somewhere between drizzle and rain. Clothing got soaked in no time at all despite the lack of direct inclemency. Liquid weather must occur a lot up here, for the surrounding forest was covered in thick layers of fern and ever-present moss. The forest understory greenery was just that: eminently green everywhere, broken up only by occasional mossless tree trunks. Puddles reflected the surrounding branches and dark clouds, and before long, concentric ripples on the puddles told us it was starting to sprinkle, as if the pitter-patter sound on hat brims were not clue enough.

Raindrop on a cedar frond
So back toward the trail was the direction in which we went, and I fitted an extension tube (used for taking macro photos) onto my camera and figured I'd just take photos of small things. It's what you do on a short hike. Accordingly, I now have lots of photos of lichen, moss, mushrooms, water drops, and witch's butter (a yellow-orange fungus that resembles a dollop of butter). As Diane and I snacked in the wet atmosphere above the falls, Jennifer and John appeared and the four of us headed back down the muddy trail. Since this was more photo-shoot than walk, I soon found myself in my customary spot all alone, way behind everybody else. But to be honest, I re-enjoyed the trail all over again since my last visit here several decades ago. So much so, I might even quit looking down my nose at all the other little unworthy trails but then again, probably not.

Fall Creek emerges from its lair
For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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