Monday, February 18, 2013

Clearwater Falls

I've been having the urge to snowshoe lately but I happen to be a fairly fair-weather snowshoer. It's not so much the nasty weather as much as it is the driving in nasty weather. Apparently, my trepidation stems from my formative years in California and Mexico where the only time we saw snow was every four years when the winter Olympics were on TV. Anyway, on President's Day, a storm was coming in by late afternoon but that left the morning open for a short snowshoe trek to Clearwater Falls with John.

A curve, my kingdom for a curve!

Starting at a cut out in the snow banks flanking the North Umpqua Highway, we headed slightly downhill on the Trap Creek forest road which headed unflinchingly straight like a mosquito's path to a hiker. The road was uniformly flanked by snow draped trees with moss swaying in the branches. Snowshoe hare tracks criss-crossed the road interspersed with the tracks of a small predator, most likely a pine marten. An old ski track was the only sign that humans had visited, apparently we were just the second group of visitors to visit the area in the entire winter so far.

Snowshoe hare tracks
A mile later, we had yet to see even the slightest hint of a curve on the road. The road was uniformly flanked by snow draped trees with moss swaying in the branches. Snowshoe hare tracks criss-crossed the road....yup, there was a sameness to the scenery that was broken up after 1.5 miles when we arrived at the Clearwater Falls Campground.

Chewy picnic table in the middle
We strolled into the campground which was vacant, no reservations were needed this weekend. The campsites were only distinguishable by the round mounds that contained a picnic table in the snowy center, in a frozen woody version of the candy kernel at the core of an Easter Bunny chocolate. Maybe the Easter Bunny is really a snowshoe hare, but I digress.

Clearwater River
The Clearwater River runs by the campsites and on this winter day, the scene was delightfully pastoral. The river was placid, streaming tranquilly through a myriad of snow-rimed logs strewn about like spilled toothpicks across the slow current. Much gawking and content appreciation ensued, the river view was well worth the walk.

Jump, John, jump
Because we had more tamales to roll, so to speak, we continued on the road a short bit where we could hear but not see the falls. It was time for all good snowshoers to leave the road and go cross country down a snowy and forested slope to the Clearwater River which was running a bit faster down here.

It's a Richard Hike!
Just as we were pondering how to cross the river we came across a very narrow and unrailed footbrige with a slab of snow cake, the slab being several feet high. The river coursed under the bridge, eagerly anticipating the delivery of a snowshoer; my first thought (sanitized and reworded for publication) on seeing the bridge was something along the lines of "Oh golly, that looks a wee bit chancy!"

Viewing area, without the summer tourists
Now we could debate the stupidity or safety of crossing the bridge all day, but we didn't and we found ourselves happily dry-footed on the opposite side of the river. A short (and much safer) walk brought us to Clearwater Falls viewing platform and another round of gawking.

Clearwater Falls
The geology around here is lava based and is quite porous.  Clearwater River runs mostly underground before popping out in a meadow about a mile away from where we stood. So, when the river careens over a rocky ledge, much of the underground flow also has to tumble down as well. The net effect, visually, is it looks like the cliff leaks water like tears leak from a granddaughter whose  favorite balloon just popped. 

Snow storm was coming in
We worked our way as close to the falls as was possible in clumsy snowshoes and eventually headed back to our car. We actually continued on past the car for a little additional mileage as we had not walked very far. We found the road to be unerringly straight, flanked by forest, moss in the trees, with hare tracks underneath....etc.

For more pictures of this wintry trip, see the Flickr photo album

No comments :

Post a Comment