Saturday, August 20, 2022

Salt Creek Falls to Fall Creek Falls


Salt Creek Falls is Oregon's second tallest waterfall, eclipsed only by iconic Multnomah Falls. Situated approximately halfway between Eugene and Bend, the falls receive a lot of visitors who generally take a very short walk to a paved overlook. However, there are two other falls in the area with actual trails that go to them and once you leave the viewing area, it's a quiet walk on a real trail with few people on it.

Mist and sun had a baby and called it "Rainbow"

From the viewing platform, a dirt trail takes hikers down for a closer look at impressive Salt Creek Falls. The path does not go all the way down to creek level (unless you illegally hop the barrier and do the dangerous scramble down) but it was close enough for the eight of us to soak in the majesty and splendor of the falls. We also got to soak in the cool mist swirling off the cascade and admire the resultant rainbow spanning the Salt Creek's canyon.

The epitome of "rickety bridge"

There's no pavement in hiking, or so I've often said, but you do have to hike a paved path to a long and saggy wooden bridge spanning Salt Creek above the falls. Diamond Creek Falls Trail officially commences at the bridge and once we crossed the rickety span, we were off hiking through a lush forest on our way to Diamond Creek

One small facet of Diamond Creek Falls

It was a steady uphill slog to the path leading down to Diamond Creek Falls. The muddy track was steep and you had to watch your step. A complicating factor was a vertically oriented log with notches cut into it, serving as a rustic one-railed stairway. The cascade is what is termed a "fan waterfall" and I'm definitely a fan! However, "fan waterfall" probably has more to do with the way the creek delicately fanned out across the face of its cliff and less to do with any ardent admirer. In my modest but totally correct opinion, Diamond Creek Falls were the best of the waterfalls we'd visit today.

The irony of crossing tracks in
order to enter a wilderness area

If there's no pavement in hiking, then there probably shouldn't be any trains, either. But there they were, a set of railroad tracks for us to walk across, which we did, nervously looking both ways for any train speeding in our direction. Make fun of me if you will, but I saw the movie "Fried Green Tomatoes" and I know that feet getting stuck in rails in front of an onrushing train is a calamity best avoided. 

A moment of reflection on Diamond Creek

After the railroad crossing, our route entered the Diamond Peak Wilderness via the Vivian Lake Trail, which went totally steep on us.  Huff, puff, we were soon gasping for breath like beached carp while admiring the beautiful forest we were trudging through. There were a number of small creeks and bogs on the trail but decaying boardwalks got us through and across. The forest did provide some fruity succor in the form of huckleberry, salmonberry, and thimbleberry and I partook thereof.

What little we could see of Fall Creek Falls

By comparison to splendid Salt Creek Falls and Diamond Creek Falls, Fall Creek Falls was rather mundane and ordinary. Because of the way the trail was perched on a cliff next to the cascade, you could only see the top half of the falls. I'm sure the cascade would be a lot more spectacular if you could see it completely from top to bottom but if you tried to bushwhack down, you'd be one of those "never heard from again" people.

Much of the Diamond Creek
Falls Trail looked like this

My legs quit on me at that point, having given their all to get me up to Fall Creek Falls. So while everybody continued on to Vivian Lake, I called it good and headed back down the trail to return to Diamond Creek. This time I'd head past Diamond Creek's waterfall and continue on the loop route back to Salt Creek Falls. At this juncture, most of the route went through some lovely shaded forest that felt cool on an increasingly warm day. While Diamond Creek was not seen much, it was always heard as the trail paralleled the creek's path.

Salt Creek has carved a deep and massive gorge

Diamond Creek eventually joins up with Salt Creek and the two creeks then conspire to carve out a deep and spectacular canyon. Periodic openings in the forest cover provided impressive vistas of the gorge with Salt Creek flowing way below the trail. Being prudent in my dotage, I did not venture too close to the rim's edge, it could be a quick trip down, for sure.

Too Much Bear lake was "unbearable"

There is a small lake in the area by the name of Too Much Bear Lake but you could only reach the lake from one particular side trail. I did go down to see the lake and snap a few photos and I "enjoyed" the steep but short hike back to the main trail when done. I didn't see any bear so on this day at least, the lake was quite misnamed.

Salmonberry provided some hiking sustenance

While waiting for my comrades to return to the trailhead, I took a pleasant nap next to Salt Creek, the sound of the rushing stream dropping me into a peaceful slumber. When I woke up to the sound of Lane's squeaky voice permeating the otherwise peaceful air between the trees, I was fully refreshed and sated. A waterfall hike (and nap) will do that to you and this had been one of the better ones.

Mike and Missy on the "trail"
down to Diamond Creek Falls

For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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