The Scenes We Saw, Day Four


For three days, the sun shone down, and while it wasn’t precisely warm (“butt-ass freezing cold” is a better descriptor, except for wonderful intervals where the wind died down and/or the geology offered some respite), the weather qualified as unseasonably awesome by Pacific Northwest standards. We got lucky. Usually, when you make travel plans this time o’ year, the weather rubs its metaphorical hands together in glee and contemplates ways to make you miserable.

But, for three days, it behaved itself beautifully. Then a winter storm front descended. For a while, it looked to be pissing down rain and snow. But we refused to yield. “You want to play that game,” we said, “we’ll find some nice geology indoors. Fuck you, weather!” So it grumbled and muttered and settled for butt-ass freezing cold combined with a fretful bit of rain. This kind of behavior doesn’t impresss PNWers. We went on with our plan for an easy day at Silver Falls State Park.

This park has several advantages in inclement weather. For one thing, it’s got trees. Many trees. So who cares what color the sky is – all these damned trees are in the way. Also, most of the trails will run you behind a waterfall, so you’re gonna get wet anyway. Sure, you’ll get damper if it’s raining, but really, why worry?

And the scenery. Oh, my darlings, the scenery!

Upper North Falls

Michael Klass of Uncovered Earth did up a post on Silver Falls State Park for Lockwood and I, which you should go read, as it will make your mouth water. Just like our mouths watered. Good thing they did, too, because for a bit there, they went dry. You see, the falls are in mountains, and the mountains still had snow on them. The trail to North Falls was closed, and the one to Upper North Falls had icy patches that made getting there an exercise in creative balancing. So worth it, though. Here, you have water gushing over our old friend the Columbia River Basalt Group, and it’s just gorgeous.

And really, the hiking’s easy even in those slightly icy conditions. At least, it starts out all simple when you come in from the north. “Coolio!” you think. “I’ve just blitzed my body with exercise for three days after barely stirring all winter, and it hates me, but this is a cinch.”

And you go merrily tripping back to your car for the short drive down to South Falls, stopping to admire North Falls from afar.

North Falls

And you’re all like, “Tra la la, this is soooo easy!” as you hop back in your car for a short jaunt down to South Falls. You’re even chipper enough to take artsy-fartsy shots of the misty rain dripping from bare branches and stuff.

Raindrops on branches

And you see South Falls thundering over the lip of the canyon, and you’re all like “Oooo ahhhh!”

South Falls

Because it’s really bloody spectacular, especially with this flow rate, and eensy-weensy people wandering around behind that great big roaring plunge. And you’re all like, “Yay! We get to walk behind it! Wee!” and you go merrily traipsing downhill for your date with awesome.

Behind South Falls

And waterfalls are like potato chips, so you’re all “I can haz moar?” and go rambling on, through one of the few temperate rainforests in the world.

Temperate rainforest

And it’s at about this point that it occurs to you that you’ve got a ways to walk to the next set o’ falls, you just spent three days torturing your body in the name of geology, it’s peeing down rain, it’s cold, and you’re in a canyon. Which you will have to climb out of again. And there are eleventy-bajillion steps down to the next waterfall. And your legs are threatening to secede from the union. And your back has decided you’re an evil fuck and is considering phoning a domestic violence hotline. And your arms are all, “Don’t you even think we’re going to help get you out of this, nimrod.” Memories of your paraplegic friend who hiked the Grand Canyon multiple times aren’t enough to shame you into taking your wussy arse down flight after flight of stairs, so you pick a good landing a couple flights down where you’ve got a good view of proceedings and say “Bugger that” to the idea of following the trail for further exploration of the underside of a waterfall.

Lower South Falls

And then you drag your poor pathetic self back up the stairs, trail, more stairs, and stagger painfully into the gift shop for a little recovery in the warm and dry, but damn, was it worth it!

Then it was time to head back to Corvallis, have lunch at a place that looks and feels like a redneck tavern but has the most extensive Thai food menu I’ve ever seen in my life, and drop Lockwood off to spend quality time with his kitteh. I went back to El Norte, stopping in the Portland area to bestow rock samples upon my Suzanne and Glacial Till like some geological Santa. I wish I could have hooked up with Michael, but I’ll haul him up here this summer and show him the time of his young life in the North Cascades, which will hopefully make up for it. And I’ll still have plenty of samples to bestow upon him, if he wishes. I’ve got lots.

This was the trip of a lifetime. Lockwood is so passionate about geology, and knows so much about Oregon’s geological wonders, that going around with him is like taking a very intensive geology course that is made of awesome. I don’t even realize at the time how much I’m learning. He’s a treasure. And I plan to drag his poor self over most of the rest of Oregon and a considerable bit of Washington before we’re done.

I just need to exercise a bit more first…

Comments

  1. dcortesi says

    …I plan to drag his poor self over most of the rest of Oregon…

    Oooh, to Steens Mountain, please? Been there as a tourist but could only be ignorantly impressed by the geology. “Staggering amounts of magma, with several flows hundreds of feet deep,” etc. etc.

  2. michaelklaas says

    Great stuff, Dana! Silver Falls is just one of my favorite places in the world. I’ve never actually been there on a really snowy day, though. That’s a goal I have for next winter: photograph the falls coated in ice.

    And you’ve got me all giddy for this summer! I haven’t been to North Cascades in nearly five years, so I’m overdue. :-)

  3. says

    Aww, shucks, I’m getting all embarrassed. The Steens is in fact a spot and area I’ve talked about with Dana- there’s a lot to see in the vicinity. And Michael, Silver Falls in an intense cold spell is truly spectacular. And scary. And slippery. There’s ice on everything. It’s worth it, but you need to be cautious. As an aside, here’s some winter photos near where I grew up in SE Ohio: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jensenl/visuals/album/2007/hockinghills/

    I really hadn’t thought about how much physical work I’d booked into this trip, but believe me, it’s something I’ll at least think about on future trips. It’s easy to look back a week and say “It was totally worth it,” but I was SO sore climbing out of that canyon. But hey, it was totally worth it.