On Saturday, Meaghan and I accompanied our friends Brian and Ellen on a hike around the Silver Falls state park. The ten falls trail is one of my favorite hikes in Oregon and one that I have had fortune to walk on several occasions. This was only my second time doing the full length trail, usually I would miss the final loop that passes by North Falls. The weather, while initially threatening to rain, turned out to be superb. Despite the fact that the sky was overcast for the majority of the day, we didn’t catch a single drop of rain. Because of the early time of year the falls were very full, making the sights and sounds even more spectacular than usual. I’ve seen Silver Falls in springtime, summer, and fall, and have to conclude that while the summer sun is beautiful the fullness of the falls in springtime makes it the best time for a visit.
We met with Brian and Ellen for breakfast downtown at a little cafe called Besaws at eight o’ clock. Meaghan and I arrived a little early, only to find that they actually opened at eight and so we took a short stroll around the area, pleased to see that the early morning weather was at least holding firm. Until recently I had spent very little time in north-west portland, and even now I do not know it very well. It was nice to take the time to wander the streets and take in a few of the shops that I had heard mentioned in conversations. Breakfast gave not only a nice opportunity to both wake up and catch up with our friends, but also to further assess the weather before emabarking on our adventure. At around nine o’ clock we were on our way down I5. We decided to carpool in my Mazda, not only to save on gas but also to give us the chance for conversation during the drive.
The drive down to Salem was relaxing and we were chatting comfortably when I suddenly noticed a large metal barrel sitting in the middle of the lane to our right. No sooner had I thought “that’s dangerous” than the lid of that barrel came hurtling towards the windshield of my car, kicked up by a car in front of us. Instinctively, I tried to swerve but it was too late and the metal lid hit the center of the windshield full force. Fortunately it glanced off the glass, leaving only a few scratches and nobody was injured. A quick check to make sure everyone was OK and we continued on our way. Other than that, the roads were fairly clear for a Saturday in May, a sparsity continued in the South Falls parking lot of the state park. Wonderful! I hate crowded trails on hikes. I’d much rather we have the whole park to ourselves. After a short restroom break, we began our walk along the Canyon Trail. The South Falls are encountered almost immediately upon this route and were as full as I could ever remember them.
I was able to get some great photographs of the South Falls themselves, but I was particularly happy with the shot of Meaghan, Brian, and Ellen together with the falls in the background. Having already lost about two hundred feet of altitude from the South Falls parking lot, the trail continues for about a mile before descending down a stairway about another hundred feet to the Lower South Falls. Whilst the trail has already led behind the first waterfall, it leads wonderfully close behind the Lower South Falls; my personal favorite of the entire hike. A large pool of water had collected behind the waterfall and it took some fancy footwork and balancing on rocks to avoid getting wet.
We had not travelled too much further along the trail before we were approached by a park ranger. He was running fairly quickly in the opposite direction, a walkie-talkie in one hand, and a motorcycle helmet in the other. He asked us if we had seen any injured people along the trail behind us, to which we indicated we had not. Bidding us good day, he continued his pace along the trail down which we had just come. Before we reached the Lower North Falls, the next on our journey and about another mile and a half from their predecessor, we saw an ATV part way down an embankment off the main trail. It looked as though it had been driven down the rather thin hiking trail and had veered off down the embankment as it was now sitting upside down resting against a tree. After hurrying over to see that no-one was injured, we learned from another park ranger that it had belonged to the first ranger we had seen carrying a helmet. Apparently he had crashed while using it to ride down the trail, presumably while looking for the missing person. It was nice to know that the driver of the ATV was OK, but we certainly had not expected so much excitement. We continued on to Double Falls where we met a family who had also seen the crashed ATV and were speculating upon the missing person and the events that had transpired that morning.
Middle North Falls presents the opportunity to cut the hike short by taking the Winter Creek Trail in the case that fatigue has overtaken abmition. Our foursome decided to finish what we had started and headed down the trail towards the North Falls. The cutoff only saves about 2.5 miles but relieves little of the necessity to regain the lost altitude and eliminates the very spectacular North Falls in the process. We were well in out stride, it was only early afternoon, and we had plenty of water left; the decision was an easy one. There are a couple of good opportunities to wade in Silver Creek along this part of the trail. Brian, Ellen, and Meaghan all put a hand in the water to test how cold it might be and then discussed the relative merits of dipping a toe into such temperature. The general concensus seemed to be that it would prove quite cold and was probably best left for another day!
By the time we reached the base of the North Falls, the end was in sight. After a short but sudden climb up the stairs leading to the North Falls parking lot, we finished the lovely downhill stroll along a forest trail leading back to our starting point. There is a wonderful opportunity to look back at the North Falls from a distance, between the trees, and from above the now silent cascade that seemed so tall when viewed from beneath.
With a final look back at the last part of the trail, we returned to the South Falls parking lot where we had begun our journey only a few hours earlier. We stopped at the lodge for a couple of burgers (Meaghan and I) and a couple of chicken sandwiches (for Brian and Ellen) before beginning the return drive to Portland. We had a fantastic time walking with our friends and enjoying one of the best state parks that Oregon has to offer. I’m looking forward to the summer and the many other hikes that lie ahead.