Okay, so I know it's not Friday, but that was the day I visited the waterfalls you're about to see.
Still catching up from pre-surgery hikes, back in mid-October I decided to take advantage of a Friday off to explore some "new to me" waterfalls. The falls were south of Portland, not far from Mt. Angel, where my son attends seminary. Both were located in remote canyons, which is why I'd never before attempted to find them. But now....today was the day!
I almost didn't go. The weatherman was predicting rain starting mid-morning, and continuing until evening. But not wanting to waste a perfectly good day off, I bit the bullet and decided to go anyway. Hey, I live in Oregon, a state known for it's sogginess. How bad could a little rain be?
First up on my waterfall tour was Abiqua Falls. I'd seen many photos of it on the Portland Hikers website. Located deep in a wooded canyon this lovely 80-foot cascade tumbles down an impressive basalt cliff. But, as I was about to find out, accessing this treasure is not for the faint of heart.
After passing through the tiny village of Scotts Mills, I followed a winding road through gorgeous farm country. This road eventually turned into gravel, and the farther I traveled, the rougher it became. Then, I turned off this "main" road onto a steep, narrow gravel track. This was where the fun started. This "path" (I refuse to call it a road) was littered with potholes and sharp rocks. It meandered through an abandoned quarry that looked like it was now used for off road vehicles and target practice. In some places, the road's edge dropped off steeply, and it roller-coastered up, down, and around many sharp curves. A single lane in width, I hoped and prayed not to meet a vehicle coming from the other direction.
|Abiqua Falls in it's rocky amphitheater|
The drive seemed to take an eternity. Many times I was tempted to turn around and head back. I kept encountering larger and sharper rocks. All by myself, I worried about getting a flat or tearing a hole in my oil pan (it would've been a long walk out). But, finally I spied a small sign in the forest and immediately after the road ended with a gate across it's path. I had arrived!
But the fun didn't end at the trailhead. Since technically, Abiqua Falls is located on private land, there's no developed trail to reach it. From the parking area, I discovered a rough scramble path through the forest. It dropped nearly vertically through thick woods to the bottom of a canyon. In some of the steeper places, a nice person had strung rope along the muddy track to give visitors a safe handhold (and I wasn't too proud to use it).
|I walked through a spiderweb to get this shot|
Reaching the canyon's bottom, I followed a faint path along a creek. The shoreline was lined with large rocks, necessitating lots of scrambling over huge boulders and downed trees. My tripod, which I'd jury-rigged to the back of my pack, kept getting caught on nearby branches. The rocks were muddy and slippery, and I fell a few times (but luckily nothing too serious).
Although only a half mile in distance, my trek to the waterfall seemed to take forever. Many times, I questioned my directions. And then, rounding the final bend of the creek, I spied the object of my search. Located in a huge amphitheater of blocky basalt, Abiqua Falls thundered a loud welcome.
|Such a cool place for a waterfall!|
Of course, the rain decided to time it's start with my arrival. Not wanting to douse my new camera, I crouched under the side of a cliff, waiting things to clear up. Several minutes passed with me staring at that lovely waterfall, just begging to be photographed. Finally, tired of waiting, I drug my tripod out to the rocky banks, and began capturing images anyway.
Such a wonderful cascade in an absolutely beautiful setting! The rocky canyon walls framed Abiqua Falls nicely. There was an area where a bunch of yellow leaves had settled in a backwater. Thinking this would make a great foreground for a waterfall picture, I moved my tripod over and positioned it by the cliff's overhang. While shooting away, I noticed some web sticking to my hat. Looking up, I realized, to my horror, I'd walked right into a large spider's web, and the spider was dangling straight above me! Eeek! I hate spiders with a passion. I don't think I've ever moved so quickly!
|Close-up of the unique rock formation|
I spend over an hour admiring the falls, and it rained most of the time. I tried to cover my camera, first with a bandana, and then with my coat, but it got wet anyway. Many of my shots were ruined due to water spots on the lens, which I didn't catch until later. But despite the rain, I still was able to get a few money shots. A waterfall this lovely doesn't take a bad picture.
|Walking back downriver|
If not for the rain, I could've lingered all day in this gorgeous canyon. But there was one other waterfall visit on the agenda, so I finally packed up my camera equipment, and climbed back out.
|Upper Butte Creek Falls|
Second stop on my Friday waterfall tour was Butte Creek Falls. I gingerly drove my car back up that nasty, rock-strewn track, and breathed a sigh of relief when it finally met up with the "main" gravel road. Not far off the main road was another turnoff for waterfall site number two.
|Fall colors in full force|
Luckily, Butte Creek Falls was much easier to access. The road was in good shape and I made it to the parking area with no trouble. Managed by the Santiam State Forest, the trailhead boasted a nice parking area, great signage, and even a restroom. True luxury compared to Abquia Falls!
|Can you see the men to the left of the falls?|
Sadly, about the time I pulled into the parking area, the sky decided to open up. I sat in my car munching a sandwich and tried to wait out the downpour. It never did let up completely, but when the rain finally slowed down, I went ahead and packed up my camera and tripod and headed down the trail. The trails here were wonderful - well graded and signed. There was even a box of pamphlets, complete with maps, at the trailhead.
There were two gorgeous waterfalls at this park, Upper and Lower Butte Creek Falls. I chose the path to Upper Falls first. Although much shorter than it's sister cascade (only 30 feet), I loved it's wide, multi-streamed curtain. Upper Butte Creek falls emptied into a lovely, rocky splash pool. It also boasted a small cavern behind it's stream, accessible to daring hikers (I saw two young men and a dog in there while I was taking photos). The surrounding forest was a kaleidoscope of greens and fall colors.
|Lower Butte Creek Falls|
Unfortunately, about the time I reached the first waterfall, the rain began to ramp up again. I tried to shoot a bunch of photos anyway, but a lot of them turned out rain-spattered and blurry. So I packed up my camera and decided to check out the lower falls.
|Surrounded by yellow|
Lower Butte Creek Falls was the best of them all. A slender, twisting cascade, it dropped 70 feet from a high cliff to the water below. It was surrounded by a forest bursting with fall color. The only viewing access was atop a narrow, rocky ridge opposite the falls. Against the wind and rain, I set up my tripod as close to the edge as I dared, and fired off a few shots, intermittently wiping off my lens in between.
|Nice trail with a new log bridge|
The fall colors here were nothing short of spectacular. As a matter of fact, it was the best showing of autumn finery so far. It was the perfect accompaniment to these lovely wisps of water.
I returned to my car via a well-graded trail that passed over this cute log bridge. Leaves littered my path, and I couldn't resist setting up the tripod for a few final shots.
A little adventure, a lot of rain, some fall colors, and three amazing waterfalls. Not too bad for venturing out in less-than-ideal weather. Dinner with my son was the perfect end to a great day of exploring.
P.S. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! :)
Sharing with: Scenic Weekends and Friday Photo Journal and Weekly Top Shot.