|Panther Creek Falls|
Okay, if not the world at least in the Pacific NW. And it's just across the river in Washington state.
While recuperating from my October surgery, I came across a jaw-dropping photo of Panther Creek Falls in an issue of Backpacker magazine. Then I discovered this lovely cascade was local - just outside of Carson, WA. Why had I never visited this?
|Sunlight peeps through the woods|
As you might have guessed, Panther Creek Falls immediately got placed on my springtime hiking list. Finally, the last Friday in May found me buzzing through the sleepy little hamlet of Carson on a mission to locate this fabulous waterfall.
This trail doesn't show up in any of my hiking books, so finding the falls required a bit of internet detective work. Scouring hiking websites, I was able to patch together the general location. Google Maps also helped a ton. Armed with this info, I headed down FS Road 65, looking for a sharp bend in the road. The falls was supposed to be at this bend.
I parked my car in the adjacent gravel pullout. After donning hiking boots, backpack, and camera gear, I trekked across the road. The ground dropped steeply from the pavement edge, nearly vertical, to the rushing creek below. I didn't see any signs. Hmmm.....where would the trail be?
I decided to head towards the sharp roadway curve. That seemed like a logical place for a waterfall. Continuously scanning the downhill slope, I hoped to spot the magic path.
|Falls from upper viewpoint|
I was almost to the bend, and still no sign of a trail. The slope seemed to flatten out a tiny bit here, so I decided to bite the bullet and scramble my way down to the creek. It wasn't easy. The road was perched on a large, moss-covered boulder field. Thick bushes rose through the rocks. I bushwhacked my way through the vegetation (occasionally walking through spiderwebs - ugh!) until I reached Panther Creek's muddy shore.
|Much better views at the base|
The creek was uber-green and quite lovely. The surrounding lush mossy forest was also quite nice. But the waterfall I sought was nowhere to be found.
After snapping a few quick pics, I dejectedly climbed back up the brushy slope. I walked a short distance in the opposite direction and still no luck. Where the heck was this falls?
|Such lovely streams|
I was about ready to give up. I'd scrambled down to the creek in one location, and wasn't super-keen about doing another bushwhack. But a little voice told me not to quit just yet, and to walk a little bit further away from the bend. So I did. And a few steps later, I saw the trail.
|Ultra-green surrounding forest|
The trail wasn't at all where I'd expected it to be. It was quite a distance from the sharp roadway curve. But after following this path a short distance, I began to hear a roar. Then I spotted a wooden viewing platform. And beyond that platform was the one and only Panther Creek Falls.
Oh my was it gorgeous! I set up my tripod and shot a few images of this waterfall's lacy streams. The rough rock surface appeared to split the flow into numerous tiny capillaries. They looked like delicate white fingers. Surrounding bright green moss and deep green ferns were perfect compliments to these gleaming, white cascades. The only disappointment was the bright morning sunlight streaming over the fall's very top. This large difference in exposures made capturing the entire waterfall extremely difficult (that's why I love dark, cloudy days for waterfall photography).
|Falls and creek below|
The photos I'd seen depicted a perspective of the falls from it's base. The viewing platform looked down upon the falls from above. Although not a bad view, it wasn't the shot I'd hoped to get. I began scanning the adjacent forest. How did people get down there?
Leaving the platform, I spied a faint path winding through the forest. I followed as it skirted the top of a steep rock cliff, and then dived nearly vertical down a slippery, muddy bank. I ended up literally climbing down this route on hands and knees, grabbing onto rocks and tree roots, with my tripod flopping around on my back. But despite it's precarious nature, the path did it's job. Sliding down the last bit of muddy trail got me to the fall's base. Spread out above me in all her glory, was Panther Creek Falls.
|Lower Panther Creek Falls|
Although the upper view was great, the falls were even more stunning from below. The multiple tiny torrents looked like a lacy curtain as they gushed down the rocky face. The creek below frothed and churned, tumbling over it's bed. And everything was surrounded by a thick, mossy green forest. An ample reward for that scary downhill scramble.
But there was still more. Panther Creek Falls also had a lower cascade. One more crude scramble trail led me down another near-vertical bank to the three-pronged falls below. Although not quite as spectacular as it's upper cousin, this little waterfall was still awfully darned nice. And it was entirely in the shade, so no exposure issues.
|Three tiers and a mossy log|
Finishing up my final photo session, I clambered back up the steep, muddy slope. Reaching the pavement, I began to follow the road's shoulder towards my car. Passing by the first path, I discovered a trail sign prominently bolted to a large tree. D'oh! Now how had I missed that?
|The sign I missed|
No mind, I now knew exactly how to find Panther Creek Falls. And before reaching the car, I'd already made plans for a return trip. I've decided to wait until autumn - with all the surrounding deciduous foliage, fall colors should be stunning. But next time, I'm picking a cloudy day!
Sharing with: Friday Greens and Scenic Weekends