To beat the weekend crowds at this extremely popular park, I always schedule my fall visit for a Friday. Although the forecast on this late October day mentioned a chance of rain, I decided to take my chances. Besides, waterfalls photograph better on cloudy days.
|Rainy, foggy forest|
Trusting the weatherman, I naively thought I'd escape a day of rain. Of course I'd conveniently forgotten the month of October thus far had been an extremely wet one. Pulling into the park's spacious parking lot, I was greeted with a few tiny raindrops speckling my windshield.
Okay, that's what raingear is for! I dug out my pack cover and slipped on rain jacket and gaiters. And as an afterthought, grabbed an old umbrella out of the car.
On my way to the famous "Trail of Ten Falls," I passed by Silver Fall's lovely rustic lodge. Framed by drippy, yellow leaves, it was the first thing that got my camera's attention. But wanting to get some images of South Falls before the onslaught of visitors, I didn't linger long.
Although a tiny bit past prime, the leaf colors did not disappoint! Following the windy, paved path to the canyon bottom, I stopped periodically to capture the yellow and golds, mixed amongst mossy old trees.
|South Falls photo No. 1|
About halfway down is a splendid view of South Falls shimmering cascade. Dropping 177 feet across a basalt cliff face, it has the distinction of being the park's second-tallest waterfall. Setting up my tripod, I captured dozens of images from every conceivable angle. But these two photos were my favorites.
|South Falls photo No. 2|
I couldn't decide which to post on the blog, so included them both. Which one do you prefer?
As I was finishing my photo session, another man set up his tripod nearby. Striking up a conversation, I learned he was from Melbourne, Australia and was on an extended vacation in the Pacific NW. He'd been to Seattle, the Oregon coast, and his next stop was Central Oregon.
Surrendering the prime photo spot to my new Aussie friend, I packed up and continued my trek to the canyon's very bottom. It was a slow trip. Around each bend were more colorful trees, mossy branches, or huge ferns. Too many wonderful things to photograph!
|Fallen leaves and ferns|
Crossing a bridge over Silver Creek, the spotty sprinkles transitioned into a downpour. Seeking shelter under a large tree, I packed my camera away, and watched the Melbourne man pass by.
|The forest looks otherworldly!|
Braving the heavy moisture, I decided to continue my hike. Surely it was only a passing shower. The weatherman did say only a chance of rain today.....right?
|Below Lower South Falls|
Another mile down the Canyon Trail brought me to the second waterfall, Lower South Falls. This portion of the park was an absolute delight. Yellows, oranges, and golds dotted the surrounding woods. Green moss and huge ferns draped over everything. It was like walking through a fairy-tale forest. Lingering fog added to the magic. I half expected to meet a hobbit.
All the recent rainfall had Lower South Falls churning mightily. I couldn't get close enough for a decent photo without spray totally dousing my camera. So instead I settled for some shots of the scenic creek below the falls.
|Below Middle North Falls|
Trekking on, I traveled another mile, where I knew four other waterfalls were clustered. After several leapfrogs, I passed my Aussie friend for the final time at the Maple Ridge Trail Junction. Not prepared for wet weather, (we must've heard the same forecast!) he was getting soaked, and decided to head back.
Lower North Falls and Drake Falls were the next cascades I passed by. Smaller waterfalls, these only measured 27 and 30 high respectively. Holding out for the taller, grander cascades, I traipsed by without stopping for photos (I've become such a waterfall snob!)
|Middle North Falls|
I was holding out for Middle North Falls, my most favorite waterfall in the park. Although shorter (106 feet in height), it's wide lacy, curtain fans elegantly across the lip of a mossy, forested cliff. A footpath leads visitors into a cavern behind its roaring plume. To experience what it's like to walk behind this waterfall, check out the short video above.
|Window through the dense forest|
The muddy, slippery path took me all the way around Middle North Falls to an excellent viewpoint on the canyon's opposite side. An overhanging rock provided shelter from the pelting rain (most welcome!) so I took the opportunity to have a snack. Protected from the weather, I couldn't pass up a chance to get some more photos of this breathtaking waterfall.
Although the forest and waterfalls had been amazing, I was starting to really get soaked. Deciding I'd traveled far enough for the day, I followed a short trail past slender Winter Falls that climbed out of the canyon.
|Leaves litter the bank|
Despite the soggy weather, by midday the park had filled with visitors. I encountered several large groups heading down the trail as I was climbing up. Oregonians don't let a little moisture spoil their outdoor plans!
By the time I returned to the lodge area, the rainy weather was letting up. The adjacent trees were so colorful, I couldn't resist a couple shots of this scenic footbridge.
Or this lovely bush near a deserted picnic area.
|Silver Falls Lodge looks cozy|
Or one final image of the cozy lodge building surrounded by dazzling orange color.
|Multi-hued vine maple|
Back at the parking lot, a wall of technicolor vine maple leaves delayed my departure.
|More lovely vine maple leaves|
Not sure what causes these leaves to turn different colors on the same tree, but I do know they make wonderful photo subjects.
|Beautiful crimson leaf|
I survived the soaking rain, and came away with a camera full of stunning fall images. This is the reason I return to Silver Falls State park every autumn - rain or shine!
Stats: 5.2 miles round-trip, 400 feet elevation gain.
(Silver Falls State Park is located an hour's drive east of Salem, Oregon)