Sunday, January 22, 2023

Silver Falls SP in Winter

It was another rainy Saturday in January.  Despite the icky weather I was dying to get outside and hike somewhere.  My hubby looked at the hour-by-hour forecast and noticed the rain was supposed to slack off by afternoon, especially to the south of us.  Hmmm......what trails were to the south?  Why, Silver Falls State Park!

I wasn't going to post about this wonderful state park again so soon.  But after Hubby and I made a trip to Silver Falls a couple of weeks ago, I decided what the heck.  So you lucky readers get another set of waterfall photos from this stunning place!

Tall, elegant South Falls

After driving an hour and a half through absolutely pouring rain (what were we thinking?) the faucet miraculously shut off about 5 minutes from the park.  The weather app had been right - thank goodness!


Lots of mossy trees

Of course I've posted many, many times about this unique waterfall-rich Oregon state park.  It boasts the "Trail of Ten Falls," a path that leads visitors through a deep canyon full of gushing cascades.  Hubby wanted to hike the entire trail.  Not sure how my recently-healed foot would handle 7-plus miles, I told him I'd hike part way and see how things went.

This moss-covered branch looks like a gnarly hand

I've visited Silver Falls SP countless times over the 30-plus years I've lived in Oregon.  Because of so many visits, I often get in a photographic rut, taking the same images of the same waterfalls at the same angles every time.  So my challenge today was to try for a few unique perspectives of each waterfall.

Lower South Falls (can you spot my hubby?)

We began our journey at South Falls, the tallest waterfall in the park and the one closest to the visitor center.  After walking behind this behemoth cascade, Hubby and I headed down the trail to the next waterfall, Lower South Falls.  Since Hubby is a much faster walker, I let him get ahead so I could capture an image of him approaching the path behind Lower South. 

Photo op at Lower South Falls

The great majority of park visitors make the trip to Lower South Falls and turn around.  So we had much less people traffic as we continued down the trail to the next batch of cascades.

Approach to Middle North Falls

Past Lower North Falls, with it's tiny drop, we made the short detour to Double Falls.  But trees and canyon walls obstructed the view so we hiked back out and continued on.  Not far from Drake Falls, another tiny cascade, I glimpsed Middle North Falls spilling over it's basalt cliff up ahead.

Much more water here than in November!

Middle North is hands-down my favorite waterfall in the park.  It's wide flow makes fan-shaped rivulets as it plunges to the creek below.  And it's another cascade that hikers can walk behind.

Since there's a trailhead fairly close by, the number of people increased here.  It was hard to get a photo without someone in it.  But people in photos gives some scale to these tall waterfalls.  From all the winter rains, there was much more flow going over this falls than when I'd visited in early November.

Tunnel of moss

We decided to skip the side trail to Winter Falls, which I sometimes take when desiring a shorter loop.  By now, my foot still feeling good, I gave Hubby the go-ahead to continue to North Falls.  This portion of the trail is super-scenic, and is my favorite part.  I'd hiked here last spring, but winter was just as (if not more) stunning.  Thick moss covered all the trees and it positively glowed green.

Photograph of the photographer

After about a mile and one more tiny cascade, Twin Falls, we came upon a glimpse of North Falls up ahead, roaring down the canyon walls.  As Hubby positioned himself for a photo op, I took a photo of the photographer.

The huge cavern behind North Falls

North Falls has an incredibly large cavern behind it.  It gets my vote as the most fun waterfall to walk behind in the park.

Hiking out of the canyon to the Rim Trail

After paying our respects to North Falls, there was one more waterfall we could reach, Upper North Falls.  But it was a half mile out of the way, and by then we were ready to head back.  So Hubby and I climbed the steep trail out of Silver Creek's canyon to connect with the Rim Trail, which would take us back to the lodge and parking area.

Giant trees along the Rim Trail

After trekking through a canyon full of beautiful waterfalls, the return Rim Trail was kind of boring.  It wound through thick forests full of huge fir and cedar trees.  My eagle-eyed hubby even spotted a woodpecker!  About a half mile from the parking lot we started to feel sprinkles, and by the time we reached our car, the rain had returned.  Our timing couldn't have been better!

So glad I was able to carve out some time between rain showers for a hike through this gorgeous state park.  It does my body, not to mention my mental health, good to get outside, even on dreary winter days.

Friday, January 13, 2023

2022 Hiking Challenge Recap (Warning - Nerdy Post Ahead!)

It's time for my annual facts and figures hiking post.  I create this post for my own benefit - to memorialize my hiking year and provide accountability on reaching goals.  If you don't want to wade through a bunch of nerdy statistics, feel free to just breeze through the pretty photos.  But if perusing a bunch of data is your jam, then by all means, read on!

To say this was a frustrating year for hiking is an understatement.  I was powering along, getting in lots of hikes, even making it up Hardy Ridge every month, when in late April things came to a screeching halt.  Out of nowhere, my left heel started hurting after every hike.  Soon, even short walks made it ache.  In denial for a couple of months, I tried to keep hiking, thinking it would eventually get better,  But by mid-June I realized I had a full-blown case of plantar fasciitis and if I didn't let my foot rest it would never heal.  So all my ambitious hiking goals I'd set in January went flying out the window.

Hike #25 - Amanda's Trail

However, despite being laid up for most of the summer I was still able to complete 62 hikes this year.  Specifically here are the numbers:

Total number of hikes in 2022:  62

Total number of miles hiked:  364 miles

Total elevation gain:  65,555 feet

(Just a reminder, all these hikes have been recorded on a separate blog page titled "2022 Hiking Challenge" accessed via a tab directly below my blog header.)

Hike #52 - Black Butte from upper trailhead

As far as meeting the goals laid out at year's beginning, I did meet two.  34% of my hikes were on "new to me" trails, surpassing the requirement that 25% of my hikes be on new trails.  And I did capture a creative selfie on all of my hikes.  As far as the other goals go, well......I'd just as soon forget I ever made them.  

Hike #40 - Glacier Bay National Park

So let's move on!  In other stats:

50% of my hikes were solo.  I really enjoy company as I did more hikes with friends this year.  The people I hiked most with were Debbie and Barry (13 hikes!) but also my Hubby, Catherine, Kim, and Young and John accompanied me on a few.

My busiest hiking months - a 5-way tie between January, March, April, May, and October with 7 each.  My slowest months were June and December with 1 each.

My longest hike was the February edition of my Hardy Ridge attempt at 9.5 miles at 2650 feet of elevation gain.

Hike #10 - Moulton Falls Loop

Hardy Ridge wins the prize with the most repeats at 5.  But I made 5 visits to Stub Stewart State Park (although hiking mostly different trails) so it deserves an honorable mention. 

35% of my hikes were out of state, with 21 of the 22 being in Washington, and the other lone hike in Alaska.

I visited a total of 21 new trails in 2022.  For someone who's been hiking in the area for nearly 30 years, I'm really proud of myself for discovering new places.  High gas prices forced me to look for hiking trails closer to home.  Never discount the nearby state parks and natural areas, I found some really great trails that I'll be returning to in 2023.

Hike #28 - Triple Falls Trail

My top ten favorite hikes of 2022 (in calendar order):

Hike # 2 - Gnat Creek Trail, 1/9/22

Hike # 10, Moulton Falls Loop, 2/7/22

Hike # 17, Labyrinth to Catherine Creek, 3/16/22

Hike # 20, Trail of Ten Falls, 3/23/22

Hike # 25, Amanda's Trail, 4/24/22

Hike #28, Triple Falls Trail, 5/3/22

Hike # 40, various trails in Glacier Bay National Park, 8/10/22

Hike # 43, Skyline and Golden Gate Trails, Mt. Rainer NP, 8/25/22

Hike # 52, Black Butte from Upper Trailhead, 10/20/22

Hike # 60, PCT from Bonneville Trailhead to Greenleaf overlook, 11/13/22

Hike #17 - Labyrinth to Catherine Creek

And, of course, my personal awards for hikes this year:

Hike #2 - Gnat Creek Trail

Favorite New Trail:  The Gnat Creek Trail in the Oregon Coast Range.  This one was a hidden gem, mossy green and beautiful, following two lovely creeks.  I'll definitely be returning!

Hike #29 - Mosier Plateau

Best Spring Wildflowers:  There's so many great places in the Columbia River Gorge to see fields of colorful wildflowers, however this year the nod goes to the Mosier Plateau.

Hike #43 - Skyline Trail, MRNP

Best Sumer Wildflowers:  No contest here, again it's the beautiful Skyline Trail in Mt. Rainier National Park.

Hike #60 - PCT from Bonneville TH to Greenleaf Overlook

Best Fall Colors:  There are many great places throughout Oregon and Washington, but this year my award goes to the Pacific Crest Trail between the Bonneville Trailhead and Greenleaf Overlook.  Thanks to my friends Young and John for showing me this lovely fall paradise.

Hike #1 - Dry Creek Falls

Best Winter Hike:  The 2022 best winter hike was a New Year's Day trek to Dry Creek Falls in the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge.  Frozen waterfalls for the win!

Hike #7 (and 13, 19, 27, 33) - Hardy Ridge

Most Challenging Hike:  My five attempts to climb Hardy Ridge from January to May.  I endured deep snow, icy tread, strong winds, and on the last two tries, a throbbing left foot that had me limping the final mile.

Hike #20 - Trail of Ten Falls

Best Waterfall Hike:  Silver Falls State Park's Trail of Ten Falls is always a winner.  This time I hiked it in late March and was mesmerized by all the full, gushing cascades. 

Hike #42 - Timberline Trail to Zigzag Canyon

Best Selfie:  Only the photos that I took by balancing my camera on my backpack, or other device count in this category.  This year the photo I took of myself and Kim and the edge of Mt. Hood's Zigzag Canyon is the winner.  Kim had her doubts when I propped my camera on top of my backpack and set the timer.  But I managed to not only get us both smiling, I also got Mt Hood in the frame.  I was pleased that the image turned out so well. 

Hike # 43 - Skyline Trail, MRNP

And my Favorite Hike of 2022:  Gotta go with the Skyline Trail at Mt. Rainier NP.  Fields of wildflowers coupled with fantastic mountain views, throw in a few wildlife sightings, and we have a winner!

So......what's in store for 2023's hiking challenge?  A big, fat nothing!  After setting ambitious goals for the past two years only to have them foiled by health issues, I've decided to take a year off.  I'll continue to record my hikes under a new "2023 Hikes" page on my blog, but that's it.  So follow along if you'd like and see where this year takes me.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Christmas in Montana

Since my son's work keeps him busy over the holidays, Hubby and I always journey to his home in Montana for Christmas.  This year was no different, except we didn't arrive until two days after the actual holiday.  A series of ice storms in Portland and the Columbia River Gorge kept us home two days longer than planned.  When the weather finally cleared enough to travel, we braved torrential rain, snowy roads, and ice storm remnants on our 11-plus hour drive.

Snow-covered mountains

But once we arrived, all travel woes were forgotten.  It's always good to see my son!

Walking by a photogenic scraggly tree

There's a wildlife management area on the outskirts of where my son lives.  It's a great place to spot birds, deer, and other critters.  Hubby and my son wanted to check out the adjacent lake to see if there were any ducks around.  My son had a hunting license and was interested in getting a few waterfowl.

Golden grasses

I never mind walking through a wildlife area.  I grabbed my camera and big lens in hope of spotting some birds.  Although temps weren't cold by Montana standards, it was still below freezing when we began our trek along an icy road.  It was an overcast day, and the light wasn't great for photographs, but the surrounding snow-clad mountains and golden vegetation were still pretty.  Good enough for some images in my opinion!

My guys looking for ducks

The guys made it over to lakeshore, only to discover the lake was frozen over.  Naturally, there wasn't any waterfowl to be found.  No duck hunting for them!

I caught a magpie sitting still on this fence post!

I, on the other hand, was lagging behind looking for birds.  I spotted a few magpies flying around, but these birds were so fast, it was extremely difficult to get a photo of one.  The only good shot I had was out the car window, when one of them landed on a nearby fence post and lingered just long enough.

Magpie on a tree branch

I did manage to capture another magpie sitting on a tree branch.  But I had to be fast with the shutter!

Partially frozen creek

We hiked by a partially frozen creek that I thought was very scenic.

Townsend's Solitaire

Passing by one bare tree, I spotted a fluffy, gray bird who was nice enough to hold still for several minutes.  Thanks to my friend Debbie, she later identified it as a Townsend's Solitaire.

Another one posed for me

There were a few of these gray birds flitting about and I captured another Townsend's Solitaire sitting in the branches of a tree.

Local deer herd checking us out

Last, but not least, we glimpsed a few of the resident deer herd.  Usually, by the time we noticed them, the deer were already on the run.  But one inquisitive momma with her young hesitated long enough to enable me to capture a few shots.

Although not recorded on my yearly hiking tally, this last "trek" of 2022 was a nice ramble with my family through a bleak, but beautiful corner of Montana.