You know how when you love something, you can keep having more, and your enjoyment stays peaked? Like football games, or volcanoes, or lighthouses? On my birthday I picked a hike that seemed like there might be enough waterfalls to satiate me. Silver Falls State Park has waterfalls, and then some. On the Trail of Ten Falls there are more waterfalls per square mile than any trail I’ve ever been on. Definitely more than ten. Mother Nature gave us a fabulous day for the 9th of January, and I absorbed (sometimes almost literally, as one gets rather soaked at a couple of viewing spots) nearly enough waterfalls.
Oh, so by the way, I turned 51 over the weekend! I picked a small Oregon town nearby as home base, that is only 30 minutes from a park that Tara and I visited a couple years ago. We had hiked a trail there, but didn’t have time to do the whole thing, so Saturday I grabbed a friend and we did the whole thing. It’s supposed to be 7.2 miles (11.6 km), but we went on every little side trail and extended it to more than 7.6 miles. I’m not sure how much more, because I forgot to set my trail recording app until we were already well along. Oops.
It was super foggy on the drive to the park. By the time we arrived, it was sunny on the rims above the canyon, and foggy inside the canyon – where we hiked. It made for some pretty cool photos, including some great shots of crepuscular rays shooting through the trees, and even fog rainbows that my camera managed to capture.
The first two parking lots we passed were small, and full. So we went to the gigantic parking lot at South Falls Day Use area to find a space. With at least 1,000 parking spaces, they had room for us. We were out for 3 1/2 hours, including a lunch stop to sit on a sopping wet log and eat sandwiches. There is a mask mandate for the whole park, and nearly everyone was compliant, even in anti-mask rural Oregon. That was nice to see because the place was packed. This was the biggest “crowd” I’ve been in during the pandemic. We were all outdoors, and groups distanced from one another, but I’m just not used to seeing people, you know? It was a bit unnerving. It was the first time I’ve gone for a long hike with a mask on the entire time, and let me tell you, it’s not a nice experience. First of all, it was 33 degrees (0.5 C) when we started, so the condensation from our breath was substantial. (Bonus: mask keeps your face warm) In no time, both layers of my cotton facemask were completely wet. When I climbed a hill and sucked in my breath, the sopping wet, cold, mask smashed against my face and into my mouth. Yuck.
South Falls is the most popular and most visited falls. It was seriously crowded there. The falls is worth all the attention, but we were glad to leave the area and get on down the trail and leave the majority of the people behind.
On the way to Lower South Falls, we went down a series of switchbacks built into the side of the hill. These were all stone steps, thank goodness, because it was so wet in the canyon it could have been a dangerous muddy mess without the stairs and handrails.
I mentioned that this 7.2 mile loop is called Trail of Ten Falls. We actually missed one of the falls by accident, but we did see the other nine major falls. Here’s the thing though. The big falls, like the one pictured above, are so astonishing that most of the many smaller falls are not even named. Let me include a gallery, so you can see some of the little falls.
There was a side path that went behind Middle North Falls. A woman and her daughter passed us while we paused at the intersection and considered it. “You MUST go!” they assured us. “And put up your hood,” they told me. We went and it was exhilarating. Raucous and windy, the path behind the falls whipped us around, sprayed water in our faces, and we had to shout at each other to be heard above the roar. We were soon saturated and I was glad for my waterproof coat with hood. My friend had no hat, but had a good time anyway. The buffeting force was so strong it compelled us to lift our arms wide and catch the wind. I was certain my mascara was running down my face at that point, but I was assured it was not.
Oh, that reminds me of another funny thing on this hike. Since the temp was close to freezing, and our breath came directly across our eyes, due to the masks, it caused our eyelashes to be coated in dewdrops the whole time. It was a pretty comical look.
The approach to North Falls was more scenic than my photos show. The trail through the cave beneath it (apparently called an ampitheatre) was really cool. I was not able to capture how massive; how dynamic; how unique it was with the enormous trees growing from the base; how jaw-droppingly vast and exciting the cave behind it is. What I *am* very pleased with is this short video below of the view standing beneath the falls looking out. Honestly, it makes me think of Tolkien’s elves. Isn’t this sort of like Rivendell?
Bear with me while I whine about the pathetic names of all these beautiful falls. How thoroughly unimaginative: North Falls, Lower North Falls, Upper North Falls, Middle North Falls, etc. etc. The park itself has a better name: Silver Falls. And none of the falls is actually called Silver Falls, for gosh sakes. A few of them had better names: Winter Falls is the one we skipped by accident. Drake Falls and Twin Falls were just too boring to include. (That’s how calloused I am now, after all these falls)
Here are a few more from South Falls (the first one), because it’s just that spectacular.
The picture of me beside the baby falls was the last photo we took. It had been hours, our dogs were barkin’, and it was time to end the hike. That flamingo facemask was made by my amazing spawn, Tara. For Christmas I got one with roosters on it, which is perfect because I love chickens and also because in the Chinese zodiac, I’m the cock.
That was basically our Saturday, but our Sunday was pretty damned cool, too. Stay tuned.