Silver Falls State Park Day 3 and 4

Photos for the entire trip are here.

Silver_Falls (60) Sunday morning dawned beautifully, with clear skies and wonderfully fresh air.  On the previous evening, we noticed a lot more activity on the trails and decided that it would be nicer to wait until Monday for our waterfall hikes.  After a big happy breakfast of bacon, eggs and potatoes (the favorite for camping weekends) we dressed in clothes appropriate for a town visit and headed north on HWY 214 to explore Silverton.

Silverton was listed as one of the ten “coolest” small towns in America in a CBS News poll in 2009. The criteria was that the population be less than 10,000 and included requirements that you be able to get a good cup of coffee and that there are more galleries than country stores.  Silverton fits that picture very well, although we saw a lot more restaurants than galleries, and the number of quaint little shops seemed a bit limited.  One of my favorites was “The Purl District”.  Being a knitter, I love to find local yarn shops and visit with the creative people there.  The Purl District didn’t disappoint, although a chat with the proprietor indicated that like other small knit shops in other rural towns, she is hanging on by a thread.  Just a little aside here, please buy your yarn from local shops if you can.

Silver_Falls (64) We walked around town, looking in the restaurants, and checking out the few galleries.  Silverton’s Chinatown was different, and consisted of one shop and one restaurant.  There was also a Thai restaurant that tempted me with great fragrances as I watched something wonderful being delivered to a patron.  After that big breakfast it didn’t seem appropriate to eat again just two hours later! Another surprise as we explored the town was a great grocery store, Roth’s Fresh Market. With a little research, I found that this locally owned chain of markets was first established right here in Silverton.  It was a bit like a small and local combination of Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, with a fine bakery, fresh flowers, and 4 long double rows of really good wine.  I bought a bottle of organic “Our Daily Red” from the Orleans Hill Winery in Nevada City for under $9.00. It was truly good, and no sulfites! I hope I can find this wine again without having to drive north to a Roth’s market!

Silverton is only a short drive from Salem, and only an hour from Portland.  Even though it is growing, it has retained some of the great character that made it a favorite. Especially beautiful is the gorgeous Silver Creek that flows through town and the myriad blooming dogwoods, azaleas and other flowers.  Driving the streets revealed great historic bungalows, some neighborhoods with wide streets and manicured yards, others narrow and less appealing. The best part of the town is how dog-friendly it is.  With 9,500 people and a dog population of more than 1,500, many restaurants in town have patio dining spots that allow your dog to sit at your feet, and an annual pet parade in honor of Bobbie, a collie who found his way home to Silverton from Indiana in 1924. Parking is still metered on the street, and the meters still take pennies: twelve minutes for once cent, although on Sunday we didn’t have to pay.

After exploring the local streets, we branched out to amble along country roads around town, enjoying the beautiful nursery fields filled with young Japanese maples and dogwoods.  Farther afield, as we headed back to camp, the bluegrass fields stretched across rolling hills into the distance, emerald green and lush.  The sun was warm and the sky punctuated by billowy white clouds.  It couldn’t have been a more perfect drive.

Silver_Falls (69) Back in camp, we were met by my daughter, Deborah, who drove the hour from Portland where she lives.  I was delighted to have some time with Deb, and glad that she came to spend the night and hike the waterfalls.  Deb also brought along a great bottle of wine, a Pinot Noir from Oak Knoll, an Oregon winery.  I guess I have to search for this one as well!  A bottle of Barefoot is fine, but now and then a treat is definitely in order. We let the cat, Jeremy, out to play in the forest and he had a wonderful time scratching trees and running up and down the pathways.

We visited a bit before Deb and I hopped on the bikes to explore some of the great bike trails in the park.  It was a wonderful ride, just hilly enough to be challenging, paved and smooth, and punctuated by long stretches of downhill glides.  Deborah hails from one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country, but she still appreciated a bike trail that wasn’t next to a road.  When we returned to camp, Mo started up the evening fire and we cooked a great steak supper over the coals.  I even baked a campfire potato for the three of us to share.  Guess I had better work on that a bit more because it was very black and crusty on the outside without much left on the inside!  I am spoiled with a quick microwave baked potato while traveling, but this time I didn’t want to turn on the generator for 5 minutes of potato baking! 

Silver_Falls (71) The evening ended perfectly with wine and conversation and roasting the marshmallows that Deb brought for us.  So many times as I sit looking at the coals of our great campfires I think about marshmallows.  I don’t even like them that much, but roasting them is so much fun.  Of course, some caught fire, and we had a competition for the most perfectly roasted mallow.  The MoHo has a nice sofa, and Deb was cozy and comfortable just as it was without making it out into a bed.  It was the first time we have had guests overnight in the MoHo.



Silver_Falls (76)Silver_Falls (78)  On Monday morning, we cooked another weekend breakfast for Deborah, with the excuse of a good long hike planned for the day.  Mo and I went for another bike ride around the campground with Abby on her leash, with the hope that she would be then content to rest in the car while we hiked the “no dogs allowed” Canyon Trail.  What a great way to exercise the dog!  She eventually wears out before we do! The skies were again dark and cloudy, but the rain held off most of the day.  The Trail of Ten Falls extends almost 9 miles, but has several trailheads and various options for hiking a shorter distance.  We hiked part of the Canyon Trail and returned via the Maple Ridge Trail.  I had seen photos of the waterfalls, but somehow in my research on the park I never realized that the trail goes behind many of the falls.  Standing behind a crashing stream of water as it cascades over cliff and rock is an energizing experience.  The trail is beautiful, and even the very steep, stone stairs that lead to the Lower South Falls are well maintained, and even have a railing.  It was so much fun having time to hike with my daughter, something we haven’t had a chance to do for a long time.

After Deb left, Mo and I drove to the north end of the park to hike the trails to the Upper North Falls and North Falls.  It was raining fairly hard on the Upper North Falls trail and we had most of the walk to ourselves.  Upper North Falls was lovely, but the trail ends at the lower pool.  Heading back west on the trail, we hiked down another bank of steep, slippery steps to North Falls.  This waterfall is visible from the Rim Trail and the main road at a distance, but nothing prepared either of us for the intensity of hiking into the dark, dry cave behind this waterfall.  Mo sat for a time on the bench just enjoying the falls while I walked around trying to take videos.  I knew that a photo wouldn’t come close to capturing what it felt like to be there.  This entire experience really whetted my appetite for our visit to Niagara Falls coming up in the fall.

Silver_Falls (151)By Sunday evening many campers were leaving, and on this Monday night we had all of Loop A to ourselves, with only a few folks left over in the B loop.  This park is definitely a place that becomes very quiet during the week, so another great benefit of retirement will be the ability to return and camp during weekdays. Supper was another salad and some soup while we enjoyed another huge fire in the pouring rain.  This was the first time we could actually sit by the fire and still be under the MoHo awning and stay dry.  I roasted some more marshmallows and finished the wine! We had to angle the awning to  keep the water from pooling.  The rain continued all night, pounding and drumming on the roof while we stayed warm and dry.  Tuesday morning it was still raining, but let up just enough for us to pack up camp and drive the two miles back to the free RV dump site on the north side of the park. As we drove down the highway back toward home, the skies darkened, then opened, then darkened again.  Predictions for Klamath and all the passes leading to the east side of the mountains were for snow, so with a bit of apprehension we chose to return via Interstate 5 through Medford.  The choice was a good one, and at the summit of the pass near Lake of the Woods, the temperature stayed at a steady 34 degrees, in spite of the snow all around us and falling.  We arrived home in time to beat the heaviest snows, even though by Wednesday morning the MoHo sitting in the driveway for final unloading was covered in three inches!  Isn’t it just a few days until May? 


Day 3 Virginia Lakes Hike

Although we planned this east side trip for high desert and seeing Bodie, the Virginia Lakes hike was an unexpected surprise. Chris Savastio, one of my soil survey crew, had been here earlier in the summer and kept insisting that I should see it. We decided to spend our third day on the east side of the mountains exploring these lakes.

I have so many photos of this lovely chain of hanging valley lakes that it’s hard to choose, so just check out the link to see all of it. The hike was just challenging enough to be fun, and I was hoping that I wouldn’t have a problem with the elevation, and think that our two days of camping at 7,000 feet helped a bit. I made it to the 11,100 foot pass without any problems. Abby had her fill of swimming in each lake and some of the highest ponds, the winds weren’t unbearable, and of course, the views from the pass were breathtaking.

The hike was only 6 miles or so, round trip, but we spent most of the day on the trail and were happy to get back home to our camp and the last evening campfire supper. Our last night out before returning home saw the temperature drop to 34 degrees, and in the morning the heater felt very good and the generator was a good thing to have!

Mo took down the solar panel, we buttoned up the MoHo is short order and waved bye to each other as she headed back north to Klamath and I followed the gorgeous Sonora Pass back to Jamestown. Truly a perfect weekend with just a little bit of everything wonderful

Day 5 Thundering Waters on the North Umpqua

North Umpqua Waterfalls Photos

There are 24 waterfalls listed on the Umpqua National Forest and the Roseburg District of the Bureau of Land Management. We planned this day to see as many as we could along the stretch of the Umpqua Scenic Highway near our camp. I was impressed with the information published by the FS and BLM available at the campgrounds, and they made our day hunting down waterfalls a delight. All are downloadable in PDF format as well. (Umpqua National Forest) I especialy enjoyed the diagrams and descriptions of the different kinds of waterfalls, and how they are formed.

Traveling east on HWY 138 almost to Diamond Lake, the first waterfall we saw was Clearwater Falls. Just a short walk from the parking lot, the falls rumbles and tumbles over dark green moss covered stones. The rhododendrons were still blooming and the mist was cool and refreshing. Hiking to the top of the falls revealed a calm quiet pool above where Abby could swim but the water was very cold.

Whitehorse Falls was also right near the road and an easy walk from the view point parking lot. It is called Deadhorse falls on the quad sheet, so I am not sure about the name change, but that happens often lately, especially in areas that are significant to local tribes.

At milepost 60.5 is the trailhead to Watson Falls, the highest in southwest Oregon. The half mile hike is a well maintained trail with switchbacks and some steep areas, but still quite moderate. The fall itself it tall, thin at this time of year, and delicate, quite lovely. Again, the surrounding forest was filled with blooming rhododendrons. We met a couple from Colorado, including a very elderly lady who hiked the entire trail with her cane. She was very determined and we were very impressed. What a trooper. Her husband said that on their trip to Washington she wanted to see only two things, Crater Lake and Tokeete Falls. They told us that Tokeete Falls was closed due to winter damage, so they hiked this one instead. The winter damage was from the winter of 2007, not even last year, but the forest hasn’t had the money to repair the trail so it is now inaccessible. Tokeete Falls is supposed to be the most impressive and beautiful fall on the tour. I hope to see it someday.

We drove downriver to the Steamboat Creek turn and then up 5 miles or so to Steamboat Falls. Another fall that is right at the road in the campground, and this one was full of people having fun and swimming, as well as playing in the rushing water. Little Falls, farther down along Steamboat Creek was busy as well, with several carloads of young people at the wide place in the road overlooking the falls. Neither of them seemed particularly impressive, but it did look like it would be fun to play in if you didn’t mind being there with all those people.

Time for lunch and a stop in to the camp to check on the cats, make sure the fantastic fan was doing it’s thing, and that the batteries were still well charged, and have some lunch. Even with the 90 plus degree temperatures, the MoHo was cool inside and the kitties were comfortable. Mo set up the solar panel, and even in the shade it kept things charged enough that we never ran out of power while using the fan all day.

We headed west to the Susan Creek Falls trailhead, where there were several cars parked for the 1 mile hike to the falls. It seems this is a particularly popular hike, with families and kids and people of all sorts coming and going. We noticed signs saying to be watchful of your valuables so Mo made sure her wallet was in her pocket and not in the car. The hike was great, actually made for wheelchair access, so broad and wide and protected from the poison oak. Abby enjoyed it.

Finally, late in the afternoon, with the sun hidden behind the canyon walls, we hiked up Fern Creek to the falls. Another mile or so to these lovely falls, through some very narrow rock crevasses, past pools and boulders. The late afternoon light made the old growth forest even more mysterious and the falls were misty and beautiful. I especially enjoyed the approach to the falls, where some of the water can be seen through the trees, the sounds get stronger, and then suddenly there they are. It seemed later than it was in the dark canyon, and it was cool and dim and a wonderful place to be on a hot day.

Once back to the car, we realized that it really wasn’t that late, but were still glad to be headed back to camp. We only hiked a total of 5 miles or so, but were still tired and ready to settle in for the evening. Someday I hope to see Tokeete falls, and to drive the other roads to find the rest of the falls that are in the Thundering Waters brochure.

March 6 Kalalau Trail

The book we are using is called, “The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook, 5th Edition” by Wizard Publications. At first it was a bit disconcerting, because they talk about things to see and then direct you to another part of the book for more information regarding hiking, or whatever, so until I got used to it, I couldn’t find anything. But as I get used to using it, I like it better and better. The writers have a great sense of humor and a ton of really good information once you find it.

We woke early again to the sound of the ocean and the birds. I’ll never get tired of that, I am sure. Having granola and sweet baby bananas for breakfast before we headed north on HWY 56 to the north side of the island. Driving north from Anahola leads into a lovely rural area of gentle sloping terraces that face the ocean backed by those amazing vertical green mountains to the east. There are mango and other kinds of orchards along the way, and even a fresh fruit stand where I got a pineapple and banana tropical smoothie that was perfect. As we approached Kilauea we found a roadside stand with 2 little girls and their mom selling banana bread as part of their home schooling in economics. Of course, we bought a very tiny loaf for 5 bucks, and it wasn’t that great, but the pictures were cute.

On through small towns and to the famous overlook of the Hanalei Valley, where most of the taro plant is grown in wet fields, much like rice. We passed through Princeville and Hanalei, with our destination in mind, expecting to return another time to explore the shops of both those charming little towns. We did have to stop to take photos of the famous green church with the mountain backdrop. It was truly lovely.

The road on the north side narrows considerably with 7 one lane bridges. Everyone is polite, and there is a certain island etiquette as to how to cross these bridges. We followed a road just so incredibly beautiful it defies description until we arrived at the end at the Ke’e Beach. This is the end of the road, as far as you can drive This seems to be a very popular place because even as early as we were there was very little parking available. There are two huge caves, one dry and one wet, and the beach is quite a distance from the main parking lot and the main trailhead.

The Kalalau trail is according to all our books not only the most famous in Kauai, but the most famous in all of Hawaii. It follows the precipitous north coast along the cliffs with a sheer drop to the ocean below. I had imagined a lovely tropical hike with waterfalls and ocean views. There weren’t that many waterfalls, but the ocean views were breathtaking. So was the hike! It was a perfect temperature, and with all the elevation ups and downs I was really glad to be hiking at mostly sea level or close to it. The hike is beautiful. It goes for 11 miles along the cliffs of the inaccessible Na Pail coastline, to beaches and waterfalls, and ends at the Kalalau valley and beach in the midst of this magnificent coast. This is the part of the island that is usually seen only by helicopter or by expensive charter catamaran trips. We decided to opt out of either of those, but thought that the shorter part of the hike to Hanakapi’ai beach would do just fine. 2 miles each way, piece of cake, right? We do that all the time. Well, let me tell you, 2 miles up and down on slippery volcanic rock is not a piece of cake. It was a wonderful trip, and we began fairly early in the morning, and by the time we limped to the end of the trail it was mid afternoon. Lovely. Mo and I laughed and said, ‘I wonder how much longer we are going to be able to do this kind of thing?” Well, hopefully a bit longer anyway.

Aching knees made the cool salty waters of Ke’e beach call to me and I went directly into the cool clear water and what an amazing feeling. The surf didn’t look heavy at all, but as soon as I relaxed into the water, I noticed that I was going out to sea very very quickly. I swam hard and went nowhere and laughed a lot as I let the current take me where it wanted, and eventually went back into shore. The sandy bottom was perfect and clean and I could see it as clearly as if I had on a mask. I loved that part especially. Swimming felt so good on my legs, and when I finally got out and attempted to walk up the beach I remembered again that they were tired. Back to the car and comfortably settled into our seats, we traveled the lovely roads home to Anahola without any thought whatsoever of checking out a single thing!

Nice to come home to our lovely little house, make a great stir fry dinner and relax with some reading and writing and the gentle afternoon breezes. The end of a very perfect day!