Sunday, February 14, 2016


By 49ers I'm not talking about the San Francisco football team, nor the gold miners who rushed to California in 1849 after gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill the year before. I'm talking about Johnny and me. As of February 13, 2016, we have been married 49 years, incredible as that seems considering I started backwards at age 50 making me 30 now. It is remarkable to be married 19 years before one is born. Talk about an arranged marriage...

But, actually,  our marriage was not arranged at all... in fact, it was rather suddenly planned. Johnny's USFS boss at the time told him at his Friday, Feb. 10, performance review that everything was great except... it was not acceptable to be living with a woman without being married to her. Remember this was 49 years ago... So we opted to get married the following Monday, when a courthouse would be open...  we assumed.

We did not, however, realize that Monday, Feb. 13, was a holiday, being "President's Day", or, back then, before all the presidents' birthdays got lumped together, the Monday that Lincoln's birthday (Feb. 12) was celebrated. We drove off with our three witnesses, Ma and Pa Perkins and their daughter Marie, friends from Cokeville, Wyoming, where Johnny worked, to the nearest courthouse: in Kemmerer, Wyoming. It was closed.

So we drove on to Logan, Utah. That courthouse was closed, too.

This was in the days before cell phones or the internet so we found a pay phone and called the next closest state: Idaho. Idaho, I guess, did not recognize that day as a holiday because the courthouse in Paris, Idaho, was open. We drove there and were "married in Paris", as we tell everyone. Ma and Pa Perkins had been married in the Mormon temple in Montpelier, Idaho, and asked us to have our wedding photo taken on the steps of that church, so we drove to Montpelier, which was on our way back to Cokeville, and did. No, we were not and are not Mormon but it made them happy.  Since they had spent all day driving through three states with us trying to find an open courthouse, it was the least we could do.

Forty-nine years later, we still tend to do things on the spur of the moment. On our 49th anniversary, we went waterfall hunting. Why not?

Actually, we had already hiked a couple waterfalls the day before and taken photos. I have started a new blog, called Waterfalls
where I plan to document our waterfall hikes with photos and measurements. We started out on Feb. 12 with the ones closest to us that we visit often: Yoncalla Falls and its smaller relative on the west fork of Yoncalla Creek.

Below is the West Fork Falls, both upper and lower tiers, which are separated by a 5' wide pool... and a lot of logs.

Upper tier West Fork Yoncalla Falls
I then bushwhacked to the top of the much taller Yoncalla Falls and dropped the end of a tape measure down to measure the height. Johnny was stationed on the bank opposite and could see when the end of the tape hit the creek at the bottom of the falls. I could also tell when it did because the water suddenly took it strongly downstream. I reeled it back in and let the tape out to just where the water began to take it away. Then I crossed the creek and bushwhacked my way down to the bottom so I could get a photo.

Johnny took a couple photos of me bushwhacking and finally reaching the foot of Yoncalla Falls, which is not visible in its entirety from anywhere else. 

zoomed up... I'm way down at the bottom of the canyon on a log over the creek

 Here is my prize after doing all that bushwhacking... the only place you can see this from is the bottom of the steep and brushy canyon...

After I clambered back up to the road, we drove Agency Creek surveying Dippers. Many cooperated. This one kept diving into the water and swimming downstream, then popping up again.

Our waterfall adventure was so much fun we decided to spend the next day, our anniversary day, hiking the Niagara Falls trail and then looking for "unconfirmed" falls within striking distance.

Our trip started out with a good omen, as Johnny spotted a Red-shouldered Hawk right at the outskirts of Willamina as we drove through.

See the bird just below and right of the sign?

zoomed up, it becomes a beautiful adult Red-shouldered Hawk
It took an hour to reach the Niagara Trail trailhead. The well-maintained trail is quite civilized compared to the bushwhacking of the day before.

The trail winds, often steeply downhill, to two waterfalls, actually... Niagara Falls, which is not the more spectacular of the two but which you can get very close to... under if you don't mind getting wet... and the much higher-looking (although officially only 2 feet higher) and more impressive Pheasant Creek Falls. The first glimpse along the trail of Pheasant Creek Falls is tantalizing.

A few bends farther on, the trail leads to the base of Niagara Falls, (which is not on Niagara Creek but rather named for being close to Niagara Point, whatever that is). I tried to take our photos in front of the falls so we could say we had our anniversary photo taken at Niagara Falls (much like we were married in Paris). But my camera is not a cell phone and all I got was Johnny plus a part of the falls and a few wild hairs of mine.

Here is what Niagara Falls, Oregon variety, actually looks like.

 Walking onward, Pheasant Creek Falls appears in all its 124 foot glory.

At the point where I took the above photo is a picnic table on which Johnny and I once slept while surveying for Black Swifts that nest behind waterfalls... but not this one, apparently, as we found none.

At every bend of the trail coming back up, more memories returned... of hiking the trail with our children and grandchildren and various friends. As I lagged behind, I took a photo of Johnny dwarfed by the tall trees. 

 And he took one of me... trailing behind.

That's as close as we could come to anniversary photos of both of us.

From there we drove onward to the Nestucca River Rd. and tried to find the elusive Nenamusa Falls. We hiked along the river at the alleged spot finding nothing but rapids. Then we hiked along the river at other spots finding Dippers but no falls. So we drove on to Alder Glen Campground where we knew there was a falls.

Alder Glen Falls is across the Nestucca River from the campground.

It is hard to tell where the falls begins
Another falls we would like to find another time is on Bible Creek. We drove that road back to Willamina and keyed out the spot where we think it might be... at the bottom of a much deeper canyon than our Yoncalla Falls is in. It will be a strenuous hike... perhaps for our 50th anniversary next year. Or whenever the weather allows... and the mood strikes us.

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