Sunday, March 6, 2016


Serendipity, according to my dictionary, is "the faculty of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for". That certainly describes our drive into the hills yesterday. The plan was simply to map out the roads that had confused us on our February search for Burton Creek Falls. New roads and new road numbers... plus old, familiar roads blocked off... had confused us. Since then, Johnny acquired a map from the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde forestry office, since most of the territory we were exploring is now tribal land. The map was created for tribal members to locate firewood cutting areas and has many of the roads numbered. With the help of the map, we were able to wind our way up to the headwaters of Burton Creek.

It was then that serendipity took over. We managed to stay on what is now called the 770 road until it forked with the 700, and then, mysteriously, that road forked with the 750, a road that had been blockaded when we drove up there in February. This time, it was not. We drove up the 750 until we came to what we believed to be Burton Creek and stopped to check the map. The gravel road bent left and a sign said that was 770A, which the map said would dead end eventually, after leaving tribal land. An old unused logging road took off to the right, following what we believed was Burton Creek. I jokingly told Johnny "Well, I could just walk down the creek until I come to a waterfall." Johnny said, also jokingly (I hope), "You do that. I'll pick you up at the Wildwood Cafe in Willamina."

I started down the road. A little sign at the start of the road said 770B. I had not walked 20 paces when I heard the noisy, boulder strewn creek far below grow considerably noisier. I found a break in the trees where I could look down... and saw the creek drop out of sight. Must be the waterfall!! I hollered at Johnny, who was in the van studying maps, to bring me one of the two-way radios as I was sure I'd found the falls. We met part way back to the van and I grabbed the radio and the long tape measure and hurried off up the road while he gathered together his measuring stuff and put on boots. Not far beyond where the creek dropped out of sight I found another viewpoint and there was the waterfall. So beautiful and such a serendipitous surprise!!

I clambered down the steep bank to the top of the falls and tried to drop my measuring tape down as I'd done at Yoncalla Falls. It worked great on the vertical Yoncalla. It did not work here where the water bounced over rocks with bushes reaching out to grab my tape. After several tries to untangle the tape from bushes, the water grabbed the tape and unreeled the whole 165 feet from my hands. The falls was not that high. I had no idea where the end of the tape was. Clearly, this was not the way to measure this falls. Johnny arrived and helped me reel the whole thing back in, jerking it free from boulders periodically.

We retreated up the bank and descended again at a point farther downstream where he could get a clear view first of the top of the falls, then the bottom of the falls, using his clinometer to find those points.

We then measured the distance between those two points (with me standing at one and he at the other) and he used that distance along with the angle between us (or something) to figure out how high the falls were. His figurings came out with 35.5 feet.

I just took a lot of photos.

What a beautiful spot! And so close to a road (well, a logging road to nowhere). We then hiked down the old road to find where tribal land ended and Hampton Lumber Company land began since we were not sure from the map whose land the falls was on. Johnny found an old gate post that he believes was where Hampton Land began, giving the falls to the tribe.

We were so excited about this serendipitous turn of events, that we decided to drive on to see if 770A really did dead-end, but it soon became too muddy to continue. We turned around and headed back to the 750, the 700, and then out to Coast Creek Rd. toward Willamina.

The promised rain had not yet arrived so we opted to hike a logging road up Gilbert Creek, or what we thought was Gilbert Creek, to look for the falls we had not found in February. What we had found on that trip was an unmarked falls flowing into Coast Creek (story on my Waterfalls blog). After hiking over a mile this day up what turned out to be Canada Creek, not Gilbert Creek, we gave up and hiked back to the van and on down Coast Creek Road. That's when the second serendipitous event of the day occurred.

We drove past a house that Johnny thought should have a waterfall behind it because of the steep hill and the creek that appeared, just beyond that house, flowing under the road  (Gilbert Creek, as it turned out). Two men were standing in the driveway of that house. As we passed, one hollered "Johnny Fink!"

We assumed he knew Johnny so we backed up to talk to him. He wanted to know who Johnny Fink was and what a Roustmobile was (since those words are painted on the side of the van). Johnny explained that a Roustmobile is what a Roustabout drives and he was a roustabout... because he did odd jobs plus roofing. The guy introduced himself as Harold Miller and asked if we lived up Coast Creek Road. We said no, we lived on the other side of Spirit Mountain and were just out looking for waterfalls. We had heard about Gilbert Creek Falls but could not find it.

"The only way you can see it is behind my house... or from my living room," said Harold. And then he invited us to drive in and walk back to see the falls while he and his friend walked up the road a piece. When they came back, he said we could go in and see the falls from his living room.

We thanked him profusely and drove in, then walked behind his house to the spectacular, beautiful waterfall. Whether from excitement or fatigue, my camera shook and I mostly got blurry photos.

The best one is probably of Johnny standing a few feet in front of the falls.

I took a photo from there of Harold's house, that he built himself, with a clear view of the falls. We did not go inside and my close-ups of the house are very blurry. Under the deck was a slew of old John Deere tractors.

Although this photo is awful, you can sort of see the tractors. In talking to Harold later, we found out he has over a hundred John Deeres stashed here and there around the valley.

Although this falls is on private property and posted, Harold was quite friendly and welcoming to us. We could not have seen this falls without the chance meeting and his permission We thanked him again and, as the promised rain finally arrived, drove home through Willamina.

A serendipitous day, indeed.


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