Friday, April 22, 2016

Our Latest, Greatest, Waterfall Adventure

It was very hot Wednesday afternoon. I was tired of working in the garden. Johnny was willing to take off to look for the latest waterfall we had heard about... just up the road a piece (about 11 miles). And so off we went after feeding the baby goats their mid-day bottles a little early.

We followed our 1988 Oregon State Forestry map, which is outdated of course, but we did pretty well except for one wrong turn which quickly became unpassable with a tree blocking the road. I walked ahead to see if I could find a marker to tell us where we were while Johnny took a little nap in the van. Happily, I soon saw an orange ribbon tied to a tree with a well worn path leading into the woods and more marking ribbons. I followed the ribbons to this:

It told us that we were in Section 11. By our map, we knew we should be in Section 10 to find the waterfall. The nail with ribbons told us we were in the upper left portion of Section 11 which put us very close to Section 10. So Johnny backed out to where we had turned and on we went, with a small alder to drive across but nothing major blocking our route.

Soon we came to a Ruffed Grouse standing by the side of the road. Always a good omen.

After one major intersection where the map told us to go left (I hoped), we hit a road full of elephant traps which told us we were on National Forest Service land. Instead of culverts, the FS drains water away from their old logging roads by digging ditches that we have to bounce in and out of. Farther along, we ran out of elephant traps and saw signs for a logging sale by the Oregon State Forestry, which meant we were close to our destination... an old logging landing at the top of a knoll in Oregon Forestry land.

Before we arrived at the landing, we hit some serious barricades where feeder streams ran down to the Little Nestucca River, which is where our waterfall awaited us. The streams were well protected by dirt berms on both sides that were barely walkable, much less driveable. So we parked and walked.

And walked and walked. Eventually, we hit a barricade of tree roots that was blocking the road we had been on. They were blocking access from a road beyond. Where that road came from, we don't know. Probably from Hwy 18 and through Miami Corp. land, which is usually all gated off. I took this photo on our way back, thus the nice gravel road in the foreground.

Eventually, the nice gravel road petered out and young alders were growing all over it. We pressed onward until we came to the old landing, which we could tell was the old landing because the forest dropped off steeply to the right, hopefully to the Little Nestucca River, and ahead, probably to Fall Creek. I could hear rushing water straight ahead so forged onward and downward through the woods and brush and fallen logs with Johnny insisting I was going the wrong way. But I didn't care. I heard a waterfall and I was going for it! He gave up and followed.

Soon we could see water far below. There was a waterfall, but not a big one. We dubbed it Fall Creek Falls. With leaves budding out, it was impossible to get a clear photo no matter how close we got. If you look carefully, you can almost see that the water is also falling on our side of the log that is heading down the cascading falls in the middle of the creek. No way to tell from this height how tall the falls really is, but I doubt more than ten feet. However, I hope to go back next winter when the leaves are gone and get a better view.

Our goal, however, was the Little Nestucca River falls so we pressed onward, Johnny leading the way through and over downfalls and brush and trees. Here and there were signs of early 1900s era logging of giant trees, with giant cables around their now rotting bases.

Finally we came to the junction of Fall Creek and the Little Nestucca. We could hear a falls and see a little one on the Little Nestucca just before it was joined by Fall Creek. But a short distance beyond where the creeks came together, the water disappeared entirely, reappearing in the distance, far below. The waterfall!!

a little falls on the Little Nestucca before Fall Creek joins it

At this point, we realized we had to cross either the Little Nestucca (wide) or Fall Creek (full of criss-crossing downed logs) to get below the falls where we could see it. So we made our way across Fall Creek. I should have taken photos of that mess but I was too engrossed in trying to stay upright.

Eventually, we arrived on the other side, which was still full of downed trees, and clambered downhill to where we could see the first drop. Wow! Johnny and I separated then as I wanted to get a photo of the entire falls. He wanted to get below the first drop to see how high it was. I guess. Actually, I had no idea where he was going and he had no idea where I was going. We were both just excitedly going to our separate destinations.

Never have I seen such a mishmash of downed trees and logs. I crawled along one to reach a point where I could see the bottom two cascades but the top drop had mostly disappeared. I needed to be farther toward the middle of the stream. I guess I didn't take a photo from there, so determined was I to get the whole falls in view.

That proved to be challenging. I could see where I needed to be but getting there was exciting. Half an hour later, I arrived on a log going all the way across the stream. I did not have nerve enough to crawl along it so stayed near the root wad on the bank.  In the second photo, you can see Johnny in his orange vest way up at the base of the top drop.

And here he is, zoomed in.

He could not see the bottom drop from where he was.

But here is what he could see. (He took this photo).

Eventually, we agreed by boops and hand signals that we needed to start back. I hated to leave this gorgeous waterfall but I would also have hated to be stuck in that jungle after dark. This time I took a lower, more direct route up, steeper but with less tangled logs to get through.  We made our way back over Fall Creek and decided to follow the Little Nestucca a ways and then head up to our logging road. That may have been a mistake. It got very brushy on the way up. So brushy, with stickery salmon berry everywhere, that we resorted in some places to crawling through on our hands and knees. Johnny was behind me part of the time and took this photo of me making my way upward under the mess.

It was a relief to get back up to the road. We hope to do it again next winter but by following a feeder stream down to the Little Nestucca in hopes the going is easier.

But, difficult as the hike was, the beautiful Little Nestucca Falls was worth the trouble.

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