Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Waterfall That Was Almost Forgotten, Abiqua Falls

Abiqua Falls

Abiqua Creek Just Below the Falls

The Trail Along the Creek

A bit of exploration one late afternoon online lead me to a photo of an inspiring waterfall just outside of Mt. Angel, Oregon. The description read “rough hike, rougher road, well worth it.” So I took off to the supposed spot of the photo, guided by some complicated instructions littered with talk of old logging roads and dirt paths and the understanding that if nothing came of the journey at least I would have had a beautiful drive. I knew from prior ventures into the area that any road I decided to take to the falls would lead me through pristine Willamette Valley wine and hop country, providing unique and inspiring views of Mt. Hood as I drove towards the foot of the western Cascades.

An hour later after leaving Portland I turned right out of Scott Mills, OR and and followed an old country road to its end where it abruptly changed to dust. Switching quickly from asphalt to gravel, I followed the dry spray of an old logging truck the crushed the pebbles of the trail beneath it. As the truck disappeared out of sight I spotted my turn and quickly came to the realization that I was very fortunate for having brought my Dodge Dakota. The road that laid out in front of me was a smorgasbord of broken shale and scattered basalt rocks that had me inching down the switch backing path until I finally stopped a few miles later at a locked yellow gate. This small widening of the dirt path was to be my parking spot. This small widening of the road, scattered with green and red cased shot gun shells and broken glass became my vehicles reprieve.

As I researched information about the falls I came to discover that in 2002 Abiqua Falls had become the world largest waterfall to be Kayaked at 101 feet (video here) by Tim Gross. This drove my decision to venture farther into the woods and kept me motivated even with the sight of shot gun shells skewed around my truck’s tires. Abiqua Falls is a bit of a welcome surprise to those who have 4 wheel drive and a penchant for adventure. Unlike it’s friends down stream at Silver Falls State Park, Abiqua Falls is very remote and is a much more technical hike to get to then the gentle walk at the State Park. This lack of easy access has kept the majority of “Fall Chasers” at bay complacent with the ten or more falls that lay down stream within a few miles radius of one another at the state park. What sets Abiqua Falls apart is its massive volume and the grandeur of its amphitheater of which Silver Falls State Park does not emulate.

After a short, but steep hike to the creek I followed it up stream to a large amphitheater with walls of red spiced basalt over 100ft tall and a width of approximately 300 yards in diameter. Being that the snow was still melting high in the mountains the water was exceptionally quick and the sense of grandeur coupled with the sound of the falls ricocheting around me was almost spiritual. Alone in this serenity I sat on a vast matte of smoothed gray and blue stones that splayed out in a vast floor at the base of the amphitheater just yards away from the falls.

Abiqua Falls may be a hassle to get to but it is well worth the adventure. This combination of remoteness and splendor lend the imagination a hand in forgetting there is anything else in the world other than the moment. Abiqua falls is a “rough hike, rougher road, well worth it”

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