Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Panther Falls and Falls Creek Falls (and Cave)

For my weekly outdoor adventure I decided to drag Dave along. For one thing, I hadn't forced him out into the woods lately, and I thought it would be good for him. For another thing, it was a LONG drive out to the woods, and I didn't want to be alone if I broke the Miata.

So we headed down Highway 14 to White Salmon, and headed north into the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. We had a guidebook, 'Curious Gorge', but in retrospect next time I'll bring some accurate maps. This wasn't like driving the old highway to Multnomah Falls. Forest roads are winding and poorly marked, and I was a bit worried we were going to get lost more than once! And it's not like someone is going to come along and help you find your way, there's not a lot of people out there in the middle of the week!

First stop: Panther Creek Falls.

I was told this is the most spectacular waterfall you've never heard of. There isn't even really a trailhead, just a wide spot of rutted dirt to park alongside the road. Then you walk back along the road about 50 ft and there's an arrow hand-spray painted on the road that says 'falls' - we almost missed it. Follow the little path there into the bushes, and suddenly you are walking on a lovely path through tall trees.

The path goes down to follow this stream a short distance, protected by a fence, and then to a viewing platform for this:

 It's difficult to capture how big this is! It's two streams flowing down this huge wall of rock.

 The streams that tumble down to the waterfall are pretty impressive on their own.

So that was a very short walk to a very spectacular waterfall. People told me if it wasn't located deep in the woods, everyone would be flocking to it. I agree!

 Next stop - Falls Creek Cave.

We didn't do much at Falls Creek Cave except look at it and change our minds about going any further. I think I would do this if I came with more people, but with just the two of us, if someone got hurt, it would be bad. We decided to hold off on this adventure.

Next stop: Falls Creek Falls

So, again, people told me this is the best waterfall in the Gorge (though it's quite a ways from the Gorge itself. They assured me it was worth it. It's a two mile hike in through a lovely forest along a river for much of the hike.

One neat feature, again - hard to capture in photos, was this section where you cross over a little stream coming down the hill, and the rocky area the water is coming out of is all covered in beautiful moss. It was really other-worldly.

The trail continued along past this neat rock wall all covered in moss and ferns

Finally we heard the falls, and looking up, way up, we caught sight of it - the upper falls. Seeing photos of it did not prepare me for how HUGE it was, and the spectacular roar of the water, and the rush of wind coming off of it. It was amazing!

Midweek hiking for the win! We had the viewpoint to ourselves.

Lunchtime, with a view!

Dave climbed down to the lower viewpoint to try and give a little more perspective. As he said, it looked like something you'd expect to see in the jungles of Peru or something!

Finally we headed back, and Dave took a picture of me crossing the bridge at the beginning of the trail. It was a great hike, and a spectacular waterfall.


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