Gone Falling

Trip Start Oct 19, 2011
Trip End Jan 19, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Oregon
Sunday, December 4, 2011

Headed East out of Salem to Silver Falls State Park.  A nice winding drive through Christmas tree country.  Apparently Oregon is the largest supplier of Christmas trees in the US, providing at least 38% of the total.  Lots of tree farms with perfectly shaped xmas trees all around.  Finally arrived at the park around 4pm and picked a spot to camp.  There was about 30 minutes of daylight left so I decided to go for a quick walk around to explore the immediate area.  There is an 8 mile path that takes you by 10 different water falls, which is the main attraction.  I set out just to walk up the bike path a little ways then turn around when it got dark.  
I ended up walking for about 30 minutes down to the most southerly fall, aptly named South Falls.  Majestic falls at 177' high.  It was a little chilly out and there was a hand-written sign at the trail head stating that there was black ice on the trail.  I heeded the warning and walked with care down to the viewing area then took the paved asphalt path back behind the fall for a truly spectacular view.  Standing for a moment behind the great veil of water I headed down the hill on the other side of the fall.  It was steep, and nearly dark, and I was in awe from the great rushing water and so must not have been paying great attention to the icy patches when I was taken for a quick ride down the steepest part of the path straight towards the water's edge 50' below courtesy of a patch of black ice!  My first reaction was "it's ok, just like when you were a kid and you purposefully went sliding on ice" but within a second I realized I was headed toward the edge where the fall was dumping its water and panic set in.  Next I saw two streaks in the mud, where the previous, unlucky hiker must have slid off the path and nearly into the drink.  I followed the same tracks, whether I wanted to or not.  My right foot hit the mud, then my butt and finally my hands.  I was just thrilled that I didn't have to climb up from the pool of water soaking wet.  
With nothing more than dirty pants and a bruised ego I got up and ever so carefully walked down the rest of the path to the bridge crossing the creek, then up the other side back to where I came from.  I was greeted half-way up by a group of 6 Chinese tourists who were lost.  Of all people to ask for directions I was not the best choice since, I will freely admit, I am directionally challenged.  (I get lost all the time.  Jennifer is always glad to point out that that's how we met years ago in Sydney - I was a lost tourist.)  I was, however their only choice since all other sentient beings had left the park when the sun set.  I walked them back to the visitor center that I had passed and found the sign post pointing the direction the wanted to go.  It was getting pretty dark though, and they had nothing in terms of lights or jackets so I offered to give them a ride in the van back to the trail head they had parked at.  It was only 2 or 3 miles away, so it wasn't terribly far to go, but it was dark and cold.  We had to walk back to the campground regardless so we set off in the direction of the van.  I can only imagine what their conversations were regarding their muddy guide.  About 20 minutes of walking and conversation covering the usual topics - what do you do, where are you from, where are you going? - we made it to the van.  Everyone piled in, some sitting on our bed, two seated at the table and then one in front with the park map.  Luckily there was only one road to follow, so I headed north and we soon came upon the parking lot with their car.  They were very kind and offered me $20 for being their taxi, but I refused it so they left it on the passenger seat, as they exited, then shut the door.  I was looking forward to getting to bed after the exciting evening I'd had...
  The next day I set out on the "Canyon Trail" which leads past the 10 water falls.  Awesome!  It was a great walk through some beautiful country.  The falls were all pretty neat too - I especially enjoyed the ones you could walk behind!  I'd never been behind a waterfall before so this was a treat.  The mist, the endless fall of water, the rumble and roar...it all cleared my mind.
  Saw the first 8 falls then headed back to the camp for a shower and to pack up before checkout at 1pm.  After leaving camp I headed to the same parking lot that I had dropped my Chinese friends off the night before and viewed the last two waterfalls.  The North Falls was one of my favorites and certainly the loudest of all the falls.  Another neat thing was the the ceiling behind the fall which had these cylindrical holes where the lava had flowed around trees and cooled just a little as it burnt the trees to a crisp.  It left behind some ashes and near-perfect round holes where the tree trunks had been.  Very cool!  
   Having spent all day hiking and sightseeing I was beat and ready to travel to the next city.  It was back out to the coast for me.  I headed back past Salem and made it to Lincoln City where I stayed at my first KOA near Devil's Lake.  The next day I spent beach combing.  Not much else as once again a lot of things were closed due it being the low season.  No glass blowing and no Lincoln City historical museum.  Oh well.  Down to another beach in Taft, OR for sunset where I also spotted some harbor seals lazing in the sand.  Nice sunset to wrap up another nice day away.
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