|Gifford Pinchot Waterfalling III, WA|| |
Gifford Pinchot Waterfalling III, WA
Now that the weekend was upon us, there were more signs of people in the forest. We took at that as our cue to move on and we headed over to the Quartz Trail. The campgrounds and parking areas were filling up but not too long we were again away from all of that nonsense. This trail was a good test for the knee and I learned long uphill steps were good and that downhills were what they were. The trail definitely put you into some beautiful old growth forest; it also kept you way up high off the creek.
We made our way down to Straight Creek to find campers, then headed up to Straight's three part falls and ate lunch on a log over a beautiful swimming hole. Then we got our feet in the water and headed up Quartz to the upper falls. I had originally planned to continue the Quartz trail to Snagtooth creek to find its upper falls. But I took into account that those falls required a heavy bushwacking and while the drop is reported to be impressive, the summer flow is not, plus we were right next to three waterfalls that would look great in the evening lighting compared to the current bright sun, also my knee loved soaking in the Quartz holes. Additionally, we have a small tent and there was a beautiful spot next to the falls just big enough to fit it so, we set up camp and relaxed about.
Washington people seem to not like to get their feetsies wet, as no one ever ventured from the confluence camp/trail upstream to explore or even see the upper falls. This made for some great solitude and no tan lines.
Once the sun settled down a bit, I revisited Straight Creek falls and wound up finding a way down to Lower Quartz Falls. At 30' tall, the narrow double falls really weren't worth the work required to get down to. There is a nice swim hole there though, but anyone near camp that peers down will see you.
We decided to nip the rest of Quartz in the bud and head over to another area of interest with the thought that we could probably find a spot near to camp or just head down the Speed Trail to the dispersed river camps.
This was the leg of the trip required the most planning. According to the book and various internettings, two large falls exist that used to have pretty easy access to until the forest service not only decommissioned some roads, but straight up tore them up for nature to reclaim. While here in AZ I'd hear a lot of, "Great, more hiking! Less access!" my intel gave the opposite impression: "Unfortunately despite being one of the most noteworthy waterfalls in the Gifford Pinchot region of Washington, the National Forest Service has not yet seen it fit to construct a trail to the falls." and "the powers that be didn't take the opportunity to make a trail... A secret waterfall without a fan base has little political power when it comes time to shut down access." etc.
So anyway, we drove over to the end of a road that used to continue on. Surprisingly after passing so many full campgrounds and RV's struggling to find space, no one was camped along this rental capable gravel road along the creek. The road end had perfect creek access and a fire ring so we set up our tent and ate lunch. Then we began our offtrail to McClellan Falls downstream. There is some flagging if you look close but also, there's a lot of downfall and while sometimes you can see a faint beatdown path, a lot of times you can't. The path of least resistance sometimes keeps those flags out of sight so it's not easy by any means.
We found the top of the falls and then a goodish way down to the bottom. The devil's club wasn't bad until you get up in the spray zone so we hung out for a little bit taking photos. We started hiking back to camp and Noel returned to the tent to nap while I checked out Upper Curly Falls and did the swim, soak, and air dry. We cooked supper a little earlier this time and played cards next to the fire.
The next day we set out to tackle our biggest hurdle. From camp, we crossed the creek and started our journey on the first decommissioned road. Imagine a faint path between young growth trees while the old grown streams by on both sides. I was nice and cleared out all the morning dew with my body and the spiderwebs with my face just for Noel. Before hitting the next defunct road, we set off into the forest to shave a little time off the oxbow on the trail map. It's about 3mi hiking on upturned asphalt between young saplings and it's pretty difficult to get lost.
The challenge is where to turn off into the thick forest and head towards the creek gorge. Notes say things like, just past the country stockpile, head into the woods and bushwack for about .3 miles then drop in. The forest is so thick now you can't see the stockpile but I had it marked on the GPS. I had also seen what looked like an old logging road on Google Earth that from the ground, you could kind of tell used to be there at some point. We hiked that until it ran out and then frustratingly busted brush in the right direction as best we could. There are flags all over in this area from other explorers trying not to get lost and from the logging companies so it's a very misleading adventure. We finally made it to the edge and saw the slippery slope and logs. I'm so glad I didn't save this for the last day. The down was tough.
Once we saw the waterfall we realized we didn't need to or want to get close. It was spraying up pretty far downstream. We slid down a diagonal mossy log a couple stories off the ground, then I walked an perpendicular log to a perch to shoot from. Just after getting a couple shots and already wanting to get to safer ground, bees. At first thought, I churned up a wasp nest with my tripod. My second thought: my fight/flight is going to be the death of me as I spin and swat precariously while balanced on this slippery ass high wad of pick-up-sticks. I managed to hand off my tripodded camera to Noel and then get back over to the bigger log. I saw the swarm was just 5 big curious bumblebees but we had definitely had our fill. I should mention that Rush Creek is really a river. It may be hard to tell from the photo but that water is uncrossable it was fast and deep. Also, the devil's club was bad down here and it took a lot of beating back to get down. It was stupid not to at least leave a note on the car for this hike as to where we'd be.
Once we dug ourselves the 800' back up to the rim, we set about finding a bushwack out. This was the first offtrail waterfall of the trip where we actually encountered people. As I heard them busting (not path of least resistance, straight line busting [which may be better]) I made some noise for them to hear too. They were astounded to see anyone here, especially from AZ and dude was ecstatically proud to know other people were checking out WA's OT waterfalls.
Anyway, we figured out a way back to the "road" then made it safely back to the car and packed up camp. The plan was to spend the last night on the Lewis and I could try to reach Falls Cave by uphiking Big Creek. We drove over towards the Speed Trail drop in, and then we were finally honest with ourselves and each other that we could be done. Our new forest friend had confided with me on how hard the Cave Falls hike could be (full of the club) and really we were just physically and more mentally drained. Once we were on the same page, we decided to check out Big Creek falls (decommissioned/de-signed trail with only 2.5 minutes from the car) nearby then head back into town and figure out some quaint lodging.
|May he guide you through the wilderness : protect you through the storm;|
May he bring you home rejoicing : at the wonders he has shown you;
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