The ground is dry; the foliage is a brilliant, verdant green; and the sun is finally winning its annual battle with the clouds.  With the fresh air calling, it’s the perfect time to climb waterfalls.

A tall waterfall, flowing toward the viewer | LotsaSmiles Photography

‘Tis the season

Its springtime.  And the weather is finally pleasant enough to venture back outside from our stuffy winter cubbyholes.

I love spring in the Pacific Northwest because it’s finally dry enough to go exploring, yet we’re still recent enough from the winter rains so as to leave us in a green wonderland.  It’s also still early enough that a full hiking day is reasonable without melting under a scorching summer afternoon sun.

Mountain flowers just blooming | LotsaSmiles Photography

Yes, autumn may forever be my favorite season, but spring holds a close second in my heart.

As I mentioned last week, this is also the prime time for epic Duane-ventures.  We wander out almost every weekend from now until the rains scare us back inside, exploring the next untamed trail.

Hikers on the well-trodden trail | LotsaSmiles Photography

There’s almost always a waterfall involved (this region is like a Swiss cheese water balloon with how many streams, rivers, creeks, fountains, springs, and cascading liquid we have seeping out of the ground).  Usually, we just chase the waterfalls.  We follow them to discover their hidden gems.  Occasionally, we splash in their waters, wading out to get the optimal vantage.

And sometimes, we climb up them.

Tall waterfall flowing under a log in silky smoothness | LotsaSmiles Photography

Another Duane-venture

This was a Duane-venture in its entirety.  It’s not good enough for us to follow a well-established trail to a frequently visited falls.  We made the obligatory journey to the main falls for posterity, but then we left the primary trail behind and embarked on the real adventure.

The side trail was still clear enough to follow as it quickly ascended the hillside, and before we knew it, the falls were far below us.  The path leveled out to run parallel to the creek, a pleasant course that wended gently between the trees.

But we feared we were missing the adventure below, letting all the best waterfalls pass unappreciated and unphotographed.  This wouldn’t fly for a true Duane-venture, so what better than to abandon the trail altogether and slide our way down to the water’s edge?

Trails?  Where we’re going, we don’t need.. trails.

Broad waterfall cascading over a log, framed by another log overhead | LotsaSmiles Photography

Venturing off-trail

With the help of many veggie-belays (life-vines?), we arrived back at the creek we never should have left.  We were handsomely rewarded with the classic treasure of the Pacific Northwest: roaring water to soothe the senses and vibrant colors to delight the soul.

Rocks in all directions invited us to clamber along the banks and hop across the water for a better view of the waterfalls ahead.

Rocky creek | LotsaSmiles Photography

I desperately wanted to follow some of my fellow adventurers across a particularly wide gap in the rocks for a more picturesque vantage (anything for a photo!), but I’m sadly much shorter than my cohorts, and I couldn’t get the image of my slipping and crashing into the water (camera in-hand) out of my head.  So I spared my equipment and my embarrassment (and much to Aaron’s disappointment, his capturing some viral footage), and took the “easy way” around the waterfall.

Hiker wading out into a waterfall's pool | LotsaSmiles Photography

Whatever could be called a path at this point hugged the shore and climbed the ridge to the next falls in the series.  It ended at a pool, where we were forced to bust out the water shoes.  The water was a refreshing Oregon spring chilly, but it wasn’t anywhere near as frigid as the bone-numbing Red River in Alaska.

Then, the “path” went the only way it could: up.

Climbing waterfalls

Up rocks, up fuzzy, mossy knolls, up the waterfall.

Large waterfall | LotsaSmiles Photography

The camera had to be strapped down, because we employed all four limbs to haul ourselves up several hundred feet.  It was more akin to rock climbing than hiking at this point; I missed the ropes of our last excursion.

More than once, I felt grateful we intended to cross the water farther up and make a loop out of this trek, as I did not want to go back down the way we came.

We finally summited another waterfall, and we were greeted by the view of the next.  We took a short break, then pressed on.

Series of waterfalls viewed from a slight distance | LotsaSmiles Photography

It was about this point that any semblance of a trail evaporated.  Our adventure turned to true bushwhacking, and it was rough going.  The underbrush grew thicker, and the hillside rose steeper.

I worried about the sanity of this endeavor.  After all, I’ve climbed waterfalls before, and I considered myself fairly foolish for doing so.  I then followed a fellow hiker straight up a grassy mountainside only to find the trail would have much more easily taken us to the same spot.  Now, I was scrambling up yet another hillside, somehow comforted by the fact that this time it was more-or-less sanctioned (by the same questionable leader, I might add) – will I ever learn?

Hiker ascending a steep incline | LotsaSmiles Photography

The turning point

About two-thirds the way up the next waterfall, the dreaded occurred.  One of our fellows slipped and twisted her shoulder hanging on.  It was hard enough ascending with four operational limbs.  Now that she couldn’t use one of her arms, she was down for the count.

Those who had gone ahead to scout backpedaled, and we fashioned a sling from some climbing rope.  The end of the ascent wasn’t forthcoming, so we elected to turn around.

So much for the loop.

Small waterfall spreading out into a pool | LotsaSmiles Photography

Aaron and I headed down first to see if we could cross higher up (and not need to descend as much), and the rest helped our injured down the treacherous incline.  We thankfully found an easier route down rocks instead of slippery dirt, but by the time I realized we had gone one waterfall too far, we were mostly down already.

The others caught up soon thereafter, and I took advantage of their break at the bottom to get another round of shots with the now diffused light.  The ground was just blanketed in vibrant clover, and I was tickled by these fun little tubes of fungus.

So much wow!

Bonus!  This photostory also happens to be a Biweekly Wow, as I managed some spectacular waterfall shots down there.  It was hard work, but well worth it!

Series of waterfalls over rust-red logs covered in moss | LotsaSmiles Photography

We climbed back up to pick up the secondary trail, and then we climbed back down again to rejoin the major.  We had a laugh with a group photo, relieved we survived, then we put the adventure behind us.

Hiking season’s only just begun; what other crazy treks will we endure embrace?


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