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Waterfall Bagging with Greg and Roger

October 01, 2008

When I got home from my first trip to Walupt Creek Falls and got my images in order, I sent an email to Greg Plumb, author of "A Waterfall Lover's Guide to the Pacific Northwest" about it because I knew he had been jonesing to see it for himself for a long time. My telling him this actually pushed him over the edge and he bought a plane ticket to make a short trip out this way and as a result, we met up and went waterfall hunting for three days in early September.

I drove down to Portland to meet him after he had been through the Abiqua Creek drainage near Salem and we met up with another of Greg's fans, a fellow by the name of Roger Amundsen from Kelso. After the initial formalities and discussing our initial method of attack, and taking about 6 wrong turns while trying to get back onto 205, we were on our way through the Columbia Gorge to Husum to scope out Husum Falls, but more importantly Rattlesnake Falls.

I'd seen video of Rattlesnake Falls being run by some local hairboater over on Oregon Kayaking, and Greg had said he saw a picture of it in one of the rafting outfitters in Husum, so we were both quite interested to search it out. Finding the proper roads turned out to be the hardest part in locating the falls. While we were waiting for Greg's GPS to sync with his mapping software on his laptop, we sort of overshot the area we though the road would be in and headed to Glendale to shoot Outlet and Wonder Falls, then tried again for Rattlesnake Falls on the way back to Husum.

After all three of us were delighted with what we saw at Outlet and Wonder Falls (I had seen neither before and Roger hadn't seen Wonder Falls), we spotted what looked like the correct road to get up and over and into the Rattlesnake drainage. The falls and road system are located on what appear to be BLM lands, and while the roads are in decent shape, the signing is horrible and the placement on the maps is nowhere near accurate, so we were pretty much shooting in the dark trying to find the way. Eventually after only two wrong turns, we hit a berm in the road that seemed to put us within about 2/3 of a mile of the falls, so we ditched the vehicles and set out on foot.

Fortunately the road continued on the opposite side of the berm and was easily followed through alternating woods and meadows as we approached the canyon. When we got as close as we thought we could get, we crossed through the woods to the canyon expecting to hear at least a little dribble of water but were greeted with silence. Soon a gully came into view, then a cliff and then...a big pool at the foot of a bone-dry waterfall. Bummer, but not surprising at all given the small drainage area of Rattlesnake Creek at this point and that the low elevation area it drains doesn't receive much precipitation at all. We opted to not bother with Lower Rattlesnake Falls half a mile downstream since there was no water.

After bumping our way back down to Husum we proceeded north to Trout Lake, then west on the Carson-Guller Road to try to find a couple falls flowing off the east side of Lemei Rock in the Indian Heaven area. Turns out that area either doesn't receive much rainfall either, or its too porous to allow surface water to flow that late in the year, because one of the falls was dry and we didn't bother to investigate the other because the creek was about as low as possible without it being dry. So we continued onward, stopping at Panther Creek Falls to see what the new trail and viewing deck looked like, then hauled up and over Oldman Pass and on our way to Packwood.

Before the daylight ran out, we swung by Upper Curly Creek Falls because it was close, easy to get to and Greg hadn't seen it. I was more interested in finding what I suspected was a much bigger waterfall just downstream. We scrambled to the bottom of Upper Curly Creek Falls easily, and I could see roughly where my target was, but there was a lot of gnarly brush in the way. Greg and Roger opted out of this one and headed back to the vehicles while I smashed my way down to see what I could see. After about 10 minutes, I reached the top of what I'm calling McClellan Falls, which appears to be a HUGE 150+ footer roughly comparable to the falls on Rush Creek, but due to fading light and my not having a rope, I couldn't get to the bottom for any pictures. That ended up doing it for Day 1 and we hoofed it as fast as we could to Packwood to try and get there before all the restaurants were closed.

Next day we headed out early to the primary target of the trip - Walupt Creek Falls. A quick, bumpy drive from Packwood to Walupt Lake and we were set, starting off at the Walupt Horse Camp. Following the old road I found in July, we hit Walupt Creek quickly and crossed easily. Water levels were down noticeably from when I was there earlier in the year, but not to a detrimental point. Once through the brushy area around the creek we were off smoothly through the open woods along the creek, passed the Upper Falls and then reached the canyon rim. I think at this point I might have caught Greg drooling a bit. Upon arriving at the beach at the bottom of the falls there was much 'ooo-ing' and 'aaah-ing' at the size of the falls. What really made my day was the water level was down enough that it was very easy to climb up the slabby lower part of the falls and get up close with it, but there was still enough water that the falls looked full.

After poking around on the falls for about an hour, waiting for the clouds to cooperate for better light, Roger and I decided to try and make it up the Cispus Canyon to Slip and Slide Falls while Greg did his thing at Walupt. So dawning our sandals we plunged into the much colder waters of the Cispus River and started heading upstream. Unfortunately the smooth rock under the Cispus wasn't nearly as cooperative as that under Walupt Creek, and we slipped and skidded our way up the river at times. One particularly hairy spot had us crossing the river over solid bedrock where the water was shin deep and flowing pretty damn fast. Fortunately we made it across and eventually made it up to the falls, which turned out to be nice but not nearly as big as I had thought them to be. About an hour later we made it back to the beach to see Greg had gone upstream to document the upper falls, so we headed out.

Since we had killed half the day at Walupt Creek, the rest of the day was left to easy stuff, so I took them to Gail Falls on the Cispus River, we stopped at Twin Creek Falls and scouted some potential falls on Dry Creek near Packwood before calling it a day.

The final day was to consist of the most ambitious adventure, a bike ride up the Westside Road in Mount Rainier National Park to Denman Falls, which had to that point received very very little documentation. We pulled out of Packwood at about 9am and chugged to Eatonville where Greg and Roger were able to procure a pair of bikes for the day (I had mine with me) then it was back to the park.

The Westside Road had been said in the past to be very bike friendly, but that was before the floods of 2006, and now its very bike friendly as long as you can carry your bike the first 3/4 mile. We were able to peddle past the gate for about 2 minutes before hitting the first washout, which required walking the bikes over Fish Creek. Another short bit of peddling (and pushing uphill) and we came to the big washout where Tahoma Creek literally consumed half a mile of the former roadbed. Not even halfway across the washout Roger gave up with his ailing bike and opted to stay behind while Greg and I went on to Denman Falls.

Once through the washout, the road starts climbing up to Round Pass and though I was a good clip ahead of Greg for pretty much the whole trek, I still had to walk my bike up the hill. Going down the other side took all of about 5 minutes before I had to push it up the next hill on the other side of the Puyallup River. Soon I reached St. Andrews Creek and decided to refuel with a nasty sandwich while waiting for Greg to catch up.

Once Greg appeared, we stashed the bikes out of site and followed the marked Denman Falls trail downstream to the viewpoint only to find it partially obscured by a few small trees. What piqued my interest more than anything, however, was a small sign blocking an obvious trail leading away from the falls in a downstream direction that stated the trail was not maintained. Being that there were three more falls downstream, I just had to investigate since I had plenty of time. So I gave Greg one of my two-way radios and started off down the trail. It was remarkably easy to follow for the first 5 minutes or so, though it clearly hasn't seen use, but it soon became really brushy and fallen trees quicky appeared and things got pretty ugly.

But...after half an hour of smashing down the hill, I heard falling water. I had said to myself I was just going to try and get to Larrupin Falls because it looked steeper and more dangerous to go further downstream, but after a little more smashing and stumbling, I eventually made my way to the bottom of Larrupin Falls only to discover that I was standing closer to Ethania Falls, the next one down and not 100 feet away from me, than I was to Larrupin Falls.

So not only did I get to Denman Falls, which almost nobody ever goes to, I got to two other falls which I'm pretty sure have been seen by no more than a dozen people in the last 75 years, and discovered a long lost trail in the process. Greg radioed me just as I was about to head back up letting me know the brush was too much for him and that he was going back up. In the process of returning myself, my radio jumped out of my pocket and now is growing moss somewhere near Larrupin Falls. The ride back down to the trailhead was ridiculously fun and totally worth biking back to Round Pass just to do again.

With about an hour of light to kill for the rest of the day, we poked around the park briefly then I had to bail out to get back to work the following day (only to quit my job a week later). Good times were had by all and I was really glad to have finally had a chance to meet the man who basically seeded my obsession with waterfalls with his books. Hopefully next time Greg shows up out here, I can show him some of the juggernauts he's been missing up in the North Cascades.

Almost Done!

August 25, 2008

Well its taken over a month, but I'm almost caught up to my update backlog. I've got everything entered from my outing to the Lewis River drainage from July when I was able to bag several new falls, including the elusive, lofty and frankly one of the hardest falls that I've ever gone after, Snagtooth Falls. It was a total of 9 1/2 miles of pure muscle-cramping, leg scraping, pine-needles-down-my-neck, energy draining hell. But the falls are over 300 feet tall, so my inner masochist generally won the argument with my legs.

The only updates left are the take from August, which includes the fruits of a 3-day outing with Greg Plumb, author of "A Waterfall Lovers Guide to the Pacific Norhwest", which I will post more about later. Lets just say it was a very productive outing and a pleasure to meet the man after all these years.

On a more personal note, there may actually be more content coming this way this year than I had anticipated a month ago. Why? Because I quit my day job and have shed the shackles of a time frame limited to two days per week, at the most, I could spend hiking. Of course, as soon as I left my job, the weather turned to shit and I've basically been wallowing in my apartment for the last week and a half working on projects that can pay the bills in the meantime. I anticipate I'll have pretty much the entire month of September free, so I'll probably be out in the mountains for 20 of the 30 days of the month as long as the weather is good, and a trip to New England to visit family and go romp around those meager lumps they call mountains with my cohort Dean Goss for a week or so. After that I'm sure I'll be back to the grind, but the season will be over by then. All in all, its shaping up to be one of the most productive waterfall-bagging years I've ever had.

A pair of monsters and a whole mess of others

July 16, 2008

Alright, I'm about 1/3 done with adding in the information and pictures and write ups and such from the backlog. So far, I've added several falls from a couple runs down to the Columbia Gorge this spring, which includes documentation of the Middle and Upper mapped waterfalls along Ruckel Creek, the rarely seen Camp Benson Falls along Summit Creek, and better pictures of the falls along the Washougal River on the Washington side of the Columbia.

Also worth noting, I've added a whole bunch of pictures of Skookum and Snoquera Falls which were taken during the middle of May when Washington experienced the first 90 degree heat of 2008. The reason this was so noteworthy is up until that week, not a whole lot of snow had melted, so turning the oven on basically flash-melted several feet of this past winter's record snowpack in a matter of days. This resulted in flood-like behavior from virtually every seasonal waterfall in western Washington. Snoquera Falls, in particular, was absolutely spectacular, doing its best impression of something that belongs in Yosemite Valley.

Finally and probably most anticipated, I've been successful at bagging two of the biggest waterfalls in the frontcountry that had yet to be well documented, that being 588-foot Jordan Creek Falls near Marblemount and 221-foot tall, 267-foot wide Walupt Creek Falls south of Packwood. Both falls are absolutely immense, both made it onto the Top 10 list, cracking scores of 88 and 87 percent respectively, and best of all, both are easy enough to access that I don't have to be stingy and withhold detailed directions as a safety precaution.

One more quick note, I hiked up to Lake Ann in the Teanaway area on Monday and was treated to an absolutely epic sunset with a ridiculous carpet of shooting stars to go along with it, so it looks like wildflower season is quickly coming upon us. This means I'll be toning down the waterfall-bagging a bit to focus on the flowers (though I do try to plan hikes where I can get both photogenic scenery and waterfalls at this time of year). I'll be heading into the high country around Rainier, Baker, Cascade Pass and probably a little in the Alpine Lakes and maybe the Olympics even, so there's still plenty to come this year. I've got next week off and the last major targets on my 'during snowmelt' lists will be checked off, so keep your eyes glued to the news feed and check back often.

Bear with me during the catching-up

July 07, 2008

I've been polishing off some small finishing touches on the new site over the last several days. All the kinks should finally be worked out, and now that that's all out of the way, I'll be slowly adding new write ups and / or newly revised write ups and new pictures to about 75 more entries. This will probably take me the better part of the next two weeks, so please bear with me if you see a waterfall that has been flagged as Cataloged when there isn't any info or pictures. If you do, however, see any pictures missing, please let me know.

More Roads opening

July 07, 2008

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest has been slowly updating their Road Conditions page to reflect the state of the melt. Right now, it looks like FR 25 is still closed at Elk Pass, but FR 90 and FR 23 are open all the way through (though FR 23 is still closed south of Takhlakh Lake due to the washout from the 2006 floods. Also roads 21 and 2160 are clear as well, so Walupt Lake is open for business.

Why am I pointing out these specific roads? Two reasons: Snagtooth Falls and Walupt Creek Falls. Two of the biggest waterfalls in Southern Washington, both accessible now that the roads are clear and both should be running absolutely balls-to-the-wall right now. I'm hoping to get both of them bagged within the next two weeks.

I'm also trying to get a 3-4 day trip to the Cascade Lakes Loop area in Central Oregon planned. The Cascade Lakes Highway is open, but several sources still indicate there to be several feet of snow on the ground. Good for the streams, but bad for hiking and definitely not conditions I want to bag waterfalls in. We'll see if that even happens this year.

More content coming soon

July 04, 2008

I've been wrestling with this site for over 2 years now and my backlog of new waterfalls to post is more or less caught up...to this year at least. I've still got about 100 waterfalls I have to do write ups for and add in the pictures, so there will be lots and lots of new stuff added over the next couple of months (plus all the additional stuff I'll be bagging in the future, of course). Stay tuned.

Access Reminder

July 04, 2008

Just a reminder to the summer waterfall hunters out there, there are still roads closed due to damage from the floods in 2006 and 2007. The North Fork Skykomish Road is closed 6 miles from Index and again between the Jacks Pass road and the Blanca Lake Trailhead. This renders Deer Falls, Bear Creek Falls, San Juan Falls and the many falls along the rotting Silver Creek trail, among others, largely inaccessible without bipedal means of transportation.

Down on the south side of Mount St. Helens, Forest Road 83, which accesses the trailheads for June Lake, Lava Canyon and Ape Canyon, is washed out at June Lake Creek. Repairs are certainly coming, but its not known when. The Sheep Canyon Road was severely damaged and will likely be permanently closed, making it necessary to hike in to the four waterfalls along Sheep Canyon Creek. Road 26 (Ryan Lake) on the north side of Mount St. Helens is closed 14 miles from its intersection of Road 25 by a landslide.

In the Mount Rainier area, the Carbon River Road remains closed and its looking more and more likely that the road may permanently close at the park entrance, which would render the many waterfalls around the Carbon Glacier much more difficult to access on a single day outing.

Best Waterfall Season in a decade

July 04, 2008

Those of you paying attention, the Pacific Northwest recieved anywhere from 130 to 200% of normal snowfall this past winter, followed by an unusually cool spring. This has translated directly to tons of snow remaining in the mountains into July, and thus most of the streams and rivers in the Cascades are running ridiculously high right now.

Some of the higher backcountry roads are still thawing and aren't even accessible as of July 4th, which certainly doesn't help access issues for some of the higher elevation waterfalls, but most of the roads in the mountains are drivable now, so this is prime time to get out and see the insanity that some of these waterfalls are wreaking.

I recently spent a couple days around White Pass and Packwood and the flows I saw at locations like Clear Creek Falls and Thunder Falls were easily the higest I've ever seen. Going back to May when we had the first 90 degree days of the year, the falls along the Snoquera Palisades just north of the White River entrance to Mount Rainier National Park were running at absolutely staggering levels (check out Snoquera Falls for example).

These flows should continue well into August this year and I have a feeling that even the falls that exhibit largely seasonal behavior under typical conditions will probably be running strong through the whole summer. Don't let the high gas prices dissuade you, this is not the sort of conditions that happen frequently, so go see for yourself before all the water runs off.

The Northwest Waterfall Survey is LIVE!

June 25, 2008

Yes, its finally here. More than two years in the making, countless delays, unquantifiable levels of procrastination and tons and TONS of new content later, The Northwest Waterfall Survey is finally here. So you're probably asking yourself, "why the hell did it take so long for you to get this online?" The simple answer is, I've been too busy. Busy bagging waterfalls almost every weekend that the weather behaves (moreso after I finally replaced my aging Honda Prelude back in late '06), busy working, busy trying to build the site and not being satisfied with the design (which I'm sure I'll look at again and not be satisfied with it all over and start the whole vicious cycle again). Instead of dwelling on the production delays, focus on the good, the better and the awesome. The good is, lots of stuff is improved: bigger pictures, more waterfalls, easier to understand pages. The better is apparent with the inclusion of maps on each waterfall's page. Topo maps are not yet online, but they will be coming sooner rather than later. And of course, the awesome would be the addition of over 200 new waterfalls that I've been stockpiling since the last major update in 2006.

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