Shadows And Tall Trees
By Dwip May 28, 2013, 2:47 pm Comments (0) RSS Feed for this post

The last couple of weeks around here has been pretty typical for springtime in Oregon: drizzly, wet, and otherwise moderately inhospitable but not outright flood your house hostile. Two weeks ago, however, it was fantastic out, 72 degrees and sunny, and I was determined to take advantage of it, as you may have noticed has been my wont lately.

So I decided to take a trip out to Cascadia State Park, out on the opposite side of the valley from me and unsurprisingly in the Cascades. I don’t tend to get out that way much, since I’m a lot closer to the Coast range and the Oregon coast itself, so while towns like Lebanon and Sweet Home come up in local conversation a lot, I’ve never actually been through them that I can recall. That alone made for an interesting road trip, oddly reminiscent of the Oregon I remember from the 80s and early 90s in a lot of ways.

The park is laid out kind of strangely, with a campground on one side and a picnic area on the other, with a road and a windy sort of trail connecting the two.

Way back at the turn of the century, the park was apparently one of those health resorts that people of the time used to go to to experience nature and improve their constitutions by drinking the local spring water and such. There’s basically nothing of that era left, and they’ve even capped the spring, though there’s a rather picturesque little landing marking the spot.

If you bypass the rather unremarkable picnic area a bit, there’s a trail and some rather heroic steps leading down to the Santiam River, which is rather nice as rivers go, if a bit shallow. There was a guy out there trying to fish when I went down, though I doubt he had much luck.

Backtracking through the picnic area back towards the campground, there’s a trail leading along Soda Creek to the imaginatively named Soda Creek Falls. Supposedly it’s 3/4 of a mile long, deceptively steep, and astonishingly primeval.

It was also massively humid, and between the creek, the forest canopy, and the 60-70% background humidity, I was sweating like a river even in 72 degree heat. Normally I kind of scoff at 3/4 mile trails, but I’ll be honest – this one kind of kicked my ass. Worth it, but 2 bottles of water wasn’t near enough for this hike.

Also, here is a stump the size of my car.

Which, if you were wondering about the “tall trees” part of my post title, I’m basically talking about stuff like these:

It’s hard to impress upon you just how massive this stuff was. Not usually large in diameter, but very, very tall and very, very old in many cases.

And while Cascadia may be described as very much a rain forest, and seriously it is ridiculously lush, there’s also some evidence of fire, lightning strikes, or both in amongst the otherwise unremitting greenery.

There is also this boulder, which formed part of a small cliff on the other side of the creek. It’s so lush here, there are ferns and small trees growing out of a boulder.

This is me looking down the trunk of a fallen tree that’s probably older than this country. In this particular spot, that’s not really unique, but I like this shot anyway.

It’s also impossible for me to convey to you the sheer amount of fallen trees scattered around the forest, almost none of them man-made. They were all over the hillside as well as the trail, and many of them fell over the creek like bridges, and while the park rangers provided some very nice lumber bridges covered in chicken wire (for footing), there were a few logs that some enterprising types had used to get over to the other side.

There was also this little creek crossing, featuring a sort of dirt channel and a few rocks to prevent erosion or trip people or something.

Somewhere about the time I was physically melting into the trail from the humidity, I finally reached the end of the trail and the titular Soda Creek Falls.

I’ll admit, I was somewhat unimpressed at first blush, though the view back along the creek was rather nice.

As it turns out, the pro move in this case is to climb down some rocks from the trail, and provided you’re at least slightly cautious with your footing it’s fairly trivial to make your way over to the falls themselves, complete with rather dramatic cliff.

This, I assure you, was rather more spectacular, and was pleasingly cool and refreshing after the hot and humid climb to get up there. As an added bonus, the pool and cliff feature some really interesting rock faces.

You may be a nerd, incidentally, if you’re thoughts on this matter run along the lines of “You know, you never do see anything like this in a video game. Somebody should fix that.” I know, I know.

I’ll spare you the hike back, though I was somewhat shamed to pass a family with two small children rather close to the falls, said children not seeming to mind the death march at all, though I imagine they slept pretty well that night.

For my part, I certainly did, after a stop to gulp down another bottle of water and a couple of granola bars on the shores of Lake Foster outside Sweet Home.

Cascadia’s a bit remote, but well worth the trip, I think.

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