USA 2013 Part 4 : Silver linings

Every cloud has a silver lining right? If there are no clouds, then either all is good or you have to invent a lining in order to maintain a positive outlook. The weather continued to be beautifully clear throughout the next leg of our journey through Silverton and Portland. When we were planning this trip, I had conceptualised that we would be doing it in thematic segments : City, coast, waterfalls, alpine and ‘the land’. The next four days would be our ‘waterfall’ segment of the trip starting with two days based at Silverton.

Chapter 11: Silver for second?

The drive from Pacific City to Silverton was not a long one. Along the way we stopped at the beautiful city of Salem, Oregon’s capital though far smaller than Portland. Fall colours here were in full view and we hoped that this would translate to our destination slightly further inland. The town of Silverton is a great location to base travels southward toward Silver Falls state park, or northward to Butte Creek and Abiqua Creek. We stayed in the quaint and pretty Silverton Inn & Suites as it offered two bedroom apartments. After coming from our unexpected mansion in Cape Kiwanda, motel rooming was somewhat more crammed by comparison but we would still recommend it to those travelling in the area. Silverton is also home to the pretty  Oregon Gardens. Its opening hours however, did not quite fit in with our schedule hence we only managed a quick  visit to its exterior.  The comparison of the waterfalls in this area with the Columbia River Gorge is heavily skewed toward the latter due to its fame and proximity to Portland but if this area falls second to the CRG, it is only by a whisker!

Silver Falls state park is a 20 minute drive from Silverton along a well signed road. The trail of ten waterfalls is a 10+mile hike that will take you past ten waterfalls and countless other streams and opportunities to shoot depending on the prevailing conditions. With Charlotte on my back, we decided that we would visit a few falls at a time on separate outings so that a relatively easy ‘out’ could be achieved if things weren’t going to well with her. It turns out that she pretty much enjoyed all of the walks and even fell asleep once!

South Falls area: From the main car park at South Falls, we walked to South Falls and Lower South Falls. Fall foilage at the time appeared quite burnt and we wondered if we had arrived a little late in the area? The setting sun provided an opportunity to shoot images with very high dynamic range including from behind the waterfall.

South Falls from its side

South Falls from behind the fall

Lower South Falls

North Falls area: From the North falls parking lot, the North Falls are a short walk away and like South Falls, includes a passage behind the waterfall. While based at North Falls, you can easily take a short walk to Upper North Falls.

North Falls and fall colours (exposure blended)

Upper North Falls

Winter Falls area: Winter falls is a small seasonal fall which was flowing slowly at the time of our visit. From the winter falls trailhead it is possible to visit Lower North Falls and the remainder of the waterfalls in the park not mentioned. Due to time constraints we were only able to make it to Middle North Falls.

The path to Lower North Falls

Middle North Falls

Winter Falls

Chapter 12: The beauty of relative anonymity

Just north of Silverton lies the small town of Scotts Mills east of the 213. From here,  Crooked Finger NE road winds its way toward two very understated falls. The first is Abiqua Falls. There are no signs to the falls and the best directions I found were from various hiking sites including the Portland hikers field guide. I followed these instructions and was successful EXCEPT that in the last 12 months a new logging road has been constructed. Unfortunately I happened to venture down this road instead of the correct one and ended up asking some friendly loggers for directions! At some point along this road , the rental car’s right rear tire received a nail for its troubles.  Once you find your way on the correct road to the falls, you will notice that you pass an RV assembly area of some sort and at that point the road deteriorates. I would best describe it as a “hope that you don’t get a flat tire and hope no one else is coming the other way” type of road. The end of the line is a closed gate and some 30m back from this gate is a path leading down to the creek. I had read about how steep this path was and so when I came across a picnic area followed by an almost vertical forest with nothing resembling a path, I performed an ungainly glissade down the muddy slope  wondering how I would get back up. Do NOT go down this path. If you see a picnic area, go back up to the road, walk a further 10m back from the gate and you will find the correct path with disclaimer signs put up by the Mount Angel Abbey. I only found this out on the way back when I happened to spot some helpful ropes over a fallen log. There will also be some ropes to guide you down. Once you do get down, this is some of what you can expect:

The correct path has (a) ropes (b) a disclaimer sign!

Abiqua Falls

If you have limited time in the area, you can combine the Abiqua adventure with a foray to Butte Creek Falls. The turnoff to Butte Creek Falls is only a little further along Crooked Finger road past the Abiqua turnoff. Thankfully this road is only a little rough and the trailhead is well marked with a small parking area. The walk to upper Butte Creek Falls is a short one but it was all we had time for as we were on our way to Portland. One day we will return to spend more family time here and to walk to the lower falls. The sight of morning mists at the falls was definitely one to remember.

My tips for photographing these type of high contrast scenes (1) Have clean glass – flare and droplets could potentially ruin your well composed scene (2) Bracketing for these scenes is far superior to trying to use GND filters creatively (3) When taking your separate exposures, watch what the light is doing – if the mist is in different positions for your separate exposures , you may have great difficulty aligning light and shadow in your final blend.

Butte Creek falls

After this brief foray, we intermittently pumped up the flat tire while heading to Portland with even more waterfalls to choose from!

Next up: Portland and decisions!


Posted on November 22, 2013, in USA and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

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