A Silver Tease

Just as I glanced back up the trail, the feet of the fellow walking down it took off in a different direction than his mind intended and gravity played a cruel trick.

Ouch. Ice will do that to a guy.

Silver Falls State Park in Oregon is not a place where one just drops in for a couple hours.  The place is cluttered with waterfalls, trails, and scenic views. On the main 7.2 mile loop trail, 10 waterfalls tempt the eyes.

But “just drop in” is exactly what I did with my wife and a couple friends last December. Our friends had a limited window to work with on the weekend, so we didn’t meet up on site until after 2 PM.  In these latitudes at that time of the year the sun goes down around 5, so a proper hike around the loop was not in the photo cards.

Adding to the challenge, as we made our way from the overlook down the trail to the 177 foot South Falls there were patches of ice.  Cleverly hidden with just a hint of sheen, they laid mini booby-traps for the unwary. Fortunately, there was a railing down that incline, so with care the passage could be made without a quick, undignified, painful visit to the ground.  Even with the railing it was tricky.

Top of South Falls
South Falls – 177 feet

There didn’t seem to be a rime or reason for the ice patches. Perhaps it was shaded areas – the temps were slightly above freezing but there seemed to be pockets of cold.  Maybe it was the amount of breeze that did or didn’t hit a pocket. Closer to the falls, and as the trail followed behind it there was no ice, only a muddy trail and a cold spray.

Plunge pool for South Falls

Continuing beyond the falls the trail followed the river into the canyon.

South Falls from the river

On a normal day this would be the start of the trail in earnest, but we had limited daylight and wanted to check out at least one more falls.  So, we doubled back up the trail, jumped in the car, and drove to North Falls.

There was rime or reason in that parking lot, at least plenty of rime. Presumably, breezes had blown spray from the falls although it was a good quarter mile away.  The surface was slick but manageable, and once we got to the trail it was mostly good footing.

There was one spot though, just as the trail met up with the river where I was danged glad they put up a railing. No mere rime here, this was glaze ice and it would give an ice skater pause. (How many ice skaters do you know of that skate down a slope?)

Continuing down the trail, we arrived at Upper North Falls.

Upper North Falls – 65 feet

After spending a few minutes hanging out, enjoying the view, and firing off a few shots we headed back up the trail, rail skated up the glazed ice, and back to the parking lot. By this time the light was failing at being light and showing an inclination to be dark, so rather than heading off to the nearby main North Falls and risking the icy stairs we opted to call it a day.

I called this post A Silver Tease because by Silver Falls standards that’s all it is.  Imagine eight more falls, ranging from 30 to 180 feet. Imagine a forest trail, mostly following a river but some on the canyon rim.  Imagine trees, and ferns, and mosses, and all manner of forest goodies.

Perhaps someday I’ll return, and you will not have to imagine.

And as for that fellow that took the nasty fall as this post began, he was young and durable. Up he rose and off he went, perhaps bearing a few new bruises to his backside and his ego, but happy to go on and take in the beauty of the falls.


33 thoughts on “A Silver Tease

  1. Wow, ten waterfalls in seven miles?! These are really great shots, I love the silky look with that exposure. Never seen a “plunge pool” shot with the water shooting out horizontally at high velocity, that’s cool. We never have tree trunks so coated with green moss like that. I’m glad you all were reason-able enough to not break anything on the rime – did you see any ancient mariners or albatrosses around the place?
    The ice was here, the ice was there,
    The ice was all around
    It cracked and growled, and roared and howled…
    Oh wait, that was the guy who landed on his rear

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hehe. 🙂 I was trying to think up a poem that used rime and rhyme, but poetry is not my strong suit – maybe more of a leisure suit that nobody wants to be seen around.

      I think these were mostly 1 second exposures off a tripod.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, you’re aces in photography and prose, so you have a Power Leisure Suit. A couple of years ago, I’d have said, a trump suit, like in pinochle, but let’s go with High Card and not talk about a four flusher.
        These are beautiful waterfalls, and I’ve never seen them before. Very nice to see some green, too.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. These waterfalls are gorgeous! So picturesque and dramatic. They almost look “photoshopped” in they are so picture perfect. Well worth the slippery route. I’ve taken a few spills on icy patches over the years of winters in Chicago so I know what you talk of! Ouch.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, while I didn’t use Photoshop I did use an editing tool to bring out the tones to their best advantage. The silky water look is from using a longer exposure. That’s one reason you’ll sometimes see landscape photographer lug around tripods.

      And of course, it doesn’t hurt that that falls are gorgeous to start with! 🙂


  3. J.D. Riso

    Thanks for the preview of upcoming hikes. Sublime photos, as usual. Waterfalls have a special magic in winter. A few days ago, I did a treacherous hike at Tahquamenon Falls in Michigan’s UP. Slipped a couple of times but didn’t fall. The stream of hikers skittering and waddling along was comical to behold. But all agreed it was worth the risk. Looking forward to your deeper exploration of this waterfall wonderland.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “skittering and waddling”. That would almost be worth seeing by itself. 😏 It’s been quite a few years since I hiked the full trail, and that was in late summer so the waterfalls were less impressive. I really do need to get back there sometime this spring.


    1. That area and the gorge have an amazing concentration of waterfalls. I didn’t need an ND filter that day, as it was overcast and the low angle light wasn’t that strong coming through the trees. But still, I had the f-stops cranked almost all the way up to get the slower shutter speed I wanted for the water effect.


    1. This area and the Columbia Gorge have a high concentration of falls. Since most of those embarrassing falls in the gorge are still off limits after last season’s fires, I’ll be looking elsewhere for a while.

      But there certainly are a lot of scenic riches out this way, if we go looking for them.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think I’ll be joining many of those who have commented on this post, Dave, to say that these waterfalls look unreal! They’re really beautiful, and I envy your photographic skill to make them look the way they do.

    I’m also surprised at how ‘wet’ the environment looks in the dead of winter (I assume). You mention ice, but I’d have expected the whole place to either be under snow or at least in hibernation for winter. Instead the trees, moss and lichens seem positively alive!


    1. That silky look is due to a longer exposure time, about a second, using a smaller lens aperture and lower ISO sensitivity setting to get a proper exposure. Digital editing helped a little too on tone and contrast.

      We don’t have severe winters around here, we’re close enough to the ocean for it to have a moderating influence. We’ll get snow on occasion, but it doesn’t stay more than a few days (although last year’s winter put the lie to that assertion). Winters are quite wet and grey, great weather for moss and lichens. Summers are gorgeous.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. We were there shortly after you in December – New Year’s Eve, actually – but luckily there was no ice on that day. I’ve been to Multnomah Falls when it was icy and can appreciate how slick and scary that can be. I guess that’s one thing we can thank this mild winter for, huh? Not much ice!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was a little surprised at the icy spots, I think the temps were in the mid 30’s that day so you’d think they’d have thawed. Maybe it was just a tad colder at those altitudes.


  6. “Fired off a few shots?” These are way more than that! They’re quite beautiful, and they must have been difficult to do under those conditions. I actually can imagine all the ferns and trees and forest goodies. I’m glad everyone came out intact. The images certainly did.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The ice was only occasionally a factor – it was that first section where the fellow took the fall that was the trickiest. The most difficult shooting conditions were actually near the South Falls, due to mist from the falls spattering over the lens. It would have been cool to get a shot from behind the falls looking outward, but it was not to be.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Silver Falls – Plying Through Life

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