Three Men and a Little Lady: Abiqua Falls and Silver Falls

I may have found the perfect way to drop a hiking pants size: consistently hike with three big dudes with longer legs than mine. Alex, Andy, Adam, and Anna (yes, we’re titillated with the irony as well), recently took on the remote and seductive Abiqua Falls with a Silver Falls chaser.

ABIQUA FALLS (Pronounced “AB-ih-kwah” for those of you not wanting to sound like tourists.)

From the second I laid eyes on Adam’s prurient winter photos of Abiqua Falls I had to see it for myself. There was just something about the composition of that amphitheater that magnetized it for me and I couldn’t rest until I was standing right there. It did not disappoint. The hike, however, was interesting. Here’s how you do it: You curse your way down a treacherous mud slip of a trail, wobble your way over an implied route of slick river rock, brace your way around a few big chunks of moss-frosted basalt and Ta-DAH! [Cue singing angels and harp]PHAbiquaSilverFalls1There are massive audio clues before the falls ever come into view, too. Like a kettle drum roll at a Wagnerian opera, the sound of all that water builds and builds as you founder your way slowly along the demure curve of the river, the falls always staying out of view until the last moment. Gypsy Rose Lee could take lessons from this waterfall.PHAbiquaSilverFalls2Once there, standing in that gigantic embrace of black basalt, you sort of stumble over your own thoughts for a moment, taking it all in, staring and reassuring yourself that it is, indeed, real. Then you move forward, pulled into the thunder as if under some sort of hypnotic spell. After a while, when you come to your senses and get giddy, shenanigans naturally ensue. Here, Adam demonstrates the difficult yoga position Swallowing the Waterfall:PHAbiquaSilverFalls4If you can tear your eyes away and turn, you’ll find that the waterfall’s view of the amphitheater is lovely as well. Tall Alex makes a good, bright-red size comparison. He’s standing about ten feet in front of the entrance to the amphitheater, which is at the base of that lumpy cliff of lava rock.PHAbiquaSilverFalls3The boys have far superior shots of this. Yes, guys, your lenses ARE bigger than mine and you DO know how to use them.

SILVER FALLS (pronounced “Comeonaweekdayoryou’llNEVERfindaparkingplace” by the locals.)

Andy met us here, wanting to preserve his exhausted tires from the treacherous access road to Abiqua. (He wasn’t wrong: low slung hatchbacks beware!) Here’s how the road breaks down….

Prius driver: “Holy %$@#!, Batman, was that my wheel I just saw rolling past us?”

Camry XLE driver: “Yes, dear, we are almost at the trail head. No, dear, I’m not taking any unnecessary risks. Yes. No. Uh, honey? I need to hang up now. Is there air in the spare tire?”

’74 Mercury Cougar driver: “Woo-HOO! This is fun! Did you see that? We almost went over the edge that time!”

Chevy Silverado 4×4 driver:What rocks?”
PHAbiquaSilverFalls5We parked at the North Falls viewpoint and did a creative version of the Trail of Ten Falls going counterclockwise, involving the Rim Trail and many little sorties up and around select points of interest, for instance Middle North Falls, seen here.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis falls is probably the most versatile and acrobatic of them all, first vaulting over a Tunnel Falls-esque trail route carved into the back of the cliff and then splitting and splaying itself into sundry other forms.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlex ponders the meaning of moss.
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Speaking of “big lenses,” Andy demonstrated definite cojones on several occasions, risking life, limb, and cold, wet pants to get to that sweet spot of composition. His luxuriant auburn hair blended so well with the rock and winter colors that several of my photos took on a Where’s Waldo? quality.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can barely make him out against the red rock. Look closely….OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI looked forward to South Falls all day and you can see why below. Somebody needs to come up with sexier names than Middle, North, Upper, Lower, and South, though. These works of art have far too much character to be condemned to a mediocre life of nondescript nomenclature. 

Andy knows how to be nondescript….OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASouth Falls is a mesmerizing kettle drum of agua. You could just drape your body over the railing and stare, stare, stare at that turbulent water ballet for hours.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe tasty view from aloft.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy the end of the day, we were definitely at the end of our rope. Alex, the Human Gazelle, notwithstanding, our dragging troop made it back to our vehicles by sheer will power alone. Luckily, all we had to do was follow the Yellow Brick Road past the lodge and into the enchanted forest.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI think it was the death-defying descent and reascent at Abiqua at the start that put us over the top. Extra Irish Coffee Cupcakes barely brought us around for the drive home.

Oh, did I forget to mention? I whipped up a batch of severely decadent cappuccino-mocha cupcakes, each one filled with a chocolate ganache heavy with Jameson’s whiskey and topped with a rich blob of cappuccino buttercream frosting. Just saying that makes my pancreas shoot insulin into my arteries. If we hadn’t been hiking, we probably would’ve been dead in thirty minutes from the sugar coma.

By the way, guys: The cupcakes were vegan! Neener, neener.

March 9, 2010

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