The Valley of the Giants

I was relieved when a light rain eliminated the gigantic dust clouds that trailed after each vehicle on the way in. Instead, we were all coated with a muddy scum that not even an extra-hard scrub at the car wash could remove. Months later, I was still finding chunks whenever I opened my door.

We were the only ones in the puddled parking lot. It was difficult going down the trail, not due to any sort of physical impediment, but because the magnificent trees and verdant undergrowth just got prettier and prettier as we went, triggering the photographer’s instinct.PHVOG&FallsCityFalls013

 Cameras came out right away and stayed out all day. The bridge made a nice tripod.P1030674All manner of beastie got photographed: sluggo’s….P1030693water striders (What did you call them, Guy, pond skaters or something? You’re such a Brit!)….P1030718…and when it came to the Top Secret Group Photo, she who takes the photo gets to stay out of the photo. But just look at my job; I should’ve charged.P1030699On the way in, we spied some tasty falls so they needed exploration on the way out. Andy, as usual, was the first to throw caution to the wind in favor of capturing that awesome angle.P1030735Poking around the rain pools in the river-sculpted rock, we discovered several salamander boudoirs. In fact, we interrupted a little bit o’ Salamander Love in one pool, leading to the running inside joke “about as much fun as two salamanders in a puddle.” (Must be spoken with heavy southern drawl for full effect.)P1030739Andy and I left the rest of the home-bound caravan behind and took off on a tangent to investigate directions to another patch of local old growth. No monster trees, but we did find grouse, ‘shrooms, and a hidden 100-foot falls. We used the remaining light to hit Falls City and check out its historic namesake. It was frothy and delightful and if you want to actually see it, park on the south side of the river. P1030774The force of the falls was something to be reckoned with, you could feel the acoustic volume of it pounding your chest like a bass drum. It did some pretty delicate dance moves, too.P1030789It was fun getting all civilly disobedient in the name of photography with Andy, who fears no cliff nor broken fence. We, um, found a few spots to snap pics that are not officially part of the park. He’s looking about 25 feet straight down to the water, there.P1030748Suddenly, we were greeted by what might have been the friendliest Pomeranian on planet Earth. At first, he barked viciously at us through a fence, then came and assaulted us with some mighty rapid licking and butt-wagging. When you petted him, your hand passed through so much fur, you wondered where the actual dog began. He was 70% fuzz, 30% Pomeranian. Later, we took in Falls City rush hour which consisted of deer running down the middle of the street and horseback riders ambling by every fifteen minutes. There were more horses than cars. Oh, and one golf cart. Talk about your wild Saturday nights.

I kept seeing a Water Ouzel visiting a secretive spot, so I made a mental note to check it out when we were on the naughty–I mean other–side of the river.P1030790Sure enough, I spotted his moss condo. Look dead center of this photograph for a nondescript grass igloo and tell-tale white droppings trailing down.P1030806A listing for riverfront property: cozy bungalow, recycled materials, limited parking.P1030816Driving back on Kings Valley Road, we witnessed a Turkey Vulture swoop down about thirty feet in front of us and pick up a medium-sized carcass off the asphalt and try to abscond with it. He didn’t quite make it, dropped it at the shoulder. I feel the same way at buffets.

All in all, a productive day, what with multiple falls, several parks, giant firs, deer, geese, horses, slugs, Ouzels, Red-tailed hawks, vultures, grouse, newts, millipedes, hikers, and beetles. It was more fun than two salamanders in a puddle.

April 24, 2010