The Devil’s Staircase

Jeremiah Osborne-Gowey and I made another attempt at the notorious Devil's Staircase.

The last time, we didn't have much of a plan and even then, deviated from that, and paid the price.  This time, we were a bit more serious about it.  This was our last hike together (at least for a while), as Jeremiah and his family were about to move to Colorado.  We wanted to make sure we were successful.

We had basically the same plan, but weren't going to take the wrong trail at the beginning, so our plan was better.  And yet...we still deviated from it...and paid the price.  But, we at least made it to the waterfall, as well as found a confirmed "easy" way in and out. (Note: sorta confirmed easier route...sorta easier and sorta confirmed)

Oregon Field Guide - Devil's Staircase

I just re-watched this.  A few things:

  • The yellow sign is now gone, but when it was still there, it was right at the beginning, not far from the car at all.
  • They edit the video so it is not in order, for the most part.  Mostly, they mix up stuff within a section.
  • They stray pretty far from the trail...dunno why.

Anyway, on with the adventure.

On the drive in, we saw a run of trees left standing to protect a stream or water pool. Looks like they were trying to respect the legally-required riparian boundary (which are a joke because they're so small, they don't protect the stream).  If you look closely, there's a short break, then another clump of trees just behind it.

The road in is actually not too bad.  Towards the end, though, it gets kind of cramped. There weren't any clearance issues, but the brush creeps well into the road.  This is one of the spots where it wasn't too far onto the car.  We had cell service through one of these sections and I texted out a picture similar to this.  Later on, the branches reach out the the point where they criss-cross.

I don't remember who took this picture or where it was taken.  I think Jeremiah took it on the drive in.  It looks kind of nice, so here it is.  (Note: I believe that in theory, I know exactly where this possibly could be, more or else.  This is along the road somewhere, probably fairly close to the trailhead.  )

There are lots of old growth trees in here.  Not the largest old growth forest I've been in, but there are a lot of trees about this size.  This was one of the bigger ones we saw.  Rumors had it that the trees were big enough to prevent GPS signals from reaching your handheld.  This is not true at all.  We not only had a strong GPS signal the entire way (even after changing batteries), we again had cell service at the trailhead.

There is a solid trail for the first mile or so.  It follows a ridge, but then the ridge splits to a fork.  I thought we should go East, Jeremiah thought we should go West.  50/50 on which one would be better, if either would.  We went West...and paid for it.  All the nightmare stories about the Devil's Staircase are what we encountered on this portion.  At one point, I was in Devil's Club that was 8' tall and was so thick, it blotted out the sky.  Only in here can you find Old Growth Devil's Club.  From where we branched off, it was about .75 miles to the Staircase.  It took us 4 hours to cover that distance.  (By contrast, we stayed on the East path the whole trip back and it only took us ~2.5 hours to climb out of there.)

While over there, we were struggling through some rough terrain and both getting tired and frustrated.  At one point while we were standing on old growth blowdowns stacked upon old growth blowdowns and creeping brush growing between them (a solid 10 feet off the ground), we found an unopened Kirkland water bottle.  "Must've been DeFazio's!" was the line that brought a hearty chuckle.  (US Rep. Peter DeFazio brought some much-needed attention to the Devil's Staircase by taking a guided trip in.  Obviously, this wasn't the route he took.)

We have ARRIVED!

Some shots of the Staircase from various angles.  Funny thing is that it doesn't look all that tall.  When you're there, it is surprisingly tall, probably 40' or so.  Most of the steps are 6-8 feet tall.

This picture felt really good to take.

There are not only muscles on the beach, but mussels under the water, too.

Some fish fry.  There were fish all over the place in here.

There were rough-skinned newts on the Staircase.  Dozens of them.  It was difficult to not step on any (which I did not).

This snail's shell has seen better days.  I wonder if this is the natural progression for snails as they age or if this fellow has seen some rough times.

I think this is the only trip where I spent this much time at a destination.  Most of the time, I only stay for a short bit, then take off.  I think we were there for a couple hours.

I've been to some cool places, some remote places, some special places.  The Devil's Staircase ranks way up on the list.  It is a much better waterfall in person than what shows up in photos.  And that is a pretty great location.

We then started the trudge out.  We were tired and beat from the 4-hour detour.

We spotted this little guy, which looks like an Oregon slender salamander, but could be wrong.

Here's a large northern red-legged frog.

These little pink things are western starflowers.

These irises were somewhere along the trail.

This was right by the car.  I thought about taking some time to get better shots, but wanted to get home instead.  As hard as this was, I wasn't even sore the next day.  By comparison, a couple of the Linton hikes nearly put me in a multi-day coma. (Note: I was also in less-than-ideal shape then.)

This adventure was a nice send-off to my best hiking buddy.  We've had some amazing journeys together.  Hopefully there are more in store.

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