Jeremiah Osborne-Gowey was in town, so we headed up for an adventure the likes of which not even The Google had ever seen before.
Most of the time, we start out with a firm plan and things go haywire from there. This time, we started out with a loose plan. Ruh-roh! We headed to the road that oversees Flat Rock Falls to see how much water was flowing. Because the temperature was in the low 20s, , not a lot. It seemed there was less water going in December than there was in August. So we headed out for our backup destination, which was Castle Creek. While doing so, I managed to tear a huge hole in my exhaust system after plowing over a rock, so it was super loud and we basically had to scream at each other to talk. We took some pictures on the way out, though.
This patch of frozen grass was a nice find.
"Coooooooold" was the keyword for the day. Yay for Under Armor. These photos were along a moss-covered wall. It’s kind of odd to see the camera and me both reflecting multiple times in the various ice globules. In the first one, my face is visible and my eyes are closed while taking the picture.
Looking at my other photos, “Obviously,” they say:
We attempted to cross the mountains between Little River and the North Umpqua River. I figured on snow and that didn’t worry me. Unfortunately, it was so cold and dry, the snow we did encounter was frozen solid. Not wanting to deal with that, we stopped and tried to find something close by. Grotto Falls was back down the road, so we headed in that direction. Just downstream from Grotto Falls, there’s a place called Emile Falls. I’d never done anything more than peek over the side of the cliff down at the trees blocking the view of the creek. Instead of rehashing Grotto, we picked a good spot and careened down the side with Jeremiah’s 2 dogs, Quinn and Sidda, leaving behind the sun for the dark shadows of the canyon. On the creek, it was c-o-l-d. The temp plummeted down into the teens, so any water that wasn’t moving swiftly was frozen. This made moving around very tricky the whole day.
By chance, we hit the creek right at a ~50’ waterfall that was not marked. It was tough to tell the height by looking straight down on it, but it was quite high. The rocks around the water were covered in ice or at minimum were very slick as I walked around on the side of the waterfall. Jeremiah (smartly) chickened out on the fall and headed a bit further up the creek to scout ahead. (Funny, because it’s usually the other way around.) The last pic was taken on that rock jutting out in the 2nd picture.
I don’t think this counts as a waterfall, but it was pretty and I found it difficult to photograph from either side of the creek.
This nice scene of decaying leaves was found as I clung to the side of the hill trying to avoid ice-covered rock by the creek. Some of the daintiest pictures I post are found in some really challenging positions.
Very, very cool creek. Considering the near vertical descent, I think our feet were the rare exceptions to the constant solitude of this section of Emile Creek.
This shows what happens when the water is up. You can see where the creek recently tore away the bank in a ~10' strip.
Interesting seam in this rock.
And this is where it gets interesting. One of the dogs, Sidda, is sunblind and deaf. Jeremiah stayed behind to take pictures (his first trip with his new camera) and Quinn stayed with him. Sidda went with me. We all had crossed the creek and backtracked to pick up some good picture opportunities. I made it back to the first fall and stopped because I realized I wasn’t going to get a picture worth the effort. About 1 minute after I took that rock picture, I took a step to head back and Sidda darted out into the creek about 5 feet above that fall. I began yelling and clapping my hands (brilliant way to get the attention of something that cannot hear...) and she shot back onto the bank. Immediately, she went back out into the creek and stood on the rock right on the ledge of the falls. Her paws were about 1 foot from the precipice. She bowed her head as she sniffed over the falls. I can't imagine a lot of creatures have been in that spot and not gone over. She turned back towards me and her feet slipped and they stopped just a few inches from the ledge. Then, she sprinted back onto the bank and we headed back up the creek to rejoin the other two. Yikes! I was quite excited when I told Jeremiah what happened. One of his first questions? “Did you get a picture of it?”
This is an artist's re-creation, not an actual photograph. That's about where her feet were. Due to this incident, the previously unnamed waterfall has now been dubbed "Sidda Falls".
We made a push to head up the creek as whatever light was available was beginning to wane. There were two marked falls ahead and we were starting to get close to the point where time was going to be an issue.
We came across a logjam that forced the creek to drop into a hole and I wanted to see if I could find a better angle to get a picture, so I backtracked across a logjam on the bank. No pictures could be had, so I headed backup, falling through the logjam on the bank up above my thigh. 3rd time is a charm. Thankfully it was only one leg that was covered in bruises. Logjams are pretty nasty creations. The only thing worse than a logjam is a logjam covered in moss and leaf litter. The only thing worse than that is a logjam that is covered in moss and leaf litter that has been frozen for 2 weeks. And then raise it 6 feet off the ground. That's where we were today. There were moments and aspects of this journey that were difficult, dangerous, and required some technical skill. And luck. Good luck. (This was notable when the only spot to cross the creek earlier was a skinny log that was debarked and covered in a half-inch of ice. We had to stop in the middle of said log because we were laughing too hard...)
The first waterfall that we came across which was marked on the map proved to be nothing more than a large tree that fell across the creek, creating a 3-4’ tumble:
It was an interesting and nice looking location. However, there were framing issues aplenty at this spot. The 2nd one has been cropped across the top a bit. And it was not very light out, despite being 2:00. I think large portions of this creek rarely see much of the sun, which backs up what Google Earth's sunlight mechanism says. And I've since replaced that cruddy map on my GPS with a high quality USGS map.
This is Emile Falls. This last one was taken while standing on a logjam that was fairly sturdy, but probably sitting above the pool. It made me nervous.
We hiked out through a clear cut on the opposite side of the creek from the car and hoofed it about 1 mile on the road. Going out this way was twice as far, but half as steep, and nowhere near as troublesome.
What’s interesting about this trip is that on all maps I’ve ever seen, Emile Falls is labeled the same way as the major waterfalls of the area while it is not even close to being a significant waterfall, nor being one traveled to in any number. Even more surprising, there are no tales on the internet of anyone going to it. And shockingly enough, “Emile Falls” Oregon as a search brings up no Google images of it. Not a single one other than the one from this post. I'm always curious how some places get named and marked on a map and this one is at the top of that list. It's probably the least-significant named waterfall I've come across. But for this trip, it was such a blast to traipse around this rugged little creek with Jeremiah. This was one of our tamest adventures but also one of the most fun.
As far as advice to get in there...I have heard of people attempting to trek down the creek from the bridge by the Grotto Falls trailhead. Reports show this to be difficult and time-consuming. Coming in from the north of the creek is really steep and would be very difficult to climb back out of. I'd recommend going in about where that red 150 is under Emile Falls and walking down from there.
Overall, this is a beautiful creek that takes some dedication, smarts, and luck to be able to get in and out of and to be able to move around on. We found a waterfall at least twice the size of the main fall on the creek. My guess is the whole creek is like this. It pours into Little River about 4.5 miles from the Grotto Falls trailhead. I think a few trips next summer will be spent making this trek. (Editor's note: I thought wrong, as I haven't trekked the whole creek. But, by the end of 2019, I have been to every waterfall on the creek.