I was looking for waterfalls that were difficult to get to and found one. There were no pictures online and no tales of anyone getting to it. It sounded perfect for an adventure.
Shadow Creek Falls sat in a valley without a trail and little else around. I figured out a way in and then started looking around on topographic maps and Google Earth to see if anything was interesting in the immediate area. It had a high probability to be a one-time trip, so I wanted to make sure I didn't miss anything.
I found a nearby body of water that looked interesting.
No, not that one.
Yeah, this one. I've been in nearby areas quite a bit, so I know that this is in the middle of a marsh. Not just the lake is wet, but the entire area is wet. What got me interested in that little pool was how clear it is. Even from Google Earth, you can see trees in it, as well as seeing all the way to the bottom. I have never seen a clear pool in the middle of a huge swamp. To make it more odd, the water from that big, brown lake flows directly past this pool on its way to a pair of large waterfalls 1.5 miles downstream. How does it stay clear? I drove 2 hours and embarked on what would possibly be a really tough off-trail hike to stand next to a 50' x 25' body of water that is only about 180' in circumference.
This is why I usually end up hiking alone.
I started off on a feeder trail to the Pacific Crest Trail. About .5 miles in, I headed off-trail. That tall beargrass was really cool. Some stretched over 7' tall.
The first part of this off-trail adventure had me optimistic. At the last minute during the planning stage, I decided to follow topo lines that gradually increased instead of just blasting through straight across further down the trail. It sounded easier and for a while, it wasn't hard. But, this clear forest soon grew into a monstrous collection of huge blowdowns and choking rhododendrons. If I'd have been closer than 2.5 hours to home, I would have turned back. It was a nightmare and I soon realized I would never come back to this place.
I slowly fought my way to the edge of the valley and plunged down.
I saw no convincing signs of humanity at any point in there. That said, I would be really curious to find out how a rock this size ended up on a narrow end while on a steep downhill.
Down into the meadow and I started to wrap around towards the green pool. Being in here is really amazing. There is something special about being in a high marsh that is indescribable unless you've been in one.
It was incredibly wet. I either sank through the grass into the water or walked across rolling grass mats. There really wasn't any solid ground at all. Most of the other marshes in the area seem to have some patches of sort-of-solid ground. As someone who has sank almost waist-deep into a mud hole, this type of terrain is pretty fear-inducing. While phobias represent irrational fears, the fear of falling through the grass and into the water and mud below is quite rational.
I came to the green pool:
First thing I did was try and dip my hand in to see if it was warm. This was difficult because without any solid ground, there is no bank. It drops straight off from grass mat into 3-4 feet of water. But, the water was not warm and was what is probably a normal temperature. It's also not quite as clear as it appears from above.
Oddly, there is very little growing in the pool. I saw little animal life in there as well. Only one or two tadpoles and that was pretty much it.
I took a break to process and headed the to the larger lake, only 100 short feet away.
Since it is shaped like a tooth, it will be called Tooth Lake. It is about 270' x 250', and about 1300' in circumference.
No surprises here and nothing unusual. This would be an amazing place to row a canoe. The dragonflies were everywhere. Thousands of them. Okay, one surprise. I didn't have any issues with mosquitoes at all and I never put on bug spray the entire day.
Back to the pools:
This is the Mickey Mouse Pool (my daughter saw the image from Google Earth and pointed it out immediately). Where the left ear is, there is a firm grass mat about 8-feet wide between this and the Green Pool. I totally admit that my most fearful moment of the entire trip was the first step or two across that bridge. It felt way too solid and crispy and I wondered when the last time something as heavy as me had walked right there. I have fallen into a sinkhole before and it is about as frightening of an experience as I have ever had. Thankfully, this held.
Inside Mickey was this:
A big tree that still looked in pretty good shape.
Lots of plants and animals but still very clear.
This is a zoomed-in shot of a ~2'-wide mass. I'm assuming this cloudy stuff is either from frog or salamander eggs. Maybe insect eggs? The Mickey Mouse Pool and the Green Pool probably have some small connection and this is where those tadpoles came from. Lots of life in Mickey, none in the green.
This is about where they are closest. You can see the flow from the larger lake coming under the grass mats and entering the green pool. That brown cloud stops after just a couple feet. How is it staying clear as it flows right-to-left? Mysteries to which I have no answers.
The leading hypothesis is that this is a spring, which is why it's so clear. But the fact it is so close downstream from a large murky lake still makes me wonder. Add in that nothing was really growing in it, there was just an odd tadpole swimming, and airborne insects avoided it as well, and the mystery remains.
With that, I headed on to seek out Shadow Falls, which was about 0.5 miles away. It was obvious from the start that this was going to be a pain to get back out of. It was steep with no game trails and large blowdowns.
Here's a fine example of pipsissewa, which is a type of wintergreen.
As best I could tell, this is where Shadow Creek Falls is. I looked around for a bit and saw nothing close to a waterfall. Not only that, I saw nothing geographically that would allow for a markable waterfall. The waterfall does not exist in this location. Later, I saw on lidar images that the waterfall is about 120' north of where I was. At the time I suspected that to be the case, but I wasn't up for a wild goose chase, so I headed back. If anything, I was almost afraid of the difficulty of the trek back. I had two steep sections to climb and the route above where I was standing was brutal.
More balloon remnants in the deep woods. Please do not release your helium balloons to be free and pollute everywhere.
Here's a 3-part picture of what looks to be some old trail that I found back up near where the marsh started:
Some places look like a trail but are probably just water run-off routes. Others look very much like part of an old trail system. It would be interesting to see a documented history of these meadows. Sadly, there almost certainly isn't one.
Another piece that looked trail-ish.
On the way out of that meadow, I decided to try a different path. Often, I'll follow my GPS track right back out. In this instance, since that was so difficult, I decided to wing it, since it really couldn't get any worse. I went with the path of least resistance and followed game trails to the foot of the hill. Surprisingly, this route was much, much easier and I did not break a sweat climbing out (literally). If I had known it would be this easy hitting the top, I would have spend more time searching for Shadow Creek Falls.
Once on top, it was fairly easy to pick my way down to the main trail and back to the car. It felt pretty good knowing I did not have to battle and I kind of floated back to the car.
According to the GPX from this trip, it was 6.86 miles. Going just to the Green Pool via the bottom route would be about 5 miles round trip of mostly easy travel. On the way in, once I became supremely tired of fighting the brush and blowdowns, I was certain I'd never come back. But upon finding a smoother way in and out, I am certain I'll come back at some point.