The premise: camp in a place I had never been to with people I had never met and hike to a waterfall few had ever been to before. What could go wrong?

Turns out, nothing. Tim and Melinda are great people and it was a lot of fun. They were recently profiled on Oregon Field Guide in this piece:

For what these two have accomplished, the special should be twice that long. (Note – the video is out but here’s the link to the OPB page about the segment.)

This trip from back in Summer 2014 was a bit star-crossed for me. I was plagued with an illness the entire time. On top of being sick, I had recently changed my backpack, my boots, and upgraded my sleeping system to a hammock. A lot of moving parts to my stuff and that was a struggle. This was the first trip I went on with all 3 of these items, so everything was being tested and adjusted on the fly. The backpack was such a pain I ended up returning it not long after.

I got there early and took a shot to hit a nearby waterfall before heading to the campsite.


These two Lorquin’s Admiral butterflies were right next to the car. I snapped a couple quick pictures and left before they were too disturbed.


I was walking along an old, decomposed road and found these columbines. Upside down and inside out, these are strange flowers, when you think about it.

What is left of the road ended with a net of brush and trees. I stopped to pause and wonder at this sight:

I struggled to try and even fit it all into one frame. The brush prohibited standing back further and the needles make it look like ground. This isn’t ground, this is a tree stump well over 10′ in diameter. I’ve stood next to the Doerner Fir, which is one of the largest non-Redwoods on the West Coast at 11.5′ across. I would imagine this tree was definitely in that range.

I focused on the tree stump, not only because it was interesting, but because there was a small creek and brush that was breathtakingly thick. That was going to prevent me from hitting what is labeled as Monument Falls. On Google Earth, it looked interesting and I could hear the water coming over. But, with what appeared to be about a solid hour’s worth of bushwacking to go just .15 miles or so, I turned back.


I poked around the creek for a bit until Tim and Melinda arrived. There are quite a few waterfalls along Sardine Creek and a couple pretty intense places that deserve exploration. Once they hit camp, we met and talked for a bit, then plowed off the side of the road down a steep embankment and started hunting waterfalls.


As I said, this was back in the summer of 2014 and I was feeling poor to the point I sort of forgot about this trip, which is why it took so long to post. That means that I don’t remember some of these random pictures very well. This was a cool looking rock wall along a road, but I don’t remember exactly why we were walking along it. The creek gets pounded by floods and the road was brutal in spots. I think this was why we were walking. Regardless, it gave us some quality time to trade some stories and everyone to get to know one another.

We dropped off the side and hoped for the best. The creek cliffed-out up further, so we were counting on being able to crawl up the creek. Along the way, there were some interesting things.


This was a skinny waterfall along the way. One of a few unnamed ones we had pegged to hit. Monster log jam at the bottom. We would figure out where those logs came from shortly.


This log was split in half and water was spurting down through the cracks. That was interesting to watch.


These two hit over 500 waterfalls in a year and many were off-trail, seldom seen from the vantage point they reached, or seldom seen at all. Chances are, if there’s a waterfall in the northern half of Oregon, Tim and Melinda have been there, done that.


I saw a small fish but not much else, as far as creek-life goes. This beetle in front of the flower was about all I saw. There is something odd on one of its legs on the right side of the picture. Looks like it could be an injury?


Yeah, umm, that’s gross. This crop from another picture of the same beetle shows a fly of some sort stuck to the beetle’s leg.

We ventured around the rocks up to Sardine Creek Falls.


This is Sardine Falls and it was our main destination for the day. It’s a unique one. The fall carved out this thin channel in the rock wall. What makes it unique is that it is immediately met by a house-sized boulder as soon as it drops and goes under and around it. I’m not exactly sure where that boulder came from. My current theory is that it was attached to the face of the waterfall, with the fall going into a crack and through the bottom. As it froze, thawed, eroded, and reshaped itself, the boulder broke free.

We messed around here for a bit, then headed back.


As we climbed back down to the bottom of the creek, I bumped my elbow on a different monster-sized boulder and brushed it off as a bruise. (Note: considering it still hurts 1.5 4 6 years later, I probably did more than bruise the bone.

The creek here is in a hole, so we had no choice but to head directly back up the steep embankment to the road.


This epic logjam was on the creek just above that waterfall with the other logjam. (Note – I’ve seen photos by others of this spot on the road taken years later and it still makes me chuckle.) There was another waterfall up this creek. And guess what else? Yup. More logjams.


Amazing that along this entire tiny creek, there was logjam after logjam. For a small waterfall, it was rather scenic.


From here, we headed back to camp…no wait, we hit another waterfall first!


Going by what we saw from the road and what is also visible on Google Earth, this creek is full of these small, scenic waterfalls.

Back to camp…

We packed up the next morning and found a new friend:

If you were going to design an animal to look like the true representation of “evil”, this would almost certainly be a satisfactory outcome. I didn’t measure exactly how long it was, but my guesstimate would be somewhere between 2-inches and 7-feet long.

Outside of these guys, I had never seen a live scorpion before. (And before you reminisce about that awesome metal, remember that this similar sounding riff was recorded almost 20 years earlier.)

One thing I didn’t realize is how fast scorpions are…


This little guy totally justified my sleeping in a Hennessey hammock with a bug screen. Especially since we found it directly underneath Tim and Melinda’s tent. Jokes aside, their sting is about the same as a honey bee’s, if not less.

The main destination for the trip was a remote waterfall called Kinney Creek Falls. It is tucked away deep inside a canyon. It measured out to be fairly tall, it looked difficult to get to, and there was no record of anyone ever going to it. On top of that, it wasn’t even marked on topographic maps. Unfortunately, the road to it was gated quite a ways up, so we parked and hoofed it a mile or two to Kinney Creek.

It was actually a nice walk and we found some other stuff along the way:

Like this rat pile. Yummy. And if you think about it, there’s no way to use the term “rat pile” and describe anything that doesn’t sound completely disgusting.


This garter snake was in no mood for our tomfoolery and took off. Maybe it smelled residual scorpion on my fear.


This snake, possibly a young eastern garter snake, was moving when we walked by in the morning. When we came back by in the afternoon, it was dead. It seemed to have some type of injury to its jaw or head-area.

Also along the road, there was a just-out-of-reach waterfall that we talked about plowing into and decided not to. (Note – Tim and Melinda later headed in there on a later trip and said the waterfall was quite good.) And, as mandated by the laws of nature and Newton’s Fourth Law of Physics, we were startled by a grouse. I always gripe about having to walk along roads I could be driving on, but in the end, I almost always find it a pleasant experience.


This creek was a mess to move around on. It took quite a bit of planning and grunting to make our way. Initially, we hopped up into the forest because the going was easier. At least geographically. But as it ventured away from the creek, we had to drop back down.

This is what we found:

Huge swaths of devil’s club. The route in the picture looked substantially easier than the route we ended up taking. Trying to walk through this would have been taking a spin in Nature’s Blender. If you don’t know what devil’s club is or why it’s bad to hike through, let me put it like this: imagine if the Devil had a club.

Yeah, probably pretty bad.


How big is that leaf?


The spines on these are the things of nightmares. On these large plants, they can really shred clothes and flesh. At least there weren’t any scorpions in here.

This plant was given the common name “devil’s club” and the scientific species name is horridus. Both names are born from its often-large size and that it is covered top to bottom in spines, even the leaves. But in no way is it “bad”. I am of the mind that nothing biologically alive is bad. Overall, this is a very beneficial plant, not only with regard to the role it plays in the environment but it also played a large role in Native American cultures of the Pacific Northwest. And it is still used as a source for some paints today as well as continued attempts to cultivate its chemical properties for legitimate medicinal uses, such as diabetes and cancer treatment.


The creek was beautiful in places, however. In spite of some of the technical challenges and the ruggedness, there were some nice spots. This may or may not qualify as a true waterfall, but I think it is pretty and pretty close to a real waterfall, so Lower Kinney Creek Falls it is. Another point to whether a feature is a true waterfall or not is whether you have to take time to figure a way around a waterfall-like feature.

It didn’t take too much distance up the creek to no longer find any recognizable signs of human impact. There were no trails, no footpaths, no nothing. This was one of the few places I have been where it literally looked like no one had ever been before. This isn’t to say that no one had been back in here, but only that there were no signs. Most often, there are signs of some sort. Not only was the creek lacking signs of people, there were no deer or other wildlife paths.


This log jam was just before where the waterfall should be coming into view. Predictably, it was a bit of a pain.


Kinney Creek Falls was a pretty nice place. There were plenty of rocks to climb around on a and places to sit and soak up the sun. We didn’t know exactly what to expect from the waterfall, but I think we all were pleased with it, if not pleasantly surprised.

One piece of new gear was extraordinarily beneficial on this trip and that is my new hydration setup:

It is an anti-microbial Osprey bladder paired with an inline Sawyer 3-way filter. The filter pulls everything out of the water except viruses (which we don’t have in the Pacific Northwest). The anti-microbial feature on the bladder prevents growth in it while it sits. Basically, this means I can drink water from pretty much anywhere and only intermittently wash out the bag (which is a minor pain with most other bladders). And no plastic taste. On this trip, it was hot and I used most of the water up on the way in. I filled up at Kinney Creek Falls, then again when we hit the dirt road back to the car. To not have to worry about water or bad plastic taste, this setup is nearly priceless.

On the way back, I took a few bubble pics to close things out:

This was a great trip and hopefully Tim and Melinda and I can meet up for another hike soon. (Note – as we walked along the road, we discussed me taking them into the Devil’s Staircase, which happened 3 years later.)