I took an ill-fated trip into the Devil's Staircase. Well...at least halfway there...
This was undertaken shortly after Jeremiah Osborne-Gowey and I had a successful trip into the mythical waterfall. It should have been easy pickings to get in and out. Turns out that it wasn't. Never one to fail to admit mistakes (outside of my Fantasy Football League...damn you Brett Favre! DAMN YOU!!!), here is the trip report that is also filled with more than my usual share of made-up words.
A couple water ponds along the way. The first had newts all over in there, but the water was nasty and the mud was really clingy. The second one is actually cement.
Here are some shots of the trail:
Some of those bushy shots don't show much trail, but it's there and easily visible while walking.
The catch with this route to the Staircase is when this path ends, you have to navigate a bit more and follow elk trails, then not follow them. There are multiple false-ridges in a short period mixed in with some brushy blowdown spots. This turns you slightly each time and since the false-ridges all look fairly similar, you end up pointing the wrong direction. But only just a little.
The above picture shows where the wheels came off. This is the highest point along this route and there's a huge downed tree on the other side of this brush. My guess is the path kept going straight, the tree fell down, brush grew into the sunlight, trail disappeared. Elk made paths around the brush and the heaviest traffic went left. Trouble is, the elk weren't going to the waterfall. Their path led down into a ravine. Both times I erred in navigation, I kept following the elk path along those false ridges.
As far as the elk trails, both are incorrect. Jeremiah and I took the right path and came back the left. But we didn't follow the left path all the way, just picked it up when convenient.
Being chief navigator, I made two mistakes: 1) I didn't look at my compass enough; and 2) I was relying on old batteries to power my GPS. The batteries were 10-year old rechargeables and they are fine for powering remotes and electric toothbrushes. For a energy-sucking Garmin Oregon, they are in over their head. I went through all 4 sets of batteries very quickly. Inevitably, we ended up at the bottom of a ravine and facing the impending doom of a forest consisting of old growth devil's club and salmonberry. We turned back and headed home. First thing I did when we got back? Order the most powerful rechargeable AA batteries I could find.
At one point, we ended up at the only other marked waterfall in the area, Folley Falls. It's pretty small. We could not get down to the creek here, as there is about a 10' drop into the creek bed without any vine maples to use as vegetative belays. This was pretty frustrating, as it's really steep and we were really close. From here, we could have walked a short distance by the creek to the Devil's Staircase. Instead, we had a grueling climb back out.
Here are the remaining items of interest:
This forky tree was unique. (Note that I resisted saying "This forking tree was unique." No cheap jokes here.)
Trees growing on a boulder embedded in the forest floor.
Some shots of a shadowy, high-contrast forest.
I often run into the same problem while hiking, in that I never seem to have the time to stop for a while and perfect a shot. Instead, I end up with marginal pictures that could have been better.
More fleshiness of the ghost pipe plant. They are so bizarre and unique that you have to photograph each one.
Jelly fungus with a yellow filter on.
Here's a strange one. This fungus is creeping along, covering whatever is in its path. It is white slime mold.
These irises are plentiful in certain spots.
This spotted owl sat 20' up and allowed the 3 of us to walk beneath it along the trail without too much worry. It kept a suspicious eye on us.