Crack Cave

I stumbled upon an interesting cave and took a look around.

As I climbed up, the misty view dissipated and was replaced by sun.

Looks can be deceiving.  That slit looks just a foot tall or so.  But as you move closer, it's more like 3+ feet.  This little overhang is on the way to bigger things.

The only really interesting thing here is that pillar.

Back behind, there is a black growth on the back rocks.

This is two decaying pieces of wood.  With a little photo editing magic, their swirls are brought to life.

Like some sort of natural Van Gogh, these wood chunks are their own post-impressionistic works of art.

A short bit later, another small overhang.

There's a slit that leads to a black area behind.

This is what I named Crack Cave.  It doesn't look like much until you get closer.

The rocks here in the center are ~6-8' tall.

The last photo is the right-hand section, which doesn't get much play in this post.  It's filled with collapsed rocks and doesn't have a lot going on.  The left-hand side, however, is much more fascinating.

A great scene as we look back out into the sun and forest.

Around the bend on the left is this area.  That light shining is actually from the other side and where that small overhang bleeds through.

This big boulder sitting in the center of the room tells a lot of the story of this cave.  With its jagged walls and splintered rocks that have fallen from the ceiling, flat surfaces are few and far between.  Even the smallest flat surfaces.  However, this rock shows a smooth, flat surface on one side with a rougher surface on the other.  Behind it is...

...a comparably smooth wall.  I am not knowledgeable to know what exactly is going here from a geologic perspective, but this isn't common in caves of the area.

Sorry for the blurriness, but there's a seam running through the back wall.

There are a few places along the back wall that seep.

There's an interesting chunk hanging down from the ceiling.

More of that black growth seen in the first overhang.

Here's a 360 degree photo taken inside the cave near the center.  It's not very big but is pretty cool.

Is that sand?

No, it's an incredible amount of bat guano.  It is so thick, my feet sunk in.

Some mushrooms growing out of it.

A little collection from one of the pack  rats.  They collect all kinds of things.  I have a theory that they sometimes bring in leaves to scent their poop piles.  Speaking of smell, this cave reeked like Trucker's Tea with the urine smell pretty overwhelming.

Here's something odd.  It's a root that is growing through the ground.  It is still attached to whatever plant or tree from somewhere else.


Thunderbird Falls

Snooping around on lidar, I found a rocky canyon in the Umpqua Nation Forest with a waterfall in it. I went in with low expectations and came out with an incredible experience with one of the most significant locations in the North Umpqua area. I have seen a lot of waterfalls in Douglas County and areas beyond. It can sometimes be difficult in finding new waterfalls to explore, but also ones that are worth the effort. This creates a scenario where one can feel like they have "seen all of the significant ones" in the area. Turns out, this feeling would be dramatically incorrect.

Considering most of my hikes do not involve trails, I rarely spend time on them. This trip requires multiple trail miles to get to the creek, meaning I spent significantly more time hiking along a trail than I possibly have done in this forest over the past 20+ years. I think the Eileen Lake backpacking trip is the only one where I spent more miles on a trail.

Along the trail, the aptly named firebush was everywhere. This one is set against a burnt stump, giving it a unique natural background.

One interesting thing about firebush is that the flowers pop out of these odd spines.

The first trip, I found it fairly easy going, though the second trip I understood its challenges a bit more. There are several places where it gets challenging to make your way past huge logs, log jams, and tricky spots in the creek. Overall, it is beautiful along the creek and wildlife was abundant. There were countless frogs, 3 garter snakes (including me scaring one as I came around a corner, to the point it raised its head and jumped before dashing across the water), and a few deer. No fish, no salamanders or newts.

There were a few dozen pacific tree frogs and/or California red-legged frogs along the creek.

We saw a few crawdads on the second trip. They were wary of predation from a distance.

A rock within a rock.

This rock has its own rock collection.

And I found a gimmicky feature on my phone that is ripe for abuse:

Super slo-mo is actually pretty cool. Only problem is that it takes movement to get the video to actually start recording instead of pressing a button and forcing it. I tried to get some frogs jumping but it was ineffective. And for the record, the first one turned portrait all on its own. Don't @me.

Interesting limb growth on that tree in the center.

I knew off of Google Earth images of the site that I would most likely be seeing a lot of columnar basalt. Initially as I headed up the creek, it was pretty bare of this type of rock. These two were exclusions.

I knew that a couple turns away from the falls and the route should narrow substantially as I come into the canyon. It did this in very quick fashion. There is no subtly here, no transition. It's forest one minute, canyon the next.

The first of the canyon with a nice cascade-fed pool below it. The water here looks at least 10' deep, probably closer to 15, maybe further. It also makes a huge sound for such a thin and short drop.

From here, business starts to pick up.

This basalt formation is fascinating in how it leans back against the rest of the hill.

A 90 degree turn away is this monstrous beauty. If any rock wall can simultaneously exhibit power and grace, this one does. The thin separation between vertical and horizontal basalt is apparent.

Another 90 degree turn and this is the rock you see:

It is breathtaking. And it reminds me of a wizard's hat. The eye naturally looks behind and above to see more amazing rock formations beyond.

It is around here where two waterfalls are visible. The lower is a slide-like run into a fairly deep pool. The upper crashes through a narrow crevice into something still out of sight.

When I first saw the pool and how deep it was, I questioned whether I was going to cross it. As I peeked closer at the upper waterfall, I knew I kinda had to.

As I stand in the middle of that pool to take these two photos (on different days, hence the lighting), the water here is about waist deep and dark. There is nothing in it, but I really dislike going through water where I cannot see the bottom.

Here's a 360 photo taken while standing in the pool.

From here, it is obviously desirable to go all the way inside. The mossy rocks next to the lower fall are really problematic:

The second trip was with my dad, Duane Cannon, who we see here looking at getting on top without breaking things. The same decision path I'd have to make in just a minute. They're wet and lack much in the way of either foot or hand holds. Coming down, I nearly slipped off and bounced into the pool. This part is not for the faint at heart, nor the unskilled. Beyond that, I would add lucky as being a good attribute to have here.

Up on top of the lower waterfall, things become clear.

The lower photo was taken on the first trip, when the sun was out more.

Another incredible example of columnar basalt geology. Here the basalt is vertical, then it morphs into horizontal with very little transition. I believe that this is because the rock on top folded over before it completely solidified.

Here's a 360 from inside the upper area.

The upper waterfall has a couple sections, making it difficult to see at all. The water here was really deep, footing was not reliable, and the water itself was really deceptive. Places that were knee high looked identical to places that were waist high. I believe that the pool itself has sections that blindly drop off above 10' deep.

It is tantalizing to think what it looks like above this tier. It is daunting to think of how to get there.

I messed around a bit more, then turned to see this scene:

This photo felt very good to take.

Pretty nice feature.

There is another waterfall that is above the upper twisting one pictured, as well as some interesting geology. The question now goes to how accessible those areas are. At first glance, the answer would be "not very". However, closer inspection shows the route here (to the immediate right of the large pointy rock) not out of the question.

There also appears to be a path next to the leaning rock. Both are sketchy, but both appear to be within my ability level.

The heading back begrudgingly begins. Without question, this is one of the most remarkable locations in the Umpqua National Forest. I know I wasn't the first person back there, but there was no boot path and no signs of human travel. With the high number of wildlife hanging out in the open, I take that as a sign that there is little foot traffic, even for that which does not leave footprints. As destinations go, I struggle to rank this one. I think Duncan Falls (here and here) is #1, but only because of the overall trek. #2 typically is the Devil's Staircase (here and here). I would place this over the Devil's Staircase. It has a feeling that inspires awe and is something that moves me. Most locations, I check out for a few minutes and then scoot along. I think there's a part of me that will never leave this place.


Upper Fall Creek Falls

I took a shot at a little-traveled waterfall above Fall Creek Falls, a popular location. It was only 0.3 miles up the creek. Should be a piece of cake, right?Read more


Ragged Ridge Wildflowers

I was snooping around looking for caves along Ragged Ridge and found a ton of flowers. In total, I found at least 20 different types of wildflowers on this trip. It took quite a bit of effort to identify them. There are 23 different flowers shown here and I saw at least two more that I didn't get a photo of. I did my best to ID them, but it's not always an easy thing to do.

Rhododendron (#1)

Some wet larkspur. (#2)

Early on, I got rained on. Then it started to snow. This is around 4500 feet, but still weird to see snow in June.

Larkspur (purple), columbine (red) (#3), cinquefoil (white) (#4), and I'm not sure what the yellow ones are (trefoil?) (#5), as this is the only photo I seem to have taken of them.

I started to climb up a funky little knob I had picked out from looking on lidar. These arnica (#6) were everywhere.

And by "everywhere", I mean everywhere. Huge swaths of them really brightened up an area that looks like it burnt as late as last year.

This funky little knob is just that. It's a small hill with a really flat top. Weird. Not sure what I thought I'd find up here, but this is what it was.

It's crazy some of the way fire burns. I poked around for a bit, then headed back. But before I get to the car...more flowers...

Red currant (#7)

Piper's anemone (#8)

Beargrass (#9)

Not a flower, it's a moth.

Common whipplea (#10)

Yellowleaf iris (#11)

Umm...not sure what this is. Probably dried sap. It crumbled when handled roughly. Sort of like a 6-month old granola bar one would find under a child's car seat. I see that often.

Here's a large chunk of quartzy rock.

The fog started rolling in at this point. Except I don't think it was fog, but more like clouds.

Atmospheric arnica

Cliff penstemon (#12)

This rock was really interesting. I saw it on the way up to the top and didn't take a picture, figuring I'd get it on the way back. I ended up going a different direction, then talked myself into climbing back up to get a photo. I'm glad I did because the fog adds some nice stuff to the other pictures. It reminds me of Korg from Thor Ragnorok.

The rock didn't talk, but if it did and it sounded like that, I'd be okay with it. Miek creeps me out though. That would have been a deal breaker.

More hanging moisture. At this spot near that rock, it gave a good view between my little flat hill and Dog Mountain, as well as the deep Steamboat drainage to the north.

It's not very audible, but the birds were quite loud. And you can see some large snowflakes dropping through the frames.

Before I left this specific area, I drove down a road and found another flower:

Yellow false indigo (#13)

I believe this is a dandelion seed, more or less. Regardless, it was really cool looking.

Back in the car to hunt down a cave or three. I stopped at a place I had been prior but had not explored much.

This looks interesting...

Or not...it's really shallow and stops right there.

This is stonecrop (#14), which is a really odd plant.

Lidar showed that there were four main sections of large, freestanding rocks through this area. In reality, it seemed the whole place was filled with freestanding rocks.

Bellflower (#15)

Some interesting rocks, but no caves. The fact that it's flat and open makes it more enjoyable to explore. I have no problem with difficult explorations but doing them all the time is a bit much.

Feel free to make up your own captions for these two mushrooms.

Bushberry (#16)

A light fire breezed through here over the last couple years. Everything is growing fine, though. This gorgeous plant is a false hellebore.

(Oddly, a false hellebore and a hellebore look nothing alike. Just thought I'd point that out. Carry on.)

There were more rocks (there always are), but the next set was down steeper down the mountain, so I let the mystery remain for another time and headed further along the ridge.

This is Ragged Butte and it's quite the rock.

Wallflower (#17)

Cornflower (#18)

Here's a couple photos of a paintbrush (#19) I was trying to capture. I got the effect but missed the framing. Near both the wallflower and the cornflower along a really steep area with no rocks or trees below and loose dirt to stand on, I felt lucky to get anything before the footing made me rightfully skittish.

Paperwhites (#20)

I'm not exactly sure what this one is, but it looks like something from the carrot family. (#21)

Common whipplea (#22)

Lupine (#23)

Watch for ticks this year.

Or watch The Tick every year:


Steamboat Area Waterfalls

I waded into the forests up Steamboat Creek and found a pretty cool waterfall, using lidar both at home and in the field. I located this waterfall off WaterfallsNorthwest.com. I check it every so often to see if Bryan has found any new waterfalls and this one popped up on his map.

I checked it out on Lidar and it looked like it was worth a shot. For this post, I'm going to focus on comparing the lidar image of the map with what they look like in real life. This should be a fun comparison.

That blue circle is the main waterfall and the destination for this trip. The black arrow is about where I started. I headed basically straight east down through that small creek until I hit the bigger creek. I then headed north to the look for the blue circle.

Along that little creek, there were two red spots, which signify steep spots. This means waterfalls.

This was a nice find and better than I was expecting.

While I expected this waterfall, I was thinking it was going to be smaller than the first, which I was able to easily climb down past. Instead, I had a gaping hole and had to scoot around it and keep going down.

Not much going on looks-wise, for the trouble.

When I hit the main creek, I found the remnants of a small bird egg.

The creek wasn't bad to move around on and it was fun but not beautiful. Until I spotted this:

One of the more beautiful low-key spots I've found on these little creeks. It's just incredible. Looking back, I should have spent more time here.

Because I'm a baby and don't like getting water in my boots, nor do I like wading in bare feet (or bringing water shoes), I have to navigate these with some thought. A steep, moss-covered wall on the left. A doable line off to the right blocked by the creek (deeper than it looks here). I was fairly certain that line to the right would lead to me slipping off those wet rocks into the pool.

So...convenient log-crossing it is...

For the record, this one was bobbing pretty good by this point. I started to focus more heavily on where the end of this log was laying and how secure it actually would be by the time I got there. As I got to that dangling tree limb, I had to push it out of the way while timing the bobs. I because pretty worried about the log pushing off the rock and dumping me in the pool. It was 4-5 feet deep and early January, so I did not fashion a swim.

Off the log, closer inspection, yeah, it would easily just slip off into the drink. This hung in my mind later on when I decided whether I would use this route to get back to the car.

This is one of those nice little features that make waterfall hunting worthwhile.

What did it look like on lidar?

Not much. A little ripple of red shows a slight drop, though if you zoom in, the pool just before it shows up clearly. These are impossible to predict exactly what they will look like and that allows for nice surprises, even when you sort of know what's coming. And those surprises make the more difficult aspects of these treks worthwhile.

There was an ominous rock wall that ran most of the way along the creek, nearly out of vision. I intermittently would pause and scan for caves, but didn't see any.

The next place I found trouble was a pinch in the creek on a bend that left me without any good options. The ground climbed way up and as a rule, I don't like leaving the creek because sometimes you never make it back down. There was a logjam (always risky) that was tough to climb onto and that I could see did not even reach the other side. My third choice was to take my boots off and wade.

I didn't like the look of the logjam and hate wading, so I climbed for a minute.

The rock I'd have to climb over. I need to be to the right of it, but that was just as sheer as it looks. A voice called in my head and said, "You'll never get back down." I checked my phone, looked at the lidar image I had saved, and saw a monstrous rock wall over there that I would not be able to do anything with. I climbed back down again to the creek, thought about taking my boots off, then hesitated, and started climbing on the logjam, hoping for the best. If that didn't work out, I could always scooch into the creek.

The logjam was harder to mount than it was to get across.

It may not look like much, but it is when it's your feet walking along that dangling log (about 6' off the water), having to push off and jump the last bit.

Firmly on the other bank, I looked up in the trees to hear the rock cliffs whispering to me, though I did not go closer to hear what they were saying.

The going from here was smoother and I soon rounded into the hole where the main waterfall was. I took a minute to look back and my 3-headed monster of bad options and what climbing over that rock meant:

That pink circle shows the pinch and I was trying to get from the west side of the creek to the east side. Climbing over that rock would have pushed me well away from the creek and essentially ended the trip. Glad I chose the logjam. One interesting thing is how flat it is on top of that rock. Just left-center of that pink circle, there is a section of green, which translates to flat on this type of map. I would guess that at some time, the pointy bit broke away, and either crumbled or tumbled down.

In this spot was the waterfall and it's one of the larger ones in the Umpqua National Forest that I had yet to see.

Overall, not a bad waterfall at all. Under the right circumstances, it might be really pretty. Definitely a cool place to be.

Lidar comparison makes it out to be basically pretty accurately.

I ate my sandwich and tried talking myself out of winging it and climbing around the falls, crossing the creek, and heading up that way. I was unsuccessful and started the climb. The first chunk was somewhat unpleasant. After that, it got a lot easier. My primary goal was to find a way to cross the creek that would also allow me to climb back out to the road. Because I had the lidar images saved on my phone, I was able to pick out a few places to target. On the way...

A small little waterfall sitting on a feeder creek almost directly above the main waterfall.

Looking back towards the main waterfall.

Turning my head, looking directly up the creek. That log looked promising to cross but did not have much in the way of a path out above it. The next one was around the corner.

This was unpleasant. It was wet, slick, and had some unfortunately placed pokey spots. I am not too proud to say that I just sat down and scooched the whole way across.

Yep this was one of those hikes. The push up from the waterfall was tough and left me pretty tired and grubby. The good news is there was a sizable game trail right here. It was also pretty steep.

A large footprint? Bigfoot? Aliens? Nargles? Nope. It's a bear double-step where their back foot steps into the print of their front foot. Don't @me, Bigfooters!

On the drive back out, I caught something chubby and grey flash onto the back of a tree. I got very excited at first because I thought it could be a flying squirrel, which is way up on my wildlife spotting list.

Nope, just a barred owl. I admit to being a little disappointed.

Until I looked closer...

It's the lighter variety of their coloration and it's absolutely gorgeous. It looked down at me, then pretended to look elsewhere.

Yeah, I see you, my dude. No, its look of superiority does not show up on lidar.

I had a bit of extra time so I decided to push it and check out a different area of interest.

Speaking of pushing it:

Yes, this is both visible from the road and about 20' from the stream identifiable in the background.

I will booby trap this.

Okay, back to the task at hand.

Like all things born into existence in the year of 1976, this bridge has aged like fine wine. (Editor's note: I'm looking at this post again a year later, and after playing 3 hours of volleyball the night before, I'm feeling every bit of that birth year...)

I hopped down off this bridge and plowed up the creek to scout out a new area.

Yeah, that's as sketchy as it looks. One of those log chunks was bobbing in the water, the other was fairly solid, the rocks between them were wet and slick and a worse bet than the wood. But it was the only way to get across and back. That larger log in the background was causing me concern because it was floating and tootling around quite a bit and I didn't want it ramming me or the floating stuff I stupidly chose to walk on.

Looking up this creek in a heavily burned area, there are 10 waterfalls over the next 1.15 miles. This area does not get much foot traffic. One of the adventures for this summer, I suspect.


The Wolf of the Arch

I took a trip back to the area around the arch and ended up with a surreal experience that cemented this as one of the more legendary places in my travels. After exploring most of the area on the south side of the ridge where the arch is and then making my way under the arch, I remained curious about the rocky area on the northern side of that ridge. Having only peeked from atop one of those rocks, it looks steep and brushy and pretty feral. There were basically two options: #1) come in from the top, which means you're moving downhill against the brush, but also means that I may not be able to easily get around the large rock at the top and down under the rocks...or...#2) come in from the bottom, where I was more familiar and fight brush all the way to the top. I chose #2. This was stupid. Flowers were all over the place. Last time, it was mostly short rhododendrons and little else. This time, it was a lot of everything else and the short rhodies were done.

 

These two rhodies were on the road in.

 

This trefoil was also along the path in.

 

A few columbine were hanging out where the climb starts. In the second photo, a greyish-blue butterfly was blurring by.

 

As you'll see later, bear grass was everywhere at the top. Down closer to the bottom, it was less common. These two were the tallest I saw all day, measuring in at around 4' tall.

 

This is The Chute. This is one of the most iffy points on the adventure. This is also the most preposterous time when for interesting stuff to catch my eye. And a hummingbird decided it would be a good time to repeatedly buzz me.

 

The view directly behind.

 

The view directly up. As I started to climb up from the tree, I spotted something cool in the more exposed part of The Chute:

These are candy sticks, a bizarre type of flower. The second picture was from up top, but I stuck them together here. I scooted up and headed over to the north side, then dropped down. There were inconsistent game trails, no caves, few interesting rock formations, and incredible amounts of rhododendrons.

 

This is near East Rock, which is the name I applied to the largest rock poking up through the trees. That large, flattish rock looks like it may have an interesting story to tell.

 

How did it get here, shaped like this? I'm thinking it was actually up as an overhang. The supporting ground and rocks to the right eventually gave way and it sat like this.

 

This is East Rock, where I took the 360 degree photo last time. It gives some amazing views. While on top, I theorized there could be a cave below. That does not appear to be the case. The rock itself is mostly one big chunk that angles away from the top. This was a tricky shot to get, as I had just escaped a large bee that grew far too interested in me. The view was too good to pass up. Shortly after a new bee found me. That was a consistent theme of the day: bees being really interested in me. I never got stung but it was a constant threat and annoyance. After making my way around the base of East Rock, I looked up to see the incredible face of the western-most rock as it towered ahead. This rock is now dubbed The Hotel, as it looks like a looming haunted cliff-side hotel from a movie. I was tired and the brush really thick and the terrain was only going to get steeper. I decided to cut my losses and head out to the top of the ridge and explore up there a bit. It was surprisingly easy to climb out.

 

I found some old cougar scat. Everyone who isn't into outdoorsy stuff thinks those who are should be scared of cougars,wolves, and bears, but that is just not realistic. Healthy, wild wolves have only killed one person in the United States, even dating back to when their numbers were high. Bears in Oregon are really skittish. As of this writing, there has yet to be a fatal cougar, bear, or wolf attack in the history of the state. Bees and mosquitoes are exponentially more dangerous than cougars and bears, as are tweakers and off-leash dogs.

 

I ventured a bit further west and looked over from a different rock. This place is going to be brutal to explore. Next time, I'm going to start at The Hotel and work my way down. I headed away from this side and started making my way back. I came across a gently sloping flat spot with bear grass and paintbrush all over.

 

This is looking down at the beginning of the spires. Just below this is the triple cave. I eventually stopped to eat lunch here. It's a remarkably peaceful place to spend time. Here are some paintbrush photos:

These last few have a pre-shot color filter applied. The glare from the sun was overbearing and I could not see the screen or much of anything from this angle. I think I missed the framing a bit, but overall I like these. From here, I started to make my way back to the car. I thought about going back down through The Chute but didn't want to do that with how tired I was. Instead, I headed over towards the arch, thinking it would actually be easier to rappel down the rock face below it. I had not planned on even going there today, but thought this was my best option. One thing for me to keep in mind was that the clock was ticking and a major storm was scheduled to blow in shortly. In spite of the sunny photos, this was going to be a major event in my near future.

 

Some more plant life of this unique area.

 

Looking down into the bowl. It took some doing, but I managed to visually identify the arch from above. It was not obvious and took some doing, but it's possible. I had to lean onto a rock and stare down below and eventually was able to identify the forest through the arch. But I do not think there is a way to easily identify it as a rock arch on the plateau above. Because I was planning on rappelling down through the arch, I did not leave my rope to use to climb back out of the tricky spot at the top. I took a minute longer to think about the terrain here and what it might look like in the rain if my other plan did not work out. It did not look like something I wanted to mess with if I did not have a rope, let alone ropeless and wet. I continued down and committed to the plan.

 

The sun and blue sky were still out but this would only last about 2o minutes or so.

 

Measuring base-to-base is tricky, as there is only one base. The other sort of blends into the rest of the rock. On top of that, there is a deep crevasse on that side, so an exact measurements are fairly subjective.

 

I spent some time here, hanging out, resting, looking at things, taking it all in. The two trees that hide both the inside and outside of the arch are interesting in that they begin growing surprisingly close together. The outside tree grows at such an extreme angle that it surely will not last much longer. The inside tree is larger and basically grows on bare rock. The one side is leaning at an incredible angle. There is just no way it's going to last either. There is a fair chance that the larger tree will go first and knock the other down.

 

Back to the matter at hand...me climbing through there. I have done similar(ish) things in the past and have no problem doing it. The question was whether my rope would be long enough. The rock wall down below is about 18-20 feet tall. What I had not taken into enough account was the distance between the tree I would be using to rappel down and the forest below. My rope is 96' long, but I would be cutting that in half to rappel. It was about 23' from the tree to where the rock dropped off at the wall. I also had to contend with the really narrow footing below the rock wall. It was steep and only a couple feet wide. After that, the ground dropped a solid 50+ feet into the forest below. No matter how I did the math, the best case scenario was that I maybe would barely have enough rope. I took some time to look around, then reassess the rope issue, remeasure. I did this a few times. It always came out to an uncomfortable number. The reality never changed, though the weather did. It had turned dark, grey, and the wind was picking up. I realized that I was not stupid enough to rappel down and instead had to climb back out of there with my rope as a useless 3 pound weight in my backpack.

The wind was at a constant 15 mph with large gusts blowing on top of that. I was spacing off right at the base of the arch and a large wind gust blew through, probably about 30 mph or so. It made a really strong sound. A few minutes after, the constant 15 mph wind carried a massive gust that would cement this moment in my mind for the rest of my life. This wind gust was probably in the 50 mph-range. As it grew, I heard what sounded like a thunder strike coming from the direction of the large ridge where the storm was bearing down on me from. The thunder strike sound carried on as it echoed around, lasting about 3 seconds. Never stopping, the sound continuously grew into a roar like that from a jet flying low overhead. This lasted another 3 seconds. The jet sound then reached its fever pitch and then changed into what can only be described as the howl of a 200' tall wolf with a 50' mouth. This howl went on for between 5-7 seconds of awe-inspiring terror. As the powerful wind gust died down, so did the unearthly howl. In ancient times, many cultures took natural events as their god(s) talking to them, telling them things. This was god talking to me, saying, "If you don't get out of there before this storm hits, you're going to meet me." I pragmatically understand that this was simply a powerful wind causing volcanic rock to vibrate and push air back out of that archway. But I don't think I'll ever believe that it was not a monstrous wolf letting the valley know of its arrival. It was the most terrifying and wonderful thing I have ever heard. I never want to hear it again and I simply have to hear it again.

Heeding this omen, I stuffed gear back into my pack and started making my way out. I was still pretty worn out from my attempt at the other side, so the physical part of the challenge was not going to last long. This was going to be a 100% willpower-fueled event. I made my way up the first rope-only portion, which was sketchy, but it's only about 15' of vertical without any strong plant stuff to use. Soon enough, I was at the 75' portion just below the top. And it looked bad. No strong vegetation. The ground was less dirt and mostly just compacted duff. There were few stable rocks or roots to grab. With a rope, it's pretty easy. Without a rope, it was perilous. Thankfully, the rain had not started yet or else I would have little chance to get out. Through this section, I had to make about 5 safety compromises, with 3 of them coming over a 20 foot span. Digging my feet into the duff, at one point all of my weight had to rely on grabbing a completely dead husk of a tiny bush and hoping for the best. As I climbed to the top and hit the plateau, I did not have time to take anything in or relax, as The Chute was still coming up and that would be more dangerous in the rain. I quickly made my way down to it, paying close attention to the number of stray raindrops that were falling. I hit The Chute and dropped down without wasting any time. Once in the forest, I slowed down a bit and caught my breath. Back down to the road, I did not care whether it rained or not. I made it to the car and a short ways down the road before the deluge started.

On the drive back home, in spite of the surreal experience, I began troubleshooting the events and started making plans to return, both to the arch and to further explore the surrounding area.


Under the Arch

After taking 4 failed trips to get under the arch and a better picture, I finally got serious. And I finally got success. Here's what I was listening to on the drive to the location:

Moving Up Living Down by Eric Hutchinson. A ways down the Pop side of the spectrum but sometimes getting out of our musical comfort zone is an important and necessary route towards growth. This same analogy can be applied to hiking.

The arch is a tricky place. It's not all that difficult to get to the location where I found it, but that spot prevents any decent pictures. The ~20' rock wall you face has no quality handholds and all faces slant toward the climber.

Last time, we made it above and looked for a way down and did not find one.

Before this trip, I spent a lot of time studying Lidar images of the area, particularly using the Bare Earth Slope layer. This led me to find three potential entry points into the arch section of rocks, which I marked on my Garmin Oregon GPS. These three entry points appeared to carry the worst-case scenario of light scramble climbing, which I have done a lot of. Best-case scenario, I could basically walk through one of these entry points down to the arch. To hedge my bets, I bought a 100' climbing rope with loops built-in for carabiners, as I thought there could be some small sections where a rope would be handy.

Some red flowering currants before I start the fun.

Looking back down as I made my way up to the chute.

Somewhere in there is a really steep route to the top of the rock formation.

These pink flowers blooming from rhododendrons were everywhere.

As I climbed through the chute, I noticed small birds flying up to the rock face.

The red circle is where two were flying back and forth to. I'm assuming their nest was there where that brown spot is. When you think of what that rock faces goes through with regards to weather, it's amazing how tough those little birds are.

I couldn't tell if it was a built nest stuck to the wall or they were simply using a hole, but I'm assuming it was a hole. It was hard for me to see from that far away and I was standing on a very steep and unfriendly section of ground at the time.

Huge section of those same pink rhodies. Very steep in here, not much to grab onto, loose dirt and duff on top, straight slide right off a large rock to a 30' drop. All that brush visible just ahead is a relief, as it gives something sturdy to grab onto.

Aside from the impressive rock formations, caves, and arch, the biosphere here is unique for the overall area. The vegetation, ground, and the way it all works together looks more like something from Central Oregon. Instead, it's about 1-hour from Roseburg and over 50 miles west of where these scenes are more common.

Paintbrush/prairie fire. I believe it's irregular paintbrush.

Here are a couple bits of beargrass, which is pretty rare this close to town and that far away from Central Oregon. This place reminds me of the Three Sisters Wilderness.

Climbing up to the top is very rewarding. You can see what feels like forever and it's a beautiful view.

That's Diamond Peak in Central Oregon.

Here are Mount Theilsen (L) and Mount Bailey (R) to the south by Diamond Lake.

To the right of that tree is Diamond Peak again. To the left of it are the North and South Sister way off in the distance.

A 360 from on top of an outcropping on the other side of the ridge.

Down over there is a rock pillar.

One of these days, I may decide to go check that out, but it's on the "doubtful" list.

Back to hunting down the arch.

I tried Entry 1 and it was sketchy. I looked at Entry 2 and it looked surprisingly easy. I went over to Entry 3 and it also looked doable, though a little more sketchy than Entry 2. While I was at Entry 3, I noticed being able to see something that had thus far eluded me.

On the last trip with my dad, Duane Cannon, we were unable to catch a verifiable glimpse at the arch from up above. While at Entry 3, I climbed out to a boulder and laid on top of it and saw sunlight beneath the arch and behind the rocks. I admit to being a little giddy at this sight.

This is the rocky center on top of the arch. It almost looks worn by heavy water, but that's just an illusion. This is probably how it will meet its eventual end and collapse into the forest floor below.

I headed back to Entry 2 and started down. The tricky thing here is that you can't see all the way down a path. Everything is a leap of faith. I took out my 100' rope and wrapped it around the tree at the top of Entry 2. I didn't need the rope to get down this section and probably wouldn't need it to get back up, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to break it in a little.

I was focused to the point that I did not see this small cave as I walked past it within 15 feet.

This was a little sketchy and made more so by those pretty pink flowers covering a rock path. Those flowers were covered in bees, so I chose the harder route so I didn't disturb the stingers.

I left my rope attached to that top tree and it was long out of reach by this point. There was a 10' drop below that was not pretty. It is technically doable to climb down and up here without a rope, but a rope would be really handy and much safer.

One thing that struck me as I made my way down was how bizarre this felt. You're climbing down through towering rock walls, but mostly on dirt. It's like the lid has been lifted off a pot and you're an ant climbing down inside. This was one of the most unique experiences I've ever had while exploring the woods.

After that last drop, it was fairly easy as I made the last 100' down to the arch.

There are very few of these structures in Oregon.

I brought along a laser measuring device and it said the highest point inside the arch was ~50' from the floor under the arch.

The next step is to explore the other side of this ridge, where there is a long stretch of rocks with visible caves and other features.


Huckleberry Creek Falls

Updated Google Earth images gave me an updated impetus to venture back to Huckleberry Creek.
The last time I was exploring Huckleberry Creek, I found it most rude and swore I'd never go back. Emphasis on the swearing part. I suspected there was a waterfall up the creek a ways, but I wasn't interested in another battle on a whim.

Image from 2014:

Not a lot to go on.

But as I was looking around the area recently on Google Earth, I saw something interesting in the 2016 images:

The images show a waterfallish section of creek. It's a big, jumbly mess which usually means it's something worth checking out.

Being the optimistic sort, I talked myself into believing that the bottom wasn't as big of a pain as it was the first time. I was wrong. It doesn't look that bad and the area isn't all that big, it just sucks.

Looking back towards where I walked through. Those huge brown maple leaves cover everything, so you never see where it's safe to step. This is especially helpful when making your way along the monstrous logjam filled with tiny branches.

This is the waterfall which brought me here originally. Before this trip, it was Huckleberry Creek Falls. After this trip, it will be Lower Huckleberry Creek Falls.

I climbed up this wall on the left of the picture and made my way to the top. This was a bit tedious and a bit of a battle in wet conditions.

Looking back at the land of maple doom.

Above the lower waterfall, things smoothed out.

It was fairly flat and not all that difficult to move along.

The rock walls of the canyon are intimidating.

You can see the salamander in the center of the pool.

I didn't see a lot of wildlife in here. One very large raven and this giant Pacific salamander, and that was it.

This nice little slide cascade was hiding about halfway up.

Bends in a walled creek cause hiking problems, as it generally means that you have to cross the creek. That axiom was true in this case and it caused me hiking problems.

The water was too deep to wade and a log crossing was not available. Crossing at the slide cascade wasn't an option, either. I ended up jumping as far as I could, mostly in nihilistic defiance of the fact that time has robbed me of the 36-inch vertical leap of my youth. I landed about where the two branches part, where the water was a deceptive 1' deep. The mature thing would have been to take off my boots, walk through the water, dry my feet off with the towel I brought for such purposes, put my boots back on, keep moving. "Screw that! I'm jumping!"

A couple more corners and my GPS told me the waterfall was ahead. I saw white flashing through the branches and then saw this:

Not bad at all. The next picture is from standing along that further log.

The long, straight, clear creek is a cool feature that isn't all that common. It was between a few inches deep to a foot deep.

There are a couple tiers up there.

From the time I left the road until this waterfall, I saw no signs that people have stood here recently or any kind of footpaths. However, there is a road up above the waterfall.

This old tire was sitting here with nothing else around it. My guess is that someone rolled it from the top at the road decades ago.

It started to rain pretty good by this point, so I started heading back. Instead of going the way I came, I decided to climb the steep incline to the road, then walk back along it. In retrospect, this was a really stupid choice. It was really steep the whole way. About halfway up, it became loose dirt and rock. As I pulled a large branch out of the way, it dislodged a huge rock, which then tumbled down into my shin. The terrain was so steep that I couldn't dodge it, just had to brace myself and hope for the best. The best in this scenario ended up being a knot on my leg the size of a grapefruit.

I kept an eye for footpaths and found none. Around the halfway point to the top, there were signs of old logging activity. I also was looking for a way to see the upper tiers. There is a rocky outcrop that may provide a view, but with the rain and exposed rocks I'd have to climb up, I figured it would have to wait until I get bored enough to come back.

In the end, Huckleberry Creek Falls turned out to be a surprisingly nice waterfall, though one I'm only moderately interested in returning to. But, it is quite obvious that the best way in and out is from below.

According to Lidar data, there is a third waterfall a ways above this one, with an additional 2 smaller ones mixed in.


The Hidden Rock Arch of the North Umpqua

I stumbled across a rocky area on the map and decided to check it out. When I got there, I found much more than I expected.Read more


Lemolo Falls

I finally went to the largest waterfall on the North Umpqua River and it did not disappoint.

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