Saturday, August 28, 2010

Cascades worth a second look. And a third.

"A strong man and a waterfall always channel their own path."

The Twin Falls hike was pleasantly surprising. The climb was minimal and within a short mile, I found myself staring in awe at a cascade that tumbles 150 feet over a rock wall. And that was just the beginning.

In this rainy patch of Washington (90 inches annually!), the forest more closely resembles a rain forest than the wooded forests I've become accustomed to. The path stays flat for some time, following a raging river that flows over smooth stones. I was struck by how green everything was. The trees, the boulders, everything was covered with a rich coat of moss. Nursery logs litter the trail's side, providing a close-up look at how smaller trees grow out of those that have fallen.

The dreaded switchbacks appear after 10 minutes or so but they're quick and painless. At the top, there is a wooden bench for those who want to catch their breath and try to catch a glimpse of the falls between the overgrown tree branches. The path continues on to a massive fir tree that is old enough to warrant a sign begging passersby not to trample its roots.

From there, it's up and down on the trail and you can finally see the lower falls and the river gorge below.
It stopped me in my tracks, but it was far from the best view I'd have.

There is an offshoot to the trail after the first mile. Following the steps down to a little overlook, I got an incredible view of the mighty falls pounding over the rock wall. The water dropped into a churning pool with a cave to the side where random pieces of wood had been pushed by the torrent.

Another half mile of walking led to a bridge between the two waterfalls. Looking up, I could see the upper falls squeezing its way through a narrow gorge and crashing

The water rushed beneath the bridge and over the lower falls, though I couldn't see the second cascade because of the angle. But seeing the engorged river stretch into the distance was view enough.

There were a lot of people moseying around the area but most of them seemed content to reach the bridge, snap a few photographs for the family album and head back. I, of course, let curiosity get the best of me and pressed on. After another two miles of the same scenery, I grew weary of the deafening noise of the freeway (which met with the trail some time after the waterfalls) and turned back.

My favorite sight that day appeared as I paused one last time to admire the Twin Falls. I wedged my feet beneath the sturdy boards of the bridge and leaned over as far as I could. It was a long drop into frothy white waters - I could have stood there staring all day.

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