Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Abiqua Falls

The Abiqua Falls Expedition!

Some time at the beginning of the year one of the cute girlfriends daughters sent me a link to some article about a place that was not part of the Oregon State, normal, state and national parks waterfall circuit. She said this could be our next adventure. I looked it up and saw many beautiful pictures of the place and decided that she was correct and that this should be an adventure.

First off from what I have read online this place is on private land so let's be respectful of that. This place is not easy to get to. Minor climbing and 4 wheel drive are needed to get to the falls.

Start by finding the town of Scotts Mills OR on a map program.

Scotts Mills is one of many nice rural towns in Oregon. It is east of Oregon Hwy 213 by either South Nowlens Bridge Rd. from the north or Mt. Angel Scotts Mills Rd. from the south. Once in town there is an old iron bridge (Nowlens?) You are looking for this road.
 It is easy to find once at the bridge, if you are on Nowlens Bridge road you have to cross the bridge of course. Travel up Crooked Finger Rd for 9 miles. About the 9 mile mark the pavement turns into a gravel road. This part of the road is well maintained. You will now travel approximately 1.2 miles further keeping an eye out on your right for this sign.
The Crooked Finger OHV Area. This is the road down to the falls. it is gravel and reasonably maintained but steep in some areas and gets chewed up causing some deep holes. High clearance and 4 wheel drive are really a must at this point. There is and area where you can park a car and hike down to the trail head.
This is a very small one lane road going down and there are motor bikes and 4 wheelers on this road in the summer months drive slow and cautious. I honked my horn in the blind spots. Take note of the spots where turn outs are possible you may have to back up to one to let a on coming vehicle pass you.

This road winds down for a little over two miles. Stay on the main road and ignore the spurs that shoot off.  You will finally come to a Tree Farm gate and a small wide area where you MAY be able to park. There is room for maybe 6 vehicles down there and it is a very tight turn around.

There are two trail heads here one at the wide area where you park the vehicles and one 100 ft back up the road. One trail is very well suited for climbing down. The other is very much a disaster in the making.
The trail you need to take is the one 100ft back up the road.

You are climbing down a steep hill to get to the Abiqua Creek. Some nice souls have put up ropes in the steep parts that make the climb up and down a cinch. Sadly I must say that this is not a trail for the handicapped or those not of good health. Know your limitations before you go on a hike like this. I write this blog and take lots of pictures for those who can't make it to a place like this. My mom who was almost bed ridden loved that I made this blog.

Once at the bottom you will travel up stream on a rough trail to the falls. The final bend into the falls pool area is the "Oh Wow" moment and well worth the hassle of getting down there.

The Expedition!

Cute girlfriend is not always up for a hard climb adventure but I know a few granddaughters that love crazy adventures. I asked over Facebook for any volunteers for and Expedition to Abiqua Falls in Oregon. After some parental wrangling, and an unfortunate limitation that the youngest grandchildren couldn't go, 3 granddaughters were found that wanted to go. I will make it up to the little ones and make a special day for them.

We started out at 8am and had breakfast at a local eatery called Elmers. Stuffing the talkative teenagers full of pancakes, bacon and such. We drove south heading for Scotts Mills OR and found a few fun things to get pictures of.
For the cute girlfriend, and the next one because it was such a non-sequitur.
 We found the Crooked Finger Rd and traveled up it and made a few wrong turns before we found the OHV road you need to turn down. It was a bumpy ride down to the gate and we attempted to run over a fast riding off-road motorcyclist on a blind corner. It is funny how their eyes get bigger than their helmet as they blast around the corner and there is a truck there. I honked the horn on the first blind corner we came to to avoid that little disaster from happening again. After that one of the girls would go "beep beep" as we approached any

We finally came to the gate and parking area and proper instructions for us all to stay together were given. I shot this video as we started at the trail head

 Then we started down the wrong trail!

 Actually the impetus for this picture was from when I made note on Facebook that we needed kids to have shoes with good tread on them because we were going down some steep hills... One parent said, "just throw them over the ledge". This is a joke of course but we all got some miles out of this joke because they are cute and very lovable children, but sometimes obnoxious teenagers. So number one granddaughter and I kind of staged this pic to keep that joke flowing.

Alas that hill over her head is the one we went down. It looks like a good trail until you get half way down and the rocks are loose. We were kind of passed the point of no return as far as the hill goes so we stopped and the girls went down one at a time and then went for cover once at the bottom because rocks would come loose and tumble down the hill. The girls mostly slid down on their butts so they were really dirty when we hit bottom.

It was a slow go at this point. Send one down wait for them to take cover. Send another until finally I could climb down. We were very dirty so we cleaned off in the creek. We were having a lot of fun so I shot this vid.

It was a little bit of a hike up stream. We crossed the creek two times to avoid bramble. We passed the trail we should have come down, making note to go back up that way. It is a rather rocky hike to these falls but worth every step. Here is a vid I shot as we entered the "amphitheater" of Abiqua Falls.

It was really and amazing place. For the Geology geek in me this place was something to see.
The teenagers took to exploring and took turns taking pictures of the falls with the camera grandma lent them.

I took to pictures of them when they weren't looking and I later found out they did the same thing to me.
This area that the falls empties into is a very special place geologically. Millions of years ago it was a huge and thick lava field. The type of rock the lava contained cooled in a special way forming all these columns. This type of rock formation is common here in the Pacific Northwest near all the Volcanoes of the Cascade Mountain range. It is called Columnar Basalt.
The basalt columns form into polygonal  shaped rocks, like string cheese. There is some iron in this basalt and it is oxidizing causing the red color. With the waterfall the reds and dark greys of the rocks and the back drop of the forest it makes for a good day for a shutterbug.
I'm going to try to come back here during the spring run off to see the falls at full force. There was a kind of sound sweet spot in this "amphitheater'' pool area. To the left of the picture above there is a place where the sound of the falls will build to something that sounds like a distant rumble of thunder. I'm sure this little feature is something that might only happen at this water level. I'm sure at peak spring run off this waterfall is a roaring monster in this rock walled pool it lands in. I took a video of it but I don't think it translated well to phone video. I did take several videos of the falls. I like posting on Facebook 10 sec. "serene moment" vids all so far are waterfalls. Here is a compilation of those vids from Abiqua Falls.

At one point I climbed over to near the back of the falls. It is slippery and wet over there. I was taking pictures with my phone so when I fell it was one of those ungraceful, and probably comical if anyone was watching. Slip, catch yourself, which then causes you to slip again, almost catch yourself and do a "oh crap save the phone" maneuver and pile your fifty year old butt into the rocks. I landed on my side, jamming my thigh against a rock. Phone saved. Pride and thigh damaged. I didn't feel a thing on that leg until midway through the next day. I couldn't even walk down the stairs.
Oldest granddaughter came over about that time and I showed her something I had found earlier. It was half a frog. The other half was in the mouth of a smallish snake. The snake had a problem though. It had snuck up on the frog from a tight hole that it couldn't drag the frog back into. We found it interesting that at this point the frog had an advantage and there was a slight stalemate now and the frog wasn't struggling. We watched for a bit and I think the frog got scared of us and started to pull himself out a little. I thing the snake wasn't happy with us watching either. I moved some rocks around and the snake tried backing up with his meal but the meal had got it's second wind and was now working a little harder to get free. The snake finally gave up on this and "un-swallowed" the frog and slithered back into the rocks. I'm happy to say that the now slimy frog was free and we moved him away from the snake and left him be.
There was a lot of snakes out sunning themselves as we walked out of the place, but all that I saw were the grass snake type. Keep your eyes on the path though this is the woods and there is wild life out there.

There was this big rock on the beach opposite the falls. Hikers like to make little rock piles or cairns on it. I took some "art" shots of some of them while there. This one is interesting but upsetting all in one. Some knucklehead put his gum on top...sigh
In the distance you can see the large rock with all the cairns on it. I'm announcing to all that read this, and only because I say so, that this rock is now called Abiqua Falls Cairn Rock! I hope it
There was also this little teepee of sticks set up for some fire, not that having a fire down there would have been a great idea in the current dry conditions, but it made for a nice shot.
 It finally came time to head back up the hill. This time we would take the trail with all the nice ropes to help us climb. I shot some video during the climb.

The hike up was reasonably uneventful. We did run into a nice gentleman with his young daughter. He asked us if we thought she could make it down. We told him it was worth the hassle to get to the falls and there was ropes to get down. He had a London/British accent and the girls being British TV Fans loved that. He didn't follow us back up so I hope he made it back safe.

We made it back to the truck and we made this Selfie type video together.

We left and bounced back up the one lane road, having to stop and back up once to get some downhill traffic by us.
This is a great hike and one of those hidden wonders type places. You have to take this hike!
Oh and one last thing Bring a 4X4.


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