February 29, 2016.
2 mi | 725′ ele. gain | 1 hr (totals)
I had to hike today, otherwise I’d set my Hike366 project back four years. Yes, I’d find a unique hike today and I’d have a damn good time.
I’d heard about this Abiqua Falls, and seen some pretty pictures of it, but I’d never actually gone there. Once I started doing the research, I realized why: it was a long way from anywhere, the road to the trail head was heinous and the hike was short. In other words, there was no reason for me to go there. Except I wanted to find something new and this one seemed like a bucket list item to check off.
But there was no way I was driving all the way out there for a one mile hike. A little more research brought me to Butte Creek Falls. Yes, it was only another mile of hiking but that doubled the trail time, so I was in.
I arrived at the trailhead around 2 in the afternoon. Yes, at the trailhead. My little Scion made it all the way there. I wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about. People, generally, don’t know how to drive.
A short but steep trail dropped straight down an eroding hillside to a little canyon with a creek running through it. There was a thin rope alongside the trail, for people who don’t know how to walk downhill. Can’t drive can’t walk, what can you do? Basalt walls towered over the running water. Moss and lichen draped over the rock, happy to live in such a damp environment.
I walked alongside the stream, following the sound of crashing water. It’s an unmistakable and alluring sound. Soon I found myself in an amphitheater, with Abiqua Falls pouring over the lip of the canyon into a perfect, emerald pool. Aahh, so that’s why so many people come here. It was very photogenic. Not to my camera, in this lighting, but I could see how a real photographer could take stunning shots of this scene with little effort.
I had a moment to myself so I stood, mesmerized. Nearby voices snapped me back to reality and I turned to leave. It would definitely feel less special with other people crawling all around the place taking selfies. I took one last look at the falls and retreated up the hill.
Butte Creek Falls
I hopped back in my car and started to drive back down the gravel access road. A funny thing happened. There were people. EVERYWHERE. Walking up the road. Several waved me down to ask the common question: “how much farther to the trailhead?” I couldn’t believe none of these people could get up the road or figure out how far they’d made it. I just wanted out of there. It was turning into a zoo!
I hopped back on the main road and hopped quickly back off to find the trailhead for Butte Creek Falls. This was a surprise gem. The small trail system was well-marked and led to viewpoints of two waterfalls, cleverly named Lower and Upper Falls.
I visited the Upper Falls first. This short, broad stream of water pours across an overhanging lip, creating a little cave underneath it. I walked behind the waterfall; it felt like being at Silver Falls State Park, but in miniature.
Next, I took a trail to the Lower Falls. I couldn’t really get to the falls, but to a viewpoint high on a cliff adjacent to the falls. A sign attached to a tree warned “End of Maintained Trail,” although there was an obvious footpath beyond. I had no desire to head out onto the slippery tread at the edge of an exposed rock wall, so I called it good right there.
A short walk through the wet forest brought me back to my car and the end of my leap day journey. Two short hikes, checked off the list. One fun adventure in a new place, always appreciated. What to do next…?