Do Go Chasing Waterfalls
Looking down at Horseshoe Falls near Siouxon Creek in Gifford Pinchot National Forest
With Spring just around the corner (it officially starts on March 20th!), it's time to start breaking in your hiking boots, dusting off your backpack, and planning those first few camping trips of the season. This last weekend I decided to take advantage of our unusally warm March and head out on my own 1-night backpacking trip. I chose Siouxon Creek because it was less than 60 miles from home, the trail was easy to moderate, and there wouldn't be any snow at the relatively low elevation. I also knew I wanted an out-and-back trail so that I wouldn't get to any uncrossable creeks that would leave me stranded, and I read in my hiking guide that there would be some nice campsites along the way.
Perfect campsite at Horseshoe Falls and the view from the tent
What I hadn't expected to see were so many waterfalls! The drive alone was full of surprise cascades around every corner. Getting to the trailhead proved to be more of an adventure than I expected. One of the lessons in backpacking is to "expect the unexpected," and for me, the "unexpected" was a broken axle on my car as I was driving out of Portland. I ended up getting towed to a shop near my house, getting the axle replaced, and getting back on the road by late afternoon. I was only able to hike in 1.5 miles before setting up camp, but that left plenty of hiking the following day.
Old growth forest, Siouxon Falls, early Spring snow, and crossing Chinook Creek
I camped at the base of the beautiful Horseshoe Falls and after setting up my tent and changing into warm, dry clothes, I made myself a dinner of quinoa and Trader Joe's Indian fare in my handy Jetboil. It ended up raining lightly the entire time I was out there, but with the right rain gear, it was very manageable. I fell asleep to the sound of crashing water and raindrops and slept well until 2am when something woke me. I opened my eyes and started to sit up when something heavy fell off my head and scurried across my tent. I grabbed my headlamp in time to see a little brown and white mouse run around for a few seconds and then disappear. There were mouse droppings all over my tent and sure enough, my food had been infiltrated. It was a classic rookie mistake to leave my food in my tent, wrapped only in a ziplock bag, but somehow I thought that my tent and the two stuff sacks that my food bags were in would be enough protection. I had underestimated the hunger and incredible sense of smell of my little furry friends. After re-bagging my food and hanging it outside, I swept up some of the mouse droppings and then located the two quarter-sized holes in my tent's mesh. Unfortunately I forgot duct tape so I just had to fall back asleep hoping that they wouldn't return to investigate.
Chinook Falls, bear tracks, overgrown trail, and a roadside waterfall
I ended up sleeping in the next morning and was happy to find when I woke up that my food was safe and my tent was mouse-free. I took my time getting back on the trail, which is one of the benefits of backpacking solo. Once I was all packed up and had my food and layers all easily accessible, I continued along Siouxan Creek, with tentative plans to hike out to Wildcat Falls (about 4 miles further up) and then turn around and head back to the car. The trail was beautiful, with many small waterfalls, a few talkative birds, and lots of lush green old-growth forest. I came to my first creek crossing after a few miles and managed to keep dry feet by climbing along a log and then doing a little rock hopping. It turned out to be futile, because 1/2 mile later, at the majestic 50-foot Chinook Falls, I had to cross a 2-foot deep stream to continue on. I still had one more creek to cross in order to see Wildcat Falls, which to me was not as lovely as Chinook, but was still a nice destination for my first hike of the season. My entire time in the woods, I would have sworn that I was all alone and that I wouldn't see another soul, which was why I was so surprised to run into a couple of hikers on my way back...and then another couple another mile later...and then ANOTHER couple just getting started as I neared my car. I guess the trail is more popular than I expected; it turns out I'm not the only person in search of beautiful waterfalls. All together I ended up hiking 10 miles with my pack, which was a perfect start to what I hope will be a long and adventurous summer.
Paul Gerald's "60 Hikes Within 60 Miles"
Green Trails Map #396Lessons Learned/Reminders:
Hang food outside
Bring duct tape
Bring extra baggies (large and small)
Have a plan in case car breaks down out of cell-phone range
Do exercises to help pevent shin splints
Montrail AT Plus hiking shoes
I just got these as my new pair of hiking shoes and this hike was my first time breaking them in. I really love the wide toebox and lightweight/lowcut design. I chose not to go waterproof since I know I end up doing stream crossings on almost all my hikes and I'd rather have shoes that drain well and dry quickly than ones that keep me somewhat dry but retain water once wet. I did add my own footbeds, although I was impressed with the support that came with the shoes. I'm happy with these shoes so far and look forward to logging many more miles with them soon.