SILVER FALLS STATE PARK
Trail of Ten Falls
8.7 miles (14 km) loop
Elevation: 1,300 feet
Time: 3-4 hours
My friend Arden and I arrived at our cabin in Silver Falls State Park right as the sun was starting to set. Though sunsets usually send me running for my camera, we had an immediate need to search for firewood. My first attempt at starting a fire never actually created any flames, only a lot of smoke. As the smoke grew larger, it blew into the forest and got tangled in the streaks of light the sunset was sending through the trees. That did it: I had to abandon my failure of a fire to capture the interplay of smoke and light with my camera. Luckily, my photography abilities are better than my wilderness skills.
The next day proved to be one of those picture perfect sunshine and blue sky days. Mid-morning, we took off on foot for the South Falls Trailhead, where we started the Trail of Ten Falls loop. This hiking trail is absolutely spectacular, winding through the dense forested foothills of Oregon's Cascade Mountains. Even for someone like me who loves to seek and study color, the sheer amount of greenery left me awestruck.
Hiking through the forest was beautiful in and of itself, however, my favorite part of the Trail of Ten Falls was the series of breathtaking waterfalls. The famous South Falls has an amphitheater-like surrounding that allows for the hiking trail to pass right behind a 177-foot curtain of water. Standing there, with a grin from ear to ear, was simultaneously peaceful and exhilarating.
When I turned for one last look at the South Falls before continuing our 9-mile hike, my eye was immediately drawn to the moss covered tree growing toward a clearing above the waterfall. Vegetation covers every inch of the State Park, creating tunnels of vibrant green along the banks of Silver Creek, which creates the kinds of depth and texture about which photographers dream.
One of my favorite waterfalls was actually one of the smallest. At first, I was underwhelmed by Double Falls. Yes, it’s a beautiful waterfall, but after witnessing South Falls crash tons of water into its valley of the forest, this quaint waterfall looks more like a trickle.
Then, a cloud passed and a sunbeam hit the water as it cascaded down. I stayed there, camera to eye, snapping away until the sun moved behind the clouds and the streak of light disappeared, covering this nook of the State Forest in a veil of shade.
Nature has offered stunning images that artists have tried to capture through a variety of mediums since basically the beginning of time. While nothing can ever really replace the actual experience of visiting such places as the Trail of Ten Falls, that certainly didn’t stop me from attempting to capture and share its vibrancy and beauty.