Friday, April 27, 2012

After a near five mile round trip hike in Gorge's State Park, Kip and I were excited to see what the falls of the Thompson River had to offer and although it was somewhat late in the afternoon (around 2:30) we felt we more than capable of making the six mile round trip hike at Thompson River before dark.

The parking area for the falls is non-existent, I had to leave my truck at the intersection of hwy 281 and Brewer Road and the trail head to the falls is an old logging road, that of course, leads uphill. After a couple hundred yards the trail levels and you start winding through the ridges, and within half a mile a nice 20ft falls is off on a side trail that can be spotted through the woods, we skipped this one and continued on down the main trail looking for a spur trail to the high falls of the river. The directions we had were last updated over six years ago and as we made it down the trail we started reaching obstacles that grew more frequent the further we went into the forest. The downed trees and thickening underbrush slowed our progress and was killing important daylight also, we finally found the trail to high falls and followed the narrow overgrown trail toward the side trail that leads straight down to the riverbank below the falls. I could hear the falls but the bank was steep and dead leaves and thick laurel made the descent challenging and tiring. I had brought a bottle of water and Kip had brought a few packs of snacks in case we were to get hungry, at this point all seemed OK.
High Falls on Thompson River
parting shot from High Falls

As we reached the river the size of it was more relative to that of a creek and around a small turn the 110ft high falls was nestled beautifully in a cove that looked undisturbed for years. I was forced to wade out in thigh deep water to get a photo but the cool was welcome after sweating down the bank to get there. I noticed that it was already and hour later and Kip and I began the difficult climb out and back to the main trail. Climbing out I was already tired and stop a few times up the mountain to rest. I was drinking water quickly and it seemed to do nothing to quench my thirst. We made the main trail once again and continued on determined to cap our day with one last fantastic waterfall. The main trail forked which was not mentioned in our directions and we ended up hiking a mile in the wrong way before deciding we needed to go back. My legs by this point were starting to really tire I had hiked over eight miles of strenuous trails the day before and was past that mark already today, but Kip's pace kept me motivated to move on. Back on the correct trail the logging road had narrowed to a single person path and downed tree after downed tree had to be negotiated to continue on. We passed several loud falls and we recognized those to be a couple of the unnamed falls from our directions, it seemed like we should have been further in but based on our directions we were still nearly two miles from Big Falls and it was closing in on 5pm. We sat at an old campsite creek side and had a decision to make, give up and go home or continue on and risk darkness catching up with us.
this was almost dinner

I made the call to continue on, I was tired but I could just imagine how awesome it would be when we got to the falls and they would energize us and we would hike out with smiles on our faces. The directions said we would see some old logging cable at our feet at a certain point, we ended up going the right direction but didn't go far enough to find the cable by maybe twenty paces, we doubled back and realized our error and continued back from where we had just came. I was starting to get frustrated and Kip and I's conversation had pretty much ceased. We found a small tributary and crossed it and started uphill seeming to double back on the opposite side of the creek in the direction from which we had came. Suddenly the roar of the creek to our left increased and the trail widened, at last, it seemed we were making progress! About three miles from the truck, out of water and food, and exhausted I smelled what I thought was my friend passing gas. As I looked around I noticed fresh bear manure on the trail! I've always wanted to encounter a bear while hiking but today was not the day. For the first time ever on a hike, I was beginning to feel nervous that things might not go as I had planned.

Another ten minutes or so down the trail, The river below was really roaring, and we came to some old flagging tape and a small pile of rocks that indicated what we thought was the crazy steep path down to Big Falls. The path was intimidating, and that's putting it lightly, it was straight down and looked like it hadn't been attempted in quite sometime, I asked Kip what he thought about it, his reply "I think we are going to die." With his vote of confidence we started down the trail, at a little over halfway down the trail becomes really tricky to negotiate, I heard something behind me and as I turned I caught Kip by his backpack straps as he slid by. He had fell behind me and could have possibly been hurt badly but luckily his shoulder was scraped and we were able to continue on to the riverbed. When I caught the glimpse of the falls, my heart sunk, it was the wrong one! We were still about twenty minutes up river from our destination and it was now evident that we would not make it to Big Falls on this day. We rested and soaked our feet for the grueling climb out, after only twenty minutes we started up that god forsaken trail, it took all of my effort and energy and it still took thirty minutes to reach the main trail. I had never felt so exhausted, my brain told my legs to move but they were gone, I started thinking that we were going to be spending the night there and how worried my wife would be. I trudged on however, and Kip did as well we barely spoke the whole way out and our exhaustion caused us to be confused and doubt we were even on the right path, the sun hung low in the sky as we finally reached the truck. I collapsed into the seat and laid it back too exhausted to drive. We had avoided a serious disaster with nothing but dumb luck.
beautiful unnamed falls on Thompson River, the one we mistook for Big Falls.
car sized boulders on the river

Although the falls of Thompson River are impressive, we were foolishly prepared for a difficult hike and didn't allow ourselves rest or time to attempt a place so treacherous. Miraculously, we almost made it. The trails were in rough shape and I would not recommend them for the average hiker. As I write this it's two days later, both feet are bruised, swollen, and cut. I learned a valuable lesson at the Thompson River and will indeed return, but next time with more supplies and with fresh legs. Until then, I will lick my wounds and doctor my ego...happy trails.

No comments:

Post a Comment