Thursday, August 22, 2013

Twisted and Compression Falls are separated by a half mile stretch of river. A half mile in the grand scheme of things seems like such a small distance, but for photography and all the camera equipment involved it is the most difficult of terrains. Compression Falls alone presents many challenges. The trail to the river is a vertical and I mean a vertical descent. It's the kind of trail that you use as a difficulty scale on all other hikes, but don't let your guard down when you reach the river, there is plenty more treachery ahead.
This is the view you have of Compression Falls when the trail reaches the river.

Once at the river, Compression Falls is visible upstream. There's an obvious trail leading up toward the base of the falls but it's strewn with boulders and tree roots, all of which could easily break an ankle. Just before the falls a large slab of rock shields you from getting an obstructed view of the entire thing, add the massive spray zone from the falls and it's a troubling thought for camera owners. I use a water resistant camera bag cover and usually opt to wade the river around the boulder using a narrow ledge along a deep pool to work my way eventually onto the rock slab and a full view of Compression Falls. The falls photograph well especially in cloud cover,  it also increases the odds that people won't be swarming all over the place as Compression is a wildly popular swimming hole. To keep going upstream you must cross the river at the base of the falls and the bedrock here is slick from years of water erosion. If you make it without being swept over the shoals downstream, a difficult cliff climb awaits to make it to the top of the falls. The top of Compression Falls is one of my favorite places I've ever been. The view downstream is beautiful and a large deep narrow channel runs to the base of about a twenty foot waterfall upstream.
Compression Falls.
I took this photo from my knees in front of a cascade at the falls.

Sadly, this is as far as I've been upstream. Twisted Falls is still a quarter mile away and requires a river swim and rope climb up a rock wall to reach it's base, making it rarely photographed....UNTIL last Saturday.
Cascades at Compression Falls.

Steve and I had both been on vacation the previous week but we didn't go on a single hike. A few months earlier, we had discovered a second steep descent to the river on the forest road above Compression Falls parking but had ran low on daylight and had to wait for another day. I found a blog post that described the trail and was delighted to find it also mentioned a "ninja trail" that leads to clear views of Twisted Falls for photographs from a cliff high above the river. A ninja trail is best described as a trail that's often hidden from view and many times dangerous to your health, and Steve and I would discover, that was correct on both accounts.

We arrived at the parking for Compression Falls which has seen major renovations with a nice large graded dirt parking lot. Unfortunately, it's also seen about forty straight days of rain and is rutted and ruined so we parked along the old forest road near the gate and started up toward the spur trail above Compression Falls.
The trail is a can't miss it's wide and rutted. It's just as steep as the other trail but there are trees and roots to use to help you along the way. The trail reaches the river at a very beautiful beach like area. Across the river a side stream enters via a 30ft waterfall, a wonderful treat and bonus falls! Downstream the river picks up steam as it nears the top of Twisted Falls. We wound down the bank beating our way through laurel and driftwood. Lots of nice cascades are in this section and a large shelf falls dropping the river about 10ft as it roars toward the boulders that \pinch or should I say "twist" the river through the falls. The trail dead ends at a large sloped rock that is angled toward the river. The rock was dry so we were able to walk along it closer toward the top of the waterfall. A large slab of rock waist high has to be negotiated here and I went first making it on top of it, and as I slid off the back side I used a small bush to steady myself and was immediately greeted with a burning sensation just under my arm. I turned and got another swift burn to my head! BEES! I unleashed a torrent of colorful language warning Steve of the danger still unware that I held the very limb that had the hornets attached to it. I decided as I danced wildly along the cliff my best course of action would be to retreat into the woods. As I scrambled back up the rock, I used the same branch as a hand hold once again and was lit up on my legs a few more times for good measure. Steve meanwhile laughed hysterically at seeing me in my misery from a safe distance downstream. When I made the edge of the woods, my feet flew out from under me and I got to bash my face on the rock as well. I crawled into the woods as I could still hear the bees swarming me and met yet another obstacle, thorn bushes. I shredded through them as they shredded through my arms and legs before I mercifully found a clearing to ditch my gear and roll around to make sure there weren't any strays in my clothes. Steve joined me a short time later and was still laughing at seeing that hornets nest shake wildly while I screamed in pain, he is after all, my best friend.
Side stream unnamed waterfall.

First Cascades nearing Twisted Falls.
Tricky spot requiring a hop to the next rock.
Made the jump, heading downstream.
The large shelf falls.
Shortly before I got in the hornets nest and getting higher on the rock.

In my terror and blindly thrashing through the woods, I had found our ninja trail. A faint narrow path travels uphill around a towering cliff at the top of Twisted Falls. Steve took the lead and we made it to the top to see that we were directly above a vertical drop to the river and the trail was foot in front of foot to swing around a rock that kind of stuck out about head level with me. Steve took a couple steps before one of the more terrifying things I've seen happened. He slipped with one leg completely kicking out the side of the cliff, he took his hand down to balance before scrambling around the danger. I felt my heart in my throat when I saw that happen and was amazed he regained his balance. He turned around only slightly rattled, looking at what might have been. I took my time and didn't have any problem making it although it made me very nervous. The trail gets a little better and winds deeper into the woods before swinging you out on the rocky cliff where you can finally see Twisted Falls. The rock cliff is sloped toward the river and a steep drop that would be fatal if you were to fall, so I scooted out to one of the only trees on the rock and kind of braced my foot on it while I worked to get pictures. The falls looked fantastic and I snapped photo after photo before making a few videos and packing up for the hike back out. Steve and I were stoked at our discovery and to be reunited on the trail. My hornet stings hurt but the satisfaction of what we had done outweighed my pain. We both vowed to come back and further explore the area when we had more time. The ninja trail continued down river and I'm sure we could make it connect with the Compression Falls trail. Until next time, happy trails.

Finally at the edge of the cliff.
Twisted Falls.
Last shot of Twisted Falls.

No comments:

Post a Comment