Following the 'Wild West' section of our road trip, we made our way out of Bryce Canyon, up through Salt Lake City, through Idaho (which was somewhat lacking in scenic sights) and across into Oregon.
Smith Rock State Park
My first (and remaining) impression of Oregon is a wonderfully scenic state drowned by rain.
On the drive into our first night in Oregon at an RV park near Bend, we were welcomed with a downpour from the heavens that continued well into the afternoon.
Our camp was located a short drive outside Smith Rock State Park which I planned on shooting on sunset. However with all the clouds and rain about, I didn't hold much hope that the sky would clear up in time.
We went out to the park in spite of the less than favourable conditions. Upon driving into the carpark, we noticed a small herd of deer by the roadside, which soon made their way to a nearby field. I had been eagerly awaiting a deer photo all trip and so slowly made my way across the field towards them. As we were traveling light, I only brought one lens (24-70mm) with me and so didn't have a dedicated telephoto lens to get in close to the deer. Regardless, I was still beaming to have encountered with the wild herd.
I then made my way around the valley's upper rim, taking moody images of the rock formations and the winding river below. However about 30 minutes in, I began noticing the lighting to increase and saw the clouds overhead beginning to break up. So much so that they began to disappear significantly, allowing the evening sun to shine through, bathing the valley gold.
The main attraction that drew me to Oregon was the state's wealth of natural beauty. With its lush forests, snow covered highlands, regular rain and flowing falls it's a photographers paradise. And that's without even mentioning its stunning coastline which I'm eager to visit next trip.
We made the drive out to the falls on another (surprise surprise) overcast and rainy morning which are located about an hour west of Bend. The drive out saw us gradually increase in altitude and on approach to the falls we noticed the rain drops to significantly increase in size. So much so that we finally released that it was actually snowing.
I was absolutely beaming like a child on Christmas morning. We originally planned a visit to the alpine Grand Tetons in Wyoming. However we thought the frozen temperatures might have been too much for our RV on this trip and so decided to spend the extra time in Oregon. And so I was a little disappointed we wouldn't be seeing snow. That, along with the fact that I'm from a country famous for its warm summers and beaches, made me even more excited to actually be driving (and walking) through falling snow.
Normally it is possible to drive up to the base of the falls. Although as there were road repairs taking place at the time, the road into the falls was closed. We parked about 3 miles from the falls and made the trek in. However I didn't mind the journey one bit.
It was still snowing as I followed the car-less road up the hillside which was a great experience itself. However the view from the falls lookout was absolutely stunning. The falling snow had landed lightly on the surrounding forest, icing the trees in a picturesque blanket of white.
After the memorable experience of Tumalo Falls, we made our way through the heritage town of Sisters (be sure to stop in at Hop N Brew and try the taco pizza). We drove through even more snow on route 20 before turning off to follow the McKenzie River. With the recent rains and current snow, the river was flowing torrentially.
I stopped for a walk along the river at Sahalie Falls. What an enchanting combination of lush forest, powerful waterfall and an ice-blue river. The water was running so strongly that it was a struggle to take long exposures with the water spray constantly reaching my lens. As with Abiqua Falls (next) I found myself entering a regular routine of wipe, shoot, wipe, shoot in order to capture the shot.
What a hike these falls took me on. After researching how to access the falls, I parked our RV a few miles uphill of the actual trailhead, knowing the unsurfaced road down to be quite treacherous. Joined by another couple searching for the trailhead, we continued down the road, eventually finding the path leading left into the forest just before the final carpark.
Clambering down the precarious muddy hillside using ropes and then ducking under numerous logs up the river bank, we eventually set our sights on the falls.
And what a sight.
Nestled in a basalt amphitheatre, Abiqua Falls drop powerfully over 100 feet, fed by melting snow upriver and recent rains in the area. As with Sahalie Falls, the current here was so strong too that the spray constantly fogged up my lens, requiring me to enter the familiar routine of wipe, shoot, wipe, shoot.
It was quite the adventure to get there, but that made falls that much more memorable to have experienced.
From the drive out from Abiqua Falls, we travelled up to Portland, staying at an RV park on the Columbia River Gorge. The park was a short drive from the tourist-friendly Multnomah Falls. Before sunrise we drove out so as I could photograph the falls in low, even lighting to capture silky smooth falling water.
The falls drop in two parts (a result of the basalt of the upper falls eroding more easily than the lower section) and are Oregon's tallest. The footbridge provides access to the upper falls and was originally made of timber in 1883, before being replaced in 1914 by the current concrete bridge.
We spent the day in Portland and thoroughly enjoyed the city's culture and friendly citizens. We found a cafe that made coffee like I was used to back in Australia, by the name of Coava Coffee Roasters. Just don't ask for a flat white, but rather a latte with no froth. We strolled around town visiting various shops and were most impressed with Boys Fort which was well equipped with anything a boy (or man) could want in a fort of their own.
The final stop on the Oregon part of our trip was at Toketee Falls, situated on the North Umpqua River. Similar to Abiqua, Toketee Falls is also framed by a basalt column amphitheatre, crowned with lush dense forest.
And also similar to Abiqua, access to the best view of the falls also requires a treacherous hike down the hillside. Although visible along a mostly gentle path leading to a viewing platform over looking Toketee Falls, the view that you'll want to see for yourself is found down by the water's edge.
To access it, head along the regular route to the viewing platform. Upon approach to the platform, you'll notice a muddy, uneven path down the cliff to your right. This is the path you'll want to take. Climb under the railing and slowly make your way down the cliff side, using rocks, roots and branches for assistance along the way. Once down, make your way up the river a few paces for a view of the falls that is simply breathtaking. Oh, and don't forget about the climb back up the cliff (which is actually much easier you'll be pleased to know).
What a grand display of nature's beauty if ever I've seen one.
Although crowds were high being the Easter weekend, we were still able to appreciate the the park's awe-inspiring granite formations in pockets of solitude around the valley. Early spring meant that wildlife was aplenty with herds of deer, chirping birds and foraging chipmunks making appearances across the valley.
Neither pictures not words do the park justice. It's a place that needs to be experienced, to be humbled in its grandiosity.
Someday I'd love to return to witness the valley in the full lushness of spring or to marvel at the snow-capped peaks of winter. Yosemite has made its mark and left me wanting more.
Next stop, Paris! :)