Sunday, May 27, 2012

Wallace Falls Hike

Saturday we had plans to head East to the very small town of Gold Bar Washington.  Our plans were to get up early and beat the holiday weekend traffic heading out of town.  Well, we woke up late and by the time we left the house it was after noon.  Usually this would add a healthy does of stress to our day but we just let it go and were not worried about it.  Just fifteen miles from the trail head the traffic came to a complete halt and almost 2 hours later we arrived at Wallace Falls State Park.  The falls official parking lot was full and overflowed 1/2 mile down the street, where we parked, and just as we got out of the car it started to drizzle.  So now I was a little bit stressed about arriving late, bad traffic, crowded trail, and rain.  But hey we came for an adventure and we were going to take it come what may.  So we leashed up the dog, grabbed our backpacks and headed toward the trail head.


The trail starts up through a small field with beautiful views of the Cascade Mountains.  The rain had stopped, the sun was warm and aside from the crackle/hiss of the power lines it was a beautiful entry to the towering forest that held the famous falls.


The trail was speckled with other hikers coming and going in both directions.  As we entered the forest this sign welcomed us and served as a reminder to take in all the splendor awaiting us.


Thus began our journey to Wallace Falls......


.......and here is where it took a drastic change.  Let me just say I am not a hiker, and since Clyde came into my life and I bought a car with navigation I am not much of a map/sign reader either.  I figured a trail head leads the way to the destination so trudge forward, right???  While I stopped to take photos, I told Clyde to go ahead and I would be right behind him, so he did.  I took some photos and followed the hikers who came behind me.  If you want a hint to where things went awry, look closely at the sign in the photo below. 


Clyde took the Woody Trail and I, yup you guessed it, I took the Railroad Grade.  Fifteen minutes in on a 5 mile hike we were unknowingly heading on completely different paths.  And to make matters worse my ancient Blackberry phone is not holding a charge so I tucked it deep within the nylon pockets of my backpack. 

Now, since I am currently sitting here posting this blog entry safe and sound in my living room and Clyde and Bailey are snuggled up sleeping on the sofa, we know the story has a wonderful ending.

So here we go.  I headed towards the hikers on the Railroad Grade expecting to see Clyde and Bailey up ahead along the way.  The trail was beautiful the sounds of water trickling all around and the smell of fresh pine and cedar was heavenly.  Everything was covered in moss and the afternoon sun highlighted the wispy texture beautifully.


It was magical this landscape in front of me and I stopped many times along the way to capture the sights.  I wondered about where my boys were but remembering I had told them to go on ahead, I was not that concerned.  In my novice trail experience I figured the trail led one way in and one way out, as long as I stayed on the trail I'll be good.  I was sure I would see them in time.  Little did I know Clyde had back tracked a few times looking for me and finally thought I must have passed him, so he continued on his chosen path.


It was easy to get distracted taking photos on the long walk with the towering trees.  Occasionally I would pass or be passed by other hikers along the way and I remember being surprised at how few hikers I did see considering the amount of cars in the parking area.  But the hike was peaceful and spacious and I was really enjoying the lush landscape.


Eventually, I found myself keeping up with a family with two small boys and I noticed the Dad would stop to read the signs along the trail.  At one point I saw some other hikers coming up from a trail on the right and the family I had kept up with headed toward that direction.  I asked the man coming up if that was the trail to the falls and he said yes.  So I veered off my trail to a very narrow trail which went straight down and followed the young family with two boys.


This trail was steep, unstable and very narrow.  As people passed by I would have to wait off to the side to let them pass.  As I kept moving down I noticed even more people and soon the sound of rushing water confirmed I was heading in the right direction.


Oh, it was so pretty and I stopped on a wooden bridge to take more photos.   By now there must have been a hundred people milling about, sitting on benches, hiking along trails and on the wooden foot bridge with white water rushing below.  I looked for Clyde but I did not see him so I forged on across the bridge where the other side was even steeper this time going up.  This trail was crowded, narrow uneven and the edge was a pretty severe drop off.   I stopped a few hundred feet up to catch my breath and sat down on a bench to re-adjust my pack.  It was at this point I pulled out my phone and noticed I had seven missed calls from Clyde and one text.  "I am at Lower Falls where are you???".  I called him right away and we realized we were only about fifteen minutes apart, so I continued on up the trail to Lower Falls.

When I reached Lower Falls I snapped some photos and waited by the picnic tables for my boys.  The falls were beautiful, the Spring ice melt was in full swing, it was noisy and the energy rushing over those enormous boulders was commanding everyone's attention. 



The falls continued on down around a bend and disappeared behind the trees.


The 265 foot waterfall in the distance is the section of the falls you can see from Hwy 2.


After happily reuniting at Lower Falls we decided to take my road back to the trail head.  It was a mile longer but after Clyde told me how congested the other trail was we opted for a more peaceful walk back. Plus we were able to let Bailey off leash and he just loves that.  Fish gotta swim, dogs gotta run, it's just the way it is.


Bailey runs about 100 feet in either direction sniffing every scent and investigating the surroundings, then he catches up with us before he is off again, blazing the trail ahead.


The trail heading back was just as interesting as it was coming in, the light was different and it highlighted areas I had overlooked a few hours earlier.



About a half mile before the end of the trail, Clyde showed me where we took alternate paths and had me follow him down to a really scenic "waterfall amphitheater", which I had missed not taking the Woody Trail.. 


It was a beautiful hike and we had a great day.  On the way home I was lectured in hiking etiquette.   I apologized for not reading the trail signs and that I had worried Clyde, and I promised not to do that again.  

I hope you are all having a lovely weekend, go do something fun.

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