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Oregon · USA
Tucked away in the temperate rain forests of Oregon, in the midst of an up-and-down slog through cool rain showers on a path beset with cryptic junctions and soggy patches of mud, this little-known 15-foot gem of a waterfall offered welcome reprieve from the doldrums of winter, in many more ways than one.
Despite the off-season conditions, the ground was lush with sword ferns still remarkably verdant in their senescence, while emerging wood sorrel shot up through the forest floor with youthful exuberance. Massive charred 6-foot stumps showed evidence of a devastating fire that scarred this landscape decades ago, but they were few and far between and well into the process of acquiescing to the unrelenting march of macrophytes. Robust stands of second-growth western hemlock and Douglas-fir bedecked in shockingly vibrant yellow-green moss betrayed the history of devastation, and below us a tangled network of scenic creeks meandered through groves of red alder, the matured seed pods dangling from their branches leaving no doubt as to how they earned their common name.
With our muscles protesting against the heft of our backpacks and our joints bemoaning the undulating topography, the waterfall extended an irresistible invitation to pause and reflect, to heal the thousand cuts of sometimes thankless service, to breathe balance back into our hectic lives. And so in spite of our rush to keep an obligation later that evening, we chose to linger here a while, letting the waterfall’s kinetic energy permeate and replenish the potential of our own, tempo entraining temperament. And every now and then, the sun would burn through the clouds just enough to cast the forest in a warm, golden glow, just as it subtly hints at doing here above the falls as an ephemeral fog rolled in to help soften the light.
In the midst of our progressive weariness it became seductively easier to bemoan our slow pace, the next creek crossing or signpost always seeming to come later and later than we'd expect. What might we have seen had we’d kept a brisker pace? Or not stopped so often to immerse ourselves in the enveloping sights and sounds and smells? The truth is we can never possibly know. But what I do know for certain is what we would have missed...and I’m ever grateful for the fact that we didn’t.