After visiting Iguazu, I got to thinking about my lifelong love of waterfalls. As I mentioned in my post about visiting the falls, I have been fascinated with waterfalls since I was a kid, thrilled and intimidated by the power of plunging water. This was incorporated into my play, and my GI Joes had all sorts of adventures going over huge waterfalls (off my bunk beds) and having to navigate raging rapids.
When I was sixteen, my love or rushing waters earned my intrepid hamster Benny a white water adventure down the drainage ditch in the great flood of 98. I built him a boat out of Construx and followed him down the river that formed through our neighborhood. His boat was tossed and pummeled by the rapids, but he stayed aboard. Until, that is, he came to the great waterfall, that I didn't even know was there when I began the adventure. It made for a fitting finale. As he approached the brink Benny was already all wet, clinging to his sturdy craft, which was buoyant yet. With a mixture of anxiety and excitement, I watched as his boat descended the falls, disappearing into the foam below. When it popped back up a moment later, it was capsized and Benny overboard. I scanned the downstream water, thinking, come on buddy!
And there he was. He popped up swimming, seemingly nonplussed. I grabbed him and the boat and headed home, thankful my playful impulse had not cost my dear hamster his life. Benny was a good adventurer. Definitely the best hamster I ever had. His exploits deserve their own article, for sure.
I was also thrilled and delighted by the scene in A River Runs Through It when they stole a boat and went over a huge dangerous rapid and waterfall. I identified strongly with Paul Maclean's inclination to do just do something exciting and dangerous just cuz.
So for whatever reason, I dig a good waterfall/white water adventure. I don't go rafting or kayaking nearly as much as I'd like, but I have many more adventures to come, for sure. (Such as rafting the lower Rogue. Any takers? It takes about a week.) The power of water is not something to take lightly. Standing close to roaring waters we are able to feel the deadly power of something that is otherwise so life giving, so pleasant and peaceful in most other circumstances. Perhaps this contrast helps us to understand the forces behind life and existence. For after all, we are of the waters.
Here's a compilation of a few of the beautiful falls I've visited over the years. A handful of them have stories, some of which I will briefly tell. I don't know the names of even half of these falls, but I have a general sense of where they were taken, and of course the story of the hike to get there is easy to recall. I suppose I enjoy collecting images of this magical world we inhabit, and with today's technology, that's an easy collection to share. I hope you enjoy.
Multanomah Falls, Oregon
One day I was driving up to Portland to pick up my sister and her family, who were flying out to hang out with me in my Oregon scene. Along the side of the highway stood a man in a brightly colored poncho, smiling broadly and waving to all the traffic. He was obviously hiking, but he looked like was just having the time of his life.
There was no deliberation. I picked him up and welcomed him aboard. He was just loving and happy, like a sage. I had a great conversation with him, and it was easy for me to play along with his style of bliss and appreciation, along with silliness and play. The full name he gave me was Mishael Lilananda Purple Crow Grace, Lilananda meaning divine play. What a character. More on him later.
Anyhow, he stayed with me in the car even after I picked up Laurie and Phillip, and they enjoyed him just as much as I did. We all went to Multanomah Falls together, and then later we dropped him off. My story with Mishael continues in another chapter, but I'll always remember him when I think of Multanomah Falls.
(This anecdote, by the way, appears in Portlyn, my new book.)
Der Rhine Falls
When I was fourteen, my dad took to Europe with him for a month. He was leading two tours over there, back to back, and he brought me along, to some degree taking me on as an assistant. It was a great experience. We did the British Isles, France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Between the departure of the first group and the arrival of the second we had about three days. My dad knew just where to take me during this time. He knew well of my love of waterfalls. He shared in it as well, I am sure.
The falls was amazing. There was so much water, and it came at such a speed that it didn't even fall vertically. It was almost like looking at a seventy five foot tall rapid. The roar was thundering. Anytime I see bigger waterfall on a navigable river, my first thought is always, could you survive going over it? With the Rhine Falls, the answer (excluding for barrels, maybe) is a pretty obvious no. What a sight.
Choir Tour 2000
I don't remember the name of this waterfall. I'm not even sure if it's in Washington State or British Columbia. I believe it's somewhere out of Seattle. We visited it on our choir tour after my senior year of high school. The guys you see below were some of my best friends during that time. When we arrived at this pool below the falls, I couldn't resist, as usual. I had to get in. The weather was cloudy and cool, and everyone thought I was nuts, but I had come prepared, with my bathing suit and towel. I went in for a dip, and it was lovely. Cold, but lovely. When I was ready to come out (only minutes later) I approached the shore and asked someone to hand me my towel.
My friend Clayton, who you see below, second from the left, picked up my towel, which was neatly folded on a rock near him, and threw it to me while I was still walking through the shallow water. The towel opened up like a sail and halted its momentum, landing gently on the water about three feet in front of me. I was so mad. The wind felt freezing cold now, and my only way of wrapping up and keeping warm was floating in the water. Clayton and the other guys seemed to think it was pretty funny. I did not, but I forgave them.
Throughout my childhood, my favorite place on earth was definitely Stehekin. My dad's family had a big gathering there in 89, as a sequel to the family vacation they'd taken there in 1959, thirty summers earlier. I was in heaven. Such pristine forests, a clear and cold lake, and waterfalls everywhere! We went to so many waterfalls that I can't remember them all specifically, though we do have lots of pictures. The water was always cold, but I just loved getting into it and sitting under the smaller falls. My dad was really good about encouraging this, even though at times my love for churning water probably made him nervous...
Pecos Wilderness, New Mexico
When I was nine, my dad took me on my first backpacking trip. It was with several other men from our church. I was the only kid. It was a life shaping experience, to be sure. I had a great time, and I think I managed to keep my complaining to a minimum, even though it was the hardest fun I'd ever had. One day we spent two nights at one camp, giving us a day off from hiking. So what do you do on a day off from hiking while backpacking? More hiking! The day off is really from carrying the pack. Our day hike up to this waterfall was beautiful, and it felt so easy without all the weight. And even that cold water felt great after the exertion of climbing up to this spot.
Trummelbach Falls, Switzerland
The Lauterbrunen Valley of Switzerland later came to rival Stehekin as my favorite place on Earth. Beautiful for many of the same reasons, Switzerland also had the towering alps and the turquoise glacial lakes. It also has, of course, many beautiful waterfalls, though none so interesting as Trummelbach. Trummelbach Falls is actually ten separate waterfalls that wind their way down through a series of caves and deep, steep canyons, inside of a mountain. A walking path has been carved in so that you walk down through the caves and see most of the falls very close up. It's an incredible experience. In places you can reach right into the massive wall of water as it blasts out of its opening in the rocks. This too would be a waterfall no one could survive, probablynot even in a barrel.
Outside of Park City, Utah
Somewhere in Northern Utah there is a beautiful hike up into a valley which ends at this majestic falls. I was traveling with Laurie and Phillip about a decade ago and we took this memorable hike. Across the creek from us on the hike were very nice houses, one of which, we were told belonged to Robert Redford.
I enjoyed climbing up above the lower falls, though it was more difficult and dangerous of a climb than I first realized. There was a point where I was precarious clinging to wet rocks, realizing that if I didn't make a move soon, my eventual slip would lead to either serious injury or death. And I could see no easy route to safety. I made it though.
Mill Creek Falls, Oregon
While driving home from Crater Lake when my mom and stepdad were visiting Oregon, we made an impromptu stop to see this waterfall, which was amazing. I wish we had had more time to hike all the way down and see them from up close.
Kennedy River, Vancouver Island
While traveling on Vancouver Island, we passed this incredible rapid/waterfall on our way out to Tofino. I had to stop to get a closer look. Eva came with me, bringing her own camera and also taking pictures. It was a mighty roar of a drop, and thus very exciting.
Lower Umpqua River
The North Fork of the Umpqua River is one of the most beautiful places I know. Along with having an excellent hippie hot springs, it's got some great hiking, camping, and waterfalls. This waterfall is just a small creek entering the river, but I love this spot so much, just upstream from the parking area for the hot springs. I usually walk over and drink from this waterfall, filling my bottle while I'm at it. In my song, The Sandbox Song, this is the waterfall that inspired the line "water so clean you can drink it right from the falls."
The Waterfalls of Yelapa
I lived in Mexico for about five months when I was in my mid twenties. First I lived on the beach, but then after I did a peyote ceremony, I felt motivated to move to this hidden jungle spot I'd been told about and just camp along the river. I chose a spot near this waterfall, on a pristine river that runs through Yelapa. About an hour's hike from town, it was isolated, but close enough for me to make supply runs. I had some serious breakthroughs in my spiritual practice during this time, and I loved swimming naked in these falls every morning and evening.
Firehole Falls, Yellowstone
I have no story for this pic. I just love this waterfall. Not sure if I even got the name right, but I know this is in Yellowstone.
Toketee Falls, Oregon
This is an amazing waterfall. It's along the North Fork of the Umpqua, not far from the hot springs. A short hike in, along an exciting white water canyon, leads you to a great view point of this powerful drop. I went with the family in wintertime when then weather wasn't as nice, but the flow rate was way up. What a torrential roar it made.
Pagosa Springs, Colorado
No story for these falls either. Taken somewhere near Pagosa.
Jenny Creek, California
I moved to Oregon to be part of a homestead community that was forming, and this creek (nearly a river) was right alongside the land the community purchased, right on the border of OR and CA. It was not easy to hike down there though, as this was very wild country, with no real trails, and tall cliffs on either side of this part of Jenny Creek. I had a great time when I spent about three days scouting around the land and hiking down Jenny Creek, where I found two really nice waterfalls.
Oregon City Falls
Only recently, while researching pioneer life for a historical fiction novel, did I learn about the Falls on the Willamette, a little south of Portland. When driving back from a trip up north with the family last year, I decided to take us through Oregon City to check them out. It was impressive waterfall, with a huge volume of water. It was hard to really enjoy, though, because of the massive industrial operations going on everywhere around, but I enjoyed imagining settlers moving into the Willamette Valley discovering these falls and having to portage around them.
Lower Umpqua Falls
Another great falls along the Umpqua. This spot is a really nice swimming hole, where I went with my sister and her family when they visited a few years back. It's a perfect waterfall for kids because they can walk right out on it, from above, and it's big, but not dangerous to be in the water down below it.
Cumberland Falls, Kentucky
I was taken to Cumberland Falls while visiting my grandparents many times throughout my childhood. I loved it there. Sometimes the falls were just a trickle, but they were roaring... what a sight. They're only about 60 feet tall, but it's like a small version of Niagara, and I always wanted to try going over this one in a boat. I think one could make it....
Lower Falls of Yellowstone
Yellowstone National Park was one of my favorite places growing up. We visited there in 88 and 89, before and after the big fire that they had. One of my favorite sights was this massive waterfall, Lower Falls. I took my kids there in 2012.
Falls Along the Rio Machuga, Costa Rica
When we lived in Costa Rica, we were right along the Rio Machuga, which was a beautiful, serene river during the dry season. During the rainy season, I can only imagine what kind of turbulent white water goes roaring through the canyon. During our stay, the waterfalls were peaceful and we could go and sit underneath them. There was even one spot which had a natural slide that was very popular with the children, and the children at heart...
Smokey Mountain National Park
I don't know the name of these falls. I encountered several pristine waterfalls while hiking in the Smokeys. I could seldom resist the temptation to get in, though it resulted in lots of hikes back with wet underwear in tow.
Jungle Waterfall, Hawaii
While I was living in Hawaii with my friend Justin, we were invited to a neat swimming hole in the central part of Oahu. It was a beautiful spot with a nice waterfall, but the best part was the jumping point. You could jump into the deep part of the pool from some 30 feet up, but you couldn't see your landing spot from the jump spot. You just had to trust that the water was there and go crashing through the leaves. Very thrilling.
Puerto Iguazu, Argentina
While visiting Iguazu Falls, we stayed in the nearby town of Puerto Iguazu, where I learned about a swimming spot on the cliffs at the edge of town. I hiked down there and had a dip, enjoying the fresh cool water immensely on that hot, humid day.
Mill Creek, Oregon
There are actually two Mill Creeks (maybe even more) in Oregon. This is near the coast, close to the Smith River and Umpqua Rivers. We hiked there from a lake we were visiting, though it was not the time of year when even I was tempted to get in the water...
Waterfalls of Northern Utah
I visited Utah with my sister Laurie and her husband Phillip, many years back, before either of us had kids. We hiked out to several waterfalls (including the one posted earlier) the names of which I don't know. I climbed up to the brink wherever I could.
The very next year after that Utah trip, I met up with Laurie and Phillip when they were traveling through Colorado and we took many more awesome hikes.
Rio Ceballos, Argentina
While visiting Cordoba, Argentina, we took a day trip out to a reservoir where there was a waterfall hike. It was a beautiful hike, though we barely had enough time to make it up there and back before our bus out of town left.
Upper Eagle Falls, Lake Tahoe
We visited these falls on our way out of town after skiing at Tahoe. It was a beautiful day and the falls were gorgeous, only when we returned to our car, we found someone had stolen our picnic lunch and our water bottles. This was the end of my "why bother locking the doors?" phase.
Waterfalls of Baños, Ecuador
When we visited Baños, we were sold on a waterfall tour that would supposedly take us to seven different waterfalls. I only counted three, four if you count the first stop, with two side by side falls, as two. It was not a great tour, but the falls were definitely impressive, especially the last falls, the devil's something or another.
While driving back to Oregon from Nevada, we went through about 12 hours of barren desert, but occasionally we would pass a beautiful river. I had to stop to snap a picture of this cascade, though I don't know the name of the river.
This was always one of my favorite waterfalls as a kid, though I didn't get to visit it in person until I was in my twenties. It was just a quick stop over on my way to Boston, but wow, was it impressive.