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Fall Creek

May 1999

I went on this hike in the middle of May, just as the beautiful Spring greens were coming out. Unfortunately I didn't decide to leave for this hike until 1:30, so by the time I got out there from Eugene, it was nearing 2:30, and I didn't get to spend as much time on the trail as I had hoped to. I still was able to do 7 miles though (just 3.5 in, and 3.5 out), and get a good idea of what the forest is like.

Unfortunately the day I went on this hike it was a very bright, sunny day and almost all of my pictures suffer from some burn out. I was very surprised to only see one other party on the trail (more on them later). There were, however, lots of people fishing all along the creek. Highway 18 follows the Creek (mostly unobtrusively) for most of the trail. The highway is on the other side of the creek though; therefor so were all the fishermen.

The hike is quite easy as the trail is almost entirely flat, gaining only a few hundred feet even if you go the entire 14 miles (one way) of the trail. This is certainly a hike you could bring your kids on (as long as they don't act like animals and ruin it for other people! :-) ).

As for the forest itself, it was fairly nice old growth. The forest wasn't necessary dense, but there were a few large trees in it which were pretty spectacular. My favorite image from this hike is the red ceder to the right. I think this would be a fantastic picture if it weren't for the damn burn out from the harsh sun light of around 6pm. This ceder was probably about 5 feet in diameter: very impressive. I love the way these ceder trees come down to the ground. This was probably the nicest ceder on the hike, and when I come back I'll be sure that it's either on an overcast day, or that I capture this picture later in the evening.

Shortly after I passed this tree for the first time (the picture was taken on the return trip) I heard some dogs barking. I always hate encountering dogs on the trail, and this time I was in for an extra special treat. After about 10 second of hearing barks without seeing dogs I finally saw 4 dogs sprinting towards me. I don't know what type of dogs these were (besides big, mean, ugly ones), but the four of them surrounded me, quite literally, so I couldn't move, and started growling at me in low voices, and throwing out an occasional bark. These beasts all had their big hairy teeth flaring out, ready to dig into my flesh, I'm sure. I just stood there with these animals threatening me, holding my tripod as my only defense in case they actually did bite, for probably about one full minute. I was wondering where the hell the owners were when finally I saw a couple walk around the bend. As they were walking towards me and their beasts they didn't say a thing to call off their dogs. Once they finally got up close to me they just walked right past me, and the dogs began to follow slowly behind. After they had passed one of the people said, "Oh, there's a blow down up the trail about 500 yards." Yeah, thanks a pant load pal.


It really pisses me off when people bring dogs like this on the trail. If the dog is always calm that's one thing, but even still it should probably be on a leash. These people don't even read the rules for the wilderness areas they're in. Almost every wilderness area in Oregon REQUIRES all dogs to be on leashes, no matter how "nice" they are. Often times dogs come up to me and threaten me and their owner will say, "Oh Hiker Killer Jr. [this being the dogs name, of course] won't hurt you." Yeah right! All that means is he hasn't bit anyone yet. If he had, he'd be dead. Anyway, the point is this: If you are going to be rude enough to bring a dog that's going to shit all over the trail, please, at least put him on a leash so you don't terrify other hikers.


One may assume that the draw on a trail called "Fall Creek" would be Fall Creek, but it really isn't that interesting. As noted above, the trail is very gradual, which means the creek also isn't falling at a very rapid pace. It is a fairly calm Creek, but a very large one. I don't think I took a single picture of the creek itself on the whole hike. What was much more interesting to me was the forest, and the small streams/creeks which were emptying into Fall Creek. The best of these is Timber Creek, which is the last one I crossed before turning around just before the trail crossed the highway. Timber Creek is about 15 feet wide, with a long foot bridge going over it. I was able to obtain the picture to the left by climbing down to the creek, walking carefully across some large rocks in the creek, and setting my tripod in a few inches of water.

In the Spring, the vegetation is really nice along the whole trail. Green Oxalis may be very simple, but I just love the way they carpet the whole ground. When I went on this hike (early may on a long winter year) the large wild flowers weren't out yet, but I did see a few nice small ones. They don't have the beauty of the large wild flowers when standing 4 feet from them, but when you really get down there and stick your nose in them they have every bit as much detail as the larger flowers. I love hunting out these miniature flowers and studying them up close.

This is a very nice hike, though not the best in the area. It is one of the few hikes that is open year round though, so if you want to get away during the winter this is a great place to go. I personally would wait till the spring though, when you can see the forest in it's full glory. Next year I plan on going farther up the trail, so when I do I will add to this report and let you know if it's worth it.


May 2000

As I said I would above, I made a journey back to the Fall Creek trail one year after the trip above. May main goal was to photograph the red ceder above, hopefully in better light. The forecast for the day was overcast skies with some showers. I went on a Thursday and, as I suspected, I didn't see anyone on the trail (just some people at the trailhead picking eatable mushrooms).

On the way in, I arrived at my tree around 3:30pm to sunny skies. It was mostly cloudy, but right where the sun was there was a clear patch of sky. The sun had been popping in and out all day, and I figured it would go down behind a cloud soon enough, so I setup my tripod anyway. I waited about 10 minutes before the sun went away. When I did, I quickly took a meter reading and snapped the picture. In the middle of the long exposure, the sun came back out. The picture turned out all over exposed. I waited there for another 20 minutes (a half hour in total) waiting for the sun to go away, but it wouldn't. I gave up, and just decided I'd photograph it on the way back. About 30 seconds after I got back on the trail the sun went behind a cloud. That's just about right... It was behind the clouds for about 5 minutes before it came back out. Oh well, I had another chance on my way back.

I made it to Timber Creek, where I took some pictures, and turned around. I tried to redo the picture above of Fall Creek, but while the sky isn't blown out, the compositions suffered because I tried to crop out too much of the sky and wound up including took much of the creek. I did walk across to the other side of the bridge over Timber Creek, and thought a picture of the bridge at 18mm would be interesting. I think the picture turned out well.

I came back to the red ceder I wanted to photograph around 5:30. The sun had been peeking out over the last hour. When I got to the tree, the sun was behind a cloud. By the time I setup the tripod and camera though, the sun had come back out. I waited for above 10 minutes before the sun went behind a cloud again. Now, instead of the sun ruining my picture, the wind was blowing the oxalis, so I couldn't take the picture! I waited a bit longer... The wind slowed a little bit, and the sun was mostly behind a cloud, so I took the picture to the left with the 24mm lens, the same focal length as the image from last year. The clouds that day were very thin, and I guess the sun was still shining through the clouds pretty strongly, because as you can see I have the very same burned out areas as I had in the image from 1999! I also like the composition of the 1999 picture better; the camera is too close to the tree in the new picture. Oh well...

I wondered how the tree would look at 18mm, so I stuck my 18mm f3.5 Nikkor on, recomposed, and came up with the picture to the right. Again, not as pleasing as the one from last year. I guess if I really want to get this picture right I just have to do it at dusk, on a wind free day. The wind was blowing the Oxalis very slightly in both of these pictures, so I'm surprised they came out as sharp as they did, but they are a little soft. It's too bad the composition of these two pictures isn't as nice as the one from last year, because the Oxalis were even more prolific this year than last.

In the review I wrote of this trail last year, I said that this trail has nice old growth, but not all that great. The more I thought about this trail over the last year, the more I started thinking it was nicer than I wrote. My trip this year confirmed this. While this may not be as dense as The Oneonta Trail, it is still a very complex, beautiful forest. Out of the trails I've been on east of Eugene, it probably has some of the best old growth I have seen, second only to French Pete Creek. The undergrowth is very lush throughout the trail, with some especially fantastic areas. There are lots of down logs with all kinds of wonderful vegetation growing on them.

100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades implies that the best old growth on this hike is on the section of the trail that I hiked here, and that the stuff on the rest of the trail isn't as interesting. This is the reason I never really continued on past Timber Creek. I recently bought a fold out map called 50 Old-Growth Hikes in the Willamette National Forest. At $7.95, it's expensive for just a fold out map, but it has tons of great information in it, and definitely worth the money. It describes all 14 miles of the Fall Creek trail and implies that all sections of the trail are just as interesting, in their own way, with the best groves of old growth in the later sections of the trail. So within the next few weeks I plan on heading back to do the whole trail. Maybe not in just one day, but the whole thing sounds very interesting. I would definitely recommend this hike for people living in the Eugene area looking for fantastic old growth.

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David Paris
Last modified: Wed May 10 17:47:45 PDT 2000