Oregon Day 2 – Washington

Cook, Washington (Kyle Jones)

Spirit Falls – Cook, Washington (Kyle Jones)

Day 2 of our Oregon trip brought us across the Columbia River into Washington. My goal was Spirit Falls. I had never visited this one before but I had been captivated by its turquoise waters in pictures I had seen online. Access to Spirit Falls is somewhat sketchy. As I understand it (because the internet says so) the falls themselves are public. However, access to the falls may be across private property and the owner has been known at times to make that clear (as is his right). So we decided to leave early in the morning to minimize the likelihood of running into anyone and arrived at the “trailhead” just after sunrise. The trail is mostly just a scramble down some loose rocks, eventually reaching a wet, wooded area and the Salmon River.

Cook, Washington (Kyle Jones)

Spirit Falls from the Top – Cook, Washington (Kyle Jones)

The three of us spread out with Alejandro climbing down to the river (more on that later), Matt starting at a nice spot above him, and I found a view from the top framed between some mossy trees (see above). For this shot I blended several exposures, each focused on a different part of the scene. The trees were just a foot or two from my camera and this was the only way I could keep everything in focus. I chose a shutter speed that would show some of the power of the falls, with the turbulent water churning below them.

Cook, Washington (Kyle Jones)

Above Spirit – Cook, Washington (Kyle Jones)

I then swapped places with Matt and captured the above photo showing the main falls along with the water rushing below them. I again took several exposures to keep everything in focus, especially the moss tree that was just a foot from the camera. You can see a log laying across the river in this scene. For those that are paying attention, you’ll notice that the log is missing in the shot at the top of this post. Did I find an angle where I could keep it out of my shot? No – I took this as an opportunity to practice my Photoshop skills and digitally removed it.

After capturing this shot I watched Alejandro down by the river below me and starting trying to figure out how to get there. I definitely couldn’t climb down from where I was. The trail we had taken down seemed to cross a small creek and then disappeared again. My best guess was that I would have to climb down that small creek to get to the bottom, which didn’t seem particularly pleasant. Eventually Alejandro climbed back up and confirmed my fears – that was the way to go.

Cook, Washington (Kyle Jones)

Spirit Falls River – Cook, Washington (Kyle Jones)

The trail did in fact cross the creek, which formed a small waterfall running down to the river. Getting to the bottom required climbing down within that waterfall and trying not to slip on the wet rocks and mud. Was it worth it? Absolutely! The view from along the water was beautiful and I spent quite a bit of time capturing the motion of the turquoise water before making my way back up the hill. Once we got back to the car we found a small restaurant that had some great breakfast burritos before heading to our next location.

I had been to Panther Creek Falls before and knew we had to include it on our itinerary. It is a relatively short drive from Spirit Falls, still in Southern Washington. The good news is that there is a nice, well-maintained trail to the main viewpoint for the falls. The bad news is that the best angles require climbing down wet, slippery rocks (it was drizzling the whole time we were there) to the stream below the waterfall.

Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington (Kyle Jones)

Panther Creek Falls – Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington (Kyle Jones)

Having been there before, I had an idea in mind what I wanted to try. I removed my hiking shoes and put on my SCUBA booties so I could wade into the water. I ended up about chest deep to capture the shot above. Alejandro was nice enough to take my picture (below) which gives a nice view of the scene. The hardest part was keeping my lens dry, both from the mist from the falls and the light rain and I had to wipe ot down after each exposure.

Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington (Alejandro Velarde)

Capturing Panther – Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington (Alejandro Velarde)

We posed for a group shot (below) before climbing back up to the main viewing area.

Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington (Kyle Jones)

Panther Creek Group – Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington (Kyle Jones)

Once back at the top, I decided to look for scenes along the creek above the falls. I really liked the view below with the trees and other green foliage along the creek and spent some time finding the composition I liked best.

Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington (Kyle Jones)

Panther Creek – Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington (Kyle Jones)

We then made one more stop before calling it a day. After crossing the Columbia River to get back into Oregon we stopped at Elowah Falls. I found a spot along the creek at the bottom of the falls that I liked (below) and tried a few compositions. After hiking back to the car in the rain we decided that was enough for the day and made a much needed stop at Dairy Queen.

Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, Oregon (Kyle Jones)

Elowah Falls – Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, Oregon (Kyle Jones)

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