Where Balloons Go to Die*

Upper Three Corners Falls I shot 360° panoramas at Three Corners Falls today, a set of four waterfalls along an officially unnamed creek outside of Stevenson, WA. The payoff was palpable, if I had any feeling left in my palps to sense it: four waterfalls, not the planned three, all in rapid succession (geographically speaking) along an untamed-since-loggers-last-had-it corridor on the north side of the Columbia River Gorge. I hoped to catch them on the girthier side of recent rains, and I think I succeeded. This might explain the mysterious fourth waterfall, a lightweight of 15 to 20 feet in height that preceded the more vertiginous Upper Corner Creek Falls.

The "hike," if I were to call it that, required about two hours of off-trail bushwhacking through dense forest. Water and Devil's club were everywhere, and a want for solid footing made for intimate encounters with both. I took many, many branches to the face and at least one tree trunk to the groin, which seems to be a discouraging trend during these excursions.

These photos are interactive. Click on them and drag your cursor to pan left, right, up or down. On a Mac, iPhone or iPad, standard gestures will also zoom in or out. For a bigger viewer, click View on Google Maps in the upper left corner. If you think you're nuts, get some of these.

[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?layer=c&panoid=WyvAMR5cWZEAAAQpgX9pNw&ie=UTF8&source=embed&output=svembed&cbp=13%2C325.29061396731527%2C%2C0%2C2.5706652577633804&w=560&h=315]Tributary of Rock Creek just south of Red Bluff Road

This is the view from the approximate trailhead. As you can see, the creek is the trail.

[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?layer=c&panoid=eX7yBTjNPUEAAAQpg4CR_g&ie=UTF8&source=embed&output=svembed&cbp=13%2C113.10363751841226%2C%2C0%2C33.653386709897454&w=560&h=315]On my ass above Middle Three Corners Falls

In order to reach the higher falls, however, you have to climb around the vertical drops. Here, I went way too high. Many of these rocks were loose, and all of them were covered in a coat of moss at times six to eight inches thick.

[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?layer=c&panoid=NqVWpJce6n0AAAQphLeCyQ&ie=UTF8&source=embed&output=svembed&cbp=13%2C185.6808%2C%2C0%2C0&w=560&h=315]Lower Three Corners Falls
[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?layer=c&panoid=gKeOgKRS06wAAAQpgX9pNg&ie=UTF8&source=embed&output=svembed&cbp=13%2C142.28022898089824%2C%2C0%2C20.358646762011574&w=560&h=315]Middle Three Corners Falls
[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?layer=c&panoid=0GKfklNx7IoAAAQphPDZQQ&ie=UTF8&source=embed&output=svembed&cbp=13%2C222.8844%2C%2C0%2C0&w=560&h=315]Mysterious unnamed falls
[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?layer=c&panoid=U-hsWGAwDhcAAAQphPDZQA&ie=UTF8&source=embed&output=svembed&cbp=13%2C203.06693367509035%2C%2C0%2C-16.605228809143355&w=560&h=315]Upper Three Corners Falls

In hike reports, Upper Three Corners Falls purported to be a perfect location for a panorama. It didn't disappoint, despite my belief that it was a triple-falls instead of a double-. I was surprised to find something this scenic in a part of the Northwest that's been pored over for destinations. I've heard, but never really acknowledged, that there are backwaters of the Gorge that feature even greater spectacle, places that few know about and fewer visit. I hope that this is an example of the costs and benefits. For example, has anyone scaled the rock face on the southern side of the Gorge? There's gotta be some cool stuff up there.

Anyone looking to follow in my footsteps, be forewarned: this isn't for the faint of heart. Be prepared for a physical challenge. Wear protective clothing—Gore-Tex or other durable rain gear will shield you from spikes, thorns, and other blood-letting barbs, not to mention moisture. In particular, wear durable gloves, because you'll want to keep four points on the ground in many places. Most importantly, go once, and never go back. I can't stress enough how destructive I was in getting from fall to fall, and how unavoidable it was to be destructive. You can stick to the creek, but you'll have to step out at different points, and higher-trafficked areas already bear signs of scarring this early in the season—heavy boot prints, flattened ferns, bare branches serendipitously scraped clean of moss. Soak it up the first time, because next year, people will know you've been there.

Other goodies:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkeKQBUVZC0]Slow motion video of Middle Three Corners Falls

A simple panorama of the twin falls at Upper Three Corners Falls.

* Not a figure of speech.

Photospheres from Silver Falls State Park

One of my five-year plans is to get into 360-degree photography. These days, this is incredibly easy to do–pick up your smart phone, download a Google app called Photo Sphere Camera, and start snapping pics. I'd actually recommend that you download the app for viewing as well, especially if you have an iPad. In addition to photography, it allows you to use the tablet as a viewer, and you can look around a photosphere by moving the iPad around. Photos take a while, and it'll make you look a little bit like a goofball as you stand in one spot and take about 30 consecutive photos—at least one guy glared at me—but the result is worth it. I've taken a couple trips to do this in the past month, one a teaser for a much longer journey that's part of a mapping project I want to put together. The more recent, a trip to Silver Falls State Park, was much more spectacular. I've never been to Silver Falls, and I shy from heavily trafficked natural areas for reasons I have trouble defending, but I'm telling you, this is one of the most amazing places in Oregon. On a good day, after we've had a lot of rain, the falls are roaring. We were lucky enough to visit on a day when the park was relatively deserted. Aside from a time commitment that forced us to speed up a leisurely pace, it was one of the best hiking days I've had in a long time.

Anyway, I took a lot of photospheres, found out that "photosphere" is a cumbersome word that sounds really nerdy when you say you're about to take them, and emasculated myself on a huge log that blocked the trail. Be forewarned that the photos aren't perfect, so any floating heads, arms, or other human appendages (which you'll find) are merely technological defects and not the evidence of gratuitous violence. In time, the technology will improve and the task will become less demanding. In the meantime, here are some of my favorites. There are around 15 of these. You can look a few here, but for best viewing, check out my profile on Google Views.

[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?layer=c&panoid=VZLASHjYBdcAAAQZbqZPhQ&ie=UTF8&source=embed&output=svembed&cbp=13%2C85.01396804963849%2C%2C0%2C0.10977365817709028&w=560&h=315]
Double Falls
[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?layer=c&panoid=Ub2wFH3MOjMAAAQZbOUfFQ&ie=UTF8&source=embed&output=svembed&cbp=13%2C126.1664428387779%2C%2C0%2C2.57396977459085&w=560&h=315]
Middle North Falls
[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?layer=c&panoid=CcbW7kGT2LkAAAQZbOUfDA&ie=UTF8&source=embed&output=svembed&cbp=13%2C352.7200296229941%2C%2C0%2C8.979040579664712&w=560&h=315]
Middle North Falls from inside
[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?layer=c&panoid=qGJK2ViiRpEAAAQZbOUfCw&ie=UTF8&source=embed&output=svembed&cbp=13%2C227.9184590535697%2C%2C0%2C0.41527243176535933&w=560&h=315]
North Falls

I shot a video, too:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tu8vkGWtJ8E]

And how about a few more photos for posterity:

In what felt like old growth, Doug Firs like this had to be 150-200 feet tall. Some of them were double trees with trunks that split a quarter of the way up.

Panorama taken at the entrance to the park, facing west toward Silverton and I-5. The valley is shrouded in fog.