It’s creeping into the rainy season here in Seattle. And that means I’m either going to hide in my studio and work on releasing my older projects, or get off my butt and get out there and learn to shoot for the conditions. After talking with several friends, It was evident that I needed to go check out Wallace Falls State Park. So with moderate rain on the forecast, I packed up early Saturday morning and headed out into the grey.
Washington State Parks website describes the park as “The Wallace Falls State Park Management Area is a 4,735-acre camping park with shoreline on the Wallace River, Wallace Lake, Jay Lake, Shaw Lake and the Skykomish River. Located on the west side of the Cascade Mountains, the park features a 265-foot waterfall, old-growth coniferous forests, and fast- moving rivers and streams. Opportunities to view local wildlife, including cougar near Wallace Falls, and peregrine falcons inhabit the rock cliffs of the Index Town Wall.”
Sounds interesting enough, but what’s it really going to be like on a rainy day?
Making it out the park was easy. A little over an hours car ride and I am already on the trail. The conditions were cloudy with a little bit of rain. Thankfully the ground was still mostly dry, so I didn’t have to deal with too much wetness right off the bat.
The great thing about this trail is you can start seeing beautiful river views not more than 10 min walking in.
The previous 10 min were spent walking under a set of power lines where the wind comes ripping through. And with the outside temp being roughly 43 degrees I was beginning to wonder if I underdressed.
Thankfully, things weren’t as harsh once you make your way into the forest trail.
Not more than 15 min into the hike, and you are already at the Small falls. It’s a nice introduction to the plethora of falls you will be observing on your hike.
There’s a little path off to the right of the small falls that lets you get up and close to it.
At the top of the small falls. In order to get closer to the falls I made my way out on this large fallen tree. I was hesitant to go much further out as I didn’t want it to break or worse I slip and go sliding right off and into the falls.
One more slow shutter shot of the small falls. You can see the tree slide in the upper right of the shot.
After the Small falls, the trail follows along the Wallace rivers edge. Not quite in the forest the trail provides for a few places to duck off and get a better view of the river.
About a mile in and the trail picks things up and switches difficulty from easy to moderate. It pulls you away from the river and puts you into the forest. If you like fern covered forest beds then you are in the right place.
As you hike upward, every now and then you get a view of the river winding below.
There isn’t much to this shot, but I wanted to highlight the amazing job the park has done in marking the trails and informing the hiker of their location and how far other areas of the park are from your given local. I think there was only one point where I would have liked a sign. Otherwise this hike was worry free.
Roughly after a mile and a half you pass over the North Fork of Wallace River.
Standing on the bridge over the North Fork of Wallace River. Really wish that small tree hadn’t fallen where it did.
After crossing over the bridge, I found a small trail that lead to the rivers edge.
Trying to find a place to take a photo with the bridge in the background I managed to get some rain on the lens.
Thankfully, just a bit further up the trail is the shelter and viewing point for the Lower falls. I took advantage of the covered picnic table and spent some time drying off the camera and trying to clean the lens.
I love the Lower falls viewpoint because you can see the Middle falls in the background. Normally with falls in the forest, they are obscured by growth. However this one has a clear shot with two thirds of it viewable.
Closeup of the top of Lower falls.
A little further down you can get yet another view of the Lower falls.
I was so enthralled with the distant view of the Middle falls that I swapped out lenses and opted to take a few telephoto shots.
I love the depth and perspective of this shot.
Time to get back on the trail, the forest floor is increasingly covered in moss.
The orange/red trail with the mossy green forest was making for some beautiful scenery. Just watch your step, there are exposed roots and rocks everywhere.
The last leaves of fall.
Two miles in. Almost to the Middle falls.
From a distance the Middle falls were beautiful. But the closer I got, the more incredible they became. It’s no wonder it’s considered the main feature of this park.
265 feet of falling water.
A little closer view of the top of Middle falls.
For some reason I didn’t bring my mono-pod on this trip. Not really sure why I did that. Fortunately, this park has a ton of safety rails for me to buttress the camera against so I could still get a clear shot with blur on the falling water. One passing hiker asked to see my photos and said “Ooo, it’s all milky.” I guess that’s how you can describe it.
Following the trail up even further takes you right up the Middle falls.
There is a large area to sit and view the falls here. As I rested, cleaned camera parts and looked for geocaches, another solo hiker camped out near by. He must have been sitting near the warning sign because as he passed me he said hello, but also said in a joking tone “Remember…falling can be deadly.” And as he turned away, he tripped on a root and nearly busted his ass. He must have been a little embarrassed because he didn’t look back and tried to play it off like nothing happened. Poor guy.
Back to the waterfall, I wanted to try to capture some of the emerald and brown colors below the water’s surface.
Another shot of the top of Middle falls. My OCD makes me hate that log jammed in the falls.
Looking down from the same area, you can see where the Middle falls end and the Wallace River continues.
Done with the Middle falls, there’s one more fall left to investigate. So up the mountain I hike.
Upper falls is beautiful, but some of its thunder is definitely stolen by Middle falls.
When I arrived to this lookout there was a group of older women camped out and having lunch. They had taken their dog with them, It was a larger dog and scared of strangers, or just scared of me. I only say that because they tied up the dog to the middle of the tiny viewing area and as I wanted to go have a look the dog decided otherwise. After much aggressive barking, the women realized I wanted to see the falls as well and moved her dog for me.
With all of the falls now encapsulated in my camera’s memory cards. I had one of two choices. I could either retrace my steps down the river path. Or make my way out to Wallace lake via the Upper Grade. Which is really just a rough access road/trail.
Going to the lake would add three miles to my hike. But it could also be awesome. So I decided to go to the lake.
On the Upper Grade, hiking is a lot easier. But it’s also boring. Access roads are never intimate with their surroundings.
I did manage to see this huge shelf fungus from the road.
About 30 min down the road, I could tell I was getting close to Wallace Lake. I was already formulating the kinds of photos I wanted to try to capture. So imagine my surprise as I came up to a completely flooded out trail road. And I don’t mean flooded by a few inches, I mean a few feet! All I could think of was my swamp walking time in Florida and started to mutter “no no no…” I’ve come too far to turn around now (actually I just didn’t want to go all the way back down that boring access road).
Since this isn’t Florida and things are definitely not flat like Florida I pushed off the trail to try to find a way around the flooding.
And that’s when I saw it.
There was beaver action all over the place. I’ve never seen the effects of beavers in person until now. And seeing this huge tree chewed down for scraps was extremely impressive. And frightening. Just look at those teeth marks!
It was amazing what the beavers were capable of. The entire region was flooded. And I had to carefully choose which fallen tress to walk on so I could hop to the next and continue making my way forward.
It was kind of a huge pain. A bit dangerous with the slipperiness. But the fact that moss was covering anything that fell to the ground made it worth the hassle.
About 15 to 20 min of circumventing the flood I got back to the trail. I decided to check out the beavers handy work. Here I am standing in a couple inches of water. Looking back you can see their little dam.
Up at the dam, it’s hard to tell how big it is with photos. I’d say that dam is roughly knee high. And you can see the trail road to the upper left of the shot.
Funny thing is, is this turns out to be an ongoing issue.
Towards the end of my hike I passed a couple hikers and they asked me if I saw the beaver dam. We laughed about having to go around it. And they informed me that supposedly the park rangers had been out a week prior to remove the dam, yet here it is again, fully installed. I guess you could say those were some “busy beavers” ha haaa…err ok.
I finally made it to Wallace Lake. Here I am standing over the bridge where the North Fork of Wallace River begins. Since all the water flows in this direction, all the fallen trees end up here as well.
Not happy with my river photo I trekked a path through the forest and out to the lake’s edge.
I walked out a little more onto the floating trees but didn’t make it too far. They were extremely slippery and falling into a lake was the last thing I wanted to do on my hike.
After I made my way back to the trail it was time to head back to the car. I took a combination of the access roads and Greg Ball trail to make my way back. It was a nice hike, but mostly the same forest views I covered on my way through the falls. A quarter of the way back the rain really picked up so I packed in my camera and covered my bag with its rain sheath.
I made it back to my car and my camera equipment survived the rain. All in all it was an amazing hike and I learned a lot about getting out there even when the weather isn’t perfect. In fact, I kind of like the waterfall photos when it’s all cloudy and overcast. It adds a new dimension for me and really sets the Pacific Northwest tone.
After processing all the photos, I took a moment and headed over to WentHiking.com so I could plot out my trip and get some metrics behind the hike.
The total time I spent on the trail was six hours. And WentHiking tells me that I traveled 8 miles with 2371 feet of climbing. Not bad for a half day hike.