I\ue001 you\u2019re searching \ue001or a de- scription o\ue001 why many o\ue001 us enjoy water\ue001alls so much, look no \ue001ur- ther than William Wordsworth. In \u201cLines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey,\u201d the Eng- lish poet wrote in 1798:
The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion:
the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep
and gloomy wood,
Their colours and their
forms, were then to me
An appetite; a feeling and a
In Washington\u2019s deep and gloomy woods (and also in its arid, rolling hills), you\u2019ll \ue000nd an abundance o\ue001 \u201ccataracts,\u201d \ue001rom subtle cascading streams to thun- dering \ue001alls that shake the stones to their \ue001oundations. In \ue001act, our mountains\u2014the Cascades\u2014are named \ue001or the multitudes o\ue001 \ue001all- ing waters you\u2019ll \ue000nd here.
One o\ue001 the joys o\ue001 water\ue001all viewing in the Northwest is that you\u2019ll always \ue000nd at least one fowing any time o\ue001 year. Some are perennial, \ue001alling year-round. Others are seasonal. Some stream \ue001rom glaciers heating in the sum- mer sun, some are \ue001ed by winter rains, and others course \ue001rom melting snow packs in spring. Many can be reached by car, but the most rewarding are those requiring a hike\u2014either a short wander through the woods, or a grueling multi-day backpacking pilgrimage.
Pilgrimage is an appropriate term, since so many o\ue001 us treat water\ue001alls with a special kind o\ue001 reverence. There\u2019s something hypnotic about a water\ue001all. The incessant white noise tends to drown out fitting thoughts and provide a moment \ue001or contempla- tion. But there\u2019s also a raw power and danger about them. It\u2019s that mix o\ue001 beauty and awe the poets called the sublime.
There\u2019s a good reason that Wordsworth is quoted on a sign at the start o\ue001 the trail to Wallace Falls, outside the town o\ue001 Gold Bar. \u201cCome \ue001orth into the light o\ue001 things. Let nature be your teacher,\u201d it reads. On a recent weekend, I decided to take that advice and savor the \ue001alls. What I learned was that you can experience the sublime even on a trail packed with \ue001ellow bootsteppers.
Broken into three tiers, Wal- lace Falls can be observed \ue001rom a number o\ue001 rest stops at the upper end o\ue001 the 2.7-mile Woody Trail. Railings provide a small com\ue001ort as you peer into the chasm o\ue001 the Wallace River. In late winter, the \ue001alls were surging with rainwater and sending out a roar worthy o\ue001 the space shuttle.
The 265-\ue001oot Middle Falls is the most impressive, i\ue001 \ue001or no other reason than this is the clearest view you\u2019ll get o\ue001 the three \ue001alls. Many remote \ue001alls in the Paci\ue000c Northwest might be equally as popular as Wal- lace\u2014i\ue001 not \ue001or the \ue001act that they
aren\u2019t visible through thickets o\ue001 Douglas \ue000r, devil\u2019s club and \ue001erns surrounding them. But here the endless stream o\ue001 white is very visible and inspiring.
There were plenty o\ue001 other hikers gawking at the spectacle on a balmy March a\ue001ternoon, but that didn\u2019t diminish the \ue001orce o\ue001 its beauty. The Upper Falls is my \ue001avorite\u2014and not just because the higher elevation tends to weed out the exhausted masses. It\u2019s a novel perspective, peering down into the bowl o\ue001 the \ue001alls opposite. At eye level with the plummet o\ue001 water, you\u2019re more aware o\ue001 gravity at work here. Gripping the smooth, peeled- log railing, I \ue001elt it shudder \ue001rom the impact o\ue001 \ue001alling water. The upwelling mist shook the mosses and \ue001erns hanging precariously \ue001rom the black cli\ue001\ue001s, and as it rose, it cooled my \ue001ace.
I\ue001 nothing else, all that \ue001alling water makes a hiker thirsty. A\ue001ter a steep and quick climb to the top o\ue001 the \ue001alls, I \ue000nished o\ue001\ue001 the last drops in my water bottle, as a bead o\ue001 sweat trickled down my arm. All this \ue001alling water makes you glad to be alive.
Photo: Feature Show Falls
along the Boulder River
Trail, Boulder River Wilder-
ness. Waterfalls combine
the beautiful and the
powerful in a compelling
Just about as long as he can remem- ber, Bryan Swan has had a thing \ue001or water\ue001alls.
\u201cOne o\ue001 my \ue000rst memories,\u201d he says, \u201cwas hiking to Rainy Lake with my par- ents when I was maybe 3 or 4 and seeing the water\ue001all on the \ue001ar end.\u201d
Since then, he has made an avocation o\ue001 water\ue001all spotting in the Northwest. In 1998 he started a website cataloguing the region\u2019s water\ue001alls. In February 2005 it underwent a major trans\ue001ormation and www.water\ue001allsnorthwest.com is now the most impressive collection o\ue001 in\ue001orma-
tion on Northwest \ue001alls. Over 3,000 \ue001alls in Washington state alone are cataloged, described, and sometimes photographed. Each list- ing includes height, width, magnitude (volume o\ue001 water fow), seasonality, source, and GPS coordinates. As comprehensive as the site is, Swan insists he\u2019s only scratched the sur\ue001ace.
\u201cI\u2019ve got approximately 3,000 inventoried in Wash- ington. I imagine that\u2019s prob- ably less than 20 percent o\ue001 the total count.\u201d
Swan is com\ue001ortable ei- ther driving, hiking, or bushwhacking to \ue001ollow his obsession. He\u2019s never had a mishap at a \ue001alls, although one time he was so \ue000xated on trying to get a glimpse o\ue001 a \ue001alls in British Columbia he neglected to notice the rear end o\ue001 an elk not more than a \ue001ew \ue001eet \ue001rom his nose.
He\u2019s recently started to venture o\ue001\ue001-trail to some o\ue001 the more remote and spec- tacular \ue001alls in the state. He recently had the opportunity to see Depot Creek Falls, a 975-\ue001oot \ue001alls in Washing- ton\u2019s North Cascades that\u2019s only accessible by crossing
south over the border \ue001rom British Columbia. He describes it as \u201cpos- sibly the most impressive water\ue001all I\u2019ve been to in person. Possibly only Yosemite Falls tops it.\u201d On his list to see \ue000rsthand: Sulphide Creek Falls on the southeast fank o\ue001 Mount Shuksan and Green Lake Falls at the headwaters o\ue001 Bacon Creek in the North Cascades. Both probably exceed 2,000 \ue001eet in height, and both require battling what he dubs \u201cclass 5 brush\u201d to reach them.
But you don\u2019t have wrestle devil\u2019s club and slide alder to see many o\ue001 the state\u2019s impressive water\ue001alls. See the \ue001ollowing page \ue001or a brie\ue001 list o\ue001 some o\ue001 Swan\u2019s \ue001avorites in Washington.
For water\ue001alls that aren\u2019t \ue001ed by glaciers, April to June is prime time, while glacier-\ue001ed \ue001alls tend to peak between June and September.
How should I
Swan suggests using a polarizing \ue000lter to help make the \ue001alling water stand out \ue001rom the surrounding cli\ue001\ue001s. He also recommends shoot- ing pictures on an overcast day to reduce contrast, and better bal- ance the white o\ue001 the \ue001alls with the dark o\ue001 the surrounding rocks.
Swan\u2019s website www.water\ue001alls- northwest.com is an invaluable resource.
For in\ue001ormation on \ue001alls in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho consult Gregory Plumb\u2019s book
For in\ue001ormation on water\ue001alls \ue001ur- ther a\ue000eld, consult Bryan Swan\u2019s World Water\ue001all Database at www. world-water\ue001alls.com.
A hiker contemplates Comet Falls, Mount Rainier
National Park. In addition to the 320-foot falls,
waterfalls coming out of Rainier\u2019s glaciers are
another reason to check out this trail in mid-
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