Saturday, March 16, 2013

Devils Staircase


I went looking for Devil’s Staircase. I went searching for it in the Oregon wilderness several times amidst the verdant old growth and steep ravines and I never called up anyone to ask how to get there, since I thought this would give me a good reason to go tramping through the wilderness for days at a time, deep in the heart of the Coast Range, exploring and getting in really good shape while seeing some really giant trees, some five feet in diameter, massive firs that were growing before the first white men settled the region. Instead I was just going off photographs of what it looked like and the general location I found on a vague map.

     Devil’s Staircase is a water fall in the temperate rainforest in one of the remotest corners of Oregon, not an actual religious anti-deity. To get to it you have to drive or walk for several miles on narrow gravel roads that meander along the crest of sharp ridges and then descend on foot near vertical slopes crashing through walls of vine maple and salmon berry for a mile to get to Wassen Creek. And then if you make it to the creek you have to hike in the water since the sides are too overgrown with brush. Then you have to figure out whether to go upstream or down, and whether the water fall is even on Wassen Creek or one of the many nearby tributaries.

     I searched all over, following Wassen Creek several miles downstream, and then hiking over the top of a ridge for two miles to cut a huge bend in the creek, where the thumping of pileated woodpeckers pecking dead trees rang out in the forest like rifle fire. Then in the evening I’d eat some bread and nettles and curl up under a tree to sleep, and then at first light I’d get up and start walking again, over another ridge somewhere.  I probably hiked a lot farther than was necessary to find Devil’s Staircase, probably going where people have never gone before, but you know what, I really didn’t care if I found the water fall or not, since there were a lot more almost as good. I just wanted to be out there roaming around in the forest for two or three-day stretches so I could come back home feeling rejuvenated and worn out from hiking so vigorously and serenely in nature.