North of Carson, Washington and about 45 crow-flying miles northeast of Portland is an interesting ecosystem along Falls Creek. Beargrass is seen below 2,000 feet (usually grows above 3,000 feet), tamarack trees are in evidence (much more common on the east side of the Cascades), and wild orchids and lilies are abundant.
On Memorial Day weekend I drove to the trailhead on a pleasant shirt-sleeve day. I hadn’t hiked 20 feet from the trailhead until spotting a calypso orchid, one of hundreds seen during the trek. Other varieties of wildflowers were blue windflowers, yellow violets, white fairy bells, yellow Oregon grape and a few white beargrass plumes. But the highlight of the hike was spotting three coyotes hunting, four blacktail deer feeding in various spots, a pika, many fresh elk tracks and frequent black bear sign.
Following the lower trail, I stayed near the creek for 1 3/4 miles until reaching the bottom of Falls Creek 200-foot, three-tiered waterfall. After enjoying the spectacular views of the waterfall dropping into a punchbowl, I backtracked and took a rough path to the upper trail. Turning right, it was only one mile to a viewpoint over the upper portion of the waterfalls. The views down the Falls Creek Valley were interesting but there was little to see of the falls. So, I continued up the trail for another 3 3/4 miles, passing several nice campsites by the Creek and some pretty meadows. Soon I left the Hemlock forest and entered a relatively flat area with small pines and alder. After hitting a well-used dirt road, I turned around, followed the trail to its end and returned by the lower trail to the trailhead. All in all the hike was 13 1/2 miles in length with 1,700 feet of elevation gain. An enjoyable trek indeed.