I keep trying to remember what it was like to be able to stay out all day, arrive after a couple hours of driving, throw a hammock up in a tree, lounge in the sun, drink a coffee/beer when you summit your hike, just enjoy the beauty of nature. When you have the ability to really explore and carve new paths to unseen parts of the forest. When the sun goes down at 10pm, laughing around camp fires, sleeping under the stars, and you can’t help but feel like a kid again. Thats what Oregon summers feel like. I miss them very much.
This day was not that. I had hopes of dry weather and a glimmer of sun but instead the pacific northwest gave me what it usually does; pouring rain! It’s fine. What else can you expect from Oregon the state of endless waterfalls + lush old growth forests, where you can usually find yourself flowing through every season in one afternoon.
On this particular Tuesday we decided to explore another waterfall I have had on my list for far too long. Screw the weather, its forecasted to rain for the next two weeks, we go anyway. So, we drove 4+ hours to southern oregon to visit Toketee Falls.
Toketee Falls is a two tiered waterfall first dropping 40 feet and then plunging another 80 feet over a wall of volcanic basalt to the turquoise pool at the bottom. In the Chinook language, the word “Toketee” means “pretty”, or “graceful”, an apt name for this inspiring waterfall. A trail lead us 1/4 mile through old-growth forests along the North Umpqua River with views of cascading water through the narrow rock gorge before heading up 200 steps to a sturdy viewing platform which was built around a tree for the perfect crowning view of the falls.
We arrived at the trailhead around 2pm to a few inches of snow covering everything and a constant light rain. We were the only ones there, maybe because it was Tuesday, maybe because we’re the only crazy people who decided to come hike in the slush and rain. Either way I am grateful for any place I can experience completely unhindered because I usually go into nature to escape most humans. The first thing you’ll notice when you arrive? Running along the trail head and parking lot is a very large pipeline, which we found fascinating just by the sheer size alone. The waterfall is regulated by a dam built just upstream by PacifiCorp, which now regulates and reduces the water flow over the falls. The damming forms a reservoir called Toketee Lake.Previously the full volume of the North Umpqua River was allowed to flow over the falls, but the flow has been reduced by a penstock that utilizes the drop of the falls to generate hydroelectricity. which in turn supplies enough energy to power about 22,500 homes in Douglas County.
After changing into our hiking boots and throwing a waterproof cover over my pack we were off to see the falls. The trail was covered in a few inches of snow from over the weekend. Which was fine, except it was raining and the snow from the trees was melting off the trees so even when the rain ceased the forest was just, dripping! So we sloshed through puddling foot prints to the stairs, they were covered in a harder compacted ice/snow concoction, that was fun. All the way to the top, walking around the last corner and down the stairs to the final viewing platform, I finally let go of the railing for dear life Ryan looked at me and said “look!” I looked up to see that gorgeous teal water pouring over the edge. It was mesmerizing and I didn’t want to leave. However it was freezing, and by this point we were both soaking wet, so we took a few photos and promised to come back just as soon as the sun come out of hibernation. I looked over the railing one last time, to the bottom of the gorge pondering an ascent down on a drier day with more time to explore this magical place.
Verdict: after 8+ hours in the car and only a short time outside it was totally worth it to see this gem with a dusting of snow. If you choose to visit this waterfall stay at the nearby Toketee Campground and visit Umpqua Hotsprings only a short 2 mile hike. Happy Trails.
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