Last weekend, my husband and I decided to hike on probably one of the last sunny days of this year. So, we packed our rucksacks and walking sticks and drove over to Packwood and a tad farther on. The Ohanapecosh Campground was our destination, and from there we had planned to walk the 2.7-mile-long Silver Falls Loop Trail.
The trail starts at the day use parking, and gently leads uphill. After only a few hundred yards, we reached a boggy meadow with a boardwalk. From the hillside, water came streaming down a rocky surface. Warm water. These are the Ohanapecosh Hot Springs. Until 1960 there actually was a resort with cabins and bathing pools. Today, some people still dangle their feet into what might once have been one of the sitting pools. The park authorities have let Nature take over once more.
The wide trail leads onward to the Laughingwater Creek, which is crossed by a bridge. It’s a leisurely walk with hardly any bigger changes of altitude. All the while you can hear the rushing water of the Ohanapecosh River in the gorge below. But you can rarely glimpse it.
And then, about half-way into the trail, you are just facing them – the Silver Falls. It is hard to describe how stunning their sight is in reality, as a photo can only capture this much. The falls are 95 feet high with the tallest drop being 40 feet. Huge boulders are looming on both sides of it. There are pools of teal and azure, contrasted by orange-lichened rock and framed by giant evergreen trees. The end of the pool is a narrow canyon through which the water rushes, only to fall again and again.
After crossing the bridge, we went to the view point – but to be honest, the best place is simply to stand across from the falls, not on top of them. Still, we found ourselves a rock to sit on and had our little picnic. Other hikers did the same. Others had brought their photo equipment for special takes. The most daring climbed towards the water, something that is officially not encouraged.
The rest of the Silver Falls Loop Trail was first a climb, then a pretty long drop, through the wonderfully green forest, past enormous rock formations, bubbling brooks, and murmuring springs. We ended up in the campground, again, by an amphitheater, and crossed the Ohanapecosh River once more, now a wide and boisterous stream with deceivingly calm pools and wild rapids.
This little hike was filled to the brim with sensual experiences. Another jewel at our doorstep that is worth exploring and that renders exhilarating calm and relaxation. If you can’t try it this fall anymore, make it a point on your bucket list for next year. You’ll enjoy it!