4 March 2016
Cherry Creek Falls, Central Cascades – Stevens Pass West, Department of Natural Resources
6.5 miles, 450 ft. climb to 705 ft. maximum elevation
The early arrival of spring has brought with it interesting weather patterns. I can’t say I’m surprised by the schizophrenic appearance of rain, hail, snow and sun. After all, we do live in the Pacific Northwest where it’s always damp, and this winter has been a record-breaking season of powdery white stuff falling from the skies. Now that it’s March, I think Little Hiking Buddy is ready to put away her snowshoes in search of crocuses, crickets and creepy crawlers emerging from their winter slumber. What better place to find all these signs of spring than a lowland hike at Cherry Creek Falls!
The half-hour drive to Cherry Creek Falls, located in Duvall, took me and LHB through familiar territory. This region, north of the Issaquah Alps, is known for its cycling-friendly roads that wind past bucolic farms set against the notable peaks of the Central Cascades. As we drove along the road, I recognized Snoqualmie Valley Trail, where I took my first solo long-distance trail ride last year; while LHB excitedly pointed out the u-pick berry farms the girls I visit each summer. Ironically, we haven’t been back to this area since October, during the family’s annual pumpkin picking and harvest carnival weekend. Even though Cherry Creek Falls was new for us to explore, it was nice to know our way around the area.
LHB and I made our way to the nondescript trailhead just after 9:30 am, where we quickly found the blue gate signaling the start of our day’s adventure. The initial half of the trail took us on an old road that traveled along private property. Tall mossy trees and thick brush encased our path through the swampy forest. Here, LHB wanted to make note of what she saw as well as what was needed for our daytrip with drawings and checklists. She also wanted to improve her navigational skills, so we spent time using her compass to point out our location and destination on the map. Although we were slow going on this easy section, it was time well-used to see LHB so engaged in discovering the outdoors.
We encountered the first of two abandoned vehicles not long into our trek. This destroyed car from long ago now exists as a landmark for hikers to pinpoint the distance traveled. LHB was bewildered by the placement of the moss-laden wreckage, until she realized it was upside down. Many questions and, of course, a safety lesson ensued. From there, we veered right at the junction and made our way down a trail towards the creek itself. The landscape quickly transformed from forest setting – typical of our weekly mountain adventures throughout the Cascades – into a bog oozing with thick mud and canvassed in even more moss. LHB likened the spindly green canopies she passed under as rib cages of spooky skeletons. It didn’t help her vivid imagination to see spiders large and small floating through branches as well as wiggly worms emerging from the earth. She quite enjoyed the haunted ambiance.
After crossing over the creek by bridge and then wading briefly through it, we re-entered the forest and found the second wrecked car. This discarded jalopy was of greater interest to LHB with its bright yellow frame and bucket leather seats still intact. The carnage was more visible to us both as the car hinged between two sturdy trees. Aside from man-made relics, we spied the coming of spring with young blossoms and budding leaves awakening along the gurgling creek and heard the joyous chirping of robins and croaking of frogs throughout the marsh. LHB was thrilled to be surrounded by color and life, as was I.
The closer we were to the waterfalls, the more the trail transformed into an endless quagmire of sinking mud and rocky runoffs. Our final obstacles were two creek crossings. Though I read recent trip reports calling for extra pairs of socks, I didn’t bother to heed such advice. Why worry about getting our feet wet when LHB and I ended up slipping on wet rock and falling deep into the creek both times!?! Yes, epic failure on my part to forgo trekking poles – of course, I never carry them on family outings – and to ignore warnings from previous hikers. LHB was a total trooper; though she hadn’t been soaked from bottom up before, she continued forward as her socks squished between her toes with every step. Thankfully, we could see the cascades just beyond the last bit of trail.
We had all of Cherry Creek Falls to ourselves. It was completely unlike that of the exposed towering flows of Snoquera Falls, which we witnessed last week. The Falls here swept across a broad plane, making its way over a short slope into a lush splash pool. While munching on sandwiches and chocolate peanut butter cups, LHB and I watched bubbles form as white water flowed through to the Creek itself. She wondered where the water came from and where it was headed. I promised her we would return in the summer to find the source of the cascades. In the meantime, we headed back to see where Cherry Creek ran its course.
Now that our socks and boots had dried out a wee bit, it didn’t seem wise to wade through the calf-deep waters again. There had to be another way to cross the Creek…and, of course, there was. I found a large log that spanned across the water like a bridge. It was wide and sturdy enough for us both to make it across on our derrieres. I had the wise idea of short-roping her to me (aha, that paracord rope I braided wasn’t just for looks!) before letting her scoot across the trunk ahead of me. We both made it to the other side without any mishaps. Whew!
Thankfully, the remainder of the trek back was uneventful from there on out. However, LHB took every opportunity throughout the 3-mile return trip to remind me her shoes were still soggy. My no-nonsense self couldn’t help but let her know she wasn’t as miserable as she could be out in the forest. It wasn’t raining, yet. Besides, we had a change of clothes and more snacks in the car! Yes, I admit to purposefully leaving treats behind so that we (well, LHB) will have something to look forward to during the final push back.
Of course, the promised thunderstorm arrived just as we reached the entry gate…and we weren’t miserable. We had a selection of oatmeal raisin and bacon chocolate chip cookies to enjoy on the drive home.