Trip shot: Descending Seven Falls

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View of the lodge while descending steep stairs at Seven Falls.


June 2017, Colorado Springs area

For those who are interested, there are 224 steep steps leading up the 181 feet from the base of Colorado’s Seven Falls to the top.

That doesn’t count the .8 mile hike from the park’s entrance — through the canyon, along the creek — to the base. And once you get to the top of the waterfalls, once you get past the 224 steps, there is another mile of trails to explore, leading to a fantastic overlook.

My kind of place. I could spend an entire day here.

Other things to consider:

— Plenty of options for refreshments along the way, and there is a restaurant at the base.

— Parking (free) is at the Broadmoor resort five miles away with shuttle service (also free) to the entrance.

— Sign at the shelter above the falls warns of bears.

— Keep your ticket ($14 in 2018 currency) and return at night when the falls are illuminated with lights.

— For those who aren’t in to steps, there is an elevator from the base to one of the overlooks.



Trip shot: Walking under waterfalls

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Middle North Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

Silver Falls State Park has 10 waterfalls tucked into a lush 9,000-acre rainforest in north central Oregon. Three of the more spectacular falls are accessible by car. South Falls, North Falls and Winter Falls all have their own designated parking lots. To get to the remaining seven, you have to hoof it down dirt trails, up hills, over creeks and past cliffs. Ten waterfalls in a seven-mile loop. The cool part: You get to walk behind some of them.

My 13-year-old son and I stuffed granola bars and rain gear into our hydration packs and took off counterclockwise down the path, keeping a good pace to be mindful of our non-hiking companions who planned to mill around the main South Falls complex with its lodge snack bar and gift shop (cool purchase: trail map on a micro fiber lens cloth). I handed my son an orienteering compass and the paper map so he could practice his navigation skills. To shave off two miles and three falls, we took a shortcut at Winter Falls. So, seven waterfalls in about five miles.


Drake Falls, apparently a 27-foot drop

The first one we came to was Winter, which was unimpressive at the time, only a slight trickle. It was summer, so perhaps Winter Falls is more of a winter waterfalls. From there we darted north, crossed the north fork of Silver Creek and followed it downstream to Middle North Falls. Again, this wasn’t at full flow but had more water falling compared to Winter. We took the side path behind the falls, taking in a little of the spray and ending up under a cave-like overhang on the other side.

Back on the main path, we passed Drake, Lower North and Double Falls, skirting some cliffs and a viewing deck. After crossing the north fork again and waiting out a short bottleneck of hikers (some in flipflops), we followed the creek for another mile before we made a miscalculation at the confluence with the south fork where the trail split.

On paper, the Maple Ridge Trail is only one mile, compared to the 1.3 mile west branch of the Canyon Trail, with both trails ending at the trailhead. Again considering the non-hiking folk who were into hour two of milling around, we opted for the shorter Maple route. Which turned out to be uphill, and uphill, and uphill some more. Switchback after switchback. Figuring in the time to make the elevation gain and the rest breaks, the Maple trail probably took as long as the longer Canyon trail, but the Canyon trail probably had a better view.

From there, the hike ended at the centerpiece South Falls, which also boasts a walking path underneath.

More on Silver Falls from Oregon State Parks.


Trip shot: Waterfall break

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(c)2016 J.S.Reinitz

During a long day of driving, we took a mandatory waterfall break at Falls Park, located on the north end of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The site features a series of falls where the Big Sioux River cascades over pink quartzite cliffs. There are the remains of the Queen Bee Mill, which was built in the 1880s and shuttered after a few short years in operation, and a former hydroelectric plant that had a longer run, cranking out power from 1908 until 1974. The power plant now houses a cafe. An observation tower and gift shop complete the scene.

For more shots from the journey, tap into our Twitter feed.


Caves and waterfalls

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We spent last weekend exploring caves and waterfalls. And caves at the top of waterfalls, which meant climbing the waterfalls to get to the caves.

Which is how I ended up slipping and breaking a big toe. Not that it slowed me down much. In fact, here’s a list of things you can do on a broken toe before beginning to suspect the toe is broken:

— Climb back down a waterfall.

— Climb up the waterfall again.

— Climb part way down the waterfall trying to figure out where the kids wandered off to.

— Climb back up when realizing the kids are climbing up.

— Explore the tall, shallow cave at the top of the waterfall that starts with an icy spring.
— Climb down the waterfall. Keep in mind this is a Midwest waterfall, more like a stream running down a steep, rocky hill, and not a huge, roaring down a sheer cliff waterfall.
— Explore the ice cave. The ice cave was about half a mile away and offers some shade and natural air conditioning. The deeper reaches appear to have been closed off for now.
— Drive 90 minutes home.
— Get a weeks worth of groceries.

Photo: Falls Park

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Falls Park, Sioux Falls, SD

On our trip to the Black Hills, we took a break at Falls Park in Sioux Falls. It was a great start for the long trek west across the grasslands of South Dakota.

That night, we attempted to camp at Kennebec, but the rain was coming down too hard to set up the tent, and the storm front seemed to hover over the area. After an hour of watching the rain and playing pinpong in the KOA clubhouse, we headed on down the road and found a motel in Murdo (home to an automobile museum that boasts Elvis’s Harley and the Dukes’ General Lee). At some point we missed the sign that told us we were entering the mountain time zone.

Hiking the falls

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The pedestrian bridge at Multnomah Falls.

Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011
COLUMBIA GORGE, OR — This is one of those places I wish I could spend a whole week camping, hiking, exploring the sights.

But we didn’t have that kind of time. We went early in the morning and took in the Columbia Gorge from the interstate at the bottom (the place is only about 20 minutes from Portland). There was light barge traffic and a few sailboats on the river. It was a breathtaking view.

Around noon, we met up with our local guides at the Vista House on Crown Point. The building itself is an impressive piece of architecture (looking back, I’m disappointed I didn’t get any photos of it). The polished marble and brass structure has a deck with a great 360-degree view from the gorge’s top. There’s even a snack bar, museum and gift shop tucked away in the basement.

From there, my brother and his family led us through the scenic cliff-side roads that wound past the minor falls before reaching the centerpiece of the gorge that is Multnomah Falls. A word to the wise, come early to get a good parking spot. There is also overflow parking from the interstate. We hiked up part of the way to the top with the kids and the cousins.

We ended the day at a Portland playground, letting the kids run loose.

For more photos, go to our gallery.

Photo of the week: Ice house


The frozen Cedar River flows over a dam near a old ice house. Formerly used to store ice that was harvested in the winter, the building was more recently a museum.