We had read about the eight-year-old garden conceived by the Oregon Association of Nurserymen in the early 1990s, but we had no idea it was so large or complex. Twenty distinctly different gardens are woven together on an 80-acre sloping site overlooking the Willamette Valley. There is also a concert venue, a resort, and a Frank Lloyd Wright house on the property. You can visit Oregon Garden online for photos and descriptions of the gardens.
The most impressive feature in the garden is a 400-year-old Oregon White Oak standing in the middle of a large grove of younger oaks. We learned about how the Native American practice of lighting fires on the Savannah to encourage the plants they used for food, benefited this old oak. The fires, which discouraged conifer seedlings and weaker trees, allowed the strongest of the oaks such as this 100-foot tall specimen to thrive. We felt insignificant in the presence of such age and size.
After eating a picnic lunch in the garden, we drove back into Silverton and walked a few of the tree-lined streets with well-kept homes from the late 1800s and early 1900s. There must have been a lot of money in the small town during that era and prosperity seems to continue into the present.
The other destination for the day was Silver Falls State Park. We had both hiked there many times, but never together. I should have known something was up when Gary asked me if I had ever walked behind the falls before. Thinking of the easy walk around South Falls I quickly said, "Yes, of course!" and we set out across the bridge to start our walk.
The trail soon turned into a narrow path with a 125+ foot drop on one side and jagged rock outcroppings on the other so low even I had to stoop. We continued down 40 or 50 curving steps cut into the face of the rock wall and then as we turned the corner for our first view of the waterfall shooting out of a narrow trough above, I saw people standing in a deep crescent shaped slit in the rock behind the 136-foot North Falls. "We aren't going in there are we?" I gasped with terror in my voice. "Yes we are." Gary declared, "This is why we came. It is easier than it looks and I won't let you fall." I was thinking, "easy for you to say."
With great trepidation, I began to walk on the narrow path tilting my body toward the rock wall on my right away from the unprotected 100+ foot drop into a small pool filled with truck sized boulders on my left. I heard from behind a firm, "Don't look down." as I tried to glance sideways at the view. Soon, deep into the slit, we stopped to sit on a bench where we looked out beyond the massive rock shelf above our heads to the back of the waterfall more than 50 feet away. This precarious vantage point offered a spectacular panorama of the narrow canyon and was well worth overcoming my fear of heights. We could have gone back the short way we came, but I chose to continue on down the opposite side of the scenic canyon making a 3.5 mile loop back to the parking lot. One time through the slit a day was enough for me. I found a photo of the North Falls to share just in case my fear tinged description doesn't do it justice. The tiny dot in the slit to the far right of the waterfall is a person.
All in all it was a glorious day and I look forward to more trips with my adventurous tour guide.