Back in August, I had a chance to spend some time in Salem, Oregon visiting my friend Emma for the weekend. When I would mention this to friends and coworkers, I was universally greeted with the same response – “Why would you want to go there?” It’s an understandable reaction. Salem isn’t known for being a hot travel destination with hundreds of things to do. But if you keep an open mind, it’s actually a fun place to spend a few days. Which is good for me, since I owe it to Emma to visit her every now and then.
Our first stop is Silver Falls State Park. The park is extensive, with several swimming holes, picnic tables and miles of hiking trails. But the most popular attraction are the falls themselves. It’s a beautiful day with clear blue skies. There have been forest fires all over both Washington and Oregon for the past couple weeks, so it’s nice to actually see the sky free from smoke. My lungs are happy, too.
The trail passes by a restaurant and nature store. It’s not exactly the middle of nowhere, is it? I’m strongly tempted by some ice cream to help cool off from the heat, but decide it would be messier than it’s worth. If this sounds like nonsense to you, it’s worth noting that I’m not a huge fan of sweets. Don’t let my lack of enthusiasm for ice cream prevent you from indulging!
The path to the top of the falls is only a ten minute walk from the parking lot on even, paved paths, so it’s very accessible for all ability levels. Which is good for us as we’re joined by Emma’s mom, aunt and step dad Puz, who is 97 years young. He’s one of the most spritely 97 year old’s I’ve ever met, but the path down to the falls are a bit too much for him. He brings along a chair, finds a forest ranger to talk to and waits for us at the top.
The falls are pretty from the top, but the best views are from below. Down the trail we go. The incline isn’t too bad, but there is water periodically making things slick, so it’s best to take care.
There it is, Silver Falls. Normally there is a lot more water in the falls, but in August, their flow has become more of a trickle.
Just like the Seljalandsfoss waterfall in Iceland which Emma and I visited last year, you can walk behind Silver Falls. Apparently you used to be able to swim in the swimming hole in front of the falls, but Emma says it’s now closed off. There’s no reason given, but I assume it’s for safety. Bummer. I could really do with a cooling dip right now.
The entire trail loop takes roughly 20 minutes to complete, though I think we spent a good half hour taking our time. What can I say, I take a lot of photos.
There are several more trails throughout the park, including one to the lower falls accessed from next to the bridge in the picture above. We aren’t really dressed for more serious hiking, and the heat is really getting to me, so we stick with the shorter loop. Next time I come back for a visit, we’ll have to check out the rest of the trails.
After all that hiking, it’s time for a treat. And Salem happens to be located in the heart of the Willamette Valley, famous for it’s wineries. More on that coming soon!