Deception Falls

Tye is High

…and I’m moving on. Sorry- couldn’t resist the pun.

This past weekend’s weather brought a series of strong pineapple express weather systems. For those of you not from the Pacific Northwest, a pineapple express storm is one that originates from the area around Hawaii (hence the pineapple reference) and brings a lot of moisture and high snow levels. These storms sometimes quickly follow snow storms which bring rain on snow events and that spells major flooding.

This weekend’s storm brought moderate flooding to the Skykomish River basin and I decided to head up the valley along Highway 2 to check things out. Despite the “moderate” tag, the river levels were REAL high, seemingly higher than the record events of just a couple years ago. I first tried visiting Alpine Falls along the Tye River east of the town of Skykomish but the down spray from the falls was just too great for photography.

From there, I moved on to the Deception Falls Picnic Area to check things out. Located at an elevation of about 2000 feet, it’s closed in the winter due to snow but one can usually park outside the entrance along Highway 2 and (CAREFULLY) cross the busy highway and walk in. I’ve visited on two other occasions, one of which was during a flood event back in November of 2008. By far, conditions on this day were the highest water levels I’ve seen. Quite impressive!

Deception Creek side channel overflow at the Deception Falls Picnic Area - January 2011

High waters of this Deception Creek side channel lap against the bottom of a trail bridge - January 2011

Tye River high water surges along - January 2011

There are two observation platforms along the loop interpretive trail that highlight the river’s power during times like these. The first platform is located in an area where the river runs headlong into a rock wall, forcing it into a 90 degree turn. Compare yesterday’s flow versus a normal flow from two years ago:

High flows along the Tye River smash into the 90 degree turn - January 2011 (1/250th sec @ F13, ISO 12,800)

Normal winter flow along the Tye River at the 90 degree turn - December 2008

Quite a difference! Just a little further upstream is another platform where the Tye River flows over a waterfall and bends around a corner. Now compare yesterday’s flow versus high flow back in November of 2008:

High flows along the Tye River at the Deception Falls Picnic Area - January 2011

High flows along the Tye River at the Deception Falls Picnic Area - January 2011

High flows along the Tye River at the Deception Falls Picnic Area - January 2008

Once again, quite a difference. I made my way towards the Deception Falls along Deception Creek but the amount and force of the water was too great. The down spray was intense and the churning waters were actually splashing over the pedestrian bridge that leads you to the viewing area. My Pentax may have 77 weather seals but it can’t keep a camera safe from THAT much abuse! It was getting late in the afternoon and I wanted to make two more stops on my way back into town. I first stopped at a roadside wetland west of Skykomish. Ended up not getting very much (aside from even MORE soaked from the rain). I guess it looked cooler at 60mph!

Roadside wetland along Highway 2 west of Skykomish

Roadside wetland along Highway 2 west of Skykomish

My last stop SHOULD have been my first stop. Just west of the town of Index, there’s a spot along the Skykomish River where Kayakers park and launch into the river. In the middle of the river at this location is a huge (and I mean 2 story HUGE) boulder. On my way up earlier in the day, the river’s torrent was splashing up and OVER the top of this large boulder. I had to get a photo of this but decided to wait until my return trip.

BIG mistake.

Over the preceding four hours or so, the river level subsided enough such that the river was no longer splashing over the top. In the failing light, I was only able to snap a couple quick shots, and most weren’t up to snuff due to bad focus and some vegetation between me and the river which I could not avoid:

Skykomish River envelopes the huge boulder a few miles downstream of Index

Moral of the story is STOP AND TAKE THE PHOTO!

Deception Creek

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I decided to stay closer to home and explored Deception Creek. This creek is the source for the popular Deception Falls located between the town of Skykomish and Stevens Pass along Highway 2. I’ve made a few trips to Deception Falls (as I’ve posted before on my blog) but I’ve never visited the trail that travels up up the Deception Creek valley. The trail generally stays within earshot of the creek but I decided to stay much closer to the creek during my exploration.

Deception Creek
Deception Creek
Within a short distance, the trail enters the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and soon climbs up and away from the creek. I decided to leave the trail at about the point where the log bridge crosses the creek. I have to say that this bridge is one of the most “elegant” I’ve seen out on the trails!

Log Bridge over Deception Creek
Deception Creek
Deception Creek
Deception Creek
Deception Creek
Huckleberry above Deception Creek
Deception Creek

12/20/2008: Deception Falls

I’ll begin my blog with a recap of a trip yesterday. For the better part of the last week, the whole Puget Sound has been firmly gripped in unusually cold weather intermixed with snowstorms. I just haven’t been able to get out to take photos the previous several weeks so I was itching to get out. Saturday’s forecast was for sunny skies, changing in the afternoon so I decided to make a go of it. I decided to go not too far so I headed out Highway 2 towards Stevens Pass.

My original plan was to stop at the Heybrook Ridge lookout trail followed by a stop further east at Deception Falls. I got a late start to the day but skies were clear and cold- 15 degrees on my way through Sultan. Around Gold Bar, the forecasted strong eastern winds made their appearance. The Heybrook lookout is located near the Snohomish / King County, just east of the turnoff for the town of Index. It offers a commanding view of the Skykomish River valley, Mount Index, and Baring Mountain.

As luck would have it, the parking area for the trailhead was covered with 2 feet of snow and not an option. I moved on to Plan B and out to Deception Falls. I’ve only visited the falls twice and those visits were during the last 2 months. Sadly, due to funding issues, the Forest Service seems to only open the parking lot during the peak part of the summer. Winter is no different and finding someplace close to park is even more of a challenge.

I settle on a small pullout about a half mile west of the falls and hiked along the busy highway. The parking lot and trails around the falls area had about 2 feet of powder so having the snowshoes with me was a great help. As I expected, the arrival of winter changed the entire dynamics of the falls. Here are the Upper Falls:

Upper Deception Falls

And the Lower Falls:

Lower Deception Falls

Downstream of the Lower Falls:

Downstream of lower falls

Downstream of lower falls (HDR photo)

Ice build-up where the Tye River makes a 90 degree turn:

Tye River's 90 degree turn

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