I think any time someone is presented with a challenge, the first question that pops into their head is: Is it worth it? Is the extra effort at work worth missing out on family time? Is eating that second bowl of ice cream worth the pain it will cause in my belly? Is sacrificing some sleep to finish a really good novel worth it? Is pulling over to help someone change a flat tire worth being late to wherever you are going? Is buying a new car worth the extra cost compared to buying used? You get the idea – oh and to answer my questions so they aren’t rhetorical. No. Yes. Yes. Maybe. I have no idea. I was recently faced with this question while hiking with my friend Thomas Kyle-Milward. We had just finished conquering Suntop Mountain and had moved onto a hike to see Skookum Falls.
After wandering around in the woods for a few miles, we came to the base of a very steep hill and a sign that simply said: “Falls” with an arrow pointing up. As we stood there, we decided at least initially, climbing this hill was worth it. So, up we went.
I wouldn’t really call it a path, more a scramble up loose dirt, downed trees, rocks and a creek. I had to stop frequently because my legs were shot from climbing the aforementioned mountain (1,100 feet of elevation gain in one mile).
About halfway to the base of the falls, we came to a bit of a flat spot and decided we were done climbing up this mountain. Thomas decided to scamper across the creek and work his way up some moss covered trees to see if he could get an angle on the waterfall, which was a bit shrouded by trees from our present location. He snapped a few photos with his phone and I yelled out, “Is it worth it?”
He didn’t respond, but made his way back down to my position. At that point, I was done hiking. I still hadn’t caught my breath and we had a two-mile hike back to the car, then a 90-minute drive home and then straight to work to put out the newspaper. But then again, I certainly hadn’t hiked all this way to take a crappy photo of a waterfall shrouded by trees. So, again, I asked Thomas if it was worth it. He showed me his phone and I made my decision. I quickly scurried over the creek, shimmied up the moss covered tree, half fell half climbed up a hillside coated in moss, and eventually reached an area with good footing and parted the tree branches in front of me and grabbed a few photos of Skookum Falls. So, dear reader, you tell me. Was it worth it?
– Craig Craker
If you goLocation: Heading south on Highway 410 out of Enumclaw, go 25 miles past the tiny hamlet of Greenwater and turn right on Forest Road 73. Take the gravel road across the river and park in the lot immediately to your right. When: I’ve read online that this can be hiked year round, but I think late spring would be best because water flow would seemingly be higher. What: Skookum Falls, a 366-foot waterfall near the northeast corner of Mount Rainier National Park in the White River valley upstream from Enumclaw. Fees:Northwest Forest Pass required. $30 per year or $5 per day. Honored at all Forest Service operated sites in Oregon and Washington. Kid-friendly: I’m not sure at what age I’d be willing to let my child scamper up the hillside to get close to the falls, but it is an amazing hike even to that point. Stunning old growth forest, fantastic river views and plenty of long-distance waterfall views.