Every time we’ve driven up or down 395, we’ve wanted to stop at Devil’s Postpile. We’ve been thwarted each and every time because usually we were coming by too late October on the way back from somewhere else. This time we made it in. It’s a small national monument, but with an interesting geologic formation. Similar to Devil’s Tower in South Dakota, it was formed when a volcanic flow began to cool. The basalt cracked in a very regular hexagonal pattern. The trail was fairly easy on this warm day. In about a half mile, we were staring up at the face of the Postpile. The light was very harsh at this time of day, so while I did make some exposures, none were all that wonderful. Later, on the way back, was much more successful.We took the loop trail up to the top – something not at all possible at Devil’s Tower unless we learned some serious rock climbing skills. This formation is much more diminutive than the South Dakota formation, but it is much more approachable as well. At the top we were treated to some nice views, but more interestingly, we could see clearly the tile like patterns of the formation. Many have likened it to a bathroom tile floor, but these tiles go deep. We fussed about the top for a while, had our lunch, then decided to hike out the 2 extra miles to Rainbow Falls.
On the way down from the top, we found a couple of other similar formations, though they were more buried into the cliffs. It was afternoon by now, and getting pretty warm. The sun was in our face and there was very little breeze. We didn’t find the trail particularly interesting, but then we were pretty hot and kind of not wanting to really hike today. But we persevered. The trail was mostly open due to a forest fire some years ago and subsequent “blow down”. Lots of bare tree trunks, will little vegetation to provide any kind of shade all along the way. Even though it was mostly all downhill to the falls, it felt like a very long hike and we were not looking forward to the hike back.
We got to the falls around 2 PM. I thought this would be a good time to arrive because the rainbow of Rainbow Falls doesn’t really show up till afternoon when the sun gets high enough to hit the waterfall created mist. There was only one other couple when we arrived and they soon left. We sat in at the top for a short while, grateful for the shade of a nearby tree. The sun only just begun to hit the falls. Good and bad. Good because soon we would see the refraction of the mist. Bad because it made the waterfall very contrasty and it would be difficult to make nice exposures of the falling water. But I found it did create some nice banding across the falls.
We headed down to the base of the falls (and yes Gayle, there are indeed 100 steps plus few). Down at the bottom in the shade it was a much welcomed coolness and we went about the business of shooting many many frames. I started off at an overlook off to the side, while Mary went out to the middle of of the rocky spillway. I must admit I focused a bit too intently on the falls themselves. Mary came away with some of the best images of the day by including some of the surrounding rubble (fallen trees and such). She also was looking at reflections in the water. Eventually, the rainbow in the mist began to reveal itself. As the sun slowly made it’s way across the face of the falls, colors began to emerge and spread over the basin. We played with this for a while, then decided to head back.
Back up the steps and up the now mostly uphill path. But it went much easier than I’d expected. Perhaps because it was now a little cooler, or the sun was now at our backs, before we knew it, we were back at the Postpile with only a half mile to go. Now the light was lower and softer and the Postpile was much more evenly illuminated. We stopped to photograph here again and then finished our walk.