This expedition really started in 1983, when I was driving down Lolo Pass Road from a hike on Mount Hood. As a rounded a bend near the west end of the Muddy Fork valley, I suddenly saw what appeared to be a large twin waterfall, half-hidden in the deep forests below Zigzag Mountain. Lacking a camera - or even a decent topographic map - I pulled over and tried to memorize the location. Yet for the next 20 years, I was never able to locate the falls again, despite trying on every trip up Lolo Pass Road.
My frustration ended almost exactly twenty years later, in May 2003, when my wife Deborah and I were driving down he same stretch of Lolo Pass Road, and I finally saw the falls again! This time, I was prepared with camera and tripod, and took images that helped me definitively locate the falls, and prove that they were not shown on any map.
The falls are on Cast Creek, on the north side of Zigzag Mountain. The source of the falls are two lakes, Cast Lake and Dumbell Lake. Each is tucked into high glacial cirques along the summit ridge of Zigzag Mountain, and each feeds a distinct branch of Cast Creek. The name "apparition" comes from the ghostlike nature of the falls, which disappear into the shadows in all but the perfect degree of overcast weather. This is probably the single best explanation for why these falls have not been discovered.
Thus began the planning for the first recorded visit to the falls and process of naming Apparition Falls on official maps. On a sunny April 23, 2004, I led a group of seven explorers up Cast Creek to find the elusive waterfall. The team involved three friends and waterfall veterans, Ted Leybold, Matthew Hampton and Greg Lief. We were joined by a three-man crew from the Oregon Public Broadcasting Oregon Field Guide program. The OPB crew included producer and reporter Jim Newman, videographer Todd Sonflieth and sound technician Randy Layton. Over the course of a day, we followed Cast Creek through deep forest, past a string of smaller waterfalls, and finally to a high overlook of Apparition Falls. This journey was broadcast in November 2004 on OPB.
In 2005, a second group repeated the trip, this time following a stream-level route to the base of the falls, including a trip through the "Little Gorge" that appeared to be impassable on the first trek. Matthew Hampton, Greg Lief, Jon Osborn and Rory Nichols joined me for the 2005 trip, and this visit included a detailed measurement of the falls that was not possible on the 2004 trip.
Both visits to Cast Creek are chronicled in the slide shows shown below. The accompanying map gives highlights of the first trip for would-be explorers, but be cautioned that this is rugged terrain. It should not be attempted by inexperienced hikers or by anyone traveling alone.
Tom Kloster - Summer 2005