I live in the suburbs of Medford, and with all the beautiful waterfalls within an hour's drive, I finally decided to make a trek.
After consulting the Web to get directions for the easy half-mile hike to Mill Creek Falls — on a trail "wide enough for strollers" — I headed out. I was pleased to see the parking lot full when I arrived, then with cell phone and water at hand I began the journey.
The trail was wide and soft as the website had indicated, and I reveled in it all until reaching the river.
But where were the waterfalls?
I asked some hikers for directions and went the way they indicated, but I soon realized they had meant for me to go back the way I had come in.
Somehow I found myself on what was more like an ascending deer trail. The sound of the waterfalls pulled me forward, and I even got a few obscured glimpses, but where were all the other hikers? Something was wrong.
My internal warning bell told me to double back following the river, even though I was several hundred feet above it. Then I took a nearly fatal step that sent me into a slow and steady slide that ended with my feet dangling off the cliff.
I couldn't even budge. Panic set in. I hollered "Help!" but no one was nearby, and the sound of rushing water muffled my cries.
I calmed down and was able to muscle my way up under a large rock, but there was no way out except for the way I had slid down, which was not an option.
Calls were made home, and with 9-1-1's help, they were able to track my general location through GPS. Help was on the way.
In the few hours it took I had a wonderful view of the waterfall, and was in constant communication via phone.
How can I express proper thanks for the competence, generosity and kindness I met that day? There are no words. When I was brought to safe ground with the use of ropes, harnesses and an escort named Nate, I was asked how I felt.
With tears in my eyes and feeling a bit embarrassed, I could only respond, "Grateful!"
My heartfelt thanks go out to the men and women of the Prospect Rural Fire Department, Jackson County Fire District No. 3, Jackson County Fire District No. 4, Jackson County Sheriff's Department and the 9-1-1 operators.
I'm sure my rescuers would say they were "just doing their jobs." To me they were heaven-sent.
Would I go back to Mill Creek Falls? Absolutely. These falls are not to be missed.
But a few words of caution: At the trailhead from the parking lot, take the trail to the right. Remember your cell phone; it could save your life. Wear appropriate shoes, and do not divert off the wide trail, as there are no others. Enjoy the bounty.