Man-of-many-trades Roddy Scheer—a journalist and regular contributor at Seattle magazine, outdoor photographer, travel fanatic and avid eco-activist running a non-profit media network called Earth Talk—parlays his passion for green living into a new edition of his best-selling guidebook, Hiking Waterfalls Washington: A Guide to the State’s Best Waterfall Hikes (Falcon Guides, $22.95). In it, he delivers an exhilarating glimpse into these natural beauties. We asked Scheer about his favorite waterfalls and the inspiration for this book:
What’s new in this edition?
[It] contains updates to several of the hikes in the book and a dozen new photographs (including on the cover) as well as one entirely new trail entry, Otter Falls in the Central Cascades off I-90. I had wanted to include this hike—which follows the gently graded course of an old overgrown logging road for five miles to a little gem of a waterfall and lake—in the first edition of the book but at that point the Forest Service had closed off the access road for what turned out to be a three-year paving project, so I left it out. When Falcon Guides asked me to revise the book, I knew I had to include the Otter Falls hike this time around, especially because the paving work meant Seattleites could get to the trailhead within an hour and 10 minutes instead of what used to take two hours.
What sparked your initial inspiration to create a Washington waterfall guide?
I have always loved waterfalls. I can't say for sure whether it’s the supposed energy- and mood-boosting “negative ions” in the mists surrounding them, the sound of moving water, which I've always found soothing, or just the serene feeling of being deep in the heart of the woods, far from engine noise and hustle bustle; but I am never more at peace than when I'm perched beside a waterfall. When Falcon approached me back in 2013 to put together the first edition of the book, I jumped at the chance. And when they asked me to revise it for a second edition, I jumped again.
What are a few of your favorite hikes and what do you consider the most spectacular waterfall?
Some of my favorite hikes from the book include the aforementioned Otter Falls, all-powerful Spray Falls (and alpine wonderland Spray Park above it) near Mount Rainier, little known Murhut Falls on the sleepy east side of the Olympic Peninsula, Heliotrope Falls because much of it is above tree-line and you get up close and personal with Mount Baker’s Coleman Glacier, Racehorse Falls because of the adventure in getting there, and Palouse Falls for the sheer drama of the huge drop into an otherworldly basalt punchbowl punctuated by chirping marmots.
Reflecting on your experiences, is there a specific waterfall encounter or memory that stands out the most?
One of my fondest memories from “researching” the book was getting lost on the hike to Racehorse Falls—it’s easy to miss the turnoff to descend down into the canyon where Racehorse Creek “falls”—and eventually finding my way to a lesser known and infrequently visited waterfall further upstream. Also, I loved getting the chance to rediscover Otter Falls for the second edition of the book, as it had been a favorite hike of mine for years before access was closed for three years, and it’s just as beautiful as ever back there these days.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.