My latest 3 day backpacking trip would take me to Yosemite, just outside the park actually, but the first day it was supposed to rain all day so I just wanted to do one fairly easy hike in the morning before it all started. I went into the zoo, I mean the park. At the trailhead, I went to put my food in the bear lockers, but they were absolutely disgusting. Garbage totally reeking inside them. It seemed like they hadn’t been cleaned out in years (I’m not exaggerating). Seriously, park officials? You want us to secure our food from bears, but you do not provide any decent clean place for us to do this. Well, I just left my food in the car in my cooler and hoped for the best. It was not going to be a long hike. My hike was a bust, I got to the top of a waterfall but could not get down for a view of it. No wonder I’ve never seen any good photos of this one before, I thought for sure I’d get something here. I was bummed.

I went over to The Cascades. Someone recently shared a good photo of this one from a view point I hadn’t known about before and I wanted to check it out myself. You can actually get down right across from The Cascades, it is an amazing view of this waterfall, and you can see the entire section of the Falls below the bridge. It might be a bit tricky and slick if it’s raining though (did I say it was raining?). Nonetheless, despite the wetness, I did get right down to it.

Interestingly, as I was photographing the waterfall I saw some kids coming back up. One of them was telling his friend to jump across this certain gap. He jumped and he missed and he fell into a hole. From my vantage I could not tell if it was a five foot hole or a fifty foot hole. I just saw him completely disappear and heard his friend shout an expletive. Was he dead? It turned out to be less than five feet and he was not hurt (too much anyway, I guess). Dang people. Be careful out there.

After this I went into the valley but it was a zoo and I could not find any place to park, and then it started pouring rain. I did not take any photos except one of Bridalveil Falls. I drove out of the valley and back to Groveland for lunch trying to get some carbs in me for tomorrow. Then the sun came out. It was supposed to be raining all day! I didn’t know if this was a good or bad sign for my trip starting the next day.

We shall find out soon….


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As of May 1, we are at 204% of average rainfall for Northern CA, 191% for Central Sierra, and 171% for Southern Sierra. April was quite stormy and we officially passed the wettest year on record for Northern CA. As for the snowpack, we are at 198% of average for North, 201% for Central, and 178% for South. Because April was so stormy, the snow has not really started melting much yet – though it is definitely starting now with the hot weather this week. Normally the peak snowmelt is at the beginning to mid April, that will not be the case this year. I love it that waterfall season is going to be lasting all summer long this year! So what do you make of this winter?

To me, it is very clear that the abundant rainfall this year is entirely God’s doing, a blessing and an answer to all our prayers. I believe prayer works, and I know many many people were praying during the drought. Let’s think about this: NOT ONE SINGLE weather forecaster predicted the huge amount of rainfall this year. In fact, I am certain that every single one predicted we would have a BELOW AVERAGE year (not to even mention 200% of average). With a weak La Nina, that forecast would make sense. Not! My wife will say that just proves they are always wrong! Consider last year when we had a very strong El Nino: almost every single forecaster (not all, but certainly most) predicted we would have well above average rainfall that year. What happened? We only had an AVERAGE winter. Again, they were almost all wrong that year as well. I was pleased we had a decent year after four years of drought, but indeed, I admit it was a bit disappointing because of all the hype surrounding the strong El Nino. In reality, though, God had bigger plans. He gave us that strong El Nino and a decent winter because we were in desperate need of it due to the drought, then provided us the kicker and drought-buster this year in an unlikely weak La Nina year. That is so like God.

Another thing I found interesting this past year: It seems to me that no one (in California) is talking about global warming this year, not really too much. They are all pretty quiet. Am I the only one that has noticed this? When we were in the midst of the drought, scientists were saying constantly that this is the “new normal”, that we would essentially be in “perpetual drought”, with maybe the odd good year thrown in, but basically get used to having no water in the future forever and ever, with continuing awful forest fires, and all because of global warming / climate change. I know this is true because I distinctly remember thinking to myself that I do not believe that nonsense – I refuse to believe it – the rain will return to California. And it did! Where are those people now? The drought is officially over. Perhaps we will have another drought soon. Perhaps not. There will certainly be another drought eventually – that is just the way it is (but hopefully, not too soon). If and when we do have another one in the future, it will also end. God is the one in control, and we need to trust in Him, not in scientists or others. Perhaps you do not believe what I am saying here. That is fine, everyone has their own opinions, but at least please consider that what I am saying is truth. (btw, I did not say that I do not believe in global warming / climate change).

Anyhow, enough of all that. I’m sure you want to get back to the waterfalls. This photo is from my backpacking trip last May to Rancheria Falls in Yosemite. I got there close to peak snow melt last year, and it was an amazing sight and a spectacular waterfall. This year I am excited to do more backpacking, especially after the big debacle a couple weeks ago, and I told my wife I still need to go on my spring backpacking trip, so that will be soon, in the next few weeks. Where should I go? Yosemite? Or somewhere else? Stay tuned …

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Don’t you love my clever blog titles from my Yosemite trip? I thought they were clever, anyway. Maybe I’m the only one. Sigh.

In the morning, I thought I would try to find this new waterfall on the Middle Fork Tuolumne River. It was not my first choice but my first choice was X’ed out due to a big snow patch I encountered on the road. I was thus late getting started down to the MF Tuolumne. There were clouds, though, so perhaps it would be ok. Then there were no clouds. Then a few minutes later there were clouds again. And on and on it goes.  Crazy weather. For photography, it was touch and go all morning long.

The first part of the hike was easy enough, hiking along a road. Then I had to get off the road and head down the mountain. The wildflowers were abundant through here, and it was pretty much unavoidable stepping on them. It was like hiking on Table Mountain in Oroville, but minus the killer cows. I suppose there were killer bears around but I did not see any.  As I got down closer to the waterfall, I found it was far too cliffy to continue any further. It is a fantastic 60 ft. waterfall but I could see no way to get any clear view of it. Perhaps I will try again another day, but I think the only way is to repel down to the bottom. Not my cup of tea. I like living.

Speaking of living, it was really nice to hear that the missing hiker (Cody Michael) and his dog were found today. They were backpacking in the Sierra and were missing for a few days. The area is very close to where I am planning to hike next weekend. But I don’t really understand what happened. He was not injured. So it seems he just got lost. Well, I don’t get it. Why did he not have GPS? And why no rescue device? It does not seem like he was very well prepared for backpacking in the Sierra Nevada backcountry. I always bring GPS with extra charged batteries, as well as my SPOT device on every hike I do, backpacking or not, easy hike or not. And not to mention, bear spray as well. You never know what will happen. Anyway, he seems like a nice guy, so I am very happy he is safe home now.

Back to the MF Tuolumne, here is one weird thing: While I was down there, I saw a backpack down by the brink of the falls. There was no one around. It seemed to be hanging on the cliff edge (I was a distance away, but I saw it clearly). Did someone accidentally drop it off the cliff, and then could not get down to get it? After this, I moved away to a different spot and when I looked again, I could no longer see the backpack. What happened to it? I know I did not imagine seeing it! I looked and looked but could not see it. I just have no clue.

By the time I got back up the mountain to the car, I was quite tired. My big backpack trip was starting the next day, and I was already tired. Perhaps I should not have done this pre-trip hike. But it was certainly fun.

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I woke up excited about starting my vacation to Yosemite. But I was in no hurry or rush to get going early, I just wanted to be over there by sunset. So I took it easy, did some small tasks, then watched an episode of TV on Netflix. Well all of a sudden after that, I had lost my motivation for going on the trip. I just felt like lounging around the house all week on my vacation. It is strange how TV can do that to you! Anyway, I forced myself out of the house and drove to Yosemite as planned. If you are wondering why I went on vacation by myself this year, it is a bit of a hodge podge year in the Turnbull household. My son Jadon went on his vacation to Washington DC with his school mates, and he also gets to go to New Orleans later this summer with his youth group. My wife and daughter are going to Alaska for their vacation in the summer. Well I could not be left out on vacation this year, so I chose a week in Yosemite. Where else?

I had my lunch in Groveland at a new place. I ordered a burger well done as I always do. It came well done all right, but also included a well done bun and well done bacon. I did not think it was necessary to say only the patty well done, please. Otherwise, it was good.

I drove first to Cherry Lake and Eleanor Lake. Eleanor was almost full, but Cherry was very low. I was surprised by that. It is not like they have been releasing any water yet from the lake. How could it be so low, still? Last year I saw Kibbie Falls from across the other side of Lake Eleanor. This year I wanted to get up close to it on the north side of the lake. It was not difficult to follow the shoreline to Kibbie Creek. From there, however, things got very messy. It was an extremely difficult climb up the mountain to the falls, through thick awful brush. I was literally crawling on my hands and knees through the stuff. I got very wet and very dirty, and despite it all, I could not get any decent view of the falls from closeup. Is this a good start to my trip?

On the way back down the mountain, I slipped on a wet rock, and came down hard, landing on my arm. I almost broke it. No joke. Now that would have been a really good start to my trip. Not! I was initially planning to continue past Kibbie Creek along the lake to see how far I could get, but I decided not to go any further since the hike was already way more difficult than I anticipated, my arm was dangling on its limb (or at least hurting very much), and besides that I heard thunder rolling in.

In case you are wondering, I saw zero bears on this trip to Yosemite and area. Even though I was camping in Bear City (Rancheria). I have seen many bears before, but I have never ever seen any in any national park. It is a weird thing with me. Anyhow, I did see many things that “looked like” bears. Every piece of burnt wood I saw looked like a bear in the distance, and I was hiking through the Rim Fire area. I saw many pieces of burnt wood.

After getting back to the car I continued driving to Jawbone Falls, where I have been to before, and I decided to camp here, sleeping in my car. It is a great spot to camp, it is so out in the middle of nowhere, and there was no one else around. It was very cold that night (38 degrees), but I managed. It was supposed to get much warmer by Monday. I hoped.

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Well I think God was trying to tell me something on this backpacking trip. I mentioned that my belt buckle broke five minutes into the trip. In addition to this, my sunglasses broke, my tent mesh got a big hole in it (to let in all the mosquitoes), my hiking pole broke, my tripod broke (it was still workable but not very well), and my phone battery was almost dead (faster than it should have), but that is not the end of it.

I woke up early with the intention of continuing my hike up the canyon, even though my foot was extremely sore and I could barely walk on the big blisters. I looked at the river and saw that it was much higher than the night before, and this had me even more concerned, which I will explain in a bit. Nonetheless, the idea was to hike up to the upper Rancheria Falls, take photos, then come back and pack up, and continue the hike up to Tiltill Valley and Vernon Lake.

There is not a good angle of the upper falls from this side of the river, so I figured I would cross above the falls on the bridge and try to get down to the bottom on the other side. I only got halfway down. In order to continue, I would have to trounce through a huge swath of poison oak. Ummm, no thank you. I did not want to get to the bottom that badly. It was a pretty good view from this halfway point beside the creek, which was absolutely roaring and incredible, so I took some photos, then decided to go back up and try going down on the other side. That was actually quite do-able and I made it all the way to the bottom, and found a ledge right in front of the falls which was amazing. You cannot see the entire waterfall from there but it is still a spectacular viewpoint. And that is when it happened: I realized I had left my extra memory cards for the camera back at the car. Doh! Major stupidity strikes again! The sun was coming out, so I frantically deleted some photos that I did not need in order to take some shots of the upper falls from this location, but that was the final straw. I could not continue my hike now, no matter what. I would not be able to take any more photos if I continued on, so what would be the point? With my foot being so sore and the river rising I was already trying to really justify in my mind how wise it would be to continue, but now I knew I had to go back. I enjoyed eating my breakfast at the bottom of the falls as the sun came out, then walked back to my campsite to pack up.

It was a long and hot hike back to the Hetch Hetchy trailhead. When I finally got back to the Wapama Falls bridge, I found quite a big difference in the river. I got very wet crossing the bridge (remember, I was completely dry crossing it the day before). It was extremely misty, and water was starting to splash onto the bridge. It was cold (but felt great on the hot day). I found out later that the Tuolumne River had risen from 900 cfs to 1400 cfs overnight (Falls Creek is proportionally similar to the Tuolumne, so it is a good measure). That is a huge increase in one day, and it is much more substantial than I had expected. If it increased at this rate, then in a couple days Falls Creek would be in the danger zone, and it could be potentially deadly to cross the bridge, especially considering that I was planning to cross at Vernon Lake, which is more dangerous to cross than at Wapama. I could be stuck on the wrong side of the creek with no food and no way to get home for days! Could this be why God wanted me to go back early? I suspect so. As it turned out, the river did keep rising during the week but not quite at that initial rate. Had I continued to Vernon Lake, the creek may have still been crossable, but it would definitely be on the edge of the safe level.

When I got to the car, my foot was very sore, and I was extremely tired. There is no way I could do any more hiking anytime soon. Thankfully, I had cold soda in the cooler. I downed three of them promptly, then went to eat a whole pizza at my favorite place back in Groveland. Nice.

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