So last week when I was messing around at Lower Stevens Creek Falls, I was in the poison oak, and in it up to my eyeballs. Literally. I got a horrible poison oak rash from it. It was the worst rash I’ve had in years, maybe even the worst ever. I even had to go to the Doctor to get meds because it was in my eye. Don’t laugh. I know you’re laughing at me. Well I deserve it of course. I was dumb, and I probably could have avoided getting such a horrible rash if I had only been more careful about the whole thing, I shouldn’t even have gone down there at all, but I really wanted to check out that lower falls. I was more worried about killing myself on that steep terrain than worried about avoiding the poison oak. Not so this week.

My primary concern this week was to avoid poison oak at all costs. So that means … STAY ON TRAILS! My first hike on Saturday was to Canyon Creek. That is a good trail. There may be ticks on that trail, and lots of them, but the poison oak should be avoidable. Well I did avoid the poison oak, and I only saw one tick (that itself is a shocker if you know that trail), however, I was not able to get to any waterfalls. Before starting out, I was 75% sure that the bridge over the creek would be gone due to the big storms we had this winter; it would surely be washed away. Well of course, I had to check it out anyway. And yes, when I got down to the creek, I found no bridge. The creek was flowing far too high to wade across, so I was skumped. I could not get to the waterfalls. I did not take any photos at all, though I puttered around Canyon Creek for quite awhile, but could not get to anything worth photographing.

So on Sunday after church, I wanted to go on another hike. An easy one. Again, NO POISON OAK! I chose American Canyon Creek Falls. This one should be all right. Again, there may be ticks, but the trail is a good one, and I should be able to avoid any poison oak easily. Not exactly.  What? Whenever I have been down here in the past, and I have been down here many times, I never found too much in the way of poison oak. Growing off to the side, sure, but not all over the trail! It was everywhere! And just oozing with urushiol oil. If one really can get poison oak rash from just looking at it, then I will certainly be getting another bad rash this week. But I carefully avoided touching the stuff as I hiked down. After I crossed the two creeks – which I was able to jump across even though they both had pretty good flow – then the situation became much worse. The oak was ridiculously bad, growing right over into the middle of the narrow trail. I slowed down to a snail’s pace as I carefully, ever so carefully, walked past the poison oak leaves coming out at me from both sides of the trail, daring me, taunting me, to get by without touching them. Unfortunately, I could not do it. I touched the stuff a couple times. I have never seen so much oak on this trail before. Of course, I do not usually come down here at this time of year. I suppose that is the reason. But still! If I had known it would be like this, I would not have chosen this hike. Anyway, I continued  on down to the waterfall. Slowly but surely.

The next issue was how I would cross the creek below the falls? It was flowing pretty darn strong! I knew it would be difficult at this flow, potentially impossible. When I got down there, I could see it would be tough. The creek was swift, and the little cascade below the pool was deadly if one slipped (well, not deadly, but definitely not good). I have crossed the creek before at high flow, I have a good photo on my website, so I knew it must be possible, and the flow then was higher than today.  That was many years ago. I have absolutely zero recollection of crossing this creek at high flow. I know I did not use a rope then, but how could I have ever done it! This time, I brought my rope, and this time I did use it, latching it onto a small tree, and carrying it across the creek with me. There are three steps you need to make through the swift flowing water. Fortunately, the footholds are secure enough to do it. I was holding onto that rope, and my feet were holding onto the rocks in the stream like a newt clinging to the side of a wet cliff. Three steps, and I lunged across onto the rock on the other side. But carefully! There is not much room on the other side whatsoever, and one small slip and you will be swimming in that big beautiful pool! Camera, tripod, and all of you! Now what to do with the end of the rope? I could not let go of it, if I lost the end of the rope, and the current took it away from me out of reach, I would be stuck, and not able to get back across the creek. However, there was no place on that side to latch the rope to, so I looped it around my belt buckle ensuring that I would not lose it! Then I sat down, careful not to slip, or let go of anything, and set up my tripod to take photos. I did drop my camera remote, but it did not go in the drink. Whew. I just bought that thing for the new camera too. I think this is the best photo I have ever obtained of this waterfall. It is so much nicer when the creek is higher.

Going back across was slightly more difficult! A lot more difficult! I could not go back down from the other side in the same manner (ie. backwards) because I couldn’t get a good handhold, so I had to go down from the rocks into the stream forwards, which was extremely tough and a bit scary. I should have thought about this before I went over there to begin with. I lunged back across the stream.

Now that I was all safe, I sat down on the rocks and ate my lunch. Perhaps you were wondering about the newt reference I made above? I am not that strange, it was not actually just a random, weird reference. As I ate my lunch, I noticed two newts on the other side of the creek, attempting to climb up the cliffs. There were little streams coming down the cliff, and the rocks were wet and slick. To you and me they were little streams. To these newts, they were massive waterfalls! They were trying to climb up beside them and I was cheering them on! One of them fell three times trying to get up a slick vertical rock. The other one was doing a lot better, and made it up his section, but then he seemed to be trapped on a rock in between two of those massive waterfalls. He just stopped there. Was he resting? Sleeping? Or had he just given up all hope? The other one, meanwhile, finally got up that rock and continued climbing up the cliff, holding onto any bit of moss he could find. At one point, near the top, he seemed to lose his footing, and was holding on to the moss with his two upper legs, the bottom two were dangling. Come on little guy. You can do it! He pulled himself up and got under an overhang. I do not know how he could continue from there. The other one finally gathered up his energy, and crossed that little stream. It would be a long fall if he did not make it, but he made it across. Whew!  As you can see, I am easily entertained. I watched these guys for about 30 minutes as I ate my lunch. They probably only climbed up less than 5 feet during all that time. Finally, I said goodbye and good luck to the little fellers. Up the hill I went. Back through the poison oak.

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So I just bought a new camera, the Sony A6300. I did not have the extra money to buy the full frame version, but I needed the new camera for my upcoming backpacking trips. The Canon is just far too heavy for backpacking, as I talked about last year in my blog. This year I absolutely needed a new camera for backpacking, but also a good camera. Enter the A6300.

With my wife out of town for the weekend, partying in Las Vegas, me looking after the kids, and after dropping my daughter off at dance practice, I only had a short time to hike on Saturday, but I had to get out to try the new camera, so up I went up to Colfax and back to Stevens Creek Falls.

The trailhead parking area was busy! I figured there would be a few people on the trail today, but not this many. By the time I got back to the car after my hike, there were so many cars they were parked up along the road back to town. I had no idea this trail was so popular. Ugh.

I don’t like it when there are so many people on the trails, but what to do. This is why I normally start hiking at sunrise. Anyway, it is a short hike to the falls. With the flow much lower now, it was relatively easy to cross the creek at the top of the lower falls. No surprise or difficulty there. I have never shot this lower waterfall before because it is very steep getting down to it, but I was determined to try it again today. It was much more difficult than I imagined it to be! The ground was very crumbly and steep, and a big long slide off into the creek if I lost my footing. Even using the rope, I had a lot of trouble getting down, and the poison oak was unavoidable down at the bottom. Argh! I was just in it bad last week, and I got the rash (though just a very small one on my leg and on my side), and now I was back in it again. I did not want to be in the oak again this week!

All the people up on the trail just made everything worse. I could see many people come across the creek at the top of the falls, all watching me, sensing I was about to lose my footing and fall into the creek and over the lower falls, killing myself. Blood and guts spilled all over the place. Oh the pressure. But I made it through that oak, and down to the bottom of the waterfall safely.

I brought both cameras on this hike. I wanted to compare the photos. The A6300 is certainly going to take a lot of getting used to. The buttons are just extremely sensitive. I had everything ready to go beforehand and figured out, I thought. Yet the settings just seemed to change randomly at the small touch of any button, and the shutter would release even though I was sure I had not touched that button. Ah, it was frustrating. As far as quality goes, the Sony is all right, but when I compared the photos at home, I think the Canon 5D MK II quality was still a lot better. They are about the same amount of megapixels so you might think the Sony would be just as good if not better than the Canon. I was hoping that would be the case so I can sell the Canon, but I’m not so sure right now. The colors seem to be pretty good on the Sony, perhaps better. Anyway, the jury is still out. The Sony is definitely going to take some getting used to. It was a good morning on the trail. Let’s just hope I do not get that darn rash this week.



In search of a brand new waterfall this weekend, and I found one, but not the one I thought I would find.

There is supposed to be a nice cold storm coming in this weekend, but waking up in the morning, there were not any clouds around. Where is that darn storm? I could have taken the car since the roads are all paved, but it was supposed to snow at very low elevation, so I thought it best to take my SUV in case it started snowing early. It did not snow early. In fact, it was sunny all morning long. Where is that darn storm anyway? Even now, as I write this in the afternoon, it is still sunny.

I wondered about driving on this road (Iowa Hill Rd), thinking it could be closed or very damaged. Its counterpart (Yankee Jims) is closed. As I drove down the road, you can see there were at least a couple big mud slides in the last month, but they have been cleared out now. Damage to the road from erosion is also evident, but it is not overly bad and not dangerous to drive. Once on the other side of the river, however, the road becomes very steep, and very narrow. I hate driving these narrow roads, even more so since the edges are eroded from the February storms. I have only driven up this road once before (and did not drive back down the same way – I went back via Yankee Jims – which obviously I cannot do today). Today I would have to drive back down the same way, and pray like mad that I would not meet another car coming up the hill at one of those very narrow sections. This road really freaks me out.

I arrived at the trailhead and found a nice wide dirt logging road on which to begin my hike. Sweet. It did not last too long. Sooner or later, I would have to exit the road and descend down to the bottom of the canyon. Sooner came sooner than you might think, and off the road I exited. It was very brushy. It was not supposed to be so brushy, according to Google Earth, that is. But indeed, it was very brushy, and I did briefly consider quitting already or at least trying further back up the road. I did not want to bash my way through all that manzanita brush. However, I found a way around it. Once I got around the bad stuff, the going was much easier, and not as brushy. There was poison oak, but it was not bad, and I think I managed to avoid touching any of it. When I got back home later, I still scrubbed down with Tecnu, just in case. Better safe than sorry. I find that 95% of the time if I do this, I will not get a rash. At this time of year, I am in the poison oak a lot.

I continued down to the creek. The very last section was quite steep and slick because the ground was dripping with wetness from some hidden underground spring. I had to use my rope to get down this last part safely, but I got down and found this stunningly gorgeous 28 ft. high waterfall. Fantabulous! But … this was not the waterfall I was expecting to find here. I was looking for a different one, and I was pretty darn sure I was in the right place. Instead, I found this other brand new darling falls. Hey, who’s complaining?  Nevertheless, I do wonder where that other waterfall is. A return trip is going to be required here. But first, I will need to go back to the drawing board.

Anyhow, I climbed back up the mountain through the oak and brush, and made it back to my vehicle in good time. My prayers were answered, and I met no cars coming up that narrow road. It was a beautiful morning, but bring on that snow already.



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Just so you know, if you are wanting to come to California anytime soon, it is closed. A couple summers ago, I think, we were saying the same thing, but that was because of fires. Now it is floods. California does not know how to do any weather that is not extreme. Roads are currently closed all over the place due to flooding, in northern California, the Central Coast, and the Bay Area is a mess. Places in Southern California received over 8 inches of rain in ONE DAY! Mud and rock slides are closing highways frequently in the Sierra Nevada. Dams in northern California are on the brink of failure. Just stay away, if you know what is good for you. I do not. I love all this rain. I will admit though (a big admission for me), it seems that it has become a bit too much for California to handle.

Nonetheless, I will keep on hiking no matter what. But the goal is always to stay safe. I drove up to Foresthill, in search of a brand new waterfall. The dirt road I was driving on was surprisingly good, no mud, the grade was very good, wide, and flat. I thought I would make my destination easily. Then the road started to go up hill and got a bit narrower, and I came upon a massive road blowout. A huge tree had collapsed from below the road, and had fallen across the road, completely obliterating it from existence. The hillside below the road had collapsed, knocking out a number of trees. Even if there was no tree blocking the road, there would be no driving around this disaster. I just don’t understand why there had been no signs way back at the beginning, saying that the road was closed. It was a lot of wasted driving effort. So back to Foresthill I went. What should I do now?

I decided to go to Colfax and back to Stevens Creek Falls. I had been wanting to go back here because I still needed a good photo of the lower section of this falls. And I still do. It is an easy hike, and I made good time to the waterfall viewpoint. The creek was flowing more than I have ever seen it before, as I suspected it would be. I took some photos of the waterfall, then continued on to the creek crossing. Umm … nope. The trail crosses the creek at the brink of the lower falls. Under normal circumstances, ie. whenever I have been here before, it is no trouble to cross the creek. It was extremely dangerous to cross today. There was absolutely no possible way to cross. Unless you wanted to slide off the waterfall.

I tried to go down to the bottom on this side of the creek, but I could not get down all the way to the bottom, it was too sketchy, and I could not find any viewpoints. All I did find down there was poison oak. I did not find any ticks, however. Whenever I have been here before, I have always seen ticks. All this winter, I have only seen one tick in total. The last few years, they have been out months before now. Maybe they all died in the floods. One can only hope.

After trying to get to the bottom, I went up to the upper section, through all the poison oak, and found a pretty nice viewpoint of this section (shown above). I never braved going through the prickly brush and oak before to get to this spot, but today I did. It was very sweet. As for the bottom section, it occurred to me after I got home that I actually perhaps could have gotten down to it. I was not thinking clearly, and this other possible route did not even occur to me until after I got home. Argh. Now I’m going to have to go back. Someday.

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It was kind of a lame weekend for me, no new waterfalls to report. You can’t win them all. The hike I really wanted to do was all snowed in. It was only about 5000 ft. in elevation, but the road had too much snow to continue. With this ridiculously warm month, I was surprised I could not drive up this road at least partially. Anyone want to buy me a snowmobile? I could have used one this weekend. I did not have a very great backup plan. I finally gave up all hope and went to Traverse Creek Falls.

I didn’t really have much desire to go back to Traverse Creek Falls again, but well I was in the area, and had nothing better to do. It is an easy hike, but there are some steep parts. Someone had cut the rope on the first descent. Fortunately, it is not the worst of the steep sections and a rope is not really needed (if you are careful, which of course I was). The second rope at the brink of the falls is still there. Good thing because it is much more treacherous there.

The waterfall was in Double Mode, but just barely. It is almost back to Single Mode after a month of no rain. I expected it to be in Double, but was hoping for a bit more oomph on that second segment. It looks like we may be getting some more of that much needed oomph in March. There is good news, rain is finally back in the forecast. El Nino may be making a comeback. Pray it is a big comeback. Anyhow, I think I got a somewhat different shot of the falls this time, and was standing in the middle of the cold creek to get it.

Whenever I am at Traverse Creek I always bring a garbage bag to pick up trash. In past years there has been a horrible problem here with idiots leaving behind their garbage, but the last couple times I have been here there has been very little to pick up. I was almost ready to declare Traverse Creek “problem” free. Not quite. This time around it seems we are back to square one. I picked up a whole bag of trash. Mostly beer cans, I guess, but a lot of other stuff as well, conveniently thrown into the bushes where all the poison oak is located. If I get poison oak from picking up trash … I will be very unhappy (to put it mildly). I also found a box for a mini cross bow, just left behind at the top of the falls. Really? If you are going to bring something like that on your hike, why wouldn’t you unpack it out of the box at your car? And leave the darn box at your car! If you don’t want to do that, then why can’t you take the box back with you? You packed it in, you can pack it out! Some people’s children. I did have a lovely morning.

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