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.