GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS

So first off, this is an old photo of Lion Slide Falls near Redding, from May 2008. Why am I posting it again?

A couple weeks ago I went to Potem Falls, (also near Redding). I reported to you that it was a trash heap. There was a ton of trash left down there by a**holes. I was not able to clean it up myself, but I put it out to you my readers in hopes that someone might be able to go up there and make an effort to clean up the trash. Well I am happy to report that someone did this! I don’t know who did it, but I heard from someone that it is now clean at Potem Falls. Was it one of my readers? Was it you? If so, I would love to acknowledge you on my blog if you tell me. Regardless, whoever did it, thank you so much!

Unfortunately, I also heard from the same person that Lion Slide Falls is also a horrendous trash heap. Why so many waterfalls in the Redding area have such a trash problem?? What is up with that? Anyway, I am putting this one out there to my readers also. Maybe someone will read this  and go up to Lion Slide and clean it also (perhaps the same people that cleaned Potem, perhaps someone else). Again I wish I could do it myself but I do not live up there, but anyhow, maybe someone can do it. Sadly, they will probably just get trashed again in the summer. People can be such jerks.

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FINAL SCORE: TICKS 2, MADMAN 1

    • I only made it to one out of four waterfalls, but at least I was not shut out. Here is what happened. It is a long story but I hope you stay with me:

      • This was a four day backpacking trip into the Ventana Wilderness. I was waiting for a SHORT break in the weather and after SOME rain before doing this trip. Unfortunately on two counts: “some” rain was not enough on the Central Coast, and the “short” break has now become an awful much too long break. The February 1 stats are in: Rain fall in California is 68% of average (northern CA), 43% (central), and 30% (south). Snow pack is 27% of average (north), 30% (central), and 25% (south). The current dry period currently has no end in sight. It is so awful and upsetting.

        • Anyway … it was the morning of the lunar eclipse when I started driving down I-5 to towards the Central Coast. I did not plan this, but it just turned out this way. Every photographer in California I am sure was out somewhere photographing the event, a few of them came away with some great images. As for me, I did not bring my big camera and big lens with me. I never take those lugs on a backpacking trip and I was not going to leave that expensive equipment in the car for four days while I was out in the wilderness. I did not feel like I could get a good photo of the moon with my backpacking camera, nonetheless I did stop at the rest area on I-5 and took some video footage during the totality of the eclipse. It was not the place I wanted to stop to do this, but I was a bit late getting out of bed, and this turned out to be the only good place to stop.

          • Continuing on … I arrived at the trailhead at about 9AM and started my hike up into the wilderness. I would be gaining 2300 ft. in elevation on the first day (more, it turned out). So the big problem with this hike? Poison oak and ticks. The poison oak was mostly avoidable and I took great care to not touch it, and I did not get any rash. The ticks, however, were a different story. There were a heckuva lot of them, all over the place. Normally, ticks like hanging off the light brown/tan colored grasses hanging onto the trail. You can see them. Well, up here, they also like hanging off the dark brown/green brushes as well. You cannot see them. They even liked going on the poison oak. So if you touch it, not only do you get an awful rash, but you also get lyme disease. Just lovely. On top of all this, you are constantly swatting the gnats away from your face. And … you have to avoid stepping on all the California Newts that are all over the trail and do not move away when you approach them. I almost stepped on one because I was more concerned about avoiding the bloody ticks, but fortunately I did not step on any. It was very taxing to swath a path with my hiking pole through the grasses to avoid getting any ticks on me, but despite my best effort, I still ended up with two tick bites. It was very stressful. Honestly, this would have been an awesome hike if there were only no ticks.

            • The good news is that once I got above 4000 feet, the ticks and the poison oak disappeared (and the newts). The bad news: the trail was incredibly overgrown with manzanita and other brush growing over the trail. It was a huge effort to hack my way through it. I ended up doing this section four times! (why? read on…) I made it to the top and rested. It was already past noon. Now I wanted to descend down into a canyon (off trail), but this turned out to be far worse and more difficult than I anticipated. It was also the worst brush I have ever encountered on any hike I have ever done. This was much much tougher than it should be. Also, I began to highly doubt that there was even any water down in the canyon. If I got down there, and there was no water, I would be dead. Literally. I decided (wisely, I think) to go back up to the trail. It took an extra long time because I ended up going back up a different way and I came to  absolutely impenetrable brush. The worst ever. By far. I had to go back down, and then find the proper way to up. By the time I got back to the trail, I was spent, it was late in the day, and I was almost out of water. To continue on from here to the next campsite, it was still a very long hike, it would be more uphill, and I could not be sure there was even water there (there was, as it turned out, but only a small trickle, and it would not have been good). I decided (wisely, again, I think) to go back down the trail to the previous campsite. There was water there for sure and it was shorter, all downhill. Unfortunately, a long way downhill. Almost 2000 ft. I made it to camp an hour before dark, just enough time to setup camp and eat dinner.

              • The very tough thing about backpacking in winter is that it gets dark very early, at 5:30PM. That is too early to go to bed. However, I was extremely tired, and I ended up sleeping about 11 or 12 hours. I was certainly well rested by morning and recovered enough to try climbing up the mountain again. 2000 ft. back to the top of the ridge. This time I stayed all on trail.

                • So I have to say that this second effort was all worthwhile once I got to the top of the ridge. The views were OUTSTANDING! On one side, the mountains of the central coast were spectacular and beautiful and green. On the other side, I could see the ocean from up here. It was magnificent. It was glorious. It was emotional. It was calling out to me. When you see the ocean like this, you just want to abandon your plan and go straight to it. I could have done so. The trail sign in one direction said you could hike all the way to Big Sur. Believe me, I thought about changing my plan and doing this. However, I had no maps for this section of trail. How far was it? (a long way, probably) Would there be any water? (not likely) How would I get back? (probably, I wouldn’t). In the end, the waterfalls won out over the ocean. Incredibly, I had cell service up here. I took a photo of the ocean and sent it to my wife. She was not very amused, and she was very jealous (she loves the ocean).

                  • Well on to my next campsite. All the trails up here seem to be (actually, are) longer than what my Topo map says they were. It took longer to hike than it should have taken. I got down to the campsite and the creek, and just had enough time to setup camp and eat my dinner. Then I had to go on my next hike, to the first waterfall. The way to get there is to wade straight up the creek. I was in the creek multiple times, crossing to one side, then the other side, straight through it, whatever seemed easiest to do. With the low flow in the creek, it was not difficult. It was a bit fun, but again, it took longer than expected. It did not seem that there would be any waterfalls on this creek. It was so flat. However, I finally came around a corner and there it was. Beautiful! The water and pool was a glorious green color. There was an undercut behind the falls, you could probably swim under (in the summer). It was a very unique looking falls. The entire trip was “almost” worth it, just to see this glorious waterfall, and it is about 50 ft. high. Yet, this was not the main waterfall I wanted to see on this trip. I returned to camp just before dark. Again, I was incredibly tired, and I slept very well.

                    • The next morning my goal was to see two other waterfalls on this same creek. This time I hiked along the creek downstream from camp. Before too long, the water disappeared. The creek was completely and totally dry. This was very unexpected. The water in the creek bed all went underground. I continued on down the dry creek bed for a long while, hoping beyond hope that the water would return to the surface. However, it soon became very apparent that this was not going to happen. The waterfalls downstream were bone dry. Well this was a huge bummer. Stupid dry winter! There was nothing to do except return to camp. Since it was still fairly early, I decided to pack up camp, and head back up the trail. No sense staying another night at this campsite. I made it back to the same place I stayed at the first night. I was tired and even though I was only 3 miles from my car I decided to stay one more night out here and make the easy hike in the morning. The last 3 miles would be very tick infested and I was far too tired to do battle with them on this day. I know I would have lost the battle tremendously. In the morning, I could deal with them. I fell asleep listening to the owls hooting to each other somewhere out in the dark.

                      • P.S. This waterfall will be up on my website very shortly:
                        http://waterfallswest.com/waterfall.php?id=sugar-falls-2174

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                        THE BEAT GOES ON

                        After going to Phantom Falls, I went on a trek down to Beatson Falls. I have been to Beatson before but not by this route. It was a fun cross country route, and the total hike was around 10 miles or so. You really need GPS up in this area, or have a super real good sense of direction. It is easy up here to get lost. Only the killer cows will guide you home.

                        Anyway, I arrived at Beatson Falls, and found it flowing pretty well, better than Phantom Falls was flowing. I saw a truck driving around in this area. I have never seen any of the private land owners around before when I have been up on Table Mountain. I wondered if he saw me and I wondered if I was on his private land. I was not really sure where all the boundaries are, however, I am sure Beatson is on public land and I certainly did not see any “no trespassing” signs, so I do believe I was all good. In fact, I think he was driving his truck on public land. Anyway, it was a fun day hike on Table Mountain.

                        I got home in time to go out for my birthday dinner with my family at my favorite pizza place, Chicago Fire. Yumm…

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                        THE BIG KAHUNA

                        So I turned 50 years old on Friday. The big 5-0. The big one. The big Kahuna. Blah blah blah. I took Friday off work and went out hiking. Seemed like a good thing to do. Since I am 50 this year, I have some epic backpacking trips planned this year (weather and snow pack permitting), including a backpacking trip coming up this winter, a Yosemite backpacking trip in the spring, an big trip to the Southern Sierra in the Fall, and one other trip, the most epic of all epic California hikes (can you guess what it is?). More to come on all of those in the future. But for now, on my actual birthday day, I just went out on a non-epic hike to Phantom Falls and Table Mountain. It was a very good day.

                        It was not my first choice, however, I figured that this latest storm probably dumped at least 1 or 2 feet of snow up where I had intended to go, and it was highly unlikely that I could drive up there this weekend. I really did not have much of a backup plan, not one that I was liking, but when I got to Oroville in the early morning hours, I saw that it was cloudy. All my weather forecasts were saying it would be cloudy for most of the morning. This was a new development. I had thought it was going to be a sunny day. I believe this was God’s gift to me on my birthday: a cloudy morning, and I determined to take advantage of it. I changed my plan and decided to go to Table Mountain; I would do a big loop hike to Phantom Falls and beyond.

                        It was dark when I arrived at the trailhead. It was also raining. I did not bring my rain gear! It was supposed to be a sunny day! Well, looking at the radar, it seemed this was just a little blip, and should pass by shortly, so I got myself ready to go. It was still a bit misty and lightly raining when I started the hike to Phantom Falls in the dark.

                        I saw and heard no killer cows in the dark. Where were they all hiding today? It was very strange, actually. There are always cows around up here. I only saw one on the entire hike to the falls. It ran away as I approached it. Afterwards, on the return trip, I saw a few more, but still much less than usual.

                        I arrived at Phantom Falls at around sunrise. The waterfall was flowing a bit on the low side. I was a bit disappointed. It was not too bad, and it was certainly pretty, but I expected more after this latest storm. This was the first real snow storm of the year, and now we are going back into a 2 week dry spell again. It is so depressing. The snow pack is only at 20 percent of average for the year thus far. I saw a lot of evidence from the fire that raged here in the summer. You can see it in this photo that the fire in Coal Canyon reached all the way to Phantom Falls, and there was a lot of burn elsewhere on Table Mountain. Anyway, after photographing Phantom Falls, I went back to Ravine Falls, took some photos there, and then went on a big loop down to Beatson Falls, and then back to the trailhead. More pictures to come. It was a fun day for my birthday.

                        I got back to my car about noon and started packing up my gear. It was interesting because quite a few other people had come out to hike Table Mountain on this day. It is a weekday, in the winter, so I thought this a bit surprising. I watched as one car pulled up, carrying a trailer with dirt bikes. I was thinking to myself about this, who are these people? Do they think they are going to ride their dirt bikes out to Phantom Falls? That is not allowed. What is wrong with these people? As I was thinking this, they stopped their car right in front of me. Are they going to park their car right there? What are they thinking? Then the driver rolled down his window and started saying something to me. I looked at him, and I realized, Hey I know these people! They go to my church in Cameron Park (which is quite a distance away from Oroville) – what are the odds of seeing them here today? So weird. We chatted for awhile, and I gave them some tips on how to get to the waterfall. And no, they were not going to ride their bikes to Phantom Falls. They were only hiking. Strange thoughts go through my head sometimes. Probably more so now that I am 50 years old.

                         

                         

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                        DAREDEVILS ONLY

                        I was hoping to get to three waterfalls this past weekend. I managed to get to two of them, both of which I had not been to before. The third one (Big Kimshew) I had been to before so it was not a huge loss to miss it, but the road to the big falls was very muddy with huge puddles that I did not feel like driving my SUV through, so I decided to skip it.

                        I was actually a bit surprised I could drive as far as I did. The road was rough and slow going. It is a very long drive as well. When I arrived at the gate, it was still a bit before sunrise, so I was ahead of schedule. That would soon change.

                        As I hiked down the road, I thought the first waterfall would be quick and easy. It seemed that way on Google Earth. It seemed that you could even see it from the road. Not so. I had to cut off the road and go straight down through the woods. Fortunately, there was no poison oak. As I approached the top of the waterfall, the terrain became rather cliffy. It was very cold and the ground was icy. I needed to be extremely careful. I decided to keep going downstream, looking for an easier path down to the creek, then cut back to the falls. This worked well enough, but was unnecessary and took much longer. I could have gone straight down to the falls from the road. I went right down to creek level below the falls, but soon realized this was a mistake. I could not see the waterfall from there. I went back up, and found a little ledge right in front of the waterfall. It was cold. It was icy. There was a huge amount of spray from the falls, but it was pretty cool, and I managed to get a decent photo of it. Check out my last post to see it, and my website for more info. The waterfall is 59 ft. high, it is a cool one, and I am sure very few people have ever seen this falls before, as it is very well hidden. All this took a lot of time and effort, and by the time I got back up to the road, it was much later than I hoped. I still had a 5 mile hike one way to the second waterfall.

                        The rest of the hike was all on the road, but it descended 1300 feet down to the river in those 5 miles. I was not sure about the sun, but I suspected I was going to be late arriving at the falls. I decided to jog the last 3 miles downhill to the river to make up some time. As it turned out, it was completely unnecessary, I had plenty of time, but I was not sure, so I jogged. At least it was downhill.

                        However, I was also wearing a heavy pack, so this was a bit hampering. I jogged slowly. Why was I wearing a big pack? Good question, and again, it turned out to be completely unnecessary.

                        All the photos I have seen of Lower Big Kimshew Falls seemed to be taken from far away, the falls seemed obscured by the rocks and terrain, and there was a big huge pool in front of the falls. I wondered how I could get up close to the falls. I thought I could perhaps do it if I brought my raft and paddled up close to the falls. So yes, I lugged my big raft 5 miles down to the waterfall (and back up afterwards).

                        When I got down there, I was confused. It was actually very easy to walk right up close to the falls. There was no need for the raft at all. I carried it all that way for nothing. Also, the falls was not obscured by the rocks. This was mind boggling to me, it did not really make any sense. It did not even look like the photos I had seen prior. I think that because there was more flow in the creek today, it just flowed right over the rocks. This is a good thing. It was just confusing to my pee brain. I also thought the waterfall would be a bit bigger. It is only 16 feet high. Not a huge one by any means, but I am glad I finally came down to see it nonetheless. I saw a rope swing beside the falls, so I think it is a good swimming hole in the summer (if you know how to get here). Of course, the creek is also popular with the daredevil kayakers. This little 16 ft high drop might be a piece of cake for them, but there are much bigger waterfalls upstream from here, one or two of which I have still not seen (yet).

                        Another thing I found out which I had not known, and made me very happy about the route I had taken: The bridge over the West Branch Feather River was in utter shambles and closed off. I think it has been like this for quite awhile, but I had no idea. No one ever mentioned this to me before. I would not have wanted to try to cross the bridge. If you are one of those daredevils, then yes I suppose it could be crossed all right, but it looked extremely dangerous to me. The only reason I went the way I did is because I wanted to also see that first waterfall. I am sure glad I did.

                        After my hike was done and I was driving back down that rough road back to Oroville, I came across a couple road bikers that were locked out of their vehicle. They asked me if I had a screwdriver so they could pry open a window and get into their truck. All they had to open their truck was a remote key and it had dead batteries, so they could not get into it! I don’t know but if you ask me, and that is your only way to get into your vehicle, you sure better have a backup plan in case your remote batteries die and you are way out in the middle of the wilderness with no cell phone coverage and no other people around. You know what I am saying? Well lucky for them I did have a screwdriver, and they were able to use it to pry open the window successfully. They were sure grateful.

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