DO U SEE THE DIFFERENCE?

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.

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ITCHY

I know most people in California are itchy for spring to come. They are done with the rain. They say we have had far too much rain this winter. It is time for warmth and sun! They are getting their wish now. After just one small-ish storm in March, it has been rather sunny lately and all that snow is starting to melt now – slowly. Truth be told, I am getting rather itchy for spring myself. I have some epic hikes and backpacking planned for this spring when I can get into the high country. It will be an amazing waterfall season this year. I cannot wait to get to them. I am already there in my mind, not my body yet … but alas it will be quite awhile before we can get into the high country this year. Maybe even July. Despite the itchiness, however, I do wish we would get more rain in March. March is still winter. We need rain in winter. After the end of this month, then the snow can melt. That is what I say. I may get my wish about that as well. I do see the possibility now of more storms after next week.

Speaking of itchy … yes I was in the poison oak again this last weekend. A lot of it. I don’t know if I can avoid getting the big bad rash this time. There was no avoiding the stuff. It was all over me in and out.

This hike was somewhat close to my last hike in Shirttail Canyon, indeed I started at the same place, I just went further downstream this time. Last week’s hike was not too bad at all, really. This week’s hike was absolutely killer. There was a heckuva lot of brush, and a heckuva lot of poison oak, and a heckuva lot of very steep terrain and cliff climbing. At first I did not think I’d be able to get down to the river at all. My desired route was blocked by private property. Almost giving up, but decided to try an alternate route, not thinking it would work, but I persevered and after much bush whacking shenanigans, I finally got down to the creek below the falls. I could not find any view closer to it than this one. I could not see around that big rock on the corner. This was the best viewpoint I could find, and not a very great one. With less water flowing, I could cross the creek and get a much better vantage point, but will I ever be back down into this ridiculous canyon again? Not likely. Ah well.

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SURPRISE

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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STINKY FALLS

Here are your March 1 weather stats: Rainfall is at 221% of average for this date for Northern CA, 221% for Central, and 210% for Southern Sierra. We only need 12 inches of rain to surpass the wettest year on record. That seems like quite a bit, but I think it will happen, though perhaps not by April 1. The snow pack is at 161% of average (North), 193% (Central), and 204% (South).  It is going to be an incredible spring waterfall season this year. We have one official month of winter left and although it is starting off slow, there is a storm in the forecast this weekend and perhaps more in the next couple weeks. Some of you folks may be all done with the rain for this year, but I am not. We still gotta beat that all-time record. Ha ha.

My first hike of the day last weekend was to Kehoe beach. It is a short, easy hike down to the beach. It was very muddy, however. I thought that would mean the waterfall will be flowing fabulously. Not quite.

It was all so stinky! You can smell the cows all along the hike and on the beach even up to the waterfall. I did not see any cows at all. There is a ranch above the beach, I suppose that is where they all are, but I did not see them, I just smelled them. It was not horrendously awful, but it was not the typical ocean smell that we all know and love, and the reason we all like the ocean so much.

I also saw coyote prints on the trail to the beach, and they looked very fresh, but I did not see Mr. coyote unfortunately. I did see cormorants, and pelicans, and of course seagulls.

The waterfall was not flowing as much as I expected, even though it was only one week since the last big storm. We definitely will need more rain in March if I am going to do that other ocean hike at the end of the month. Anyhow, it was a lovely (albeit stinky) morning hike to an ocean waterfall.

 

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IT AIN’T OVER ‘TIL IT’S OVER

Just a couple days ago, it was looking like the dreaded Ridge would make its first significant appearance in California, resulting in our first extended dry period of this season. After 3+ months of continuous rain with very little break in between storms, now the rain would be over. Done and done. I am sure there was much rejoicing among flood weary Californians. I was bummed. We still have one more month of winter left and I would like to still see a decent amount of rain this month. Yes, I am out of my mind. I suppose I am being selfish, especially since the main reason I want this is because I have a plan to go to a certain waterfall at the end of March and it is the only time I can go see the waterfall, and it will be dry by then if we do not get any rain in March. Well, after just a short break this week, it now looks like the storms will be returning this weekend, and maybe some bigger ones by mid month. I might get to see that waterfall after all. The fat lady has not sung yet for this winter.

Here is a good case in point. This waterfall was not flowing as great as I hoped it would be. I was a bit disappointed. Even though it was only one week since the last big storm, the flow was already down substantially this week.

It is a long and boring hike out to this waterfall. It is pretty much at the end of the world. Well, Point Reyes is at the end of California’s world, anyway. It is about 5 1/2 miles one way, mostly flat and very easy. Although you are hiking through a pretty forest, and alongside a very  lovely stream, I still find hikes like this rather boring if they are flat. It is more interesting and challenging if there is elevation to hike up and down.

It is also an extremely popular hike. I did not see too many people on the way into the waterfall, and I saw no one down at the beach, but on the hike back I think I saw 1 million people. Every type of people you can possibly think of: hikers, runners, backpackers, bikers, dogs (though they are not allowed), old people, teenagers, little kids, foreign people, wimpy people, weird people, you name it, I saw them.

I really messed up on this hike, though, in a couple different ways. The first is that I should have brought my big lens. My back would not have been thanking me if I had brought it along on a 12 mile long hike. However, I needed it. I did not think I would because the park’s website indicated that this particular section of trail (Arch Rock) was closed due to a slide that happened last year, thus I figured I would not be able to get to this particular spot where I would need the big lens, and so did not bother to pack it along. However, it was not closed. I went out to Arch Rock, and that is where I wish I had the big lens. Aargh. I could see three waterfalls from this spot, including Alamere Falls three miles off in the distance. I also saw sea lions on the beach below me. It was an amazing viewpoint.

The second thing is that I should’ve done this hike first thing in the morning when the tide was low. I did not think I would need a low tide. Also, it was supposed to be a cloudy day. All my weather apps said it would be cloudy and showery all day long. Guess what? It was sunny. This would be disastrous for photography. As I hiked that long boring 5.5 miles, I prayed often: please bring those clouds in.

Well when I got down to the beach, guess what? There were some clouds. It was not what the weather people said it would be, just a few clouds covering the sun for a short period of time, but it was enough to take photos of this waterfall. Thank you, Lord. But where was that rain, anyway?

The second waterfall on this beach is the one I needed a low tide for, and it was actually a nicer waterfall than this one, but when I got down to it, the waves were crashing up against the cliff. I could only take a handheld shot in between the waves crashing every 30 seconds, I had no time to set up my tripod for a proper photograph. The scenario: Wait for the wave to end. Run up around the corner. Take a photo of the waterfall. Run back before the next wave got me. Rinse and repeat. Oh well, what can you do?

I went back to this first waterfall, took my photos standing in the middle of the stream, then had my lunch beside it. It was certainly a beautiful day. I saw no one else on the beach, except for two joggers that came down to the beach, took a selfie of themselves with the ocean in the background, then left. They did not even look at the waterfall, let alone go up to see yet, even though it was right there beside them.  Really? What is wrong with people! Who would rather look at the ocean than a waterfall? Sacrilege, I say. LOL.

After eating, it was time to hike back. It was a very long 5 1/2 miles. Every few minutes, I had to put on my happy face (though I was tired and my back was hurting), and say hello to the next group of hikers that came by. That gets tiring after awhile. Anyway, it was a beautiful day at the ocean.

 

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