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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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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The Pineapple Express came to town and left destruction in its wake. About 15 inches of rain fell in the Northern Sierra foothills. Many rivers and creeks were flooded. Roads and highways closed. Power lines came down. Mud and rock crashed down mountain sides. Famous trees fell (one famous tree, anyway).

P.S. Northern CA is now at 218% of average rainfall for the year so far and the snow pack is now above 131% of average. We still have two and a half months of winter left. Keep it coming!

Of course you know that I would want to get out and see some waterfalls at extremely high flow. The North Fork American River reached 43,000 cubic feet per second, quite a bit higher than the high from last month’s storms, but lower than I was expecting. We received less rain than initially forecast. I blame my wife for jinxing the forecast. She said beforehand that we would not get so much and that the forecasters are always wrong. Argh, thanks so much, my love.

Anyhow, the rivers were extremely high. Normally at this time I head up to my go-to waterfall, Canyon Creek Falls, and actually this was my plan when I woke up. One problem. The freeway was closed. I could not get to Canyon Creek.

Time for Plan B, which was suggested to me by a friend: Grouse Falls. I would not have even thought of this waterfall in the winter. Surely it would be inaccessible this time of year, but the idea had much merit. If you are going to see a raging waterfall, go huge. At 504 ft. high, Grouse Falls is huge. It would be spectacular. Could I get to it?

The road from Auburn to Foresthill was extremely busy. In both directions. What the heck is going on? I always see cars coming from Foresthill (to go to work in Auburn, I assume), but not the other way. And everyone was driving much too fast. It was still dark, the roads were wet and potentially slick going around the corners. There easily could be deer along the road. Or bears. Awhile ago, I did see a dead bear along this road. Hit by an idiot, who was driving too fast, I am certain. It ruined my entire day. Indeed, this morning I saw many more deer than I usually see, a surprisingly large amount actually. They were all out and about, no doubt, because the big storm was over, and now they were looking to stretch their legs in the morning, and get their breakfast and coffee. Don’t drive so bloody fast in the early morning hours, people.

Getting back to the hike, my big concern with all the flooding and such happening, is that wherever I went, I had to be safe. This was a big concern, and why my Plan A was for Canyon Creek. The road up to Grouse Falls is not exactly safe. The North Fork of the Middle Fork American River canyon is terrifyingly steep. The road down from Foresthill to the river and up the other side is an amazing feat of engineering, built into the sheer vertical cliffs. Rock and mud slides are not uncommon, and after a huge rain event, I suspected there could easily be blockage. They have to keep the road open because of the powerhouses, but nonetheless I was concerned I might get trapped for quite a long time on the wrong side of a slide after my hike was all done. There is no other way out in the winter. But the storm was done, surely if anything came down it would have happened the previous day. Right?

Well as I drove down the road, I did see many rocks that had fallen onto the road, one big one that was blocking half the road, a couple fallen trees that were blocking half the road. Once I had to get out and move a big rock out of the middle of the road, but mostly it was easy to drive past all these small obstacles. So far so good. There was rain coming, but not until the afternoon (supposedly), so hopefully nothing else would come down as I hiked.

I came to the Grouse Falls turnoff. I had no idea what to expect. I was prepared, and thinking it quite likely, that I would have to walk from here. 12 miles round trip. I thought there would be too much snow in the road, or if it had all melted, then the road would be far too muddy to drive. I was prepared to make that hike. There was no snow. I kept on driving. It was surprisingly not muddy, and in fact was in very good condition overall for driving. I drove one mile. There were some icy patches on the road. I had to drive by them very carefully, but no big deal. I drove two miles. A small tree blocked the road. I was able to pull it out of the way. I drove two and a half miles. A small flooded creek going across the road, but nothing I could not drive through. I drove three miles. Snow on the road, but it was a short section, and I was able to plow through it. I drove three and a half miles. A much larger tree had fallen and blocked the road. I thought I was done for with this one, but I used my muscles and was able to pull the monster over enough to pass by. I am Superman. I drove four miles. A big, long, and deep snow section on the road. This time I really was done for. If only I had a jeep. I do not. But I had driven four miles! It was only 1.5 miles from here to the waterfall overlook. No problem. It was a very easy hike from here. However, as I approached the overlook, I began to realize there was going to be a different problem which I had not yet even considered: FOG!

The canyon was completely socked in. I could hear the waterfall, and it sounded impressive indeed, but I could not see it from the overlook. Then it started to hail. Hard. Then it started to rain. Hard. Then it started to snow. Hard. I waited for the fog to lift. I probably stayed at the overlook for an hour or so, through all that weather. Before too long, the fog did lift and I could see Grouse Falls. It was astounding! You have never seen Grouse Falls ever look so fine and magnificent. I clicked madly away at my camera because I only had about a minute, then the fog rolled back in, covering up all that magnificent-ness again. This scenario repeated itself quite a few times over the course of the hour. The fog would lift. Click the shutter button like a madman. The fog rolls back in. I took many photos. Hopefully, I got a decent one. It was impossible to tell because much of the time it was raining or hailing. It is very hard to photograph in the rain, and like an idiot, I forgot my umbrella so I did not have anything to help keep the rain off the lens. Finally, the fog came back for one last time, and I said enough. So long Grouse Falls, and thanks for all the pics.

It was snowing extreme on the hike back out, and raining no doubt at the lower elevations. I had hoped to do another hike, but not in this weather. I wanted to get down the mountain before half of it came down, wiping out the road. I did not feel like doing another hike in rainy weather, and I kinda felt that I did not see enough from this big rain event. Though, I should mention that I did go to Bassi Falls as well. It was a good snowshoe hike, but it was pouring rain and windy and very cold at Bassi Falls, and I only took two quick shots. Neither of them turned out at all. Crap. At least one of my myriad of Grouse Falls shots turned out well.



Here is lovely little Love’s Falls. Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and has a great upcoming New Year. Let’s spread some more “love” around in 2017, shall we ?

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We had a large Pineapple Express roll through last week. This storm was very warm – practically hot, so hot it was on fire. Ha ha. It brought up the river levels high, but it was all rain on the mountains and no snow. We do need that snow pack. The waterfalls at least would be fabulous. I wish I could have gone out hiking on Friday, though. The NFAR was up to 20,000 cfs for the second time in less than a week. By the time Saturday came along, the river levels were much reduced, but the creeks still should have been flowing great. You would think so, anyway.

It was very cold on Saturday. It was around 25 degrees. Freezing. Brr. It was all ice. Amazing how the weather can change so much in a day or two. The storm was all gone.

I drove up to Downieville and Sierra City in the morning, not as early as I had wanted to, but I had trouble sleeping the prior night, so I decided to sleep in a bit later than I should have. Here is what I found: The rivers (Yuba) were certainly still very high as you would think. The major creeks (Pauley) were certainly still very high as you would think. But the smaller creeks were not so high, and I was disappointed because I was hoping to see some of the waterfalls on these smaller creeks and flowing strong. Not so much. The first of these was 79 ft. high 1001 Ridge Falls.

There was a dusting of snow in Sierra City, I thought it might be treacherous getting down to this waterfall, but it was quite easy. It was a lovely scene with the dusting of snow, a winter wonderland, icy and fresh. I just wish the falls was flowing stronger. It would have been fabulous a day earlier, I am sure. This was the only “new” waterfall I saw this day. I wanted to see more new ones, and could have if I had gotten up earlier. Nontheless, I did see three other waterfalls. Coming up.

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