DETOUR

On the way back down from Half Moon Lake, I wanted to make one pit stop to a second new waterfall. We had time, and it was still fairly early. This would be a quick little detour.

There is no trail, said Nekoda. Yeah I know that, I said. On the way up to Half Moon, Nekoda asked me if I ever went on hikes that were straight up the mountain without any nicely graded trails (such as the one we were hiking on). I said, yes, lots of times. That must be very hard, she said. I said, definitely much harder than this hike. I think now she must have been getting an anxiety attack when I started off trail on this little side trip.

She had nothing to worry about, it was a very easy little side trip. However, when we got over to the creek, I could see that to get up to the falls, we were going to have to do some bushwhacking through some brush. Nekoda did not want to do this. She was already pretty tired. Any extra effort would take all her energy away for the hike back down the mountain. She wanted to just sit down and wait. I insisted she come with me. It would not be too hard or long. The waterfall was hidden in a slot canyon, and we had to jump across the creek at the bottom of the falls to see it. It was an incredibly gorgeous 76 ft. high cascade, shooting down a very narrow slot, and fanning out at the bottom. It was much much nicer than I expected it to be. Stunningly beautiful. I think Nekoda was glad I made her come after all. Even though this is just a short detour from the main trail, I do not think hardly anyone knows this waterfall exists. Did you? We relaxed a bit, took photos, and then headed down the mountain. We still had quite a hike to do, and we just got back to the car a bit after dark.

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MOONSHINE

It would be back to Lake Tahoe and the Desolation Wilderness once more for me, and this time my daughter Nekoda wanted to tag along. I like it when my children want to come with me. It seems like such a rare thing.

My initial thought was we would backpack up to Half Moon Lake for one night. However, since it was last minute I could not get a permit, so thus I decided we should just do a day hike instead. It is only 6 miles (1 way) and a 1700 ft. elevation gain. We can do that in a day, right? Nekoda can do that in a day, right?

We arrived in Lake Tahoe around noon, stopped at Subway to get lunch and brought it to the Glen Alpine trailhead. I was shocked to see the parking area completely full. I would expect this on a Saturday, but this was not a Saturday. I prayed for a spot. There was a car ahead of me, but he turned off to the right. After he turned, another person waved me into the one remaining spot, located right at the trailhead sign. Perfecto! Thank you once again, Lord. It would really suck to have to walk an extra mile just to get to the trailhead. This was going to be a tough hike as it was.

We sat down by the lake and ate our lunch. The local chipmunks joined us, literally climbing up on our backs to get any morsels we would give them. Ok not literally, but almost. They were all over us and not shy at all. I suspect they get plenty of handouts in this area.

I heard the mosquitoes have been bad in this area in recent weeks. I have experienced them here in the past, and it was not pleasant. I was prepared for the worst. However, I could not get a very recent report and the last one I got was a couple weeks ago. Perhaps they have subsided since then. I hoped so, anyway. As it turned out, we did not see any bugs on the hike up to the lake or while up at the lake. Only on the hike back down in the evening did the mosquitoes come out to feast, but once we put on bug spray, they left us alone. So all in all, not too bad at all.

About halfway up the mountain, Nekoda almost bonked. Apparently this was a tougher hike for her than I thought it would be. She does not hike much, but she is a dancer, and she is dancing about 5 days per week usually, so she should be in great shape. Now since it is summer, she has not danced in the past couple weeks, but she should not get out of shape in only two weeks. Thus, I figured this hike would be fairly easy for her. Humph. Well, I really wanted to get up to this waterfall, but I also know Nekoda is more important than the hike. If I take her on a hike that is too hard for her, that is all on me. My fault completely. I told her that and that it was perfectly ok to turn around if she needed to. I can do this hike anytime. But Nekoda is a trooper. She always has been a trooper. Remember the story of her continuing the hike with me last year after she was stung by a bee? She wanted to continue on, so onwards we went. Before too long, the terrain leveled out and got much easier the rest of the way to the lake.

When we got up on the ridge the views were astounding. We could see over to Susie Lake and Susie Lake Falls (roaring), and the drainage above Susie Lake. There was still an incredible amount of snow above Susie Lake. It is the middle of August. I could not believe how much snow is still up there.

When we finally got to Half Moon Lake, we could see the waterfall on the other side of the lake, and it was flowing very strong. Awesome. There was still snow at the base of the waterfall. Nekoda thought it just looked just ok, and not so awesome. Wait til you get up close to it, dearie. You will be impressed. We are still a long way away from it. It was a longer hike to the end of the lake than I anticipated. The trail became quite overgrown now, but it was not too difficult. We were early however, so we went down to Alta Morris Lake to spend an hour or so.

What will you give me if I jump in the lake, I said to Nekoda. The lake was freezing cold. There was still snow around the lakeside. I will give you a kiss, she said. Ok that works, I said. The lake was blistering, but I dipped my head completely under for a very brief second, while she took photos of me doing it. It was fun and refreshing. You have to do this, I told her. She said, no way! Nonetheless, I talked her into it and she went under as well. Fun fun fun. I never did get my kiss, though. She said that since she did it as well, she does not owe me anything. Lame! After we huddled together to relieve our hypothermia, we went back up to the waterfall. We had to walk up a snow field to get up to it. Nekoda waited while I went over closer to the falls to take my photos. It is a magnificent 117 ft. high waterfall.

Hiking back down from the falls, I could see a large animal on the snow off in the distance. From this distance, it looked like it was getting ready to make a run for my daughter, who was way off ahead of me. It was too small to be a mountain lion, but I was definitely thinking coyote or bobcat. As I got closer, I could see it was neither of these. It was a bird. It was an enormous bird. It was a golden eagle. It was sitting on the snow, eating something or other. So I guess it was not interested in attacking my daughter, but it was definitely interesting to see it there on the snow.

We made good time hiking back down the mountain. We saw a couple backpackers coming up. Their packs looked enormous. And I thought that eagle was big.  It is not pleasant to go backpacking when you are carrying such a huge weight. I did that last year, my pack was 45 pounds. And I’m sure these two had at least 55 pounds on their backs by the looks of it. I am so glad I cut my pack weight to about 32 pounds this year. It is so much more pleasant! Backpacking is supposed to be fun! Anyway, it was getting quite late and I do not think these two were going to make it up to the lake before dark. Not at the rate they were going (which was zero mph). It was 8:30 when Nekoda and I got back to the car. Just a little past dark. Not too shabby.

It was a glorious hike up into the Desolation Wilderness, and we did not just see the one awesome waterfall. We saw a second fantastic waterfall on the way back down as well. Coming up next …

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THAT OTHER STATE

    I do not usually cross into Nevada to search for waterfalls, but when I do, I find one. Kidding. But seriously, if there are two waterfalls that I want to see that are the same distance from my home, one in CA and one in NV, I will choose to go to the CA waterfall. Why so, captain? Well it is because I want to be considered the guru of California waterfalls (or whatever you want to call me – pick a name – it doesn’t have to be a nice one), and there are just so many waterfalls still left to see in California, so I concentrate on going to see the CA waterfalls as much as I can, in order to continue to build up my bagged list in CA. But every so often, I feel like venturing into Nevada, and thus was the case this weekend.

      Waterfall season is done in California (and Nevada), but I thought perhaps this one in the Mt Rose Wilderness might still be suitable, since it is a high elevation waterfall. Not great, but at least decent. So after work on Friday, I took my son Jadon and drove up the hill, eventually crossing into that other state.

        I thought this was a very easy hike. It is only 2.5 miles with minimal elevation gain. Jadon did not feel the same way. He said it was a “moderate” hike. My family knows by now to always up the difficulty level from what I say it is, by one more level. They are not stupid. Easy is really moderate. Moderate is really strenuous. Strenuous is really just kill me now. I’m not sure, though, why Jadon thought this hike was “moderate”. Perhaps it was the high elevation. Pretty much the entire hike is above 9000 ft., so that could be a factor, but since it is mostly flat-ish, I did not think it to be an issue at all. Perhaps it was just his lazy, teenage mindset. That’s more likely. Anyhow, it was a good hike to the falls. It was definitely flowing “decent”, though I was hoping for a bit more water.

          My tripod head broke again, making it very difficult to take photos. I had said I fixed it, and that I was the man, and avoiding having to purchase a new $200 head. Well, I guess I am not the man any longer. I could not fix it again. The screws were still tight, and I could not tighten them any more, but it is still broken. So I am definitely going to need to buy a new one now. Bummer. I tried to take photos as best as I could.

            On the way down, we ran into not one but two large groups going up the mountain (to the top of Mt Rose). It was already almost sunset. It would be dark long before they got to the top. Usually I am always the last one off the mountain, but not today. At first I thought it was just a bunch of unprepared kids going up to have a party or something and not thinking about how they would come back down in the dark, but then a couple adults came trailing along behind them. They said they were going to the top to see the full moon rise, and hike down in the dark. Ok then, well that sounds like a very cool thing to do, however I’m pretty sure they did not make it to the top in time to see the moonrise. I would definitely like to go to the top sometime to be there at sunrise or sunset. That would be awesome, but not today. I was hoping to get a nice sunset view of Lake Tahoe from up on the ridge, but we could not even see the lake! It was so hazy in the valley from the fires in California, that you could not see anything down in the valley. There was a bit of nice color, and I did take a couple shots, but I don’t think I got anything very interesting. We arrived back at the car just after dark and made the long drive home. We had a good hike in the other state. 

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              WAG THE DOG

              Too hot in the valley. Let’s head up into the mountains, I say to my son. Okay, he says reluctantly. As if he had a choice.

              It is a short hike to this waterfall, if you have a four wheel drive. You can almost drive to it, but the road is quite rough, so we walked more than I expected to. I have not been to this falls before, but I’ve been wanting to go for quite awhile now, and it seemed a good one to do since I did not want to do much of a hike in the hot weather. The mosquitoes were out so we quickly lathered ourselves in juice. That kept them away for a short time, but they kept coming back to munch on us. I might need to get some better repellent.

              We climbed up on an open rocky area in front of the falls where I took my photos. The mosquitoes were not at this spot, thanks to a little breeze. Good thing.

              After this I suggested we climb to the top of the falls. I thought there might be more falls above this. I said to Jadon we will need to go around, it is too steep and cliffy right beside the waterfall. He said, what are you talking about. It is easier to go straight up. And so he did. I followed him up. He was right, of course, it was no problem to go straight up. We found a couple smaller cascades, then continued up to Crater Lake. Not the one in Oregon. Obviously.

              I have never been to this lake before. I will be back. Probably within a week. What a marvelous and pretty lake, and the surrounding area is spectacular. We did not have enough time to explore it all, and that is why I need to come back here soon. You will see why later.

              We proceeded to the outlet of the lake, where we found a family on the other side of the creek with a OHV. Did you cross that creek in your OHV, I asked one of the kids there. Yes, my dad did. He is coming back now. We watched as he crossed back through the stream. The water here was more than 2 feet in depth, possibly close to 3 feet. Another kid was in the backseat screaming in excitement. After he crossed, I said to him, I gotta get me one of those things. What fun!

              There was a strong breeze at the outlet stream. It felt so darn nice and kept the mosquitoes away. I was thinking very strongly that I could just stay right there all night long with that awesome breeze. But alas, we had to hike back down to our car before it got dark.

              Along the way we passed a campsite with a dog. The dog came out to greet us, and he was about the friendliest dog I’ve ever seen. Its entire body wagged, not just its tail. It gave new meaning to the term “wag the dog”. He followed us up the road for about a half mile, and had no intention of going back to its owners. I’m sure it would have followed us all the way to our car. I told the dog to “go back”, “go home”, “sit”, “stay”. Nothing doing. He kept following us. Finally I told Jadon to go on ahead, and I would walk back to the campsite with the dog. But he kept following Jadon up the road, and would not come with me. Finally I enticed it to come with me (with a bit of cold meat perhaps?). When we got back to the campsite, the owners were nowhere to be seen. I yelled out “hello!”. Where were they all? I waited for awhile, then I heard someone chopping wood and yelled out again “can you please call back your dog?”. No wonder the dog wanted so badly to come with us, having owners that did not care one iota about him or where he was. I think we should have let the dog follow us back to our car, and took it home with us. Yes, my wife would have really liked that. Seriously.

               

               

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              MILLER TIME

              Out for a stroll this weekend, and I was up at 3AM. Ouch. I arrived at the trailhead at 5:30AM. This is the world famous and extremely popular Rubicon Trail. The parking lot was jam pack full with cars and trailers. Ouch. I expected there to be people and jeeps on the trail, but not this many. It is summertime. I had actually wanted to come on this hike much earlier in the spring, but this was the first chance I had this year. It was time to go see Miller Creek Falls. It was Miller Time. I managed to squeeze my SUV into one of the only remaining spaces.

              Well hopefully I would not see any jeeps on the trail. Yeah right. Going into the waterfall, indeed I did not see anyone, but coming back? Hmph. As for the weather, it was a cool and very pleasant 37 degrees. A nice start to the day, but it would warm up quickly, and with the warmth would come nightmarish mosquitoes. I was hoping to at least get to the waterfall before the mosquitoes came out to play. I did not quite make it.

              Along the way, I pass 4 alpine lakes. If lakes can be ugly (can they be ugly?) then these ones were ugly. Well, the third one was quite nice, but the others were just completely covered with vegetation, like a big bog. They were not very scenic. But anyway, I continued on. I could see the creek had quite a bit of water, which was a good sign, as I was not sure how well the falls would still be flowing since it is already summer. Now I just had to get down there before the sun. If I stopped at all, the skeeters were over me. Needless  to say I only stopped the one time.

              It was a pretty easy hike until I got to the top of the waterfall. From there I could see nothing but cliff. How would I get down? I hummed and hawed, I was running out of time, I just decided to go for it. But carefully go for it, of course. No need to jump off the cliff. There was a perfect little ledge that took me right to the bottom of the waterfall. If it were not there, I don’t think it would be possible to get to the falls. Thank you ledge. Or rather, thank you God for putting it there. 

              Miller Creek Falls is gorgeous, 54 feet high in total. And there was even more than this one. It is a very awesome little creek and I will be back here someday to explore it fully.

              I lathered up in Skeeter juice for the hike back. Unfortunately, I did see quite a few jeeps coming up the trail. The first one was a Ranger, and he asked me where I was coming from. I believe he thought I was backpacking somewhere. I was wearing my big camera pack of course, and many people have mistaken it for a backpack. This Ranger will not be the last to do that. But if I was backpacking, then I would need a permit and I think that’s what he was wondering about. Actually, I did not know if I was in the wilderness or not at this point, and if so would I need a permit even for day hiking? I’ve been asked for them before when hiking in the Desolation Wilderness. I told him I was just on a day hike and down at the waterfall, all the while swatting the mosquitoes away from my face (he made me stop in a mosquito zone in order to talk to me). He let me go quickly, perhaps because he felt sorry for me, standing there swatting mosquitoes. I do wonder though if he even knew there was a waterfall down there.

              After that I saw about 10,000 more jeeps and OHVs. I wondered where they all had parked, because the lot really was completely full when I had gotten there this morning. I hoped no one had blocked me in, keeping me stuck there all weekend. How nice would that be. By the time I got back to the car, I was thoroughly annoyed with them all for sure. For each one, I had to get off the road, stop and wait for them to pass, give them a polite wave with one hand, swatting mosquitoes with the other. I guess that is what you get for hiking on the single most popular jeep trail in the summertime, and on the weekend. Shame on me.

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