I have always wanted a great sunrise shot of Shasta from this location. On our way up to Canada, it looked like the clouds were going to finally provide it, and the timing was right. So I stopped to take a photo. The rest of the family stayed sleeping in the car while I walked down to the lake. It is an easy walk, though I somehow managed to rip my pants, and get them all dirty, and got lost on the way back to the car afterwards (not really but I missed the path to the parking lot). The color just did not show up in the clouds as I hoped. There was just a tiny bit. It is still a lovely shot, but I still need to come back again.

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I heard from someone that Whitney Creek was flowing as of last week, and flowing fairly well. I decided to make a return trip on the longish weekend (which was *not* a long weekend for me, since I had to work on Monday – but I still made the trip up north anyway). I drove out to the Mt. Shasta trailhead to sleep in the car so I could get a very early morning start, same as I did last year. I swear the road is getting worse every year. This is the third time I’ve been out here with my SUV, and I think it will be the last with this vehicle, even though I would really like to come out here again. Next year I will be bottoming out, I am certain. Indeed, I was worried all night about the drive back out the next day.

Bolam Creek at the trailhead was completely dry. What? I had checked out Whitney Creek at the highway, and it had decent flow. I figured Bolam would have a good flow as well, but not so. What does this mean? Figuring out Whitney Creek is a mystery long in the making. If Whitney Glacier is melting, then it is logical that Bolam Glacier would be melting also. My theory is that Whitney Glacier is not melting at the current time (ie. this month), and all the flow in Whitney Creek was coming from snow melt. Perhaps there was a little glacier melt in there as well. In the drought years, I do not think Whitney Creek had any substantial snow melt in the spring, but this year was a big snow year, and it makes sense that there would be a decent flow in the spring. The good news about all this is that all the flow (and more) that I saw down at the highway would be going over Whitney Falls, and none of it was from Bolam Creek (the two creeks join together before the highway).

Another interesting tidbit about Whitney Creek: I recently saw a couple photos from 2013 and 2017 of the creek (from the highway) and they were drastically different. In 2013, there was no bank along the creek bed, and now there is a fairly steep bank. What does this mean? It seems to me that there must have been an event in the last four years on Whitney or Bolam Glacier that went completely unknown and which created this bank (such as the event on Mud Creek Glacier a couple years ago – which did not go undetected). The normally very small flows on Whitney Creek (especially during the drought) could not have created such a bank along the creek. What do you think? I find stuff like this very fascinating.

Anyway, more good news. There were no mosquitoes at the trailhead. I expected quite a lot, actually, but there were none at Lassen, and none here at Shasta. No complaints about that. It was a very warm night in the car, about 50 degrees. Despite the warmth, and despite me being worried about driving that awful road the next day, I still managed to sleep fairly well. I got up in the dark and began my hike up to Whitney Falls and beyond at 5AM.

I debated about just hiking straight up the dry Bolam Creek. Would that be easier than taking the trail? I thought about it, it would be a shorter distance, but in the end decided to take the trail. The creek bed looked very rocky, and I thought it would be slow going. I’m pretty sure that was a good decision. I did decide to hike up the creek bed between the 2nd and 3rd creek crossings (which is a short distance). That section was not too difficult, except I did take a header and almost smashed my head onto some rocks when I fell. I got my arms up just in time to arrest my fall. I cut my pinky finger but I am not a baseball player, so it was not something that was going to stop me from continuing the hike (see my previous blog post regarding pinky fingers).

Whitney Falls was flowing pretty well, and I got there just a bit past sunrise. It was definitely much better than when I was here last year. I was very pleased. I brought my big lens up to the viewpoint, and I took a number of photos. But quickly. I still had a big hike to do. There were mosquitoes at the Whitney Falls viewpoint. Not many, but a few. What the hey? There are none down at the trailhead, but some up here? I was not be expecting any of the buggers up here.

My goal was to continue up Whitney Creek into the upper reaches of the canyon. It would be a tough climb, and I did not want to bring my big, heavy and expensive lens up there. My back would not be happy if I carried it up. What should I do? Surely, no one was coming around to Whitney Falls today. I decided to leave it in the bushes along with my jacket which I did not need any longer. I would retrieve them on the way back down. Leaving a $1000 lens out in the middle of the wilderness. How smart is that? I didn’t think the bears would want it. It would not taste very good.

The trail up the canyon follows an old road, which is no longer a road, and it is highly overgrown with brush. Nonetheless, it is a trail. People obviously hike up here, there are rock cairns and occasional ribbons showing the way. I was a bit surprised to see any human markings up here, in fact I thought I would be battling through thick brush the entire way up. Then I realized that this is one route that climbers take to the summit of Mt. Shasta. It is not one of the usual routes up to the top, but I guess it is still used occasionally. About half way up, however, I lost the rock cairns. I made my way back over towards Whitney Creek, thinking it would be much easier up that way if I got over to the lava rocks along the creek (yes, Mt. Shasta is an old volcano, if you did not realize that). Bad choice. The lava rocks consisted of huge boulders, and some of them were loose, and if you fell on any of them, it would be a seriously catastrophic issue. It was dangerous to walk on this stuff. The mosquitoes seemed to like the lava rock also. I got off the lava as soon as I could, but now I had to battle thick brush all the way up to the Middle Falls. I really thought this section of the hike would be fairly easy, but it was extremely difficult. I battled onwards and upwards. Finally I made it up to the Middle Falls (pictured here).

Initially, I was thinking it would be fun to camp up here at this spot, and I had considered it. In the end, I decided to just do a day hike in the morning. I’m glad I decided that. The hike up to this point was just too incredibly difficult. To see the Middle Falls, you need to cross the creek above the waterfall to the other side. It was a bit difficult to jump across the creek, but I found a spot where I could do it without getting my feet wet. I could hear constant rumbling in the creek, as the creek carried hundreds of small stones downstream, and occasionally bigger ones. I went to the brink of the falls, and I could see the stones tumbling off the waterfall. You certainly would not want to be standing under the waterfall at the bottom. Not that you could get down to the bottom anyway. I thought I’d be able to get a good view of the falls from the other side, but there were literally no views to be had except for one looking down at the falls from the brink, standing right at the edge of the cliff. I could not see the bottom of the falls from here, and unfortunately the sun was already on the top of the waterfall. I was on time and I should have been early enough for photographing the falls. Clearly, I miscalculated somehow. Darn it.

I still wanted to get to the Upper Falls. Hopefully, I would have enough time for that, but considering how difficult it was getting up to the Middle Falls, I had my doubts. I jumped back across the creek, then continued up the canyon. All of a sudden, the trail was much easier. The rock cairns were back, and I was on a regular trail again. The rest of the way to the Upper Falls was quite easy. So where did the actual trail go from the Middle Falls on down? On the way back down, I tried to take a different route, but it was just as difficult, if not more so, and I lost the rock cairns on my way down as well. I could not find where the actual trail went to, and I sure did look for it. It would make this hike much easier for next time if I could figure this out, it is such a difficult hike scrambling through all the brush. The good news however: my knee was completely fine. I had no troubles with it at all, and considering how strenuous the hike was, that is saying something. The Madman is back in business now (I hoped).

There was no snow the entire hike up to the Upper Falls at 7900 ft. At Lassen, I had complete snow cover at 7200 ft. There were not even any lingering snow patches here on Shasta. That is, until I got to the Upper Falls, where I found one big ice patch completely covering the face of the waterfall. Ugh! You could not even see hardly any of the waterfall. I walked up to it (which was difficult) to see if I could see any part of the falls flowing underneath the ice patch, but nothing doing. The second thing I was bummed about was the lower part of the cascade. It was only 10 ft. high, but if you look at Google Earth, it seems to be at least 30 ft. high. I would have been completely happy if even the lower part was that high. So basically, the Upper Falls was a whitewash. I did take some photos regardless, and relaxed for awhile. Going back down would be easier, except for that awful brushy section. It was getting hot now, also, so that would make the hike down longer and more tiring.

I almost got back to the main trail where I was hiding my big lens, when I heard something extremely odd. People! A big group of hikers were coming up the mountain, and not on the main trail to Whitney Falls, they were coming up the canyon above Whitney Falls. I asked them where they were going. They said, Whitney Falls. I said, you are going the wrong way (trying to be helpful). They said, no they are going up to the ridge above the falls and coming down to the waterfall that way. I said, ok then, have fun. Now …. I’m not going to say too much about that, you can hike wherever you want to hike, but that is a strange way to go to Whitney Falls. You won’t get any better views of the waterfall up that way, and it is very brushy, and not to mention it is hot. I would not want to hike that route myself. Anyhow, I found my lens undisturbed in the bushes. This big group walked right past it, did they not even see it? Not that they would have taken it, but it surely would have provoked a lot of curiosity had they seen it. It is not something that one normally sees in the wilderness.

I got back to the car. I was hot and tired. I still had to drive all the way home and work the next day. I did sleep very well that night back in my bed.

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Blog story coming …

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I think this was the third hardest hike I’ve ever done, after Wabena Falls, and another hike I did in British Columbia a few years ago. It was all worth it.

The elusive and mysterious waterfalls on the north side of Mount Shasta have had me pulling my hair out for awhile now. Whenever I drive by Whitney Creek on Hwy 97, it is always dry. It does not seem to matter when. Spring, Summer, Winter, whatever. In the spring it is dry. Why? You would think there would be some snow melt on this creek in a good year (which we had this year). It was dry this spring, but the actuality is that these waterfalls do flow in the summer, and when I drove by on our trip to Canada, I found that Whitney Creek had water in it. Finally. Three weeks later I came back.

The plan was to hike up to Coquette Falls. It is 2300 ft. elevation gain in about 3 miles. Ugh. Cough. Phhttt. What was I thinking? I literally almost did not make it. There was not a trail the entire way, and I came to a very brushy area, which was so bad, I almost turned back. My legs got scratched up ridiculously, but I determined to persevere, and eventually came to a road, which got me up the rest of the way. The hike up was relentless. With about 300 ft. (in elevation) to go, I could not continue any further. I was done. But I could not stop now, I was too close. I kept going. Ten steps up, rest, and repeat. It took over 3 hours to get up this viewpoint of Bolam Creek Falls, 82 ft. high. It is a glorious spot, with incredible views of Shasta and Shastina, rarely seen from this angle, and far away down into the valley is Lake Shastina.

When I arrived, the waterfall was in shade (as expected), but the rest of the area was not (as expected). I found a little tree that was blocking the sun, and I setup shop there to take photos. It would have been nice to have my big lens, but that would have been ridiculous to lug that heavy thing up the mountain. I most certainly would not have made it if I had been carrying it. There was not much in the way of clouds, but I waited until one little one passed in front of the sun, which helped manage the lighting on the scene. I waited quite a while more, but no other clouds presented themselves to help me (that was not very nice of them). I tried to eat food, but I could not eat much. I was too spent from the hike to even eat, except an apple, my pudding, and half of my sandwich.

I could see that Coquette Falls was completely dry, so I did not go up any further. I seriously could not go any further anyway. My legs would rebel. Sadly, I think Coquette is dead. The glacier is not melting into that drainage any longer, there is not enough flow left from the glacier melt. I really wish I could have seen it when it was still going. Does anyone know Dr. Who’s phone number? The other waterfalls on this side of Shasta are dying as well. Bolam still has decent flow in the summer, however, but how long does it have left? I’d like to come back up here in the future and explore further, but that would be nuts. Of course, I said the same thing after I first went to Wabena Falls, then I went back to it. At least it was all downhill back to the car.

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I arrived at Shasta in the afternoon and ready to start my hike. Soon after I started, I encountered snow. Snow patches at first but then solid steady snow at 6300 feet. I would be gaining 1500 feet in elevation, which is hard enough as it is, but with most of that through snow it would be more difficult. I was not expecting much snow at all until about 7000 ft, so this was a big surprise, and at some spots I was hiking through 7-8 ft of snow under my feet! No joke.

But it was fun! The snow was very solid and I was not sinking through, and even though it was very warm out, the snow was not melting much, if at all. I was not a little worried the waterfall would still be snow covered, and not flowing at all. I followed many bear tracks up through the snow. I was one with the Bears. It is funny that I have seen so many bear tracks this year, but I’ve never seen the bear that goes along with them. Just as well, I suppose. The snow is what made the hiking fun and it was easy enough to get all the way up to the creek on logging roads (easy is relative when you have to gain 1500 ft. however). Once at the creek I just had to climb up the steep snowbank for a little, and I would be at the waterfall. Easier said than done. This last part was definitely a bit treacherous, but I made it up close enough for a decent view of the 45 foot high falls. No one has previously documented this waterfall before, and it is quite a pretty one. I had to wait, as expected, for the sun to go behind the ridge. It took quite a while, so I ate my dinner, sat in the cold snow, froze my bum off, and waited and waited and waited. I still did not get all the sun out of my frame but I think this shot is quite decent.

It was easier to hike down the mountain of course, but it was still tiring. It is not so fun when you are tired. I think I saw some new bear tracks that were not there on the way up, I am pretty sure, but the bear was not anywhere to be seen as usual.

After this, my plan was to camp out somewhere around Mount Shasta, deep in the woods, all by myself. This was in order to do an early morning hike somewhere else. However, the hike I wanted to do was not going to work. That creek was completely dry. This was mind-boggling to me. All the other creeks on Shasta are running with decent snow melt, why is this one dry? I had to come up with a plan B and that was to hike to Ash Creek Falls next morning, which is not something I wanted to do again, but I had no better options. I did do the hike to Ash Creek Falls in the morning, but I did not take any photos because it took longer than expected and it was in the sun when I got there. It was still a good hike. It involved a lot more snow hiking too. By the end of it all, I was doggone tired.

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