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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CLOSED

Just so you know, if you are wanting to come to California anytime soon, it is closed. A couple summers ago, I think, we were saying the same thing, but that was because of fires. Now it is floods. California does not know how to do any weather that is not extreme. Roads are currently closed all over the place due to flooding, in northern California, the Central Coast, and the Bay Area is a mess. Places in Southern California received over 8 inches of rain in ONE DAY! Mud and rock slides are closing highways frequently in the Sierra Nevada. Dams in northern California are on the brink of failure. Just stay away, if you know what is good for you. I do not. I love all this rain. I will admit though (a big admission for me), it seems that it has become a bit too much for California to handle.

Nonetheless, I will keep on hiking no matter what. But the goal is always to stay safe. I drove up to Foresthill, in search of a brand new waterfall. The dirt road I was driving on was surprisingly good, no mud, the grade was very good, wide, and flat. I thought I would make my destination easily. Then the road started to go up hill and got a bit narrower, and I came upon a massive road blowout. A huge tree had collapsed from below the road, and had fallen across the road, completely obliterating it from existence. The hillside below the road had collapsed, knocking out a number of trees. Even if there was no tree blocking the road, there would be no driving around this disaster. I just don’t understand why there had been no signs way back at the beginning, saying that the road was closed. It was a lot of wasted driving effort. So back to Foresthill I went. What should I do now?

I decided to go to Colfax and back to Stevens Creek Falls. I had been wanting to go back here because I still needed a good photo of the lower section of this falls. And I still do. It is an easy hike, and I made good time to the waterfall viewpoint. The creek was flowing more than I have ever seen it before, as I suspected it would be. I took some photos of the waterfall, then continued on to the creek crossing. Umm … nope. The trail crosses the creek at the brink of the lower falls. Under normal circumstances, ie. whenever I have been here before, it is no trouble to cross the creek. It was extremely dangerous to cross today. There was absolutely no possible way to cross. Unless you wanted to slide off the waterfall.

I tried to go down to the bottom on this side of the creek, but I could not get down all the way to the bottom, it was too sketchy, and I could not find any viewpoints. All I did find down there was poison oak. I did not find any ticks, however. Whenever I have been here before, I have always seen ticks. All this winter, I have only seen one tick in total. The last few years, they have been out months before now. Maybe they all died in the floods. One can only hope.

After trying to get to the bottom, I went up to the upper section, through all the poison oak, and found a pretty nice viewpoint of this section (shown above). I never braved going through the prickly brush and oak before to get to this spot, but today I did. It was very sweet. As for the bottom section, it occurred to me after I got home that I actually perhaps could have gotten down to it. I was not thinking clearly, and this other possible route did not even occur to me until after I got home. Argh. Now I’m going to have to go back. Someday.

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FLOOD

    Rain rain on my face. It hasn’t stopped raining for days. My world is a flood. Slowly I become one with the mud. (Jars of Clay)

      I had really hoped to go hiking in the Bay Area, however the route I normally take over there was closed due to flooding. Switch to backup plan. I considered going up to Canyon Creek Falls with the high water flows, but in the end I decided to go back to the Oroville area. It was a good choice! If I had gone to Canyon Creek, I would have been trapped! A huge mud slide came down during the morning, and closed the freeway. I would have been on the wrong side of that for who knows how long. Perhaps forever. Highway 50 going to South Lake Tahoe was also closed later that morning because of another slide (and was still closed indefinitely, days later, as I write this – though it is now finally open again). I think God was looking out for me. I had no troubles at all on the road to Oroville.

        And yet, if I had gone to Oroville just two days later, I might easily have been stuck in a huge mess driving home afterwards. The entire area of almost 200,000 people was evacuated due to a serious issue with the emergency/auxiliary spillway at the Oroville Dam. They said that the spillway would have an “imminent” failure within 60 minutes when I first heard the news and when they issued the evacuation order. When they use the word “imminent”, to me, that indicates that the failure “will” happen. If the failure did happen, then there likely would have been a huge disaster. The failure did not happen. They increased flows on the main (already damaged) spillway, and this eventually stopped the flows over the emergency spillway. Two days later, the evacuation order was lifted and everyone could go back home. Clearly, they had to be safe in case something did happen, but why say failure was “imminent” when it was not “imminent”? Nonetheless, I am not confident the Oroville Dam is out of the danger yet, with much more rain in the forecast over the next 10 days. We still have 1.5 months of winter left at least, and the reservoir is very full. They are going to need to keep using the damaged spillway and not risk using the emergency spillway again. We pray there is no disaster in Oroville.

          Northern CA has now received 225% of average rainfall thus far. 20 more inches and we will surpass the wettest year on record. I think it will happen. I have a lot more to say about the weather we have had this winter, but I am waiting until April to give my final analysis and update. Who knows what will happen between now and then.

            But for now, we have the floods. My hike on this day was magnificent. Waterfalls everywhere. Big streams, little streams, unnamed streams, you name it streams. The water in Butte Creek was raging. This is supposed to be a normal little creek, not a raging river.

              Once again, I was hiking along one of those canals, on little narrow metal grates over top of the canal. It was a different canal than last time, and this canyon is not nearly so crazy, ridiculous, and deathly steep as the Miocene Canal in the West Branch Feather River canyon. Still though, there are some spots that are unnerving if you are afraid of heights.

                Also, most of the waterfalls throughout this canyon (and there were plenty), were not photograph-able at all, due to being completely obscured by trees and bushes, and I did not take any photographs of them. Only two I felt were worthy, this being one of them, 84 ft. high, and had the largest flow of the creeks in this canyon. Once again, similar to Alder Creek Falls, I had to photograph from the canal on the narrow metal grate, ruining my knees as I knelt on the rough surface, and trying to be very still as I took the photos because any movement would shake my tripod all over the place with the vibration. It was a beautiful day after all the rains, and I saw no one else in the canyon the entire morning.

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                  CHUNKY

                  After two other hikes on this day I was already quite tired, but since it was such a great day, I wanted to get one more hike in. I ate my lunch in the car and contemplated, whilst trying to gain back some energy for another hike, and at the same time texting my wife and telling her about the crazy death defying hike I just did along the canal (previous post). She was not amused.

                  For some reason, I had initially thought this next hike would be five miles round trip, and possibly include swathing through poison oak. Getting motivation for that was a challenge. I looked at my map again and realized it was only three miles round trip. Bonus! I can do that!

                  It was an easy hike down a logging road for the first mile or so, until I got to the turn off. Finding the correct turn off was yet another challenge. This is why they call this waterfall “Hidden Falls”. Once I found the proper trail, however, it was easy as pie. No poison oak. The trail was very wide and well traveled all the way down to the falls. I was surprised how easy this hike was.

                  I was also surprised when I reached the falls. I had heard that this waterfall was only about 15 ft. high. The pictures I had seen seemed to confirm this theory also. However, when I arrived I could see that it was twice as high as I expected, I measured the falls to be 30 ft. high. It is a marvelous little waterfall, and chunky all inside and out. The river, which is a very little river, was pounding through the canyon like gangbusters, thundering over the edge of the cliff, and down 30 ft. into a violent and large pool. It was amazing, and the mist at the bottom was extreme, making it very difficult to take photos. I had to take pictures from much further back than I wanted to, but what little choice did I have. At lower flows it would be much more pleasant I suppose, and more interesting for photo taking, but certainly not as exciting.

                  I walked up along the pool to the end and took more photos from the side. The water from the pool was splashing at irregular intervals up against the logs and onto my body where I was standing , which was a bit unnerving when I was not expecting such action from the water.

                  After spending quite a lot of time down at the waterfall, I packed up and headed back up the hill. On the way back up, I saw a couple of locals hiking down the trail. They had bows in their hands. Not heading to the waterfall, they were headed to the archery range which is also found along the road here. The guy was quite friendly and asked me where I had been, and I told them. They had been to the waterfall before and the guy seemed to be pleased as punch that I liked their little local waterfall so much. You will too.

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                  ACROPHOBIA

                  Are you afraid of heights? Then this hike is definitely not for you. P.S. I am afraid of heights.

                  I had not been to this waterfall in Paradise before, but it has been on my list for a while. I decided to take the short route, because the longer route apparently involves more hair raising, death-defying, walking along the side of a cliff. Also, it was longer.

                  However, my route was not as flat as the other one. The hike starts by descending a few hundred feet down to the canal. Mostly it is easy, but the last little bit was quite steep. I got lucky. Once down at the canal, you need to cross it and get up along the other side of the canal.There was supposed to be a metal bridge that allowed you to cross, but I could see no such bridge. Was I in the wrong place? Fortunately, the canal was dry today otherwise it would have been impossible. I guess they shut the water off when there is a storm. Lucky me.

                  Anyway, I crossed over and jumped up on the other side and started walking along the canal to the waterfall. Before too long, things got a little hair-raising.

                  The canal is literally built right along the side of the cliff. Below you, is nothing but net. Or rather, nothing but nothing. Because if you fell here, there will be a long period of nothing before you felt something, namely the ground. You are walking on a very narrow metal catwalk over top the canal. It is totally freaky. If there was water in the canal, I do not think I could handle it, with fast rushing water directly below your feet. Vertigo insanity.

                  I have said it before, but I am afraid of heights. You may think, that is stupid. How can a waterfall hunter, especially the Waterfall Madman, be afraid of heights? Waterfalls, by their very nature, fall off cliffs, and many of them are extremely dangerous and cliffy to see them. Well, I guess I just manage as best I can. Most of them I have no troubles getting to. Some are a little crazier. I guess you could say this is one of those.

                  It is not like you are walking on the cat walks for only a very short time, basically the entire hike is like this. The last half-mile at least, you are entirely walking along the side of a cliff over the canal. If anyone came along from the other direction, it would be extremely difficult and perhaps even impossible to pass them because the catwalk is so narrow. Fortunately, no one came but apparently this hike is quite a popular one.

                  When I finally arrived at the falls, I wondered how I was going to photograph it on this narrow catwalk. The waterfall is a big one, essentially dropping all the way to the raging river far below. There was no way of course to get down to see it, only the top 50 feet or so is visible from the canal. Nonetheless, it is a fantastic place.

                  I laid out my camera bag on the narrow metal grate, and set up my tripod with great difficulty. Just as I was about to start taking photos, it started raining! Oh the timing, God! Here I am out on the middle of this canal, standing over a cliff, nothing below me for hundreds of feet, and with no shelter whatsoever anywhere around me, and it is now raining. I could not take photos at all, because the rain would be pelting my lens and it would be impossible to get a decent shot. There was nothing I could do, literally, except wait out the rain. I was pretty sure, though, that it would not rain for very long, and I was correct. About five or so minutes later, it stopped.

                  I took my photos, then carefully packed up my camera and tripod, stood up on my very aching knees, because I was kneeling on the metal grate the entire time, then slowly started walking back to the car. I definitely have to say, that this was a highly interesting adventure.

                   

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