THE LADY AND THE TRAMP

I was hoping to drive up to Robinsons Flat and camp on Friday evening. Remember, the guy I talked to last week said that they had gone up there the back way via Mosquito Ridge road. It seemed unlikely to me, that road is higher elevation. Yet they said there was only a few snow patches that way. It seemed promising, so I had to try it. Well I hit 6200 feet, and ran into a big huge snow patch, an impassable one, not a small one for sure. What? How could anyone drive by this? I saw no evidence that anyone had driven any further. Perhaps they had a big jeep and got by, but there is no way I could drive by in my SUV. Even if I could, there would still be another 700 feet to climb with more and bigger snow patches. I had to turn around.

Well, I had back up plans and other ideas in place, but I really really really had my heart set on hiking from Robinsons Flat and I did not feel like doing anything else. So I started to drive back to Foresthill, still pondering if I should drive home or drive somewhere else.

That is when I came across the lady. Perhaps I will call her the tramp for the sake of this story. It was almost dark, she was walking down Mosquito Ridge Rd by herself, out in the middle of nowhere. She was walking all the way to Foresthill, essentially from near Grouse Falls. That is a 20 mile hike, and she had only walked about 5 miles or less thus far, and don’t forget the last 10 miles is a steep uphill and she would be hiking up this in the dark. She was a scary looking lady, dressed like a vagabond, tattoos, playing horrendous rap music on her phone, carrying a spear (to ward off animals she said), and also carrying a hatchet (I did not see this, and I think I’m grateful). I rolled down my window and asked her if she needed help. She said she would be very grateful for a ride into town. She was actually a very nice tramp (er … lady),  despite the attire, obviously not wealthy, and she said her truck had been repossessed and she had to go back to Foresthill to claim it again. She lived up on the mountain.  A hermit, though she called herself a hippy. Well of course when I told the story to my wife later, she was aghast. She could have been an axe murderer! Or just escaped from prison! She did not believe that the lady could be telling the truth about walking back to Foresthill to get her truck. But for me, I had a good feeling that she was legit and really needed help, so I was not apprehensive about giving her a ride. It was certainly an interesting encounter on the wild side.

Anyhow, fast forward to Saturday afternoon. My wife, who is working as a pet sitter in Folsom (do you need someone to pet sit your animal? Call Tara Turnbull! 916-337-4695), she had a few hours with one of her dogs to spend. She wanted to take the dog somewhere cool, not hot, and not have to pay $100 (or something) for parking at the lake. She wanted suggestions from me, and she wanted me to come with her. Well if you want me to come with you, then we must go to a waterfall. She said OK. I said how about Bassi Falls? She said OK again.

So we picked up the dog, and drove up the hill. It is a very easy 2 mile hike to the waterfall. We only had the little car, so we could not drive to the normal trailhead. The dog had a blast. It was her (the dog’s, not Tara’s!) first time seeing a waterfall and a rushing creek. Getting into the creek was not an option, despite how much the dog may have wanted to do so. Bassi Falls, she was raging! Now Bassi is a true lady, and today the lady was in fullest form, at her absolute best.

I have heard some people say recently that peak snowmelt has still not yet happened at this creek and others in Northern California (Bassi Falls in particular). I assure you, however, that peak snow melt is long past at Bassi Creek and in the Northern Sierra , and that happened about a month ago on May 5). That may not be the case in the central and southern Sierra, it usually happens later there, and some of those rivers have not reached peak yet. However, in the Northern Sierra peak is well passed. There are two big differences this year, however. First, there is still a large snow pack, and the strong flow is continuing this year for a much longer period of time, and will continue for another month if not longer. Second, the peak flow this year (and also the current flow), is much higher than the peak flow of the last five years.

I have been to Bassi Falls many times. I am 99% certain that I have never seen it flowing this strong before. A full month after the peak flow! I know this because I could not get up as close to the Falls as I usually can (certainly not without much difficulty anyway). The little streams you can usually easily wade across had a very strong pull, I had to be extremely careful getting in the water this time. One slip and I would be gone. Back to Folsom Lake the fast way. Also, I was able to find new compositions that I have never seen before. For instance, I have never seen water flowing down this little channel before, and it was such a good little stream, it made for a great foreground. It was quite fascinating.

We stayed for the good light. Then we hiked back, arriving at the car just before dark. It was great to see the lady again, especially after missing out Friday night on what I had wanted to do.

 

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DAY 3. THE LITTLE ONE

It may be little compared to its neighbors but it is no inconsequential waterfall.

I wanted to get up early and go on another hike but I could not sleep at all. I was not even tired. I should have been tired! It was well after midnight and I still could not sleep. I don’t have any idea why. I was comfortable in my tent. I had a good hike the previous day. Why can’t I sleep! I turned off the alarm and slept in as much as I could. Then I just relaxed at the campsite in the morning, with coffee and breakfast. It was a beautiful morning down in New York Canyon.

I did find this one new surprise waterfall. It is in close proximity to massive New York Canyon Falls and the other big Falls on this Creek, so you might think this one should be left out and dismissed. It should not be dismissed! It is a very lovely 25 ft high waterfall. I could not get down to it but I did manage to find a view from the edge of the freaky cliff. I am calling this one Little New York Canyon Falls.

I was curious about hiking back out on Macklin Ridge. Would the brush be overwhelming there also? I wanted to know. However, there is no water on Macklin Ridge (you need to do something about that Rob Macklin!). I only carry one water bottle when backpacking, and climbing up 2000 ft I would definitely need more than one bottle to drink. Thus I decided to go back up via Oak Flat, the same way I came down. There was more water up that way. So that is what I did. I made good time climbing up that 2000 ft to the top of Canada Hill and I felt great even with the weight I was carrying (which was only about 30 pounds). I rested at the top, sending text messages to my wife (it’s the only place I can get cell service around there). Meanwhile some speed hiker walked by while I was sitting there. Where did he come from? He went by so fast I did not even have a chance to talk to him. He was the only animal (human or wild) I saw all weekend (not counting squirrels and birds). It was a short, but an excellent weekend down in New York Canyon.

 

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DAY 2. THE MAGNIFICENT ONE

The next day I went back out to Tadpole. This time I was hiking in there. I hoped. No flat tires. No idiots getting stuck in the snow. So far so promising.

There was still a lot of snow on the road up to Canada Hill. No one could drive up there yet for sure (why would that guy even try it!). It’ll be another 2-3 weeks before the snow is gone up there.

People had walked up there, however. I saw tracks even going down into Sailor Canyon. This was surprising. Some one has been down here recently. Who? How far did they get? Where did they go? How long were they down here?  Did they die? Inquiring minds want to know. I actually did find out who was down here later, and he made it all the way down to the waterfall and back in one day, and even took a particularly dangerous and crazy path. From the sound of it, it may be rather lucky that he made it back out.

Anyhow, I did not hike down Macklin Ridge as I usually do. I wanted to take a little detour to check something out, so I went over to New York Canyon at Oak Flat. I have done this before. We had no trouble going this way whatsoever.

Not so anymore. Again, the brush has grown up tremendously since the fire. It was monstrous! I almost turned back but I went just a bit further and I found a path. At first I thought it was bear but I guess it was human. Nonetheless, it is still quite over grown. We really need a lot more people taking this trail or it is going bye-bye forever. So come on folks, get down there. It’s not that hard. Really.

My plan was to camp by the Creek, then go down to the Falls in the evening. But would there even be a place to camp? I honestly did not think there would be any good camping spot, or any spot at all, from what I remembered in my head. I remembered it being rather brushy, with a steep descent down to the creek. What was I going to do about this?

First things first. I wanted to cross the creek and make sure it was not flowing too strong. That could be a severe blow to my plans if I could not even cross the creek. The flow was 2400 cfs at North Fork Dam. That is a pretty high flow. Yet I was able to cross without any difficulty. Awesome possum. The Falls will be raging tonight.

From down by the Creek I saw a good potential campsite back on the other side and with easy access to the water. I went back across to check it out. It was perfect. A wonderful open area with a nice breeze and no mosquitoes, and some shade as well. Splendid. I set up camp, ate lunch, then relaxed for the afternoon, listening to music (which I can do now cuz I have a solar charger – no worries that my phone will die).

After a good rest I went down to the Creek and crossed again. Just above the 462 foot high waterfall. No worries, Tara. Up the other side and then down down down to Chert Knoll. This part seems to get steeper every year. The waterfall was spectacular! It is certainly the best I’ve seen it from this spot. Normally you can not even get here til the flow is almost done. It was a bit lower than when I was down here a few weeks ago but I was further away then. It was also very nice that I don’t have to kill myself hiking out of here at night getting back to the car. I can just take it easy tonight. This is now the sixth time I have been to New York Canyon Falls, the first time was back in 2003. It will not be the last. My next goal will be to get down to Chert Knoll when the flow on the NFAR is 4000 cfs. Crossing the creek will definitely be interesting at that flow.

While down at the Falls I had a thunderstorm pass over. It did not rain much but I had to take shelter in case of lightning. Where there is thunder, there must be lightning. But there is no shelter down on Chert Knoll! Fortunately it was not a bad thunderstorm but it did rain lightly for quite awhile and after this the breeze stopped. That brought out the mosquitoes. Dang.

When I got back to my tent I found it wet inside. Somehow water collected under the tent and it got through. It should not have done that. It seems the rain went down the hill, under the tent, and on top of my ground sheet where it collected there. I was just praying it didn’t rain more in the night.

But stick around, we are not quite done yet …

 

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DAY 1. THE CRAZY ONE

Memorial Day weekend, my plan was to go on a big 3 day backpacking trip in the NFAR Canyon. 11 waterfalls in 3 days? It was possible. Would I succeed?

My daughter had a big dance schnazzle thing on Friday night, so it was late before I could get going. I drove up Foresthill Rd to Tadpole. There was snow here. End of the line. I would not be driving any further, but there was no one around, which was perfect; I thought for sure there would be lots of people up here on Memorial Day weekend. I got into bed at about 10 PM, sleeping in my car the first night. As I’m trying to get to sleep some guy in a truck comes up. He tries to go through the snow in the dark, and of course he got stuck. Bottomed out. He then comes down to wake me up because I am the only one around. Well there is no way to push him out, and I was not going to drive up there, I’d just get stuck myself. It would not have helped anyway (but that is what he wanted, for some reason). So I drove him back almost all the way to Foresthill before we got cell service, and he called his cousin to come get him out. His cousin was up at Robinson Flat waiting for him but he went the back way. I highly doubted he could drive over Canada Hill (and he could not, as I found out later), so he would have had to drive all the way back to Foresthill and then up Foresthill Rd to Tadpole to rescue his cousin. It was probably 3AM before he even got there. After my neighborly duty was finished, I did not stick around to find out what happened afterwards. However, you really gotta wonder what would possess this guy to attempt to drive through all that snow in the first place. It is crazy. He is a few marbles short of a full pack if you ask me. Like that boy Ray Cabalfin who was swept away jumping in the American River recently. Why on earth would anyone jump in a river that is so clearly and visibly moving that fast? It is just plain stupid. Not to mention freezing cold, you will get hypothermia in about a minute or two. On my hike, I had to cross Tadpole Creek to get down to this waterfall viewpoint. It was easy to do, but it sure was damn freezing.

Anyway, somewhere along the way driving back to Foresthill for this guy I somehow ran over a nail. My tire light came on but I thought it was a different tire that has a very slow leak. Nonetheless, it was still very disconcerting and I sure did not want to come back to the car late on Monday afternoon to find I had a big old flat tire.

It was midnight before I got back in bed. My initial plan was to get up at 4:30 AM, well that was not happening anymore. And yes, when I woke up in the morning I saw that I had a big old flat. It was a different tire than the one with a slow leak. This leak was not so slow. Lovely. That’s what I get for being a good Samaritan. I kinda felt like I should just change the tire and go home. I considered doing just that, but I was within walking distance to Tadpole Canyon. The tire would still be there when I got back from a morning hike.

Tadpole Canyon was very tough this time because all the brush is incredibly bad there now. It seems that since the forest fires that have happened in these areas the brush has grown up ten times worse than it was before. I have seen it in multiple places so far this year. I got to the waterfall viewpoint, but barely. The brush was horrendously crazy. I don’t think I will ever come back here again. This is the end of the line for Tadpole Canyon Falls. It will be completely inaccessible in another year or so. I really wanted to try to get down to find a view of the lower falls on this Creek (my main reason for coming back here again), but the brush was even worse further down and there was no way I could do it. I don’t see any possible way to get down to it now.

I got back to my car. The tire was still flat. Bummer.

After changing it, the tire light was still on. I guessed the spare just had low pressure but I could not risk that it had a slow leak also. I decided to just drive home, get them all fixed up, then come back out the next day.

My conclusion: God really does not want me to go backpacking down in the American River Canyon this year. That is three strikeouts so far. My wife says maybe there is something to that. God is protecting me from something. I say, well maybe, I don’t know, but it’s “NFAR Canyon”!

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I STILL HAVEN’T FOUND WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR

On November 12, 1987, my best friend at the time and I boarded a boat and sailed across the waters from Victoria to Vancouver British Columbia, arriving at BC Place stadium sometime in the afternoon. Where are you now, Jim? I was 19. We had no tickets. For $100 each, we found a scalper and bought a couple. At that time, $100 was a lot of money for a concert. They were floor seats. We got into the stadium and got up close to the stage. We had a great position, very close to the stage. We were excited! We waited for the event in great anticipation. It was our first time seeing our favorite band U2, on the Joshua Tree tour. The first opening band played, I have no recollection who they were. The second opening band (again, no recollection) started to play. I cannot remember the exact timing, if it was during the second band or after they played and before U2 came on stage (probably the latter), but at that time you could all of a sudden sense a sudden change and tension in the crowd. This tension grew by the minute. All of sudden, within seconds, the crowd rushed to the stage, and we were crushed. I soon lost my friend in the madness, and did not see him again until after the concert. I could not breathe. I could not go forward, backwards, or sideways. I was trapped. Everyone was trying to get up closer to the stage. This was before U2 even came on stage! I had to get out of there. For those that wanted out, the crowd was lifting people up high and pushing them hand over hand to the front. These were mostly girls, but not all. It was my only way out of there. I convinced the guys beside me to lift me up and the crowd lifted me to the front. I could finally breathe again. I got over to the side and much further back, away from the frenzy, and I enjoyed a terrific show from one of my all time favorite bands, and not the last one. I don’t really remember any songs they played, mostly all I remember is the frenzy of the crowd, though I do remember they ended with “40”.

Little did I know that my future brother-in-law Sean would be at his first U2 concert two days later in the Bay area. I beat him by two days. Now 30 years later, Sean, my wife Tara (who was too young to see them on the Joshua Tree tour but nonetheless has seen them a number of times – including with me when she was 7 months pregnant with our firstborn), and I return to see U2 again on the Joshua Tree anniversary tour in the Bay area (and for about the same price as those scalped tickets in 1987). At first, we thought we had good seats, further back but looking directly at the stage. When we got there, however, we found that there was a huge housing structure right in the middle of the field. We could only see half the stage, and would not be able to see the band at all during the first five songs (actually, much more than that). This structure apparently was requested by the band at the last minute. Thankfully, they were offering everyone in this seating area new tickets. They turned out to be excellent seats, we were right at the side and very close to the stage. They couldn’t have been better seats, really. We had a great time and it was a great concert. Many of the songs were incredibly powerful, most notably Bullet The Blue Sky. Some songs, though, were just meh (are they getting too old for this?). One thing for certain is that I am too old for this. We did not get home until 2:45AM, a couple hours sleep, and then I had to get up for work in the morning. Ugh. Where is my coffee!?!?

Anyway, I thought you might like that story. It has nothing to do with waterfalls. I did dream once that I flew with Bono and the band in a helicopter to New York Canyon Falls where they wanted to make a video for their song, New York. But sadly, that never came to reality.

Since we are reminiscing, here is an old photo of Upper Heath Falls from last year. I was excited to finally get to this 40 ft. high falls last year and get a good photo of it. However, I still haven’t found what I am looking for with regard to the lower Heath Falls. I do not have a good photo of it at high flow, or some of the other ones in this general area. As I mentioned in my previous post, I tried to get down to it last week, but came across too much snow, still up to 8 feet of snow in this canyon! I was unable to get to Heath Falls at high flow. It is not too late, however, to try again later this spring. I just may do that.

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