NEW SIGHTS 

I woke up thinking I would go hiking up in the Downieville area, but one look at the weather and I changed my mind. Raining all day there. What about Oroville? The prospects there for weather looked much better. I re-loaded my Oroville maps onto my GPS and headed out.

As I drove up to where I would be hiking, I saw an interesting creature on the side of the road. Whoa, what the heck is that? I believe it was a marten. I have never seen one of those before. It is always fascinating to experience new wildlife sightings.

The dirt road was far too muddy to drive. I decided to walk rather than risk getting my SUV stuck big time, but not before I got the vehicle very dirty. Ugh. I should not have even tried driving up that road to begin with. Dumbo. Now I will have to wash it.

As for the hike, I would now be hiking 12 miles, but it was a perfect day for a hike. Cloudy, cool, not raining (yet).

The dirt logging road soon became very overgrown. I have to say I was up to my eyeballs with overgrown trails from my last hike, and I had no desire to continue with more of that crap today. I came close to turning back, and trying another (longer) route, but I decided to continue on for a bit more. I put on my rain gear so I would not get soaking wet going through the brush, and voila. Before very long, the road opened up again into a nice wide logging road, and stayed that way for the rest of the hike. Until the end, that is.

The last section was off trail, with a big steep descent down to the waterfall. No trail. Brushy. Prickly brush. But no poison oak! In fact, I did not see any oak at all on this hike all the way down to the falls. I was a bit shocked because I expected it big time. I was not at a high elevation, and usually poison oak is the order of the day in low lying areas such as this, but not here. Sweet.

It was not steep until the very end. I could see the waterfall and it was a beauty, probably about 80 ft. high, but not very easy to see. In fact, it seemed this was going to be another one of those obscured waterfalls with no clear view. I had to get right down to the bottom of it to see anything at all, which meant I had to use my rope. The ground was very slick and unstable with loose rock and shifting soil, and I had to be extremely careful, but I made it right down to the creek. I got a nice closeup view of the lower section of the falls, but the upper section was out of sight. Ah well, I got it half right. Not bad. Even though this is very close to popular Feather Falls, and the creek is the same one as you will see along that popular trail (Frey Creek), yet no one has seen or ever heard of this falls before although it’s a real beauty. Another new find from yours truly. See my website for more information.

It started raining on the hike back to the car, but I did not mind. It was a good day at Oroville.

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SHAME SHAME SHAME

This photo is Wabena Creek Falls from Jun 2009.

I do not have many good photos of the waterfalls in the North Fork American Canyon, and I was attempting to rectify that situation this weekend with a  solo backpacking trip down there. It was going to be epic.

The idea was to hike the Mumford Bar trail down to the river and follow the American River trail up to New York Creek. I did this trip with my brother-in-law 11 years ago. It was fantastic. We had no problems with the trail whatsoever. It was in excellent shape. Now? Not so much. It was epic, all right. It was an epic fail.

I could not drive all the way to Mumford Bar. The road was plowed to about 1 mile from the trailhead. Why did they not continue just a bit further? Ugh. Since there is no place to park along the road, I actually had to drive back almost a full mile before I could find a spot to park for the weekend. That means I had to hike 2 miles to Mumford, then 10 miles to New York from there. No problem. I was all ready for this.

From my previous backpacking trip last Fall, I learned a couple important things: Number one, I was too fat. At that time, I was a bit overweight, and that makes hiking with a full pack very difficult. I determined that I needed to lose at least 10 pounds before my next trip. I lost 12 pounds (to 183). I worked extremely hard over the winter to lose this weight, and I felt I was in great shape. For you young people, you might think losing 12 pounds is no big deal. Easy smeasy. Well, sorry to say you have a lot to learn. I was like that when I was younger. I could eat like a horse (or two) and never gain a pound. Now, I can easily gain 10 pounds in less than 2 weeks if I lose focus and go on any sort of binge (such as going to my mom’s house at Christmas break). Then it takes six months to lose that 10 pounds again. So anyway, I am extremely pleased I was able to lose 12 pounds over the winter. I am determined not to gain it back this summer. The second thing is this: I needed to lose at least 10 pounds of pack weight. I cut my pack weight by 14 pounds. (to 31 – I’m not sure exactly, but it was around this amount). The major thing was that my camera and tripod were far too heavy. That was 7 pounds right there. I bought a new lighter camera and tripod (but still both good quality – I want to be able to take good photos). I cut down on weight on some other things as well. I was surprised how light my pack was. This was going to be an awesome trip.

There was snow on the road, and it was very hard packed. I can see why it takes them so long to plow roads in the spring. It is tough sledding! I guarantee it will be more than a month until the snow is melted on this road to Mumford and Beacroft (and Sailor will be later than that). Why don’t they just plow the roads all throughout the winter? This is how normal northern states (and countries – such as Canada) do it. It would be so much easier to keep roads plowed throughout the winter, then they would only be closed for a day or two after storms. I’m thinking Tioga Pass, Glacier Point, and the major highways that are closed in the winter, but also Foresthill Rd. It would be so much better and awesome, but I suppose it is a money issue more than anything else.

Anyhow, I got to Mumford Bar trailhead and headed down the trail. The snow now was much softer. I was afraid I’d be sinking right through on my return trip back in a couple days. That was the least of my worries, however. There were downed trees and branches everywhere on the trail. I assumed this was from the fire three years ago, the American Fire. Absolutely nothing had been cleared. This is a major trail. It was awful. As I got further down, I lost the snow, and the trail got a bit better except for the occasional obstacle I had to negotiate. Until the bottom.

The fire did not reach the bottom at the river, but the trail was absolutely horrendous. Over growth of prickly brush dominated the entire trail, with a stream running down the middle of it. There was no trail, in actuality. I had to go straight through this brush? This seemed impossible, but I gave it a go. My pants got all torn up. My legs got all torn up. I somehow got through this mess and to Mumford Bar. Breathe, Madman, breathe.

So now what would the rest of the trail be like? I imagined it would be somewhat overgrown, but not nearly to the extent it was. It started out all right. An unnamed stream flowed down beside Mumford Bar at torrent pace. I had to wade across it. If this small unnamed stream had such tremendous flow, how would I cross Tadpole Creek ahead? Again, I did not need to worry about such things. The trail started off all right. There was some overgrowth, a lot of poison oak, but I had a good feeling. Really, I just wanted to make it to Beacroft. Then I could go back up the Beacroft Trail. I  had no desire whatsoever to return up the Mumford Bar trail, which was so awful. The trail disappeared from time to time with overgrowth, and I had my doubts, then I found it again. But before I got to within 1.5 miles of Beacroft, it was gone forever. No trail. Incredible brush. Incredible poison oak. Completely impassable. There was no going on from here. I could not even get to Beacroft. I had to go back to Mumford Bar. Epic fail.

From what I learned later, the Beacroft Trail is even worse. If I had tried going up that trail, I would have been in even more dire straits. Shame shame shame on the Forest Service for letting these major and awesome trails go to pot. In only 10 years they have gone from excellent to impassable. This is unforgivable in my opinion.

 

I got back to Mumford Bar and rested and ate my lunch. It was incredibly difficult and tiring thus far. I was certain I touched the poison oak quite a bit and was in for a horrible rash in the near future (thankfully, it was just a small rash). I still had a very difficult climb (2700 ft.) and six miles back to the car. Not to mention the awful brushiness and fallen trees to get through. I could have camped at Mumford Bar, but I did not feel like it. It is not really a very interesting spot, you cannot even get down to the river here. So I rested, then climbed out of the canyon without taking a single photo. It was a long and tough climb. It took me four hours to hike that six miles. On the drive home, I called my wife and asked her to order some pizza for me, so it was waiting for me when I got home. I have a great wife.

 

 

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DON’T SHOOT!

It is early in the season, but this is definitely my find of the year so far. It’ll be tough to top. A stunning 212 ft. high waterfall newly discovered by the Waterfall Madman. Never before documented. Never before seen (well perhaps not that).

By my calculations the sun would be on ridge above the falls at 7AM. It is a six mile hike one way to the waterfall. That meant I have to start my hike 5am, 1.5 hours before sunrise. That meant I would need to get up at 3AM. Oh my goodness.

I started the hike 5 minutes late. Ok no problem. Less than five minutes into it, I hear a big creek ahead. It sounded loud and strong. Please let there be a bridge. Ah nope, no bridge. I had to take off my hiking boots and put on my water shoes. The water was up to my knees but not a problem to cross. Now I was ten minutes late. The entire hike was on logging roads (so I thought) so the going was pretty easy, but I had to take a bit of detour at one point, which was another delay. Now I was 15 minutes late. I was not going to make it on time. The only thing to do now is to start jogging. I don’t like doing this but had no choice. Jogging in the dark is not smart. I was certain I was going to scare up some critters like lions … or bears … or perhaps a skunk. Well, I didn’t. Only a few birds were scared up (or scared me up as I ran past them). I was almost to the falls when I came to the end of the road. No more nice logging road anymore down the last section along the ridge to the falls. This was a lot more difficult, but I still made it by 7AM. However, the sun was already up on the ridge. Earlier than expected. But it did not matter, there was no view of the waterfall. I could hear it. I could not see it. There was supposed to be a nice open view of the falls from the ridge! I did get one glimpse of it but there was a big tree in the way. There was only one thing to do. Go down to the bottom. This was a familiar story.

I ran into poison oak for the first time on the way down. I just wanted a good view of the thing, and finally got a decent one halfway down, though I was hanging onto a rock ledge on the edge of a cliff. It is definitely a spectacular falls. I tried to go further down but there was just too much oak. Didn’t want to deal with that crap again, and I already got a decent shot anyway. So back up the mountain I went. After photographing the falls, I realized I lost my rope and my backpack rain cover somewhere up the mountain. What? There wasn’t much brush on the way down. How did I lose those things? I traced my steps exactly on the way back up, and sure enough, I found them near the top. Laying in poison oak. Terrific.

On the way back, I came across a skunk on the road. It is odd that I would see one during the day instead of earlier when it was dark. It was foraging for food and had no clue I was there at all, but I could not get by it on the road. The only thing I could do is go off the road through the bushes, and I was about to do that but then he finally saw me and took off running. Thankfully running in the other direction, and thankfully not spraying while he went. I was surprised he’d be scared of a human when he has such a potent weapon.

Meanwhile it was a long slow hike back, with no jogging involved. Most of the hike is thru a OHV area.
I found lots of garbage in this area, and picked up so much my backpack started getting very heavy
There was also many gun shells. I didn’t pick those up. So annoying! Why can’t these people carry out their trash. Argh! I didn’t see any OHVs but I started to hear gunshots in the distance. Oh great. Am I going to see them? Yep, you bet. They were right at the creek crossing, and it was loud.
Please don’t shoot me! I just wanted to get past them as quick as possible, and I didn’t even take my boots off. I just splashed through the stream. No big deal, I was only five minutes from the car.
When they saw me (and they did), they didn’t even stop shooting tho they were all wearing ear muffs and I wasn’t. Isn’t it just common courtesy to wait until I passed? It is not like I was doddling. I was booting it past them as fast as I could. Not to mention I picked up all their bloody trash on the road. Show some respect, people.

There were even more of them where my car was parked. What? Are they shooting at my car? It seemed like they were rather too close to it. Anyway, I got in my car, wet boots and all, and drove out of there as fast as I could. I did not get shot, and despite the loud and annoying ending, I had a great morning making this fabulous new discovery.

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THANKS, KING FIRE

The good news is that I was actually able to get to this waterfall. The bad news is that there is no clear view of it.

My initial plan was to go on a 12 mile hike (in the rain) to a couple other new waterfalls, including a big one. However, access to the area was closed because of active logging as a result from the King Fire in 2014. Three years later and the area is still closed to the public. Ridiculous!

However, there were no closed signs on the other side of the road, even though the fire reached on to this side as well. I decided to try Leonardi Falls, a much shorter hike, but potentially more difficult and dangerous. Also, it was snowing, not raining. There was a couple inches of fresh snow on the ground, and it continued to snow all morning. I was happy about that. Snow is much preferable to rain.

I tried this hike a few years ago, before the big fire. I could not make it to the falls at that time because the old road was far too overgrown with thick brush. I was swimming through it. I turned back before I was strangled by the brush. I had always meant to try the hike again with a more determined attitude, but the King Fire intervened.

As I hiked through the old burnt forest this weekend, I found the going much easier. Yet there was still a lot of brush on the road. At first, I thought the brush had not burned, even though all the surrounding trees had burned. As I hiked along, however, and passed the point where I had turned back before, I realized that the brush had indeed burned. This was all new growth. In less than 3 years, all this brush had grown back and it was becoming close to un-navigable already. Yet I continued on, past the point of no return (where I had turned back before), and towards the mysterious waterfall. I just hoped that none of this new growth was poison oak. It was all covered in snow, so I could not tell.

I did not really think I could get too far down the ridge to see the waterfall. In fact, I did not think I would even get a view of it. The ground was extremely saturated and very unstable. I did not want to get anywhere near the edge of a cliff today. But I kept going down and down. Past where I thought I would only be able to go. Down down down. It was not cliffy or dangerous. Finally, the waterfall came into view. I got down to a rock, which was secure and stable on the edge of the cliff (I hoped). I could not go down any further from here. Unfortunately, the trees were obscuring the view of this marvelous 41 ft. high waterfall. If the view was clear, it would be incredible. You can see from the photo that the fire reached all the way down to the falls. If those trees had toppled, then maybe the view would be clear. Or maybe not. There is a lower tier as well, a even bigger drop, and I got down to it also, but the view of that one was even more obscured. Oh well. At least I finally made it to this elusive waterfall. If not for the King Fire, I doubt I could have done it.

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SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED, NO JOKE

So are you ready for an adventure of a lifetime? Well, you may just have to wait … until 2018.

Even though this stunning 54 ft. high waterfall is less than 2 miles along the coast from a very popular beach at Pt Reyes, very few people have ever been to see it. I have only seen one other photo of it (and it was a crappy one). Why is that? Because there are only one or two days out of the entire year that you can see the waterfall (especially with good lighting), and as for this year, now that the rainy season is over, there may not be any more opportunities at all. There are a number of conditions that need to be just right, and I describe them all in detail on my website page. So if you want to know how to get here, please check there. This hike takes a lot of careful planning.

This weekend the conditions seemed about perfect. Even so, there was trouble.

I arrived at the trailhead before sunrise.  I could hear a strange animal squealing somewhere out in the dark. What the heck is that? It was quite frightening. I know there are ranches out here but it certainly could not be a cow. What is it then? Coyote? Mountain Lion? Sasquatch? It wasn’t until afterwards I realized what it was because that is when I saw them: Tule Elk!

Anyway, the hike started out as an easy jaunt down that previously mentioned popular beach.  Before too long I came to the interesting part. The deadly part. You have to wade through the ocean water around a corner. The water was up to my waist. The tide was still going out and the waves were still coming in. Should I wait longer for the tide to go out more? I thought about that, but if I had done so, then when I got back here later, the tide would be coming back in, and that would be even more serious. I decided to get around that corner as fast as I could and hope for the best. About halfway, I got hit by a sneaker wave. I saw it coming. Never turn your back on the ocean, right? There was nothing I could do but hold onto the rocks. The wave almost pulled me off the rocks and potentially out to sea, but I held on. I tried to get through the rest of the water as quick as I could before another one got me. I found it difficult to pull myself up in waist deep water onto the rocks, but I finally got up and onto safe ground. I was shaken, but not stirred. I decided to continue on, knowing it would be easier when I got back to this section later. My GPS was in my pocket (not sure why I had it in there), and it was soaked. I thought it was toasted, yet it amazingly survived the ordeal. Now that is good construction, Magellan! However, my GoPro was not so fortunate. I thought I had it held above water when the wave hit, but obviously water got on it. I did not have it in the waterproof container because I did not expect to go swimming! It was dead in the water. I am hoping it comes back to life later, otherwise that will be an expensive casualty. This was definitely one of the more stupid things I have done in my life. Perhaps when I was younger there were worse incidents, but I don’t remember them now. I realize I am posting this on April Fool’s Day, but I assure you all this happened as I described. No joke.

The rest of the hike was a cakewalk in comparison. You have to walk through a cave which is fascinating, then you are walking along the beach the rest of the way, but it is very rocky and slow going because the rocks were wet and slippery. There were strange bugs on the rocks that skittered away as I approached, hundreds and hundreds of them. They were like cockroaches. Sand cockroaches? I also saw a bunch of crabs, including one huge one on the sand, upside down! There’s not many things more pathetic than a crab on its back, flailing away. I turned him over with my hiking pole and I heard him say “thank you, sir” before he scuttled off to the ocean.

I finally arrived at the waterfall. It was marvelous! It is such a remote falls that few have ever seen, and you can get right up close to it. I was hoping the flow would be stronger, but it was still flowing decent enough. I would have loved to stay here much longer but I had to get back before the tide turned.

When I got back to the wading area, the tide was about at the peak low point. It was much easier getting back through this section but even so, the waves were still coming up to the rocks. I had to time it carefully but I made it across without incident. If I ever come here again I will want to make sure there is a lower minus tide than I had this day.

I rested on the beach in the sun for awhile before heading back up to the car. It was a lovely morning and no one else on this popular beach at all. I felt like I should do a second hike but I was not prepared for that so I just went back to the car and drove home. It was quite an interesting morning at the ocean.

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