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Life and Times of an itinerant slacker in Sacramento. Thrills, Spills Galore coming soon. Not to mention lots of opinions.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Desolation, Wilderness and Horsetail Waterfall

After our visit to Santa Cruz, we took a hike into the Desolation Wilderness section of the El Dorado National Forest. We were highly motivated to drive to higher altitudes to avoid the lovely 100 degree heat in the Sacramento valley. I thought a hike with waterfalls would be the perfect escape.
We hiked to Horsetail Falls, from the Twin Bridges parking lot.

Only about one quarter mile from the trail head, the trail begins following the something or other fork or branch of the American River. Our first sight of the river was this beautiful small cascade.

The weather was a little warm even in the mountains, so the spray felt great. After another half mile or so, we came to the boundary of the Desolation Wilderness, where we were required to register and name an expedition leader, as well as sign something promising to be good campers and not be jerks of the woods. I got a kick out of the station where you do all this.

Just after this spot,we had our first view of the waterfall, cascading over what looked like a 600 to 900 feet wall of rock. As newly declared expedition leader, I made the executive decision to not attempt to climb to the top of the falls. My expedition party had no trouble with this decision.

We walked up to the first pool in the falls, which was about 600 feet higher than our trail head. that's plenty for me on a warm summer day, especially when most of the hiking was gentle scrambling over boulders. At close range, most of the landscape looked like this typical shot, explaining how this wonderful place got it's cheery name.

Once we walked to the bottom of the falls, the trail, to the extent one even existed, got a bit rougher. I managed to wipe out twice, scraping knees and shins, in addition to wiping out over slippery rocks and falling into mud. The mud bath actually felt pretty nice in the heat. K had decided to stop in the shade and form a base camp before I had these adventures. The short solo scramble led me to a nice spot on the lower reaches of the main falls. This place was truly breathtaking,although my photos don't really do this place justice. that's one of many differences between me and Ansel Adams.

When I came back to base camp, this playful scrub jay was hanging around. In my hiking and camping experience, I have found the smell of peanut butter sandwiches attracts all sorts of little critters. Fortunately, bears aren't nearly as attracted as smaller critters.

We took a different trail on the way back. We were treated to this vista, which was really the icing on the cake.

I recommend this walk to anyone who's in good shape and patient enough to follow trails that for the most part aren't really there. It offers a heaping portion of natural beauty for relatively little effort, provided you don't convince yourself you need to scramble to the top of the falls.

If you're one of those people who has to hike to the top of everything, you're on your own, and don't say I ain't told you so.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post - it provided a lovely little virtual walk for me. Just gorgeous. Don't know how we can match that for you here in Wisc.

I'm hoping I can take off a day when you're here - but not sure yet - have a big project going live at the end of August - and even though as PL I do nothing of value, it doesn't look good if I'm taking time off while the people who really do the work are frantic.

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