I went on the mother of all hikes yesterday with my new friend Alan and his nephew Robert. Alan had been in this area about a month ago for the first time, and wanted to find some big pools for fishing that he'd from the trail above. To get to the trailhead, it's about a 2-3 mile drive on a rough dirt road, but my 4x4 Blazer and all-terrain tires were up to the challenge.
In this view from the trail above you can see the parking area, with the dirt road in trailing off in the back ground.
We got our packs on, strung up our fly rods, and followed Alan down into the creekbed. Once down there, it was all walking on rock and navigating up and over steep areas of boulders. Not easy under the best circumstances, we had to constantly be on the lookout for rattlesnakes (but we saw none--only a shed skin). The way become challenging, and Alan wasn't finding the deep pools he'd seen on his previous trip. So we continued upstream, following the dry fork of the creek drainage. Many times we had to climb up and over areas of piled boulders and downed trees. The fact that we could not find a way back to the trail only added to the sense of adventure. I was never worried; only a bit anxious that we might have to backtrack and go all the way back over that round terrain again.
Alan and Robert left me here while they scouted a brushy, choked side channel to see if there was a way through. While waiting, the sense of being alone was really neat. At first you are a little nervous, especially when you know there are large predators in this area (bear and mountain lion). Then a feeling of peace comes over you and you start noticing little things like the breeze tickling the leaves above you, and their fluttery whisper in reply to the breeze; the soft whoosh of the creek in the distance; the sound of a Canyon Wren calling; the clatter of small rocks falling from the hillside. You smell the scent of leaves and drying sand, and the hint of water not far away.
There were a great number of large trees rent apart and twisted by some force, possibly wind, possibly a large debris flood. When I went down to that sand bar below I found a lot of large footprints--not human, but BEAR!
Looking up from a rest spot to the mountains above; there was a large avalanche chute down the canyon visible between the trees.
The trees had not yet taken on their fall cloaks; everything was still pretty green.
We finally hooked up with the stream; the large boulders and deadfall once again tired to block our path, but we continued upstream.
Alan and Robert trying to figure out where the trail was. Little did we know it was far above us, all but invisible from this angle and location. Later, when we viewed this very area from the trail I was amazed at how far down we were!
After 2 1/2 hours we ran into a hunter (yes, it's hunting season in the local mountains) and he showed us where the trail was. After another steep climb up a short hill on loose gravel we were back on the trail again. We followed it another quarter mile upstream and finally reached Stonehouse Campground.
Stonehouse was a lovely area, with the creek running through it, providing plenty of ice cold water to filter and drink. We cooked our lunches there on our backpacking stoves (I tried out my new Snow Peak LiteMax Titanium stove--1.9 oz.). I had a Mountain House Chili Mac with Beef, but only ate a little more than half. I was trying to stay hydrated and was drinking a LOT of water and was just too full to eat much. That a a couple small crackers is all I ate during the whole hike. With teh leftover boiled water I made a cup of G7 3-in-1 coffee.
Alan took two good trout from this pool, and on that half-submerged log I watched a Dipper bobbing up and down, occasionally drinking form the pool. Dippers catch a lot of their food by submerging themselves underwater.
Alan tying one on--a fly that is!
A little waterfall among the deadfall.
After lunch we followed the trail upstream and found ourselves climbing over boulders and trees yet again. But we found a beautiful area loaded with deep pools below small waterfalls and cascades. I didn't catch a thing (only a few tugs), but Alan and Robert both caught and released several trout. The fish were all wild rainbows, as no stocking is done way back there. The fish averaged between 10" -- 12", which is a good size for native fish.
Alan trying to figure out how to retrieve the fly the tree just grabbed.
This photo doesn't do this magnificent Western Red Cedar justice; it was an amazing specimen.
I just could not get enough views of this lovely creek.
Looking up towards the surrounding mountains from the creek bank.
The view after we lost the trail hiking out. More bouldering!
At about 2 pm we decided it was time to hike out, so we headed back downstream, following what little of the trail we could. It soon petered out. We forgot to re-cross the creek at our lunch spot to pick up the main trail and ended up doing more bouldering. We finally found the spot where we'd picked up the trail the first time (!) and were on our way.
It was a steep walk up out of that canyon. Once we hit the crest, it was all downhill. And a steep hill at that. My knees and quads took a pounding, but held out until we got back to the trailhead. Another 3 miles four-wheeling down the dirt road and we were back and where Alan left his car (it's a low-slung import). We said our good-byes, vowing to go back soon and do an over-night at Stonehouse.
The view down-canyon from the trail. San Bernardino Mountains off in the distance (middle of photo).
It was a truly wonderful and fun adventure. I really felt great the whole day. After having lost almost 10 pounds in the past month and getting a lot of conditioning walking every day, it really made the difference. My knees were flexible and my legs held up all day. Not bad for an 'old fart!'