Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ukiah Fire Dept Explorers Work Project - N. Cow Mtn Blm Ukiah

        On BLM's N. Cow Mtn near Ukiah CA there is a place called the Willow Creek Recreation Site. Its a fancy name for a parking area and trail head. From this trail head you can hike two different trails. The main trail from this point is called the Mayacmas Trail. Just about one mile from the parking area is a seasonal waterfall that is about 25' tall. Near the waterfall someone has done some trail improvements, put in steps, a rock wall and a bench. Its a great spot to sit and enjoy nature. Another trail named Valley View splits off the Mayacmas Trail and like the name implies it has some great views of the Ukiah Valley. Like the Mayacmas Trail someone or group at some point in time has put a lot of work into the Valley View Trail including three benches placed along the trail.

        Due the the great views, the waterfall and the relative isolation just a few minutes from town, I have become a frequent visitor to this area. During my visits over the last 2 years I had experienced an access issue during the winter months. Like I said, someone had put a lot of work into this area. One project that had been done was a footbridge across Willow Creek adjacent to the parking area. I'm guessing that many years had passed since the bridge was installed and nature had done what nature does. Who knows exactly how it happened but I'm thinking it went something like this; a tree fell downstream of the bridge this allowed for some debris to accumulate, eventually some silt settled and some bushes started to grow. With the flow in the creek restricted more and more silt acclimated until the bridge became a dam, water then flooded the area creating a swamp making the trail impassable during winter months. So now during the winter or as long as the creek flows, the seasonal waterfall and both trails are very difficult to access from the Willow Creek Recreation Site.

        In my job one of my duties is Explorer Adviser. I'm guessing your asking what does that mean. Well Explorers are young men and women between the ages of 14-18 who are interested in the fire service. Explorers train to the same standards as career firefighters. They ride-along in fire engines and ambulances. They assist fire personal with real emergencies including medical aids and fires. Of course for legal reasons there are a few restrictions on what an Explorer is allowed to do, still Explorers get many opportunities to participate in the delivery of emergency services. Explorers gain valuable experience for a future in the fire service, many of our explorers have gone on to become firefighters, paramedics and even flight nurses. One part of the program is preforming community service.

        A few weeks back I learned of an upcoming event, National Public Lands Day. It's a day dedicated to improving public lands across the country through volunteerism. So I have a project and a group of people who preform public service, perfect! I contacted BLM and they thought it was a great idea. I had to jump a couple of insurance hurdles, thankfully everyone saw the benefits of the project and we where able to satisfy all sides. One hurdle did remain, Explorers can not use chainsaws. Well a Captain with CalFire Ukiah Station heard about our project and thought it would be a great opportunity for his crew to get some chainsaw practice. Everything was falling into place nicely.

        On 10/3/10 the Ukiah City Fire Dept Explorers, CalFire Ukiah Station E-1165 and the Ukiah Fire Dept participated in a work project at the Willow Creek Recreation Site. The group picked up two pick-up truck beds worth of trash, mostly shotgun shells and the various items used as targets. After that one group worked on clearing and widening the trail to the bridge. The CalFire crew went to work clearing fallen trees and bushes that where clogging up the creek. They where followed by another group with shovels who worked to clear silt that had settled around the bridge. In all about 300' of creek bed was rehabilitated, returning the flow to the original channel. The group put in a total of 56 man hours of work. In addition to the benefits to the public by making the area assessable during winter months, the Explorers got to train in the use of hand tools, working together, physical activity and public service. CalFire was able to get some chainsaw training hours for their firefighters.

        There is still a little bit of work to be done. I plan on returning and spreading some straw for erosion control. We will need to see how our work holds up this winter and make repairs as necessary. In all the day was a great success and everyone had fun doing it. Some of the Explorers even started making sugestions of what we could do for our next project.

        I need to put out a big thank you to all thoes who indirectly helped form the staff at BLM to the staff at the City that helped with insurance, the City Fire Chiefs and the CalFire Battalion Chief. Once again thanks to all who showed up and put in the hours.


UFD Explorers: Miley Merritt, Marcus Ramirez, Auturo Gonzalez, Isidro Rodriguez, Max Van Patten, Hailey Gupta, Fabian Moreno, Brandon Hernandez, Cielo Alavezos

UFD Staff: Volunteer Engineer Bruce Smith, Firefighter/Explorer Advisor Patrick Garrett

Cal Fire Engine Crew: Engineer Chad Smith, Firefighter Fernando Hernandez, Firefighter Joe Darr

You can Click Here for a link to some pictures of the day

You can Click Here for a map of N. Cow Mtn

Are you intrested in becoming an Explorer with the Ukiah Fire Dept - Young men and women between the ages of 14-18 can call (707) 463-6276 or come by the station at 300 Seminary Ave for more information.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Potem Falls - Shasta Trinity National Forest

        So because I was unable to get all the footage I wanted for my Lett's Lake post, I wanted to get something new up and keep the site fresh. A few weeks back I took a trip to the Shasta-Redding-Burney area. If you  read my McCloud Falls Post you already know about my car breaking down just hours into my trip. Well after three weeks in the shop I finally have my Xterra back. Turns out I kicked a branch up and it ripped through a wiring harness shorting out the computer. Well, Before my chance encounter with the $2000 stick, I had just enjoyed a cool dip in the pool below Potem Falls. I shot some video but didn't believe I had enough to put together. Well Its not my best video but I hope you enjoy it anyway.

        Potem Falls in located in the Shasta Trinity National Forest in the Pit 7 reservoir area of Lake Shasta. The closest "town" is Montgomery Creek on Hwy 299. To get to Potem Falls you need to find an easy to miss road called Fenders Ferry Rd between Round Mountain and Montgomery Creek. Check out the map below. After 3.5 miles Fenders Ferry Rd will turn to a well maintained dirt road passable in most passenger cars. You now have 5.7 miles to go to the unmarked trail head. The road is a typical forest service road lots of turns, narrow at times, along a canyon with no guard rail, patchy cell service if any, you know typical forest country. The road will drop down from the canyon wall and a narrow bridge will take you across the Pit arm of Lake Shasta. From the end of the bridge you have 0.6 miles to go. Look for a pull out on the left side of the road. There may have been a sign here at one point but all I found was a small metal post on a block of concrete. (Park at N 40 50.3279, W 122 01.5993)

        From the pull out a 0.25 mile trail will lead you to the falls. Its a pretty easy walk down but on a 100 degree day the walk up can take a little out of you. After about 100 yards you get your first view of the falls. I really like how the trail leads to to the creek below the falls and then straight up to the base. Your first full view is absolutely beautiful, what a waterfall should look like. The 70' waterfall flows into a large pool below. I would say the pool is about 100' across and seemed to be about 20' deep. The water was clear and cold but on this 100 degree day it was perfect. I could have spent hours here lounging and swimming but I had a full day of exploring the area planed.

         I was there mid-week and it was absolutely deserted I don't know how how popular of a place this is come the weekend. I will be back here with the family at some point. It was a really cool place, I don't think my video does it justice but i hope it gives you an idea of whats out there.

        I'm always trying to increase traffic to the site to give me motivation to keep posting. Please share it with your friends, rate it or sign up to follow in the boxes on the right. Also if you have been to, or go to any of these places, have any places I should check out leave a comment below.

View Potem Falls in a larger map

Monday, July 26, 2010

McCloud River Falls, Upper Middle & Lower - Shasta Trinity National Forest

I've been wanting to head up to the Shasta area for the last year or so. Last year a friend of mine bought a vacation house in the McCloud area and last week I finally made it up there. Additionally thanks to another friend I've been on a waterfall kick and managed to find 6 of them while I was up in that area. It was quite an adventure at times including having my vehicles ECU (computer) go out on me on a random isolated dirt back road on the way up Burney Mountian. Well after limping my vehicle out of the Lassen National Forest at 5 mph I eventually was able to get a rental car and continue to Dunsmuir and then on to McCloud to check out the 3 waterfalls on the McCloud River.

Just east of McCloud in the Shasta Trinity National Forest there are 4 waterfalls. The 3 more know are the Upper, Middle & Lower McCloud Falls. A forth named Big Springs is also in the area but I didn't manage to make to that one, oh well got to leave something for next time. The easiest access to all 3 of the McCloud falls is located about 20 miles from I-5 on Hwy 89, or about 5 miles east of McCloud. Fowler Public Camp Rd is on the right, it is well marked and paved. There are two or three other roads from Hwy 89 but this paved and will take you to all 3. Once on Fowler Public Camp Rd stay straight for the lower falls or turn left on the unnamed paved road to head to the middle and upper falls.

If you are going to be in this area and you are in need of some outdoor gear or to arrange a guided trip, check out the newly (5/25/12) opened McCloud Outdoors & Gear Exchange.

From the top - To match the video I'll take you thorough it from the Upper Falls. The Upper Falls area has a few picnic tables next to a skinny, shallow and lazy McCloud river. But don't be fooled the awesome power of nature is just out of sight at this point. A path leads from the parking lot along the river, soon this listless creek is squeezed into a narrow slide like channel of volcanic irregularly shaped rocks causing swirling eddys in the river. (Be cautious if you climb over the protective railing to get your video and you're  jumping around on these rocks, aside from the danger of being swept over the falls there are water filled holes in the volcanic rock that can be 3+ feet deep.) The water picks up speed in the slide and then falls about 25' to a beautiful clear blue-green pool. There is no easy way down to the bottom, you could make it but the climb back up will be challenging. If your looking to swim keep in mind you have two more easy to get to waterfall swimming holes just down the road. From the overlook there is a trail that will take you to .3 miles to the middle falls or about 1.5 miles to the lower, or you can drive to the respective parking lots.

Middle Falls - Middle Falls is the show. Now I'm sure there are people that will say they like the upper or the lower better for this reason or that but in my opinion the one to see is the middle. From the viewing point up above the falls you will see the river widen and streak with white as the water once again picks up speed in anticipation for the fall ahead. From this point you can't really get perspective of what exactly your looking at. The trail from the upper falls and the path from the middle parking lot meet up and descend to the base of the middle falls. As you wind your way to the base of the falls the noise of the water crashing gets gradually louder and louder. After 3 or 4 switch backs, there it is. The moment it comes into full view you will stop in your tracks and gaze in awe at the beauty of nature. Make your way across the slick rocks to the pool below the falls. From here jump in the pool, or just gaze up at the pounding 50' tall, 100' wide waterfall. Again the trail continues to the lower and so does the road.

Lower Falls - Leaving the middle falls the river once again becomes lackadaisical and you wonder, where did all the water go that you just saw pounding over the middle falls? Just before the lower falls the river once again narrows and then pours over and drops about 12'. I found this to be a great swimming hole. The water is clear and you can see any hazards in the water below. That's important if your planing on jumping into the pool below, at your own risk of course. Like the upper the lower has picnic tables and is a stroll from the parking lot.

The McCloud River Falls are no secret. Do not have the expectation of being alone with nature at any of these spots or even the ability to get clear shots of the falls without other people in them. That being said its worth checking out. Give yourself 2-3 hours to make your way around. If you choose to swim or jump use caution bring a friend and remember your pretty much out of cell range and emergency care is a ways out. So please use caution and have fun, come back and share your experience. Oh yeah I forgot to mention how during you exploration of this area you are in the presence of a 14,179' Mt Shasta giving you something else to gaze at with awe.

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View McCloud River Falls in a larger map

Friday, July 9, 2010

Montgomery Woods State Reserve

        Montgomery Woods State Reserve is a magnificent redwood forest located about 30 minutes from Hwy 101 in Ukiah, Mendocino County. Aside from possibly being the best redwood grove in Northern California its isolated and usually deserted, with the exception of a few people on the weekends. Now isolated is a relative term, sure it's on a little traveled road but it's only 14 (13.8) miles from Ukiah. From N. State St. in Ukiah turn on to Orr Springs Rd. (See interactive map below) This will take you directly to Montgomery Woods. The road is paved and is mostly two lanes but at times it slims down to one. Watch out for the locals as they fly around the blind turns and race down the straight-a-ways. The road winds up the hills toward the Mendocino Coast, on this morning I could look out and see the morning fog retreating back to the ocean. The road then winds down into a canyon and you will pass by the Orr Hot Springs Resort, from here you have about 1.8 miles to go.

        The parking lot traditionally has been hard to find. Its a gravel lot on the left side of the road (when traveling from Ukiah) and easy to pass by. The State started a project to make some improvements to the Reserve that should be finished 7/30/10. A restroom structure now marks the parking lot, it appears that the parking lot will be paved or at least re-graveled and an informational kiosk is under construction. Until the work is complete the area is only open on the weekends. You can also get here from Hwy 1 on Comptche Ukiah Rd, its a 30 mile drive but expect it to take about 50 min.

        Once you park and begin your walk to Montgomery Grove you will come to a metal bridge, take an immediate left. The trail is short about 0.5 miles, but steep. Once you crest the hill you will find yourself in one of the most beautiful redwood forests on earth. Uniquely green ferns and clovers carpet the forest floor. A year round creek snakes its way through the forest and under some of the fallen giants, at times diapering under the forest floor completely and reappearing as a bubbling spring. The canopy nearly blocks out the sky. My high-end GPS device had a difficult time maintaining a signal. There are two species of redwoods here, the older Sierra Redwood and the taller Coastal Redwood. At one time the grove was said to have the tallest Redwood in the world at 370 ft. Two others have been found else where making it the 3rd largest but still impressive.

        The cycle of life is very defined in this ecological paradise. On one side of the canyon you can see evidence of a lightning fire that singed the grove during the 2008 firestorm. The vegetation is making a good recovery. Some people where horrified by the damage the fire caused but keep in mind that is was a natural cause and fire is a part of life in a healthy forest. If you can take your eyes off the giants that dominate the grove you will see redwoods in all stages of life. From young saplings angling for there sliver of sunlight, to the massive trees themselves to the fallen moss covered grandfathers returning to the forest floor.

        A trail continues on from here it skirts the side of the canyon taking you past rocks with plaques with different dedications to early conservationists of this area. Depending on the time of year the SW side of the canyon may be impassable due to an overflow creek that develops in winter. The trail will lead you to a fallen tree that the Boy Scouts have built a bridge across. The trail winds back toward the start along the opposite canyon wall. The path will lead you to another Boy Scout project, a raised walk way leading around a large moss covered rock and over a marsh of ferns. There you will find one of two log carved benches. The trail then works its way back to the main cathedral where you first entered this redwood paradise.

        There are other trails that fork off in different directions, there is even another easy to miss parking area on the opposite side of the street about 0.4 miles back toward Ukiah. I have not hiked these because every time I come here I end up spending all my time in Montgomery Grove. I find the grove to be a very spiritual place and I think no matter what you believe in you will feel it here. So please help keep this special place pristine, please pack out your trash and keep to the path ways. Redwood forest floor is delicate, the roots of the trees run shallow and depend on the soil to be non-compacted.

       I hope you enjoy Montgomery Woods as much as I do. Please come back and leave a comment below about your experience.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Trout Creek Campground – Eel River

        I wanted to take the family camping but if you know me camping usually involves hours of driving on some unmaintained forest service dirt road. I wanted to keep this trip close to home but I’m not one for the KOA or campsites with the nice background noise of a highway. So where to go that’s out in nature with few people, yet not a total back road excursion? Answer, Trout Creek Campground. Why? Trout Creek is easy to get to. It is paved most the way turning to a well maintained dirt road for the last 2 miles. I find that dirt roads detour a lot of people. Most importantly there is a pristine river 200’ from the campground. For my kids, family camping must include some sort of water feature.

        Named for the tributary creek that runs along the east side of the campground Trout Creek is located on the Eel River near Potter Valley. Trout Creek is just outside the Mendocino National Forest along Eel River Road (County Road 240). Lake Pillsbury is just 9 miles down the road but that’s another post.

        Trout Creek Campground is operated by PG&E as part of the Potter Valley Hydroelectric Project. (Now there is some controversy surrounding the hydroelectric project but let’s just talk about enjoying what is here) It is what you would expect from a maintained campground. There are 17 camp sites 1 group site 3 walk in sites, a camp host, water, fire rings, picnic tables, vault toilets, dumpsters and pets are allowed.  Additionally RV's are allowed, there is nothing posted but looks like you could bring a up to about a 24' trailer. This is a fee area, and is closed in winter (I don’t have dates). Also be sure to visit the Firefighter Memorial just outside the entrance to the camp.

        The campground is under a canopy of redwood, oak, pine and madrone. The sounds of birds chirping and running water can be heard thorough the campground. The river is close but not too close for those of you with young children, even at the closest site the water is still about 200’ away.  A path leads down to the river bank and forks right or left. Both paths lead to nice swimming holes outside of the current of the river. Some people use this area as a put-in and float or kayak down to the bridge you crossed to get here.

        I truly enjoyed my visit but here are a few cautionary words. Rattlesnake country - they’re out there, poison oak - if you get it, swift current - especially during spring snow melt but always beware. That being said, have fun, be safe and come back and share your experience.

View Trout Creek Campground in a larger map

Chamberlain Creek Falls - Jackson State Forest

        My friend Adventure Wannabe was showing me a waterfall guide book the other day. In the book I noticed a waterfall not far from my house. I moved for work about two years ago and I don’t know all the hidden spots like I did where I use to live, so I decided to go check it out.

        Chamberlain Creek Falls, located in the Jackson State Forest, half way between Willits and Fort Bragg off of Hwy 20 in Mendocino County. First off if you are looking for an impressive waterfall this is not it. This trip is more about the sum of the journey rather than one remarkable piece. The drive on Hwy 20 you leave civilization behind and wind through the forest. On some turns you can look out and see nothing but unspoiled hills and valleys covered with pine and redwood trees. Once inside Jackson State Forest you will turn onto Road 200 headed north. It’s a dirt road that is well maintained and is passable in any vehicle. In about one mile the road will fork and you will turn Left. Continue on for 3.5 miles and look for a wooden rail on the Left side of the road. Park here for a short hike (about 600’) to the falls or continue on for another 0.3 miles to where the road forks again for a longer hike to the falls (about 1 mile).

        If you park at the first location there is a set of wooden stairs that start off the trail. Once off the road you see just how many trees there are out here. The canopy blocks out the sky, rays of light streak through the trees. After a few feet you can hear a small stream and the crash of falling water. The waterfall its self seems to come out of nowhere poring over a massive rock and falling on to a stream bed below. If you continue on the trail just a few more feet you walk into a beautiful redwood grove. It’s a perfect place to sit and take in the beauty of this redwood forest.

        Below is a video of the area. It was difficult to capture the beauty of this area because of the varying light levels with the sun streaking through the trees and the way the waterfall is tucked away in a canyon corner, so I guess you will just have to check it out for yourself.

View Chamberlain Creek Waterfall in a larger map

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Intro - Welcome to Exploring NorCal

Exploring NorCal is a place for me to share my travels as I explore Northern California. I will be posting on hiking, camping, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, state parks, PG&E recreation areas, offroad, OHV, BLM, USFS and other areas I visit along the way. I am a father of two so many trips will be family oriented.

Most of my trips will include video, so until I get the first one edited here is a clip of S. Cow Mountain OHV area. Its run by BLM outside Ukiah, CA. I'll post on this area too.

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