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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