Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Sugarloaf Falls

The heavy rains of Tuesday brought up Canyon Creek to a raging torrent, and from deep in the canyon the North Fork raised its voice, telling the stories of a hundred thousand rivulets suddenly adding their many mites to the river. Yet--it was just too nasty and wet to go in search of waterfalls.

Then the rain turned to snow, and a hike planned for today fell through, as the weather seemed intent upon precipitation. More and more and more precipitation.

Towards late morning I noticed with a start that the snow had stopped and the skies, although all full of clouds, had brightened. Suddenly I simply knew that I must go to Iron Point and, unless the rain and snow returned, go beyond, and down, down the Euchre Bar and Iron Point trails to East Knoll.

For East Knoll commands an intimate view of Sugarloaf Falls. There is an eminence above Euchre Bar named Sugarloaf, on the south canyon rim, and these waterfalls head up in a broad basin just to the west of the Sugarloaf. Hence my name.

This all played out just as imagined; rain showers still fell at Iron Point, but a certain undeniable brightness in the sky gave me hope. I parked and started off at a jog down the EBT, with loppers and camera. The snow was patchy and easily avoided.

From East Knoll one obtains tremendous views of Giant Gap and also, directly across the canyon, Sugarloaf Falls. At high flows these falls present quite a spectacle from Iron Point, and all the more from East Knoll, so much closer. One section of the falls must be nearly 200 feet high.

East Knoll is just the easternmost knoll in Green Valley. Its summit stands about 800 or a thousand feet above the North Fork. A sort of saddle or pass connects East Knoll to the main canyon wall. From the Euchre Bar Trail, about half or three-quarters a mile down from the parking area, the Iron Point Trail breaks away west and drops into the east end of Green Valley, crossing this saddle-pass.

The IPT is unmarked and easy to miss, yet I noted that it is more visible than is usual, apparently receiving slightly increased use, over the past year. A series of faint switchbacks lead down through Black Oak and Canyon Live Oak forest, to a ravine, where a rather large flow made me get my feet a little wet (the crucial boulder at the ford was under water). A few hundred yards brought me to the Saddle and from there I left the trail and followed along the ridge crest, climbing to the east.

I walked right past the spectacular views of Giant Gap from the summit, making down and east to a special viewpoint for Sugarloaf Falls, where an enormous slab of slate forms the ridge crest. There I paused and took many photographs. It had been raining lightly the whole way down the trail and then while climbing East Knoll; suddenly the rain increased, and I started back up.

However, it soon stopped. For a little while. Rather nice views of Sugarloaf Falls are had right from the IPT itself. I took more photos. But then the rain set in again, and gradually increased, and I had the unusual experience of walking up out of rain into snow. At the EBT parking area the ground was swiftly whitening under a heavy snowfall. I shook as much snow and water off as possible before getting in and cranking up the heater to the max.

I never did get back and work on the water bars on the EBT. The rains of recent days have been following the trail along for hundreds of yards at a time. It is a certainty that Tahoe National Forest will not do anything to maintain this, one of the more popular trails in the Forest. They do not have the budget. If we want National Forests which actually maintain the trails, we must, I am told, talk Congress into it. They hold the purse strings.

The BLM is holding a public meeting tonight in Colfax, about their new management plan for the extensive BLM lands in this area. I plan to submit my own comments and ideas in writing, rather than make the 35-mile drive there and back. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Colfax High School cafeteria.

No comments: