In 2008 the Havasu area had a tremendous flood that destroyed some waterfall formations while leaving behind new ones. This is a newcomer to the collection of Havasu waterfalls, and does not even have an official name. The closest I’ve heard is New Indian Falls or New 50-Foot Falls. Whatever the name, it has features that are fun to explore, from a ‘Hot Tub’ to a hurricane cave to a garden of Eden swimming hole.
Checking off the bucket list
The optional extension to the Columbia Sportswear event last month was a three day trip to Havasu Falls, home of the Havasupai Indian Reservation, towering red cliffs, and deep turquoise waters. It is a destination that has been on my backpacking bucket list for several years so I absolutely jumped at this opportunity, especially with someone else taking care of all of the planning and bureaucracy. Because I didn’t have to deal with the permitting and payment myself I’m not going to go into the details of how to visit, you can find that out for yourself.
I just enjoyed a cold and rainy spring backpack in Pine Valley in the Ventana Wilderness of Los Padres National Forest. We accessed Pine Valley via the Pine Ridge Trail, starting at the China Camp trail head.
On Friday evening we drove out to the small campground at the trail head and enjoyed a warm campfire and dinner. The road from pavement is long, steep, rutted, and twisty, but we had no problem getting in (and neither did the several sedans at the trail head, clearly, though I wouldn’t bring a low clearance car on that road). We were surprised to be joined by several other people that night – the place feels so remote that I imagined we would have it to ourselves.
Friday night was clear and cold but we awoke to a foggy and damp Saturday morning. Luckily I had packed car camping gear separate from my backpacking kit so everything was dry for the hike. By 10 am we hit the Pine Ridge trail, climbing steadily from the trail head parking to the ridge 400 feet above. This first stretch passes through an obvious burn zone from the Big Basin Complex fire last year.
What does a backpacker in backpacking withdrawal do on the hottest yet weekend of the year? She, along with 9 friends, goes backpacking in the hot, hot Cache Creek Wilderness, of course.
To be fair, this trip was planned several weeks ago so we didn’t purposely choose to go out in this heat, but we certainly weren’t going to let it stop us. We met at the Redbud trail head at 10 am with our almost lightweight packs (heat = lighter gear, yay). However, loading them up with water kind of took the joy out of having a lightweight pack. We took our time getting to Wilson Valley – it’s about seven miles to the valley, and the trail goes up and over two ridges. Although parts of the trail are shaded, there are plenty of sunny, exposed areas too. The terrain and scenery is similar to hiking the East Bay regional parks or Henry Coe (though the trails aren’t as steep).
As planned, we got an early start out of Lake Edison so we could get up and over Bear Ridge before the day heated up. As it turned out the climb wasn’t bad at all – we took it slow and steady and before we knew it, we were at the top. These steep 2000 ft gains get a bit easier after a week on the trail. The trail was well graded and it was even shaded – I now have no doubt that the horror stories we had heard were exaggerated, much like the tales of the climb out of Red’s Meadow.
As we descended off of Bear Ridge there wasn’t as much shade, so the downhill was worse. Eventually the trail met Bear Creek and we had several miles of easy, gently climbing trail. The day was hot so I was keeping an eye out for a good place to soak my feet and dunk my head. A perfect swimming hole appeared mere feet from the trail, so I knew I must stop. We spent about an hour soaking and relaxing before continuing on.
The last few miles seemed to take forever. The scenery was beautiful, but it was still hot and a bit dusty. Our 3500 foot, 13 mile day caught up with us in the last mile or so and we were very grateful to reach camp at Rosemarie Meadow. Unfortunately the campsite was incredibly dusty, but we didn’t feel like wandering around, looking for a better place.
This day’s stats:
- Mileage: 12.25 mi
- Ascending: 3491 ft
- Descending: 1106 ft
- Cumulative Mileage: 80.03 mi
- Cumulative Ascending: 14,654 ft (Whitney!)
- Cumulative Descending: 13,238 ft
For the photos from this day: Lake Edison to Rosemarie Meadow