November 11, 2013
Alder Creek Fall
Total distance: 12 miles
For the third time, I hiked the Alder Creek trail in Yosemite National Park. You’d think it was something spectacular having done it three times. The thing that makes it special to me is, the trail from start to finish is always deserted; and in springtime there is a prolific showing of wildflowers.
Beginning at the trailhead in Wawona at an elevation of 4,000 feet near the horse stables, the walk to the fall is six miles one way. It is a strenuous walk, inclining 2,500 feet up Turner Ridge. Oak trees and manzanita line the way.
Leg-scraping mountain misery (also known as bear clover) invades the trail from both sides leaving only a narrow walkway.
The trail continues through a burned section of forest. There, the forest floor is padded with a thick carpet of pine needles.
Many of the burned trees make interesting shapes.
The trail finally reaches flat ground that once was home to the Yosemite Lumber Company’s railroad bed.
Railroad ties and other remnants line the path. Just beyond is Alder Creek Fall, a little visited waterfall that drops 120 feet.
The first time I hiked this trail I was alone and walked only three miles before turning back. On that trip, I found the top portion of a bear’s skull. When I returned six weeks later, it was gone.
The second time on this trail my husband Chris was with me. He dubbed it the goat trail because of the dusty, rocky, narrow, uphill climb during the first four miles. It didn’t help that we were each carrying a 28 pound backpack. We spent the night somewhere in the woods then walked to Alder Creek Fall and back the next day. Along the trail we found more unidentified bones.
On this trip, Andrew and I walked all twelve miles. Our destination was Alder Creek Fall. Before reaching the fall I became concerned when we walked through several dry tributaries of Mosquito Creek and Alder Creek that should have contained water. The bogs where water lilies once grew were completely dry as well. I hoped that Alder Creek Fall would still have water after our exerted effort to get there.
For the first three miles of trail we were followed by tiny, pesky flies. They hovered around our heads, and buzzed in our ears as we walked. Twice I inhaled one. Interestingly, they parted from us almost immediately at the halfway mark.
The area along Turner Ridge must be bear territory. There was evidence of bears all along that section, at least ten piles of scat both old and fresh. As I came around a bend, I saw Andrew standing still looking downhill. He had been there for six minutes watching three bears—two cubs and their mom. By the time I reached him, the mama bear was gone and the cubs were shaking the branches of the tree as they climbed down to follow her. I heard them rustling about but didn’t see them.
As we approached the old railroad bed, we should have begun to hear the crashing sound of water from the fall into Alder Creek. We didn’t hear anything except our feet crunching through the leaves on the ground.
Eventually, the fall came into view without a sound. A noiseless stream of water slipped down the rocks into the hidden creek.
We stopped here for a much-needed rest after walking uphill for three hours and ate lunch.
After a short repose, we headed downhill. It took two hours of walking and a little jogging on my part (to keep up with Andrew) before reaching the car.
I find that experiencing a trail during different times of the year is interesting. It’s doubtful though that I will hike this trail for a fourth time.