“Bearly” Visible

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.

Only a few dried white flowers could be found in November.

Only a few dried up white flowers could be found in November.

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.

Looking up.

Looking up at an oak that shades the trail.

Leg-scraping mountain misery (also known as bear clover) invades the trail from both sides leaving only a narrow walkway.

There are many sections of this pungent shrub to walk through.

There are many sections of this pungently scented shrub to walk through.

The trail continues through a burned section of forest.  There, the forest floor is padded with a thick carpet of pine needles.

Pine needles padding the ground.

Shuffling through the pine needles on the forest floor.

Many of the burned trees make interesting shapes.

Looking through a piece of burned bark at more torched wood.

Peeking through a hole in a burned tree and seeing more torched wood.

The trail finally reaches flat ground that once was home to the Yosemite Lumber Company’s railroad bed.

Nearing the waterfall on ground that trains once traversed.

Nearing the waterfall on ground that trains once traversed.

Railroad ties and other remnants line the path.  Just beyond is Alder Creek Fall, a little visited waterfall that drops 120 feet.

The location of the Yosemite Railroad.

Walking by a pile of railroad ties.

Decaying piles of railroad ties remind us of the past.

Decaying piles of railroad ties remind us of the past.

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.

I was surprised to see this laying on the trail back in May 2011.

I was surprised to see this laying on the trail back in May 2011.

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.

Found these bones near the area where the bear skull rested.  June 2011

Found these bones near the area where the bear skull rested. June 2011

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.

Wawona Dome from the trail.

Wawona Dome from the trail.

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.

There is a shorter trail leading uphill from Wawona Road.  Here is where the two trails intersect.

Two trails intersect here and continue as one to Alder Creek Fall in 3.2 miles.

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.

Somewhere in that golden colored oak tree, two bear cubs are playing.

Somewhere in that golden-colored oak tree, two bear cubs are playing.

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.

The section of trail near the waterfall.

The section of trail near the waterfall.

Eventually, the fall came into view without a sound.  A noiseless stream of water slipped down the rocks into the hidden creek.

Alder Creek Fall is the wet area on the granite wall to the right of Andrew.

Alder Creek Fall is the wet area on the granite wall to the right of Andrew.

We stopped here for a much-needed rest after walking uphill for three hours and ate lunch.

Alder Creek Fall on June 17, 2011.

Alder Creek Fall on June 17, 2011.

Alder Creek Fall on November 11, 2013.

Alder Creek Fall on November 11, 2013.

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.

Leaning against a tree for a breather before continuing the fast pace.

Leaning against a tree for a breather before continuing the fast pace.

Many of the trees were extremely large.

Many of the trees were very large.

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.

10 thoughts on ““Bearly” Visible

  1. Dad

    That sounds like it would be WAY too much exercise for me, but, vicariously, I really enjoyed the hike. I remember the first time you saw a bear on the trail. It ended your hike for that day and you high tailed it back to your car. Now your saying you might do this hike again to see a bear. 🙂 I’m glad you had a good time and it’s REALLY nice that you and Andrew are accumulating these experiences and great memories together.
    Dad

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    1. Janet Post author

      Yes, I remember seeing that bear. After learning more about them, I don’t feel quite as afraid anymore. It helps too, when you’re not alone. When I hiked this trail the first time alone, I kept seeing bears. They were actually burned stumps resembling small bears. 🙂

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  2. Dorie H. Davis

    What a wonderful experience. So proud of and for you. AND!! Wish I could at least hike a “bit” of your beautiful park…might just getting “beyond” that though 😦 AT LEAST I CAN READ AND ENJOY YOUR EXPERIENCES 🙂

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    1. Janet Post author

      I’m glad that you enjoy reading about our adventures. What’s great about Yosemite is, you don’t always have to get out and hike to see the awesome sights. You can do it from a car too.

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