Friday, February 9, 2007

Murietta Falls - March 2006

March 2006

12 miles, 3,500 Elevation Gain!
Hans, Bill, Julie

“Do you love waterfalls enough to be willing to grunt out a 3,500 foot elevation change?.... Murietta Falls is special because it’s much taller than other area falls and because it’s hard enough to reach that most people don’t make the trip.” Thus Ann Marie Brown describes Murietta Falls in her book California Waterfalls. The photo made it look quite impressive. Of course, I was immediately hooked and determined to do it. The problem was finding someone else willing to do it with me.

The other problem with Murietta is that it is an ephemeral fall and is only there for a very short time after a rainy period. Graciela was more than willing to do the hike and we scheduled the one weekend we could do it. I woke up to find it is snowing in Lompico – a rare event and one not to be missed. Weather conditions cancelled the hike (and I’m glad we made the choice – it would have been a miserable hike in the rain).

I told my husband Bill, that I would do it alone the following weekend if I had to. I asked our friend Hans and when he agreed to go, Bill said, “Of course, I’ll go, too!”. I had my team. The waterfall is outside of Livermore so we had to get an early start. We had some difficulty finding the trail head. We ended up on the wrong side of the reservoir and had to stop several times to get directions to Del Valle Lake.

We got to the trailhead and quickly packed up and hit the trail. Right off the bat – steep uphill climb. 2.4 miles up! It was a fire road so the grade was steep. No switchbacks here. Bill took off like a shot – but we all eventually hit our strides and shared the lead. I came around a corner of the trail and there was a bull in the middle of the road. Well, maybe it was a cow – but it had big horns and it wasn’t moving – just looking at me. I waited for Hans and we got around the cow somehow.

The road was either steep up or steep down. Eventually it turned into a pleasant path next to a stream. I never thought I would be so happy to see switchbacks. Then back into the rolling hills. It seemed like we would never get there. I had serious doubts about making it back out.

To get to the falls you have to circle around the back of it making almost a U turn around the fall. There you scramble down about a ¼ mile. About halfway down the scramble Bill said, “I’m too tired to go on, let’s stop here.” You had a sideways view of the fall from there. I was so tired I thought he was serious and I was ready to give up going all the way down for the full fall view. I got ready to sit down. “I’m joking” he said.

The bottom of the falls is in a steep canyon. There weren't too many places to sit and there were already several groups of hikers in the close-up spots. We found a perch and had a quick lunch. Not a lot time to rest. The waterfall was a bit anticlimactic, I’m afraid. The photo had made it look like Bridal Veil Falls.. Too many people and too much work to get there. I wondered again if I could make it out.

Hans was eyeing the terrain. We were at the bottom of a grassy canyon. The side walls were steep – maybe a 70 degree angle. Hans said, “We can climb straight up this hill – the trail is right at the top. It looked like a scary proposition to me, but I was so tired I agreed. We zipped up the side in about five minutes and saved at least 40 minutes of hiking. I was so encouraged that I ended up getting a second wind and sailed back – making good time and feeling great.

We stopped and climbed a giant rock which gave us a great view. That’s the photo of me and Hans on the rock. It was steep going downhill – but still easier than climbing up. When we got back to the car, Hans and Bill cracked open beers and I went to the bathroom. A shepherd with hundreds of sheep surrounded the restroom. I was really impressed with the way the sheepdog moved those sheep to the commands and whistles of the shepherd.

When I came out a sheriff’s car had pulled up and an officer was talking to Bill and Hans. Turns out you can’t have beer in the parking lot – though you can at the picnic table 10 feet away. They explained we were so busy getting on the trail that we didn’t read the sign – which was true. He was very nice about it and let it go as a warning. We happily drove back to Santa Cruz with a sense of accomplishment and exhaustion. This was the hardest hike of the year.

Lessons Learned: Sometimes taking a short cut is the right decision. Don’t drink beer in the parking lot at Del Valle lake.

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