Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Good Hiking Buddy Is Important to Have

July 11: Burkhart Trail Waterfalls

Buckhorn Campground to Littlerock Creek
~6500' to ~5600' elevation
~5 mi round trip [~900' elevation change each way]

It's been so darn hot that climbing steep summits in the hot sun does not sound like fun. Hiking in shady woods, swimming in cool mountain creeks, and standing under small waterfalls sounds much better! So we decided to head back to the same place as last week, only this time concentrating on getting off the trail to see more of the little (and not-so-little) waterfalls, including Buckhorn Falls (actually a set) and Cooper Canyon Falls.

So once again we set out on Hwy 2, winding our way from Wrightwood to Buckhorn campground. Once again the Giant Blazing Stars were out, and we also stopped to get shots of the fields of pungent purple flowers that surprised and delighted us as we wound around the highway curves.

Click on any photograph to see larger version.

Giant Blazing Star.

Probably Foothill Penstemmon.

Very pungent!

One field of the pungent purple penstemmon was above a thin, long waterfall of snow runoff coming down the mountain. By its stream were growing a multitude of flowers. It was a beautiful spot, but did not lend itself well to much exploration.

Shooting Star.

Crimson Columbine.

Scarlet Monkeyflower in abundance.

We were happy to see several parking places when we arrived at the day-use parking area on the far side of Buckhorn Campground. Although not as crowded as it had been on the 4th, this is still a very popular place for families and groups to go. A really cool person who was leaving gave us their Adventure Pass. Thank you!

We got our packs on, but I don't think I checked the time. The dog had apparently reconnected with the Call of the Wild and was rarin' to go. Getting the dog to obey or remember trail etiquette was almost useless. She knew she was going to chase lizards and play in the water; we were just along for the ride. The pack never even slowed her down. It was like being pulled by a jet ski.

The butterflies were really out this time, and one poser followed us, showing off its beauty. Its markings were almost an inverse of the Monarch butterfly. (Anyone know what kind it is? I assume it's a milkweed butterfly of some type.) The wild roses were dried and fading sadly, but there was something new this week---the lemon lilies were in bloom!


Lemon lily.

A little more than a quarter mile down the trail, we came to the first turnoff we wanted to explore. We scrambled down the loose mountainside to the Buckhorn creek, then headed up creek to where a little waterfall down a rock wall was filling a pool. Of course, the dog went straight in. This is her favorite part!

A panorama from all of our photographs of this spot.

Good thing all the dog's gear is waterproof (the canned food is in a baggie).

Rock wall waterfall.

From the top of it, looking down.

Yellow Monkeyflowers were blooming right out of the rock crevices of the falls, adding to the already beautiful scene. We climbed out on the rocks to snap them.


The dog was unable to climb the waterfall wall with us, so my hiking buddy continued upstream to the first Buckhorn Falls while I waited with the dog. The dog, of course, was content to stand in the wading hole she'd found. When my hiking buddy came back, it was my turn. I handed off the dog, climbed the waterfall wall again and headed upstream.

One happy dog!

I had barely begun scrambling over the rocks when I hit an invisibly slick (dry!) one, and my foot went right out from under me. I didn't try to fight the slide and allowed myself to gracefully land right in the creek. So much for teasing my hiking buddy last week, huh?! I stood up immediately; luckily it was mostly my feet and legs in the water. The cell phone and camera were both fine, and I was only wet (just my boots, really). I called down that I was okay and continued upstream. When I rounded the bend, I could see (the upper) Buckhorn Falls.

The Upper Buckhorn Falls.

Way taller than me!

Is that not one of the most crystal-clear inviting pools into which you could possibly plunge?
God, I love this place!

The pool there looked so inviting, I wanted to stay. But with many more waterfalls to see and a dog that couldn't climb there, I settled for taking my pictures and moving on.

I zig-zagged my way back
overland until I had to take the stream bed to return to my party. I climbed down the rock wall and was heading to the bank when suddenly, both feet shot out from underneath me and I came down VERY VERY HARD. Wow, that was like standing on ice, and there wasn't even any moss visible on the rock!

This was not good, not good at all. I was definitely in pain. My behind and my left hand appeared to have taken the brunt of the fall. The camera was completely dunked. My pants were soaked, including the pocket with the cellphone. Blessedly, my spine appeared to have survived. My body had taken the blow the way it was designed, on the cushioned behind!

"Are you okay?" all the bystanders asked. "No, but yeah," I said, trying to indicate I was hurt and definitely going to be bruised, but had no broken bones and was still functioning. We'll not be calling 9-1-1 today; it's against my rules!

"I just busted my butt, that's all," I said, and everyone laughed. I stood up and started trying to dry the cellphone and camera. The cellphone was still functioning; the camera was not. I pulled its battery pack and placed both in a dry pocket of my backpack. (Most of these pictures were taken by my hiking buddy; that's why they are way better quality this week!)

My pride having taken its licks, I finished making my way to the bank. What a wet, muddy mess I was! "Let's head back to the trail," I said. Soaking in a nice cool pool along Littlerock Creek sounded like a REALLY good idea now; I wanted to get there asap! I retrieved the dog from the pool and we started up the steep bank.

Well, *I* started. The dog wouldn't do the steep bank. I was dragging a 75-pound dead weight. I went back and nudged her behind, which only resulted in the dog whirling around and tangling herself up in her leash. By the time I got her untangled, my hiking buddy was wondering where we were. She grabbed the front, I pushed the back, and together we got the dog started up the slope. Piece of cake.

We scrambled up, but I had to pause near the top to catch my breath and let the ache in my legs ease up. "Almost to the trail," my hiking buddy called to me. A little more scrambling and I was back on the trail. We hadn't gone very far when the trail to the second (lower) Buckhorn Falls intersected at a sharp angle. "Want to?" "Heck, yeah."

We went carefully down the steep trail until it opened up to an apron of rock by the lower falls. Families were there, enjoying a rope swing from a tree that swung out over the pool below the falls. The water over the falls was a mere trickle this time of year, though; and the pool water was not being turned over quickly enough for our tastes. We were glad our plan was to go all the way to Littlerock Creek! We chatted a bit, my hiking buddy snapped pictures, and then we turned to go.

Tree swing pool below the lower (trickling) Buckhorn Falls.

And I immediately was stuck right there. Once again, the dog would NOT go up the bank. I tried different routes; no go. Finally my hiking buddy returned and picked the dog up by the pack and heaved her onto the slope. That did the trick!

We were about halfway up the steep trail when the dog spied a lizard and pounced. Yeah, as in pounced right off the trail. Realizing her error, she panicked and whirled, tangling herself in her leash AGAIN. That really scared her, so she panicked more. Then she tumbled through a bush and down the slope, landing about 10 feet below us. I hung onto her rope, keeping her from tumbling further, but bent over as I started choking badly just then---the damned asthma trying to thwart me! Damn, I knew I forgot something! I'm not in the habit yet of carrying an inhaler.

My hiking partner leaped over the bush (it was spectacular) and landed by the dog.
The dog was frozen in fear. She got the dog on its feet. Just then, I could take the weight of holding the dog, the heat, the ever-present nausea, the asthmatic choking, the scrambles up the steep slopes, and the recent fall no more. "I'm gonna be sick!" I warned just before I began spasmodically heaving involuntarily. As usual, nothing but white foam came up. That is so weird. But hey, conservative! Which is really helpful to my hiking partners. (I still think it's relative to the lungs and the asthma, and not the stomach.)

I staggered some six paces up the slope to a rock in a bit of shade and sat down. "Are you okay?" my hiking buddy asked, as she and the dog made it up to where I was. "No, but I will be. I'm just gonna sit here awhile." I started involuntarily heaving again. "Here, give me your bandanna," my hiking buddy said, taking it and heading back down to the creek. I finished the spasmodic heaving and was able to start taking some tugs of water. My head began POUNDING. Oh, great. Now I'm dehydrated from it all. I took some more tugs of water; I was starting to feel a little better. Sitting in the shade was helping; the involuntary clamping down inside that makes me involuntarily heave was going away.

I had gotten more water into me and was feeling much better by the time my hiking buddy returned with the wet bandanna; we draped it over my head and I let the water run down my face and neck. "Here, have some hydrating gum," she said. Perfect! Hey, a good hiking buddy is important to have, especially when you are a fourth-stage cancer patient with multiple health problems who just had open-heart surgery 10 weeks ago!

We sat until my head stopped pounding, then stood up. "We're almost back to the trail," my hiking buddy told me. "We can go back if you want." "Let's go," I said, feeling recovered. When we reached the trail, my hiking buddy paused again. "We can go back if you want."

We're not even a half-mile into a five-mile hike. I've already fallen twice and my camera isn't working. My hand is throbbing, my behind is smarting and will definitely be bruised on the bone, I've exhausted myself heaving
so my legs are weak and shaky, I'm in need of serious hydration, and the dog isn't cooperating. My boots and socks are thoroughly soaked to where I am sloshing as I walk, and my shorts and shirt are a muddy mess. Mud and scrapes are visible on my bare legs. So of course you know what I said. "No, I want to do this." And off we went.

And I'm glad I persisted, because it was a nice hike. We saw Cooper Creek Falls, made it all the way to the Rattlesnake Trail intersection, and picnicked along Littlerock Creek. Ladybugs and butterflies were everywhere, and we saw tons of little waterfalls in addition to the bigger falls. So enjoy the pictures this week, 'cause I'm not only saving you the walk, I'm saving you the bruised behind!

Cooper Creek Falls.

Our picnic spot was alongside Littlerock Creek.

Scarlet Monkeyflower by log.

Scarlet Monkeyflower and Lemon Lily.

We hung out at Littlerock Creek until 4:30, then packed up and hit the trail at 4:45 p.m. We were back to the car by 6 pm---I had made it the whole five miles.

So if my worst day on the backpack includes falling, being bruised and scraped, being soaking wet, and enduring asthmatic choking and puking; I know I can at least still function safely and get myself where I need to go.

But I'm really really blessed that I did not end up in a wheelchair from that fall; the blow I took on the lower point of my pelvis was quite impressive. Considering imaging still shows lesions in two sections of my spine, I need to treat myself as being a little more fragile than I have. I think I have to avoid getting off trail or climbing along streams and waterfalls as much as possible. Don't tell Dr. S on me; I think I learned my lesson!

And I'm definitely taking the next two weeks off to doing something like lie around sunbathing!


Sabine said...

Yup... and that's why you went back to Buckhorn w/o me last Friday. Uh Huh... taking it easy I see.


Anonymous said...

Well ya notice I didn't fall this time, either! And I found the overland route when we came out.