Gidney Creek has its headwaters near the little bench on the backside of Cold Spring trail (the one about half a mile down from Camino Cielo with the watertrough beside it). Gidney flows down, roughly parallel to the trail until Forbush Camp at which point it turns west, out of my ken and eventually flows into Gibraltar Reservoir just east of the back side of Gibraltar Rd.
Forbush sits on a divide and on a wet enough day there’s a little spring in the meadow, perhaps 100 yards from Gidney but which flows east down Forbush Canyon to Cottam meadow where it merges with Blue Creek. It’s kind of neat to see a place where two different watersheds diverge.
Perhaps two thirds of the way down to Forbush there’s a spot where you can turn and look back up the canyon, and if you are lucky you’ll see a waterfall. This doesn’t happen very often, there must be a good flow down Gidney Creek, and I hadn’t seen it for years.
But I saw it yesterday.
There was water flowing near the bench, and I could hear the stream intermittently as I ran downhill, so when I got to the magic spot I turned and looked back and there it was.
It’s hard to get a good look at it because you can’t even see it except at this one spot, and you’re fairly far away there. It’s even harder to take a good picture because, looking north, you are always looking into the sun, and because the waterfall itself is in a shaded nook surrounded by sun.
Maybe if I had a stronger zoom and could get rid of the bright background… But that camera is too heavy to run with.
I ran on down to the Grotto, and then back. The waterfall was still flowing, and I thought what a pity it was not to be able to take a better picture (at this hour the view was even worse because there was more light nearby but still none on the falls.
As I plodded up the trail I was tempted to go down to the creek and look at the falls from close up. After all, who knew when they’d next be running? Eventually I got to the place on the trail which I estimated to be about the closest I could get to the falls.
I cast about and found a spot where there was an opening in the brush and plunged down.
According to my GPS the horizontal distance between the place I left the trail and the creekbed where I ended up is about 65 meters (as the rock plummets). The vertical distance is about 100 meters (take this with a grain of salt, GPS altitudes are not very accurate). Or about a 50° incline on average. It’s steep.
For a while the open space continued, but then the chaparral closed in. Chaparral has lots of tough wiry branches that tangle up with each other. In theory there’s an open space underneath, but not here — too close to the creek probably.
Oh, and it looks as if about half the wiry branches are actually poison oak vines. I don’t usually worry much about poison oak, but then I don’t usually push through thickets of the stuff either.
The chaparral liked my cap too, and kept pulling it off my head. Eventually I just carried it in my hand (which meant one hand less for climbing with).
After I’d been going for a while I realized that I was being stupid. If I had an accident no one would ever find me down here. Cold Spring trail is fairly well traveled (even the back side) and there were people camped at Forbush, so if I had problems on trail someone would find me, but no one would come down here.
Still, I was more than halfway down. It seemed a shame not to continue now.
I ended up about 10 feet above the stream with a fairly vertical drop to reach it. I decided to leave my cap on the rock here while I turned all my hands to climbing. If going down was difficult, how was I going to get up? I decided to ignore that question.
I managed to slither down in one piece.
It took about 15 minutes to cover those 65 meters.
The stream was in a deep channel with closed canopy forest above it. It began to seem unlikely that I’d actually be able to see the waterfall from this angle… but having come so far (or at least having spent so much effort to move such a short distance) it seemed silly not to go and look.
The going was easier now, no plants to hold me back, but the rocks beside the stream were slippery and the stream was steep. I was below the waterfall and had another few decameters to go upstream.
If I had been willing to sit still, it would have been pretty.
Eventually I could see the falls peeping through the trees
And finally I pulled myself into the open area around the falls. A little shallow pool. A very thin stream of water, but it looked an impressive drop. Hmm.
This cascade seems awfully well screened by trees, perhaps it’s not the fall I saw from the trail, maybe there’s another one right above it?
But I have absolutely no interest in trying to climb higher. This cascade is quite enough for me.
I turn back.
Looking, essentially down, the way back looks steep. And slippery.
But I manage it, though I do worry a little about finding my route up again. And even that I find eventually.
I go a little below the precipitous drop I took on the way down and find an alternate route up.
I recover my hat.
I follow my footsteps up for a while, but after a bit I lose them. Oh well, I just have to push my way up, I can’t really get lost.
Eventually I reach a spot where I can see, and find the trail to my left and below me, so now I head downward (through a poison oak tangle) and eventually reach the trail.
I’m glad I saw that waterfall, but I don’t think I need to do that ever again.
Next time I ran the trail, nine days later, the waterfall had gone.