Monday, February 3, 2014

I have the worst writer's block. I've started this post several times only to get half way through and delete it all and stare blankly at the screen. It's sad too, considering how many great hikes I've been on recently. The Farmer's Almanac has managed to accurately predict this winter as being one of the harshest in recent memory. Although we haven't seen big snowfall totals, the bitter cold has lingered for long stretches of days presenting a unique opportunity, a frozen waterfall.
Beware of hang gliders!

I've hiked to Red Fork Falls on multiple occasions and have to say it's one of my favorite waterfalls in the area. The hike is short and rarely does anyone else join you. The trail, although short, does present quite the challenge when it arrives at the top of the waterfall. The full 80ft to the base is a vertical descent that parallels the waterfall. The trail is slick and crosses several large rock outcrops where ropes are now secured to assist you down. The lower portion of trail is constantly wet from the spray of the waterfall and makes for slick conditions year round.
Second creek crossing.

Now, imagine all that frozen solid. That's exactly what Steve and I were greeted with when we visited a few weeks ago at the height of the polar vortex. The first creek crossing was frozen completely from one side to the other and Steve didn't hesitate to "skate" across to the other side making it look easy. I stuck to the rocks that are in place for crossing even though they were also coated in ice. At the second crossing the creek was once again frozen but with thinner ice and it didn't look safe so I bushwhacked downstream finding a more suitable crossing with more exposed rock. Once on the main trail on the other side it was an easy trek to the top of the waterfall. I could tell from our vantage point that the falls was framed in thick ice but wasn't completely frozen like the falls we had visited earlier that morning. I was still anxious to see it from the base and began the slow trip around the top and to the base. Literally everything had a coat of ice on it and I had to chip away pieces of it just to have a grip or a foot hold. When we arrived at one of the steepest points the ropes to assist us were frozen in about seven inches of ice! Steve tried to swing around the rock with the piece of rope but his feet wouldn't find anywhere that would keep him from sliding out into the side of the waterfall. I scooted around the rock ledge and found a spot I could jump down onto another ledge and then continued around the ridge away from the spray of the waterfall. Although there was snow on the ground, I could see boulders laid out that had to be a former trail and followed it until it wound around safely at the base of the waterfall. The sun was starting to come over the ridge so I hurriedly took photos before the light was too harsh. I was impressed with the ice that had built up around the falls and the fact that we were still intact to see it.
HDR image of Red Fork Falls. One of my favorite pictures. I actually watermarked this one.
Steve wasn't so lucky the second time across the ice. Notice the hole?

I've fallen behind with the blog entries lately, and I apologize. I promise you though, the sights I have on deck are worth the wait. Until next time, happy trails!

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