Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Whitewater Part Duex - The Wrong Fork

Whitewater Preserve to Middle Fork
Mileage: 22
Mandie's blog entry for this hike

We went back to Whitewater Preserve because we really enjoyed it last weekend. There is something really nice to be in the middle of the desert with water flowing. This time our goal was to head up Middle Fork to a waterfall an then go check out the headwall.

Friday after work we headed on out as we usually do. We stopped off for dinner at Miguel's since we missed it last weekend. Thank you for being open this time Miguel's. We arrived at the Whitewater Preserve gate around 8:30 and having secured our permit earlier in the week we had the code to the gate so we could enter the preserve for the night.

We awoke to hunters gearing up to go hunt, 'cuz that's what hunters do. I climbed out of the back of the truck and gave the casual head-nod to one of the men and asked them what they were hunting. To which he replied, "Sheep". "Oh." I said, "Where are you going to do that at?" To which he replied, "In the wilderness." I thought that was a pretty obvious answer, so I said, "Well yeah! Where in the wilderness?" I wasn't trying to be nosy or make him share the location of his secret hunting grounds. I just knew we were both going to be in the same area and I didn't feel like getting shot that day. We exchanged a few more words and they went on their way and we started to get ready.

Hunters heading out
After some coffee and breakfast we finally hit the trailhead around 8:00a. I hadn't brushed my teeth yet, so a kiss on the cheek was all I could get. Hey, I''ll take it.


Along the way we saw sign from other PCT hikers, similar to the one we saw last weekend. It will probably take us a few weeks to get back to this area from the Mexico border when we do our PCT thru-hike.

Canada to Mexico 2014

Just a nice looking picture
Our route would take us right up the river for 11 miles, at least that is what the plan was. Below you can see some of the terrain we were up against. The water wasn't an issue but the many miles over an uneven river bed would take its toll on us.

At some point during the day we stopped to rest, for some lunch, and clean our feets. Dehydrated refried beans and some rice was on the menu. It was delicious, as is almost anything when you are backpacking/hiking.

Mmmm, lunch

Clean feets = happy feets

Rough and uneven terrain

I think the mountain range in the background looks like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. We think it leads up to Kitching Peak. It looks pretty awesome to us and might be the site of a future adventure.

As I mentioned, our plan was to head up Middle Fork to a waterfall and the headwall. We arrived at a "junction" in the riverbed. The water went left and a dry riverbed continued on straight. Our maps and GPS said that we should go straight but neither of us wanted to deviate away from the water. We knew the waterfall was running so we gambled that the water in front of us was from that source. We continued our slow but steady march following the river as best we could.

At one of the spots where we had to deviate away from the river I glanced up and noticed a Great Horned owl chilling in a tree. We tried our best to get some good pictures of it but the sun's location was not in our favor and we didn't want to get to close to it.

That alone was worth the price of heading up the wrong canyon... which I haven't mentioned yet. So, not too much longer after spotting the owl did we come to the realization that we were in the wrong canyon. We were actually in the South Fork instead of Middle Fork. Oh well, whatcha gunna do.

We decided to start looking for a place to set up our tent. When you are between two canyon walls, the pickn' is slim. We lucked out and found a nice flat sandy spot to camp for the night. We made some dinner, watched the sunset, and then climbed into the tent for the evening.

Wait a second... that's not my pack

We saw lots of animal tracks along the way, so any sound we heard during the night made us worry. We brought bear spray with us this time so we at least had some type of defense.

I know I heard something out there
Some of the animal prints and remains we saw throughout the trip...



We think, Raccoon

Big Horn Sheep jaw?

Big Horn Sheep backbone and pelvis

We awoke to a beautiful morning, sun doing its thing with the mountains, casting its glow across them. We made some coffee and had some breakfast packed up camp and headed back out of the canyon.

I think my hiking poles really add to this picture.

We stopped and took pictures of each other next to a small waterfall.

Our hike out of the canyon was equally as tough as hiking into it. Imagine that. We navigated downed trees, rocky terrain, and plants that bite.

Bad picture but doesn't it look like a creature out of Rocky Horror Picture Show?

Our plan today was to get back to our intended route which would lead us into the correct canyon. We kept our fingers crossed that there would be a nice graded trail for us to take. That was not the case and we bush whacked most of the way. We learned that animals know their way around and seem to take the path of least resistance. If we followed the animal tracks through the bushes our progress would be met with the least amount of resistance.

Finally in the correct canyon, our GPS and map told us that the big waterfall was not too far away. We were short on food and time so we decided to hike with a "porpoise" (purpose). We wanted to get to one of our original destinations this trip, so up the canyon we went. After about a quarter mile, we made a sharp right turn into the bushes for more bush whacking. The bush whacking would continue for about another 30-45 minutes at which time we came around the bend and saw a huge 100 foot plus waterfall. We shouted with joy and gave each other a high five. It was a beautiful site and was well worth the effort.

View up the correct canyon, Middle Fork

The waterfall coming into view

The waterfall in all its glory


A river frog

We spent some time at the waterfall, resting in the shade. I took my clothes off and went for a dip. The water was very cold so it was a quick dip, but it felt great. We had a small snack, replenished our water supply, and talked about how amazing this area was. There was around 10 miles between us and the car so we had to get moving.

As we exited the canyon that held the waterfall we could see the top of the headwall that was our other objective. It will have to wait for another trip.

The headwall
The trip back, taking a different route than the route we took the day before, proved to be a bit easier. We stuck to the soft sand in the dry river bed as best we could, popping out only when the river would have taken us in the wrong direction.

It was a hot, dry hike back to the car but we did it and I think we did it rather quickly. Mandie's knees were bothering her and my feet were hurting but we kept a pretty brisk pace. I am proud of both of us for pushing through the pain and doing what we needed to do to get back.