Sunday, February 9, 2014

Drought? What drought?

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I know the drought's not really extinguished, but this weekend's rains must have put a pretty good dent in it.

My first stop this morning was Muir Beach. I wanted to see if Redwood Creek had blasted through the sand bar yet so the salmon could make their connections from the ocean. I could see from the hill as I came down past Green Gulch that the creek was in fact flowing to the sea. 

At the parking lot I waited inside the warm and dry Jeep, snapping the photo above through the windshield, but the rain kept coming. I sipped from my tall mug of hot water -- I'd put in the water and the sweetener but forgot to add the instant coffee. I'd spend several hours traipsing around the mountain without ever feeling quite awake because of that little slip-up.... I also realized once I was at Muir Beach that I'd forgotten my tripod. I've forgotten the coffee once before, but forgetting my tripod was a first.


Ordinarily I wouldn't go out in the rain to do photography, but winter's first rain -- and such a heavy rain -- made for special circumstances.

The rain did not let up for even two minutes the whole time I was out there. Every photo in today's post was shot from beneath a large golf umbrella. My last umbrella fell apart, so I bought a new one a few months ago in anticipation of the rainy season. Today was the first day I actually used it.

From Muir Beach I drove along Redwood Creek, heading upstream toward Muir Woods. The scene above is where the Dipsea Trail crosses the creek. I was going to wander into Muir Woods but it wasn't free today, so I headed up to Rock Spring instead.

There were waterfalls in places I'd never seen them before, like this spot between Pantoll and Rock Spring.

Surprisingly, I did not have the mountain to myself. There were actually quite a few hikers taking in the season's first big rain. And it wasn't just a big rain. It was really big! Here, the top of the Cataract Trail is completely washed out -- and this is very near the headwaters of the trail, where the volume of runoff is relatively light.

The moss is digging all the moisture.

Instead of hiking down the Cataract Trail, I drove along Bolinas Ridge (where visibility was just a few feet in heavy clouds) to the parking area above Laurel Dell and hiked down from there. I figured I could use my huge crossing log to get past this section, but the water was so high that I was cut off. Quite a change since I was down here last month on a hike with Pam.

I doubled back to try the "high route," only to reach a bridge that was impassable. I hadn't noticed this log-crossing until this group of hikers approached from the other side and gingerly made their way across. 

One of the hikers who crossed the log told me to just wait till I saw Cataract Falls. "I've been here hundreds of times," he said, "and I've never seen it like today. It's like four times as big." I was not disappointed when I finally saw it -- and heard it roaring -- for myself.

All I could think to compare it to was Niagara Falls. It was just booming. I didn't think of Yosemite Falls, or Vernal or Nevada falls. Something about this unprecedented volume of water going down the ravine took me all the way back to that first huge waterfall I saw as a kid.

This should all mellow out by next weekend, making for prime waterfall conditions. Something without quite so much water, and the muddiness will have subsided as well.

This was a great first storm of the season. The Marin IJ reports nearly 21 inches fell at Mt. Tam from Fri-Sun. Hopefully there's more to come.

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