(pacific crest trail/kettlebelly trail/service road/milt kenney's trail/bob's hat trail)
After a few weeks of windy and rainy weather I wanted to just wander around the Park and see the Fall colors, so I set off on a loop hike, beginning at the Vista Point parking area. I headed downhill (toward Root Creek) until I reached the Pacific Crest Trail, then followed it east until I met up with the Kettlebelly Trail, where I wound around the hill and eventually came out on the paved road leading up to Vista Point. The entire way so far had been on rain-softened ground, covered with rain-softened leaves and pine needles, and once I was able to ignore the freeway noise it was so quiet in the woods that I almost felt like I should be tip toeing.
Crossing the paved road, I continued along the Service Road for awhile until I got to the big canyon where there are remnants of where a logging railroad once crossed on a trestle. I dropped downhill and met up with Milt Kenney's Trail, and followed that until it emerged back on the Service Road. Then it was up the service Road until it branched even more up to Bob's Hat Trail, where I continued up to the Pacific Crest Trail, which I followed back to Vista Point, completing a 6 mile loop.
After the wild weather we had at the beginning of the month I wanted to just wander around and observe all of the fallen leaves, so it was off to the Indian Creek Nature Trail. The creek was flowing less than I expected, but still not at a level making it easy to cross where the lower of the two bridges had been removed for the winter. The upper bridge, above, had a fresh coating of leaves. I didn't notice any big mushrooms yet, but there were large areas carpeted with small ones that had to be carefully negotiated to avoid stepping on them.
I hadn't been up to the Caldwell Lakes in over 10 years, and hearing that a Forest Service trail crew recently completed a large project to rehabilitate and re-route the trail, I figured it was time for a visit.
The first time I was up there, I parked at the bottom of the road since I was in a small car with limited ground clearance, and hiked up the road, then continued on up the trail. The next time I visited I had my truck, so I drove up the rough dirt road to its end in a meadow area, then hit the trail. Now I was curious to see what 10 years of a lack-of-maintenance did to the "road", and to describe it as being in "poor shape" would be an understatement of historical proportions [photo below].
The new trail veers off a short ways up the road and is quite enjoyable, because of the overall lack of rocks, but later, on some of the short steep sections, there remain enough rocks to thoroughly annoy the knees on the way down. Remnants of Bear Grass are everywhere, and I arrived at the Upper Lake just as the clouds lowered and the wind picked up. Walking around to the Upper Upper Lake, I took the picture above as raindrops began to pelt me, so I packed up and headed down.
Threading the needle between storms, I wanted to get up to Castle Dome before the trail was covered in snow, so I left the parking lot around 8:00 am and headed uphill. I couldn't see the rocks because of the cloud cover so I didn't know if there was any snow near the Dome or not — being a little more cautious than normal remembering a trip many years ago up to the Dome that involved numerous slips and falls coming down as I got caught in a Spring snow storm. The photo above shows the lone Brewer's Spruce a short way down the trail from the Dome.
Giving the recent snowstorm time to blow through and allow melting to develop, I went up to Faery Falls on Ney Springs Creek. The creek was flowing great but due to a down-canyon wind I was again unable to take pictures near the bottom of the falls because of all the spray. The lower photo is of a short cascade downstream from Faery Falls that has a nice pool below it in the summer.