lower indian creek
Looking for an easy hike to ease out of my Winter torpor, I walked out the Indian Creek Nature Trail to look for signs of early mushrooms. The trail had several sections that would eventually "need work" thanks to a seemingly unending series of rainstorms, but off-trail the ground was so soft it appeared that I had suddenly gone deaf — the walking-on-potato-chips sensation of stepping on crisp, dried oak leaves in late summer was absent. I did see a few mushrooms, but Spring seemed like a long way off.
One new arrival this year is the single morel mushroom I almost stepped on. For all the hours I've spent wandering around looking at the ground this is the first one I've seen. There were dozens of spots where the ground looked like a mushroom was about to poke through, so I'll tread lightly from now on. I made it up to the spot where Indian Springs Creek entered Indian Creek, then returned more or less the way I came.
Another period of rain, then another marginally clear day, and I was off to explore the south side of the Crags. The weather was going back and forth between "mostly sunny" and "partly cloudy", then settled on "mostly cloudy", but it was an enjoyable hike out the Flume Trail to the point where it intersected with the loop off the Pacific Crest Trail. Every drainage that looked as though it was capable of supporting runoff did so admirably, and this day I actually began to see wildflowers here and there. Soon it began to rain very lightly, then hail very lightly, and my hike was over until the next "partly cloudy/mostly sunny" day.
upper indian creek
With Spring supposedly being "just around the corner" I hiked out the Pacific Crest Trail to Indian Creek to see how things had changed after our lengthy Winter. Again, the seasonal drainages were still flowing and the established creeks were really flowing. Leaving the trail at Indian Creek, I followed the usual bear trail up the canyon but so far no evidence of it being used. My usual 4 or 5 crossings of the creek turned into several more as older channels of the creek that had been "dry" now weren't, and the main channels required trepidation and advanced scouting, not to mention the occasional ankle-deep misstep.
By the time I reached my favorite waterfall I was convinced that I could successfully traverse a gymnasium floor full of mayonnaise-covered soccer balls. The falls were about twice as wide as the last time I was here, and the area around the pool at the base of the falls looked to have been scoured thoroughly by the winter rains and snowmelt.
A beautiful day without a freezing north wind to deal with, and I drove out to Sheep Rock to look around. More birds were here than last time, and the phlox, which is my personal indicator of the arrival of Spring, was everywhere. I walked along the old emigrant trail and developed a heightened respect for the pioneers who had to travel this way in covered wagons without the luxury of rubber tires. The mixture of sand and zillions of lava rocks makes it tiring to even walk along there. I did find several obsidian flakes along the way, which was very cool.