Day 2

April 12, 2018

McDonald Cabin to Alder Creek Camp


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Today's route stats: 

    Distance: 4.5 miles

    Elevation Gain:  200 feet

    Elevation Loss:  1500 feet

Although from our campsite we could see very thick vegetation ahead, we were expecting today to be much easier than yesterday.  We were very wrong.  The trail was non-existent for most of the way.  We were hoping to be able to boulder-hop down the drainage, but the drainage was nearly impassible.  For some weird reason, the fire did not burn the trees, but left them standing and dead.  Sometime later they blew over, covering the canyon bottoms.  And if that was not bad enough, thick vegetation grew up around the downed trees.  The worst of it was some sort of berry vines, probably raspberries, which grew over the criss-crossed layers of downed trees.  As we bashed our way along, we would often fall into "traps" between the logs.  There were sections where we didn't cover much more than 1/4 mile per hour. 


Trying to Avoid Canyon Bottoms.


Occasionally We Encountered Open Areas. Rich, Paul, and Ben.  Now Where?


We were always looking for the trail, although we rarely found even a trace.  However, when the trail left the canyon bottom and moved up onto a bench, we had better luck.  The longest such section, close to half a mile long, was on creek-right, just above Sycamore Canyon.  The rest of the way down to Painted Cave was pretty awful.  And to make matters even worse, there were huge thickets of poison oak that were unavoidable.  We were not happy campers.


Paul and Ben Exiting the Painted Cave.

Somewhere Between Painted Cave and the Alder Creek Trail.


Just before we reached the Painted Cave, we passed the entrance to the side canyon where Rich and I spent the summer of 1973 growing weed (a story for another time and place).  Paul and Ben climbed up to the cave to see the rock art -- Richie and I had been there so many times that we just rested and watched. 

When we left the Painted Cave, we soon picked up the trail on creek-right.  We were able to zip along for quite a while, but just before where the trail climbs out of the canyon on the left, the trail disappeared and it looked like we would have to hike directly in the water to go any farther.  So we decided to find a way to climb out of the canyon and then look for the trail on top.  We ended up climbing higher than the trail and having to hike down a ridge for a while.  But it was interesting to see the area from that perspective.  We worked our way down to East Fork of Alder Creek and eventually, with a lot of bashing through the brush, we arrived at Alder Creek Campsite.   We were all tired and glad to now be on a maintained trail.  This is where we expected to be on our first night, so we were now one whole day behind schedule.  There was one person camped there, but the site was large enough to accommodate all of us.


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