Ted's Hiking World Horsetail Falls
Eldorado National Forest

July 31, 2007

Anxious to try out a new pair of boots in advance of a big outing at Tioga Pass in four days, and hoping to find some wildflowers near Pyramid Creek, I have opted for a shorter, "easy" outing.  An 80-degree temperature at the trailhead arouses little concern; for the total hike is only three miles or so.

The creek appears shortly into the walk, and it has plenty of water in it.  Of course I already knew that having seen it close-up just five days ago.  A glance upstream reveals the falls in the distance.

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First hint of coming attractions

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Horsetail Falls

The hoped-for flowers are not around.  Nothing.  About a mile up there appear to be a few inches of water covering the trail; so I opt for an alternative route up and to the left.  It shortly cliffs out, so I scramble a little higher, hoping to find a passage.  I continue this fruitless pattern until I have climbed nearly 200 feet above the trail, including some hand-over-hand stuff.

Judging it undesirable and dangerous to attempt to retrace my steps, I keep going until I am able to get off the cliff into a manzanita field on a talus slope.  This proves to be the most difficult scramble in my entire hiking experience.  The bushes are as tall as I, and every move is an adventure; at times it is impossible to know whether the next step will be onto a nice granite boulder or into a four-foot hole.  At one point I pull my foot out of a crevice, but my boot remains lodged between the rocks.  Presently, I move my hip pack around to the front in order to keep from catching it on obstacles, another first.

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Bushwhacking this treacherous jungle was not fun

Finally the enervating detour is completed, and the climb toward the falls can be resumed.  The trail is quite rough on this upper stretch.  At the first major viewpoint a couple is swimming between two sections of cascades.  It looks somewhat risky, but that gorgeous green pool certainly is inviting in this heat.

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An emerald pool

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If I were their age, I'd be in there also!

Any semblance of maintained trail ends about here, so some careful scrambling is necessary to access better viewpoints.  Nearly every year someone dies in this area doing something stupid; I am determined not to be one of them, having exhausted my quota of foolishness for the day.  The falls are quite spectacular, as always.  Some nice flowers near the water unfortunately are out of camera range.

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Horsetail Falls

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Beside the cascade

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Upper section close-up

Ropi Lake and Desolation Valley are just out of sight at the top of the hill; but this is as far as I will go today.  A couple of rose-like white flowers appear on the way down the trail.

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These appear to be Pearly Everlasting

On the return loop I spot a few more swimmers taking advantage of convenient pools.  About half-way back, I head southeast cross-country toward a wide, noisy cascade.  As it happens, I have the whole place to myself.  There is a perfectly placed rock ledge on which to relax, take pictures, and munch on some home-recipe trail mix of M&Ms, peanuts, raisins, and sunflower seeds.

From here it is but a 15-minute walk to the parking lot, where the temperature is now in the mid-eighties.

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I'll call this Lower Horsetail Falls

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A great spot for a picnic


§: This turned out not to be such a cakewalk after all.

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