Sunday, 9 July 2017

Hiker vs. Waterfall

Red sky in the morning, sailor's warning

A cascading stream was pushing me into a log jam.  My hiking pants were snagged on branches.  My boots were filling with water.  A good sized sliver lodged into my hand as I tried to grab onto something, anything, to regain control.  It was around that time that I realized this probably was not the best idea I had ever had.

The Three Falls Trail in Manning Park has been one of my favourite short hikes for several years.  The trail leaves from Strawberry Flats and follows the northern side of Shadow and Nepopekum Creeks, passing by three waterfalls (who would have thought?).  For a couple of years I had been curious about the possibility of getting to the bottom of Nepopekum Falls.  With a 70 metre drop, it is easily the most impressive of the titular three falls.  However, it is also the furthest from the trail, only seen from a view point about half a kilometer from the base of the falls.

Nepopekum Falls from the viewpoint on the trail

As soon as the snow began melting, I started trekking the trail on an almost daily basis, trying to find a way to the falls.  Contending with lingering patches of snow, as well as a deep flood on the trail, I got about as familiar with the area as a person could.

A grouse completely oblivious that I'm walking by
Healthy snow pack in Strawberry Flats in late May
Red Mountain late in the day
In an effort to scan the valley, I made my way onto a precipice on top of Shadow Falls.  I achieved little other than giving myself vertigo and an overwhelming rush of adrenaline as soon as I got back on the trail.

I got to the bottom of Shadow Falls, the least appreciated of the three falls given that most of it is not visible from the trail.  I was surprised after all of the years of walking by it to see how spectacular it was.

Hello vertigo my old friend
The top of Shadow Falls

The top of Shadow Falls
The base of Shadow Falls
Shadow Falls
A few treks later, I ended up on top of Derek Falls, once again managing to give myself vertigo, and once again not having found a good route to Nepopekum.

Top of Derek Falls








Derek Falls
View from the top of Derek Falls


I tried to give up on the whole thought, but it became a lingering obsession in the back of my mind, and before I could say “bad idea”, I found myself being pushed into a log jam, trying to cross Shadow Creek. 

I made it across, but it was pointless.  I hiked up as far as I could before I reached what seemed like an impassable area, surrounded by steep cliffs.

A few days later I was dumping water out of my boots again, having (sort of) successfully crossed the creek once more.  My plan was to try to cross Nepopekum Creek and try to find a route on the other side.

This did not work.  With spring runoff, the creek was too powerful to cross.  So I gave up again.

I inevitably returned to try and cross again, beginning to feel like Nepopekum Falls was deliberately tormenting me.  I ended up having an incredibly cold involuntary swim.
 
Nepopekum Creek
At this point I was beyond giving up.  I returned a day or two after my “swim” and tried my original route again, finding a way around the rock cliff I thought was impassable.  It wasn’t fun to find out my tumble into the creek was entirely unnecessary, but the bottom of the falls ultimately made up for the frustration, sweat, and blood.

It did not, however, make up for having the smell of wet boot in my house for a week.

I made a video with footage I collected on the trail that you can watch here.

Nepopekum Falls, with high water, up close