May is a month that I typically spend hunting for waterfalls. With the snow melting and the mountains opening up, yet the temperatures comfortable, it is the perfect season to track cataracts. It is surprising just how many creeks in the Trinity Divide are largely unexplored and unappreciated, especially when there is some pretty spectacular scenery waiting to be discovered. In many cases, though people have no doubt been there in the past, I often feel as if it has been a long while since anyone has set foot in these canyons and along these creeks. Such was the case recently, when a friend and I explored one of the Trinity Divide’s obscure waterways.
The creek in question was quite beautiful, flowing through primeval forest and choked with rocks of every imaginable size. Indeed, it was this rock that really caught our attention. At first something just seemed amiss but it soon came into focus that all the rocks were loose. They had not found a locked repose as riparian boulders typically do. Nonetheless, the creek was vigorous, wild and refreshing.
Eventually it became obvious to us that the creek had endured a massive deluge at some point in the not-too-distant past. Not only were the rocks loose along the creek but we began to notice the same rocks higher up the banks and in places where it would seem the water wouldn’t typically flow. This soon became so pronounced that we could see rocks on logs well above the creek’s channel:
Rock deposited on a log high above the creekbed.
Boulders left beyond the creek’s typical high water line.
We surmised that the creek had experienced an incredible flashflood at some point not too long ago. However, what mystified us was that the rocks often appeared to have been left on top of the leaves and duff of the forest floor. We assumed that this normal forest detritus would have been scoured away by the torrential waters. This was seemingly not always the case and rocks were left on top of the “leaf layer”:
Rocks seen lined up on a log that was already buried beneath the leaves.
It remains a mystery exactly what happened along this creek and when it occurred. What is certain is that the creek is a beautiful waterway that does great credit to the Trinity Divide and the Mount Shasta area. And yes, there were waterfalls: