Thursday, August 20, 2015

Beale Falls

I love many, many things-- and waterfalls just happen to be one of them.  In fact, when I am looking online or in may many hiking books for a new trail to explore-- I will more often than not choose the one with a waterfall.   Unfortunately, the waterfalls here in California are not as impressive at the waterfalls in my homeland of Oregon.

Case in point, the falls pictured above.   It goes by many names: Fairy Falls, Shingle Falls and Beale Falls.  But type "Beale Falls" into Google and it will get you there.
This was one of the first hikes I took Jason on when he returned to California from South Korea.  I had been doing a lot of research about hikes around the Sacramento area.  Honestly, after living in Montana and Oregon for 12 years and having access to hiking trails within the city limits-- I was a little disappointed in Sacramento's lack of accessible hiking.  Yes, there are riverfront walking/bike trails-- but that's not the same as having Mount Setninel, Spencer's Butte, Forest Park and Powell Butte within miles of my house.

Nope, instead I have to drive about an hour out of town to give my hiking boots a good workout.   And after hikes that led me nowhere, or to falls that had dried up-- I was a bit wary of giving California's wilderness another chance.  But I sucked it up, and tried again.

Beale Falls is located in between Grass Valley and Marysville, near the Beale Air Force Base (hence the name). Getting there is a test your faith in technology-- as our GPS found a "shortcut" that led us down a winding, steep dirt path that ended in the middle of nowhere, where metal gate was chained shut with a sign that read "No Trespassing."

After we managed to turn around without falling off the ravine to our deaths, and made our way off the dirt road-- I turned off the GPS, pulled out my hiking book-- and got us to the correct road.  If you're interested in going, here's how you bypass the treacherous "shortcut":

"From Marysville, take Highway 20 east for 15 miles to Smartville Road (just east and opposite a CDF fire station).  Turn South on Smartville Road and enter the wildlife area.  At 0.9 miles, bear left at a fork-- the road is called Chuck Yeager-- and continue about 4 miles to Walkdo Road.  Turn left on Waldo Road and drive 2.1 miles to Spencerville Road.  Turn left anddrive two miles to the end of the road, at a closed bridge.  Park, walk carefully across the bridge and begin your hike."

The hike itself is beautiful.  We were lucky enough to go in the springtime-- right before the summer heat, and the fourth year of drought took it's toll on the landscape.  Everything was green and gorgeous.  And there was still water flowing from the falls.

The hike is five-miles round trip, and takes you through the rolling foothills of the Sacramento Valley.  There are a few trail off-shoots, but  I would recommend sticking to the main,wide trail.  There's nothing extra to gain from taking a secondary trail except extra work-- and who wants that?  

Khloe was off-leash for much of the walk and did just fine.  There is livestock on the trail, so if your dog isn't voice trained-- or a coward like Khloe is-- keep your dog on the leash.  There was an incident when our fearless pup tried to get up close and personal with a cow-- but she quickly retreated when the bovine bowed up to her.

At the top of the trail you're met by a chain-link fence surrounding meant to keep you from climbing or falling down the cliff.  I always think it's unfortunate when a few people ruin the great outdoors for the rest of us-- but, so it goes.  The view of the falls is from above, and there's no really great vantage point from the bottom.

But-- if you head down the trail... not the way you came, but the other way to complete the loop... you will come to a creek, and several spots to picnic by the water and take a dip if you brought your suit.  Your hiking partner and dog will thank you for the refreshing rest as you make your way back up the trail to the car.

Like I said at the beginning of this blog-- the falls weren't impressive to this Oregonian, but they were beautiful nonetheless.  The hike itself was one of my favorites in California so far-- and on I will be putting on the list for future hiking excursions.  

Are you familiar with the Sacramento Region? What are some of your favorite day hikes in the area?  Which trails would you recommend for waterfall lovers?  Are there any non-waterfall hikes we should put on our list?

If you're not from Sacramento, what is your favorite trail?  Do you have a funny story about getting lost on the way to a hike?  Share your suggestions, stories and thoughts in the comment section below.

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