Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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Table Mountain

So, last Sunday my lovely and adorable boyfriend and I celebrated our then-impending one-month mark by wandering Table Mountain in search of waterfalls. Okay, it wasn't specifically planned as a celebration of the one-month mark, but it served the purpose anyway. One of the many great things about this new boyfriend of mine is that he takes excellent photographs of me, such as this one he took on Table Mountain. It probably helps that he's just very good at giving me reason to smile.

me on Table Mountain, May 2016

But I took a lot of pictures there too, and mostly I'm going to be showing you the ones I took.

Table Mountain is in the town of Oroville, about a 35-minute drive north from my house. During the drive, I left my CD in that had already been playing, David Bowie's album The Next Day. Barry was a good boyfriend who listened uncomplainingly and even responded with some interest (recognizing a guitar riff that he'd learned to play for a different song).

There are many waterfalls on Table Mountain. The major named ones are Hollow Falls, Beatson Falls, Crevice Falls, Crevice Twin Falls, Ranch Falls, Coon Falls, Schirmer Falls, Schirmer Cascade, Western Falls, Ravine Falls, Lower Ravine Falls, Phantom Falls, and Little Phantom Falls. There are not clear trails between most of them, though. There are partial trails in the area close to the parking lot, but the trails dead-end before reaching most of the falls, so you need luck, excellent map-reading skills, or a very good GPS device with a lot of battery power to find them. It's not an especially short hike, either, if you want to see a lot of them. Descriptions online say that the trail is about six miles, but this is misleading. To see all the waterfalls, we'd probably have had to walk more like fifteen or twenty miles. As it was, we walked about six miles and only saw three waterfalls. I think - from a combination of looking at maps and Google image searching the names of the waterfalls to compare them with my pictures - that the ones we saw were Hollow Falls, Ravine Falls, and Lower Ravine Falls.

We brought Boston with us. Apparently, to judge from the pictures, I made Barry hold Boston's leash practically the entire time. I'm sure I did hold her leash for some portion of the time, though. Here, I caught a picture just as Boston was trying to drag Barry off into the underbrush.

Barry and Boston on Table Mountain, May 2016

And just as Barry was taking his phone out of his pocket to take a picture of me in return.

me on Table Mountain, May 2016

I paused to take various pictures of plants. This is button-celery (Eryngium sp.), the first picture I took after getting out of the car. I'd never seen a button-celery plant before.

Eryngium (button celery)

The tiny white flowers here are white vernal pool pincushionplant (Navarretia leucocephala). I'd never seen this before either. Out of focus above it are more button-celery and what might be a species of goldfields (Lasthenia sp.)

Navarretia leucocephala (white vernal pool navarretia)

A little farther on, I spotted a jewelflower (Streptanthus sp.), already gone to seed. Never seen one of these before either. Table Mountain is a treasure trove of rare species.

Streptanthus sp. (jewelflower)

Anyway, mostly the trail followed the creek, Coal Canyon Creek, that runs between the falls. It was a pretty small trickle of water. The yellow flowers all along it are seep monkeyflowers (Mimulus guttatus).

Coal Canyon Creek

Occasionally the trail curved around small cliffs. The reason for the waterfalls is the same as the reason for the unusual flowers and the same as the reason for the name of the mountain: Table Mountain is made largely of volcanic rock, primarily basalt. Water from winter rains pools on top of the rock rather than being able to drain away into the ground; this creates vernal pools (puddles of water that slowly evaporate over the course of the springtime). Native flower species have adapted to growing in these unusual conditions - different species are adapted to each different depth of water - and non-native species mostly struggle to survive the poor drainage. Meanwhile, the mountain has acquired its distinctive "table" shape (a flat top) and its numerous waterfalls (water flowing over cliffs) because basalt erodes very slowly, whereas the occasional areas of softer soil adjacent to the basalt erode faster, creating sheer cliffs.

me on Table Mountain, May 2016

The first waterfall we came to, and really the best waterfall, certainly the one we had the best view of and the most access to, was Hollow Falls. Here is Boston frolicking in the water at the base of Hollow Falls.

Boston at the base of Hollow Falls

Here is Barry trying to explain to Boston that it's time for her to get out of the water. She was not convinced. He devised a clever plan to lure her in by throwing rocks into the water for her, throwing them in strategic locations that would bring her within reach. His plan was successful.

Barry and Boston at the base of Hollow Falls, May 2016

The trail to Hollow Falls continued well beyond Hollow Falls, but some people coming the other way told us that it dead-ended without reaching any more waterfalls. We continued a while further along it anyway, and stopped to eat lunch under this tree, where Barry checked his phone to try to figure out where we were and where the waterfalls might be.

Barry on Table Mountain, May 2016

Coal Canyon Creek continued to trickle along past the spot where we ate lunch.

Mimulus guttatus (seep monkeyflower)

And everywhere along it were seep monkeyflowers. I grow some of these at home.

Mimulus guttatus (seep monkeyflower)

I also spotted a canyon liveforever (Dudleya cymosa). I grow this at home too.

Dudleya cymosa (canyon liveforever)

A guy hiking alone wandered past us as we finished eating. We decided to turn back, but he turned back shortly thereafter and soon caught up with us, so I guess he hit the dead end that the other people had told us was there. When I look at maps, though, that trail was the one that should have led to most of the waterfalls. That trail was the way to go.

We were sort of focused on one waterfall in particular, though, the most famous of them - Phantom Falls - and that one on particular was in a different direction. So we turned back and headed in the different direction.

Along the way, I saw another plant that I grow at home: Hartweg's doll's-lily (Odontostomum hartwegii). It's an easy plant to grow, but I don't see it often in the wild, nor do I see it available for sale often.

Odontostomum hartwegii (Hartweg's doll's lily)

The trail toward Phantom Falls dead-ended in an open field. I was quite tired by this time, more tired than Barry was. I was trying to figure out why he seemed so much better able to handle the exertions of hiking than I was, since I had seemed better able to handle the exertions of swing dancing than he was. We decided I'm better adapted for short bursts of more intense exercise and Barry is better adapted for longer bursts of less intense exercise. There wasn't all that big a difference between the two types of exercise, though!

We stopped by Coal Canyon Creek so Barry could check his phone for more directions and Boston could wade in the creek. I got an unintentionally awkward video at this spot: I intended to capture the idyllic scene of Boston splashing in the water while Barry read the directions aloud to me, and I did capture some of that, but then I also captured other people walking into the frame, Boston barking at them, me calling out to Barry, "Can you grab Boston's leash, please?" in a slightly panicked tone, Barry saying "Come here, you little monster," in an affectionate tone and putting Boston's leash back on, and me putting the lens cap back on the camera.

But this picture happened during the idyllic part, before the other people showed up. This picture makes me want to say, "I wish someone would look at me that way . . . Oh, wait . . ."

Barry and Boston on Table Mountain, May 2016

After the little interruption, we set off again in search of Phantom Falls. We were in the right general area for Phantom Falls, but we never quite found our way to it. What we did find, instead, was Ravine Falls. Unfortunately we didn't have much a view of it, but here's the top of it. The bottom was obscured by the cliff we were standing on.

Ravine Falls

Nearby was another waterfall, perhaps Lower Ravine Falls, or an unnamed one. We couldn't see how high this one was because we were standing directly at the top of it. Barry and Boston walked across the trickle of water. Boston wanted to go exploring right over the edge of the steep cliff, but I called her back. In this picture, Barry is at the top of the falls.

Barry and Boston at the top of Ravine Falls, May 2016

Also near Ravine Falls was this tree, perched atop basalt columns left protruding from the earth where the softer soil around them has eroded away. It looked like a very accomplished tree, perched on its own private pedestal like that.

tree near Ravine Falls

And that was all. We saw some waterfalls! There are plenty more waterfalls left to see in the future, but for now we saw these. And some flowers. And we ate a delicious lunch together, and it was altogether a delightful first hiking trip.
Tags: barry, native plants, photographs
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