24 April 2017

Best Time Yet at Three Sisters Falls

We had a wonderful adventure this weekend!  Michael, Kolby, and Eli had a backpacking trip with their boy scout group planned for the weekend, so I was trying to think of something fun to do Friday evening and Saturday with the younger boys.  Then, on Friday morning Michael found out that the other scout leader had to change the planned location for their backpacking trip at the last minute because of permit issues, and the scout leader decided they would instead go to Three Sisters Falls.  I heard that, and jokingly said that maybe the younger boys and I would have to go too.  It didn't make too much sense to go this weekend, since we're going back to Three Sisters again next weekend when I'm hosting a hike for our Family Adventures in Nature group.  But then again, Three Sisters is my favorite hike ever, (and going without the FAN group would allow me to get out all of the exploring and climbing that I want to, because way more people from the FAN group have RSVPed than I originally expected, and I imagine I'll be helping the other families out along the way more than doing extra exploring next week).  I just couldn't pass up the opportunity.  :)

No, I didn't crash the boy scout campout.  Michael and the older boys left in the late afternoon on Friday with the scouts, and the younger boys and I didn't get on the road until later in the evening.  We took sleeping bags and planned to "camp" in the car, so we could get an early start Saturday morning and head down to the falls when it was still cool out.  We passed the scout campsite about halfway down the trail around 6:45am, and other than a group of 3 people who were at the top of the falls taking a drone video, the little boys and I were the only other people at the falls for at least an hour or so until other hikers started trickling in.  The little boys decided to get wet even though it was still pretty cool out, and promptly told me they were done getting wet for the rest of the day because they were cold, so we decided to hike up the opposite side of the canyon to where there were some large rocks and a big oak tree (and plenty of sunshine) for them to dry off and warm up.  After we were up there for some time, we spotted the scouts hiking down the trail in the canyon far below us, so we headed down to meet them.  We showed them the little area in the water where the boys had all slid down the stream, and the scouts all tried it out too.

Then Shawn, the other scout leader, tried out sliding down the lower falls (about 30 feet).  I had seen this done on recent youtube videos from the last couple of weeks, and after Michael tried it out and we saw a few other hikers trying it too, we decided to let the boys try if they wanted to.  And I decided to give it a try too.  (I was proud of myself -- that's not the kind of thing I usually go in for, but it was warm enough that the cool water felt good, and I just decided to be brave and try it out).  The first time I went down, I got turned around on the way down and ended up heading into the pool at the bottom head first -- fortunately I didn't get bumped on any rocks and I was totally fine.  All of our boys eventually did it -- starting with the younger ones, up through the older boys.  And all of the scouts eventually did it too.  I was so proud of all of them.  (We only ended up getting a video of Michael doing it, so we'll have to try to get some more videos of the family doing it when we go next Saturday).  

After a while the scouts were getting ready to head back out, and I wanted to explore the upper falls.  Courtland wanted to rest, so I found a good rock for him to rest on and keep the dogs with him, while Camden & Isaac went with me to explore.  I had only climbed up on the right side of the falls before, so I wanted to try out climbing up the narrow path on the left side this time.  (I figure that I probably won't go up to the upper falls next week, so wanted to try it out while I had a chance).  We got to the top of the third falls, and decided we wanted to cross the creek and come back down on the opposite side of the falls.  But the water was flowing fast enough that I didn't want to chance crossing anywhere above the top falls where there would be any chance at all of us slipping into the water.  Because of that, we passed several potential crossing spots just to be careful (much to the chagrin of the boys).  After following a bit of a trail and avoiding poison oak as much as possible for about 15 minutes, we eventually found a spot where we could jump across the rocks without touching the water at all, and made our way back down the other side of the creek through even thicker patches of poison oak.  Camden was getting a headache, so we didn't dwell at the upper falls and headed back to Courtland.  The boys and I played in the water for about another half hour before finishing lunch, the boys drying out a bit on the rocks, & me coaxing the dogs into the deeper part of the pool a few times to get them thoroughly wet and cooled off before starting the hike back up the hill.  

We bouldered back along the creek, then made our way up the rocky section with the ropes -- the dogs did just fine running up this rocky section (Harley has to really reach at one part to get up the first stretch of rocks, then he can do just fine.  Long old Berkley just jumps up or down the rocks without any trouble).  After we got past that area, the boys and dogs quickly ran out of steam.  Although we were careful to continue stopping for breaks and giving the dogs plenty water, the dogs were panting more and more as we went along.  We walked up the steep area with the loose dirt and the dogs followed us up, but when we got to the top they both plopped down on the trail exhausted.  Even though we kept giving them enough water, I think it was just too hot for them and they couldn't cool down quickly enough.  Several people stopped to try to help, many offering water, and I kept having to tell everyone that we had enough water for them.  At one point I tried to put Harley on my shoulders to carry him for a while, but I went about a step and a half before I couldn't lift my poor, heavy, awkward dog up the steep slope.  We waited and let them rest for quite a while.  While we were up there we watched as a sheriff's helicopter circled and landed down by the creek -- someone must have been injured and needed to be rescued.  Camden stayed with me and was a big help with the dogs, and he said a sweet prayer that our dogs would be ok.  After letting them rest in the shade of a bush for 20 or 30 minutes, I told Camden we should get up and keep walking as long as the dogs were able to walk with us and not fall behind, because once we got up that slope there would be a stretch of the trail shaded by small trees with a stream running alongside.  I was concerned about the dogs at that point, especially Harley, and I thought that if it got any more serious there was a chance that he might not make it.  Fortunately, Heavenly Father heard our prayers and the dogs were able to walk along until we got to the shade, where we made our way down to the stream and had both dogs lay in the water while we poured water all over them and they lapped up more water from the stream.  We were there for about 20 minutes until their breathing calmed down to just the normal panting of a dog that has been well-exercised.  Then we slowly made our way through the trees to the last little stream crossing of the trail, and spent another 20 minutes there while the kids and dogs all got wet and rested some more.  The dogs made the rest of the hike out without a problem, and after sleeping soundly on the car ride home they were both back to their normal selves.  That was a good learning experience for me -- when it's a strenuous hike on a hot day, it doesn't necessarily matter how much water a dog has to drink or to be poured on them, they can't necessarily cool down fast enough to stay healthy (even if they're used to strenuous hikes and do great on them when it's not too hot out).  I'll have to be more careful about that in the future.  We got back to the car, thoroughly worn out -- the boys were asleep within 10 minutes of sitting down, and slept the whole way home.  That night we headed to the hot tub, which I think really helps with sore muscles.  Michael and I are both still pretty sore a couple days later, but we both agreed that it was one of our most fun adventures yet.

The boy scouts at the trailhead: Shawn, Karston, Jack, Alex, Riley, Bracken, Michael, Kolby, & Elijah
Elijah's backpack

I was left with the little car, so the dogs got to share the front seat

The scouts' first sighting of the falls

The rattlesnake on the trail that the scouts had to carefully make their way around

Michael & the boys

Cooking with the camp stove

Lijah caught a frog

Sleeping in the van

Heading out on the trail: 6:00am

Passing by the boy scouts' camp as we hiked down the trail

There were more wild flowers along the trail than I had seen before

Down the slippery part

Isaac said, "I get to rappel Aaron-style!"
(My brothers sometimes like to rappel forward down a cliff).

Harley making his way down the rocky section

Made it to the creek!

At the lower falls -- we had it all to ourselves

(Courtland was into taking pictures that looked like he was falling off a cliff).  :)

Good dogs!
Courtland hiding from the wind

Camden & Isaac

Hiking up to the sunny part of the hill

Getting warm!

The scouts break camp & start hiking down to the falls

Courtland: "Mom, can you get a picture of me jumping?"

They all insisted that I take a "dead picture,"
(and insisted that I put it on the blog too).

Exploring the holes under the big rocks

Made it to the creek!

I love this picture of the boys in the oak tree, with the waterfall in the distance beyond them.

Courtland, Isaac, & Camden

Kolby & Eli with their friend, Riley


Kolby & Eli sliding down the river



The boy scouts at the bottom of the falls

I took a slide down the river too

Michael sliding down the lower falls
(everyone in our family ended up doing this one too!)

Time to head back uphill

Berkley was so worn out that she plopped down and took a rest
across the middle of the trail while hikers stepped around her

We watched a helicopter land in the bottom of the canyon from up on the hill

Berkley after she got all cooled off

Resting at the last stream crossing

Harley feeling better again

We saw a big 3-foot long rattle snake from our car as we drove down the dirt road on the way home.

Good sleepers!

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