My left knee has bothered me off and on for a few months, the problem beginning last winter after a strenuous snowshoe up to Fuji Shelter from Waldo Lake Road. There is an easier way to get to the shelter, but the way I took had fewer people, and yeah, it was more difficult, the way I like it. Anyway, I got better and then snowshoed again, not as far, but apparently far enough to bother the knee again. Three more weeks off snowshoes and I repeated with another snowshoe, not too strenuous, but apparently my knee continued to protest. No change.

Canada jay with Diamond Peak in the background. Fuji Shelter

I was looking for a hike that I hadn’t done, interesting, and not too strenuous. A friend told me last year about Pool Creek Falls up FS23 out of Oakridge towards Vivian Lake, 19 miles uphill. We actually were driving by the trailhead at the time, but I couldn’t see anything. Turns out that at about mile 13, there is a small grassy pullout, and if one looks carefully, there is a trail. I had been by this a dozen times or more, usually dodging a big depression in the pavement there—AKA “sunken grade.” 

I drove up FS23, dodging a 75-100 yard long pile of rocks in the downhill lane 7 miles up and a few scattered rocks further on.  I stopped at a grassy area,I parked the car, saw the trailhead sign, visible only when one was not on the road. I got my gear on, and started up the trail. When I had gone about 20 yards on the trail, I realized I had to be on the other side of the stream to my left and had to turn around..  Great start.  I crossed Pool Creek on a bare, slippery log that fortunately needed only one foot to briefly touch, then started switchbacking up the muddy path.

To help my knee, I used trekking poles, rather than my Saguaro walking stick. I like the stick, a veteran of 500 miles of the Appalachian Trail, several national parks, including Gates of the Arctic in Alaska, where it was invaluable in stream and rock pile crossings.  The trekking poles supported my weight better than a single pole, and other than having to cross two close logs, the first by crawling over, the second’s having a notch cut through it, the trail wasn’t too bad; a quarter mile put me right in front of the falls. Simply beautiful.  Close to the road, but not easy to reach. 

Pool Creek Falls

I hiked another quarter of a mile around the falls and uphill, before I decided that I was by myself, there was plenty of mud to slip on, and I didn’t need to be adventurous. I turned around and slid back down. My knee was still fine, and I wanted it to stay that way.

Back at the car, I tried to go further to the Vivian Lake trailhead, going four of the 6 miles before I hit snow, which rapidly deepened. I stopped well before I was going to get stuck and turned around. 

On my way back down 23, I again saw a small tree across the the road.  I had driven over it on the way up, but I don’t like doing that and had time, a saw, and ability to take care of the problem. So I did.  There are several roads into trail heads in spring where there are blowdowns. The Forest Service cuts them out, sometimes with scanty clearance. It’s amazing what people will do on a road to avoid hitting a blowdown or getting out of the vehicle to deal with it. I plead guilty. The drive to Horse Creek Trailhead is a veritable zig zag from one side to the other. On the way in, we want to get started on the trail and don’t want to stop to clear the road. We’ll get it on the way out, except when we drive out, we are all so tired, we don’t. And so nothing changes. The rocks that had fallen on FS23 needed to be removed as well.  One can dodge these rocks, but on a trip to a work site along Hills Creek Reservoir a few weeks earlier, the driver thought his pickup would clear such a rock. A moderately loud scraping noise—the kind that makes you immediately think “oil pan”— told us we hadn’t. Fortunately, there was no damage, and on the way back I got out and removed the offending rock along with a few others. Remembering that day, I decided to clear rocks on this road as well. It was a nice day to work.

As I came down further, there was a tree branch over the opposite lane. Sure, it could be dodged by uphill traffic, but it was better if I cut it out. So I did. My knee was not bothered by road work, and there seemed to be a need for it. I finally reached the long stretch of rocks from where a good chunk of cliff had collapsed from the winter precipitation. There was mud over part of the road and a rock field out in my lane and even part of the other lane. This was a hazard. 

I turned off the engine, put on the flashers, since I was parked in the middle of the road, fortunately on a straightaway, so I would be easily seen in time. Anyway, I hadn’t seen a car since I had left Oakridge. The first two rocks were tossers, but then there were push hard rocks, lift and roll rocks, hike rocks, like a football, and a couple that weren’t going anywhere without a front end loader.  I worked my way down the road, wishing I had brought a shovel and a rake, but I had gloves and I had—uh oh not on—a hard hat. If ever there were a place I needed a hard hat, picking rocks out off a road below a cliff would seem like a good idea. I went back to the car and put on my hardhat. Twenty minutes later, the rocks were clear. The mud might last, or the next rain might wash it off. Then again, the next rain might bring down more rocks. Still, the road looked a lot better. I drove down to the nearly full reservoir and had lunch in the sun. Nice day for a hike and a little road work.


This weekend, I am going up FS 24 to one of the Waldo Lake Wilderness trailheads. I don’t expect to do much hiking yet: the trails go well above 5000 feet, and there will be snow. But the roads will be heavily traveled by people this summer, people too busy to stop and clear the road going in and too tired and eager to get home to clear it when they leave. Maybe I can help.

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