May 20, 2018
It was a Sunday afternoon, my day off after a long work week, and I just had to get up to Lakes Basin and soak in some of that quiet beauty. I didn’t have a specific destination in mind, I just headed up Gold Lake Highway to see what attracted me. I had a vague plan to walk up to Upper Sardine, but when I passed the small sign indicating Fern Falls, I decided to go exploring. I’d seen the sign for the past few years, but had never checked it out before.
The trail from the pullout is very clear and immediately crosses the East Fork of Graeagle Creek. From there, the trail parallels the creek for a few hundred yards until it comes to what the Lilliputians might have considered a waterfall, but to my eye was just a very pretty set of rapids. The topography indicated there might be more dramatic falls further on, so I decided to explore.
This is where things got fuzzy. I followed what I thought was a trail, but after a short while wondered if it was simply a dry creek bed since it ended at the creek. However, after some backtracking, bushwacking and using downed trees as raised walkways to traverse the scrub, I did find a couple of true waterfalls that were gorgeous. The craggy rocks gave a dramatic flair to the shooting water, which settled in inviting pools before dropping into another fall.
On the way back toward the trailhead, I did some side exploring of a lovely hunk of granite that was great fun to scrabble up. The view at the top was delightful. From there I could see some folks atop another hill of granite so went to check it out after they had disappeared, and voila, discovered a picnic table in a particularly lovely setting. From there, the trail was very obvious back to the trailhead.
I’m guessing there’s more to this trail than I was able to find. Even without a good trail, if you’re sure-footed and adventuresome, you can have a lot of fun exploring the area.
Follow-Up: Back at home, I checked Tom DeMund’s classic trail book and discovered that there is in fact, a trail and it does have various forks that go to overlooks on the creek, so perhaps I really was on parts of the trail. One day I’ll go back with the book in hand to see if I can actually find the trail.