GOLD LAKE highway provides access to the Lakes Basin area with many trailheads for day hikes. For our initial outing on this vacation, we chose a trailhead from Elwell Lodge and walked along Gray Eagle Creek to Tumbly Falls. It's well-marked, relatively short, shady, and not too steep. Just what we needed to get our legs in shape at this altitude. Along the way we searched for wildflowers, running water, and an occasional view of mountain peaks.
This creek empties the Lakes Basin and runs all year, tumbling down rocks while dropping over 2,500 feet to the Yuba River below. From the trail we could hear its gurgling noise and catch glimpses of sparkling water. As we crossed grassy meadows and meandered through the forest, we kept watch on the puffy white clouds above hoping they wouldn't turn into Sierra thunder showers. There's always a chance of a summer shower and also finding deer grazing in these meadows, but unfortunately not today...
We passed through thick bush and soon reached our goal, Tumbly Falls, which is the first of three cascades along the creek. (The other two are Halsey Falls and Fern Falls, but we ran out of time to visit them today.) The creek's energy became more active as the cascading waters became noisier and whiter. Soon we were at the top of the falls.
You have to leave the trail to get a better look at the entire plunge of Tumbly Falls since the brush is dense and the rocks are steep, but it's well worth the effort to scramble over the large smooth boulders for a better look. The total drop is maybe 150 feet before the creek continues on its downward journey to the Yuba River, the Sacramento delta, and eventually to San Francisco Bay.
It was fascinating to watch the pristine waters jump merrily from rock to rock, as if celebrating its freedom. Water gives life, and here at the source we can enjoy it in a purely natural form. Here, too, is the perfect place to enjoy a refreshing drink and snack before retracing our steps back to the trailhead. This rewarding "flat" hike has actually left us 450 feet of climbing back along the trail to our car; a nice challenge for the end of the day!
Fresh water is critical for our preservation. It's my hope that we can remain responsible stewards and provide clean water to those in this world who can't get clean water on their own.