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Early in the week I looked at the forecast for Saturday and saw that it would be a good day for hiking so I contacted Ralph and invited him to an adventure. I offered him a repeat summit or the opportunity to try something new. He opted for new. I wanted a summit that would not be overly difficult and where the hike would be relatively short. Alligator NE2 fit the criteria and so it became our target. I told Ralph that it would include some bushwhacking and trail finding with no guarantee of reaching the summit. So with that in mind I did some prep work planning a route and loading it into my gps.
Come Saturday morning Ralph arrived for an 8:30am departure, and we were off for the backcountry. After our normal stops we were soon driving along Sylvester road looking for the start of the forestry road. As we approached the end of pavement Ralph noticed a sign about Cascade Falls and wondered if I knew anything about it. I said we could visit if we felt so inclined after the hike. The drive along the mainline went quickly, there were only a few vehicles on the road this early so we made good time.
Once we arrived at the Twin Lakes side road we encountered some rougher sections but still not too bad. We came by one very deep diversion that took some careful planning to get across. Low gear worked well but I was a bit leery about the return. We managed to follow the wrong fork for a short distance and had to back-track a bit but soon we arrived at the marked fork where we would take the way less travelled, though I did notice that this side road had some recent activity. Soon we came to another deep cross ditch, this one took a few tries to get up the far side but eventually I was out of the gap and ready to drive on. A couple km more and we arrived at the spot I had marked to park and start the foot work.
Once our gear was on we walked the road looking for the over-grown side road but didn’t spot it. So I decided it must be too overgrown and that we should just head into the trees and aim in the general direction I had marked. We were soon carefully picking our way through soggy swamp! I found a way up the far side and we were back on solid ground heading for the track I had planned. After some minutes we spotted the old road I had planned on walking and we started following it to where my route left it. This sped up our travels but we still needed to push through fallen trees.
When we came by the spot to leave the road the ground was fairly open and sloping upwards at a gentle pace. However, not much beyond the road I noticed some rock faces we would need to find a way around. Fortunately the slope continued upward at a steep rate between two faces. It allowed us to gain some elevation and get past the first of the cliffs. At another plateau area I surveyed the way ahead and noticed what looked like a small gap in the one face and so I made for that and pulled myself up by roots and trunks to a small ledge that worked its way across the face. It seemed to reach a vegetated area on the far side so I opted to try it. Sure enough the ledge offered some convenient handholds and we were able to start crossing the face, at the far end a tree had fallen across the way. It presented some challenges as the drop down would be serious, so going over the tree would be risky. There was a small awkward gap under the tree that seemed safer, so we squeezed under it and finally made it to the green area on the far side.
Once past the tree we were able to ascend to the next plateau area only about 4 meters above us by grabbing trees again. Once up here we took a breather and then continued towards the summit direction. We soon had another face to deal with but this was much shorter and offered some paths through it. Next came a wall of fallen trees which I worked along to reach the next level area thinking I was now at the summit. But once again another wall stared back at me. This one was also fairly easy to get over as was the next one which proved to be the last. I was finally on the broad summit area. There were a number of small humps scattered sound the area and I picked one to settle down on. Ralph had run out of steam a couple of faces ago and so I was on the actual summit by myself. I took a rest and then set up my 2m radio. I soon had my first contact in the log. I managed 3 more while eating lunch though the numbers were few. Turning the yagi a few degrees would change the strength of the signal from static to useable and I found I had to point it to the east rather than south to make some contacts, - reflecting the signal off another summit.
Once done with the radio work I packed up and started back down, I would have liked to try a different route but with Ralph left down below a bit I had to return the way I came. I ended up dropping right past him before releasing I had gone too far. So back up the slope to where I recognized the spot and there he was packing up his gear! He had completed 7 contacts. We then started for the face and ledge.
I made it across fairly quickly but Ralph got hung up on the tree, I re-crossed the ledge and helped guide him to a handhold as he tucked under the tree. Then we were both across the face and starting down the narrow gap to the lower plateau area. For our return travels we had put on spikes and they were helping immensely with the traction, we made fast time down the slope to the road. We followed the road back to where we entered it and continued on. Sure enough it came out exactly where I had thought it would be and only about 15m from where we entered the bush initially! I guess I will just need to trust my plans better and look harder next time.
Well we were back to the truck and getting rested. Once ready we started off for the mainline. This time crossing that narrow cross-ditch became a problem and soon I was not moving forward, just digging holes. So rather than fight it, I hauled out the winch line, hooked it to a convenient tree and with a short pull the truck was past the ditch and out of the grip of the alligator and we were moving again. The other ditch almost got us but with a bit of momentum I made it down and up the second ditch without stopping.
The rest of the drive along the mainline went without issue though I noticed a lot more traffic on it at this hour. We reached the pavement and stopped to reflect on the adventure. In the end the alligator gave my arm a good nip and almost swallowed the truck whole. It claimed my two walking sticks as a sacrifice and Ralph was covered in fly bites. But we were not that bad off. Still with energy to spare, Ralph said lets go see the falls. So we turned off the main road to Cascade Falls Park and found a parking spot. I hadn’t been here since my kids were small and so I noticed that the place is now a well-developed park, not at all like it was before. We found the trail to the falls, it was well maintained with a smooth route and stairs for the steep section. There was a nice suspension bridge across the creek just below the falls to provide a better view and access to the best viewpoint on the far side of the creek. So we had a nice view of the water fall.
Well, done with the falls we made our way back to the truck and soon were on our way to the highway. The day was a great success, we activated the summit for the first time and got our two points for it. So now we need to plan another first activation just to keep the excitement going.