Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Wade in the Water Children: Our Horse Linto Water Adventure

Date: July 6, 2013
Place: Horse Linto trail, Six Rivers National Forest, by Willow Creek, California
Where we parked: 41.00703, -123.60427
Where we entered the Horse Linto Creek: 41.00714, -123.60219
41.00703, -123.60427

Where we exited the creek: 41.00541, -123.60605
41.00703, -123.60427
41.00714, -123.60219
41.00703, -123.60427
41.00714, -123.60219
41.00703, -123.60427
41.00714, -123.60219
41.00541, -123.60605
Length: 1/2 mile
Difficulty: strenuous and potentially dangerous.

We slept better on our second camping night near Willow Creek, and were ready for a good hike. The heat wave was still going strong and we decided to go to the Horse Linto trail that was suggested to us at the Six Rivers National Forest visitor center at Willow Creek on the day before. The trail is deep in the forest, meaning shade, and right next to flowing water, meaning the option of a cooling dip, if needed.
After 30 minutes of driving slowly on a narrow and winding forest road we reached the Horse Linto campground, which was completely deserted. We parked our car a bit further behind it where the Horse Linto dirt road splits to the right, and continued on foot on that road for about 1/4 mile.
The bridge crossing the Horse Linto creek and the dirt road beyond it are over-grown with Himalayan Blackberry, an aggressive, invasive species that is taking over the forest undergrowth in that area. Our progress was slowed down considerably due to thorny branches extended into the road and the plentiful bounty of ripe blackberries.
Himalayan Blackberry on the Horse Linto Bridge
On the other side of that bridge there's a trailhead to the Horse Linto creek trail. It used to be a road too, we were told at the visitor center, but is now closed to vehicles and is basically, impassable. We immediately saw what he meant.
The Horse Linto Interpretive Trail
Before long we realized that this trail is impassable for hikers too, unless equipped with machetes. We weren't.
Horse Linto Interpretive Trail. Invisible under blackberry, poison oak, and other hostile vegetation
After we gave up on negotiating the brush any further we backtracked our steps to the bridge, where we found a bootleg trail going down to the creek and a makeshift campsite that has been used not that long ago. We sat there, staring at the water, and sulked.
Horse Linto Creek
Sitting by the creek has its calming effects. During that time Papa Quail managed to photograph this water-tension shadow of a water strider:
Water Strider
and with some patience, this elusive thrush as well.
Swainson's Thrush
I, too, was absorbed in photography experiments to take my mind off the unsuccessful hike:
A cloud of gnats sparkle in mid-air over the water
Eventually, it was Papa Quail who saved the day. He suggested that we get back to the Horse Linto campground through the creek. In the water.

I will pause now for a stern warning and a disclaimer. Entering a flowing mountain creek can be seriously risky. The current can be strong and treacherous, the water depth variable, and the footing slippery and unpredictable. This isn't an easy walk for adults, let alone young children. I would not recommend this sort of adventure to non-experienced people, particularly not with young children.

That said, since we do have ample experience in flowing creek hiking, including a fairly recent one with the chikas, we did take the chance and waded into the water. Papa Quail and I, each of us holding a sturdy stick in one hand and a chika's hand in the other, started walking slowly downstream.
We met an acquaintance there:
Darmera peltata
It was a short stretch of only 1/4 mile but a slow and treacherous one. The The creek bottom was uneven and slippery. It was difficult to hold my own footing even with the aid of a stick, let alone supporting my chika who was thigh-deep in water most of the time.
Ferns on the creek bank
That section of Horse Linto Creek is flat, but we did encounter some small cascades and a couple of deep pools. We did have our shoes on the entire time but still got to jam our feet between rocks every now and then. Not to bad, though.
Horse Linto white-water 
At some point Papa Quail wondered if we would know where to exit the creek. Good point - we haven't really thought about it when we entered the water. I did remember, however, that the Horse Linto campground had a large and obvious access to the water and I was sure it will be visible from the creek side too. In any case, if we got to the bridge then we would know that we've gone too far and have to backtrack.

As it was, the campground access was indeed quite visible and we got out of the water, soggy, tired, but thoroughly satisfied. I left Papa Quail with the chikas and went to get the car only to discover once more that walking in soggy-wet jeans isn't a very pleasant experience.
We had a picnic lunch at the Horse Linto campground and, after drying off, we drove back to Kimtu Beach on the Trinity River just to get wet all over again. It was a very hot day.


  1. I hope that the Himalayan Blackberry was at least tasty. It seems so :-)

    The idea of walking in the water on a hot day is very nice

    1. The blackberry was very tasty indeed! But that was the only thing that was going for it. In every other sense it is a pest.
      We had a very enjoyable adventure there, no doubt!