Around this time last year, Marta and I went up to Alamere Falls. It’s only about an hour and a half from the city by car and winds through some wonderful North Bay countryside.
Cell phone reception can be spotty, so I wouldn’t rely on Google Maps alone, although Google can get you there for the most part. (FYI: it’s easy to get lost, since there’s a lot of weird turns and the roads are poorly marked.)
It was a hot and humid day, and a lot of the walk was through dense forest passing small lakes, so there was a sub-tropical feeling to the area at times.
Although I enjoyed the two-hour walk through dense forest, the threat of getting Poison Oak had me paranoid most of the trip.
And that was before we got to the unmaintained trail that leads down to the falls. It was a bit hard to find; but if memory serves correct, you enter a clearing where you can see the ocean in the distance and, off the left, there’s a trail marked “unmaintained.” It’s both easy to miss and easy to be unsure whether or not you’ve passed it at times.
I think this Yelp Review summarized the trail better than I could:
WARNING: Unmaintained is what it sounds like. It is a short but briskly walk full of brush, bushes, twigs and other unfriendly objects in nature that will scratch you. Oh, and POISON OAK is everywhere.
My friend got scratched pretty badly by poison oak and had a reaction right away. You don’t want to make the same mistake.
But, this is the only way to get down to the beach/falls so be a man and suck it up :).
After taking the unmaintained trail, you’ll take another winding green trail, leading to a cliff drop off. You will see large groups of people congregated at the end, contemplating something. They are usually staring in trepidation/fear or getting ready to scale down the cliff.
This part gets a little tricky. There are a lot of loose rocks and it can get VERY slippery so it helps to go with friends, preferably guys, who can help you down. It’s a narrow way down and there’s only enough room for one group of people to either climb up or down at one time, so be prepared to do a bit of waiting.
Despite having suffered Poison Oak three times–each time worse than the last–I decided to brave the distance down to the falls anyway. I might not have gone on the hike at all if I’d know what it would be, but I wasn’t going to turn back then.
You do literally have to walk through wall-to-wall of Poison Oak bushes to get there. There’s no avoiding it. At some points it’s rubbing across your face and legs at the same time. All your clothing, bags, water bottles, etc., will be covered in the oils.
But when you have a nice view when you get down and plenty of water to wash off in (which I did well before posing for this photo shoot).
Afterward, you can’t forget to go down to the beach and see the larger falls (and, if you’re like me, washing a second and third time in the ocean water).
When you’re done with that, it’s a nice spot to relax and have lunch before you get to walk through the mile of Poison Oak again.
Yet, despite my fear, I came out unscathed, so either extreme paranoia paid off and my compulsive hand- and face-washing was effective (I didn’t bother drinking my water), or I’m not as susceptible as I used to be.
For those of you who either don’t get Poison Oak or just don’t care, then the hike is well worth it. Otherwise, it’s a toss-up; just be careful.