Frank, Pat, Dick & Ted's Excellent Adventure


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Every Friday I go to lunch with four other gentlemen who are all retired from the Fresno County Department of Social Services. At our May 13 gathering, Frank Puglia announced his desire to go to Miami Creek, which runs more or less parallel to state Highway 41 in Madera County, above the town of Oakhurst.

I had been to this creek on camping and day trips with my daughters when they were very young, and was interested in seeing the area again, so we made plans to leave at 8 a.m. Monday, May 16. The party was also to include Pat Hendrix and his son Teddy, who is in town for a month or so, helping his father move.

We had also discussed following a trail that starts by the highway and goes down to Lewis Creek, which Frank thought was a fairly short walk, leading to a waterfall. I recalled seeing a sign for the trail, but none of us could recall exactly where it was, although we knew it was above Oakhurst, past the Bass Lake road. After a false stop at an unpaved turnout, which offered only a steep hillside covered with brush, we came to a wide, paved turnout, with a big sign reading "Lewis Creek Trail." (For the record, it's 7.5 miles from the junction of Highways 41 and 49 in Oakhurst.)

Pat had hip replacement surgery in December and is not up to this type of walking, so stayed in the car. We brought a chair for him, but it was between 45 and 55 degrees out, so he didnít want to sit outside.

Frank, Teddy and I started down the trail, and immediately noticed a few tiny patches of snow along the way. We could hear the creek from where we parked, so we knew we didn't have far to go, and within a short time we could see the creek, big and full, tumbling down the steep canyon in cascades and small falls.

Although we took a lot of pictures, it was hard to get a good shot of the creek, due to the trees, and due to the fact that we were well above the creek in most places. We made our way down to where we could see a fairly good falls, which presumably was Corlieu Falls. The trail was getting steeper and wetter, so we didn't go all the way down. Later my daughter described the trail as "very steep, and you have to hold on to branches to make your way" - a recipe for disaster for geezers like Frank and me (apparently the trail has been improved recently, and there is now a viewing platform at the bottom).

(Update: In 2013 I made two more hikes to Corlieu Falls, reaching the viewing platform, and on the final hike going down to where the creek levels out below the falls. This provided much better views of the falls than we had on my first visit.)

We returned to the truck and continued up Highway 41, searching for the dirt road that goes in to Miami Creek. I spotted the road I have used, but Frank said that was not the way he had gone. We finally saw the right road, just as we went past it. We turned around at the Westfall US Forest Service station, and headed down Miami Mountain Road. About a half mile up the highway from the Lewis Creek trail there was snow on the ground everywhere, from a storm the day before, and the road was wet but not muddy except in one brief 50 foot section. We made it to the creek without incident, parked, and walked through snow and wet ground downstream along the creek for a short ways. Frank, Pat and Teddy had been fishing in this area years ago, so were familiar with the surroundings.

It was cold but sunny, and the scenery was all you could ask for. I spotted a couple of Shooting Stars, one of our most beautiful wild flowers, growing out of the snow (actually they were probably blooming before the latest storm). The creek is not very big, but was running pretty good, and had some nice pools and cascades.

Going back out to the highway, we slid a little going through the short muddy spot, but made it through thanks to traction control features built into newer vehicles. We turned east at Road 222 (Bass Lake Road), and went to Ducey's Lodge for lunch. This is part of a resort complex that includes cabins, chalets and a fairly good restaurant.

To add some variety to our trip, we did not return to Highway 41 at this point, but continued south on Road 274, which flanks the eastern shore of Bass Lake, then heads down to North Fork, a former logging town a short drive from the lake.

Some time ago Pat and Frank had been looking for Manzanita Lake, said to be near North Fork. They got directions at the grocery store and drove up Road 222, for the two mile ride to the lake. They missed the turn and went on up till they came to what they described as a flume. We had the impression it was something remaining from logging days, but this was not actually so.

Following the same route, we drove past the lake (on purpose this time), connected with another road, and found the flume. We got out and walked up a hill to where we could see the top. It is actually a more or less modern facility, with water running through a ditch, then into the flume to cross above the road. Presumably it carries water to the power house from the lake.

We headed back toward Manzanita Lake and North Fork, but once again legitimately missed a turn, and ended up on Road 221. Like the other roads we had been on, it comes out to the North Fork Road (200), but misses Manzanita Lake and North Fork. We gave up on Manzanita Lake, turned right, and drove through green foothill country back to Highway 41, then home.

Our definition of "adventure," after some discussion: You don't necessarily end up where you were going, but you end up somewhere interesting.

--Dick Estel, May 2011


Photos (Click to enlarge; pictures open in new window) 


This way Lewis Creek Teddy takes aim
Corlieu Falls The artistry of nature Snow-covered meadow by Miami Creek near Miami Mountain Road
Spring blossoms Shooting Star in snow Miami Creek
  Looking downstream  
Related Links
Lewis Creek Trail Corlieu Falls (Video;
download to your PC to view)
Bass Lake
Shooting Star Flowers North Fork Oakhurst
  Ducey's Lodge  

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