We headed up the mountains out of Merlin fairly early in the morning to hike the Taylor Creek Trail, only to find our journey almost immediately disrupted by a wreck on the remote logging road. The night before someone had rolled their truck over the edge and down the steep cliff, and there were a number of Forest Service employees and tow truck operators in the road, pulling the vehicle back up so that it could be towed away.
As we pulled over at the turnout to wait for the road to clear I looked down the mountain side and saw a canyon with a stone lookout a couple hundred feet down. The kid and I walked down the stairs to the lookout, and we scoped out the spot for a possible drone flight. We thought it was suitable for take-off and would provide some good footage, so I headed back up the hill to grab the drone.
I got the drone set up, and we flew a quick test flight. It was the first flight with our new drone, so I wanted to make sure things worked. I handed it over to the kid, but he said something was wrong, and it didn’t feel right. He was still shaken from the crash the day before, so he quickly brought the drone home.
The drone was in “beginner mode,”” and after switching it off, I took the drone for another test flight. Unfortunately the footage I got was still shaky and unwatchable, because I’d accidentally left a little piece of styrofoam packaging protecting the camera. Even without filming, it was still a positive first flight after our crash. We walked back up to the car, and the wreck was clear, with only two Forest Service folks left assessing the crash site.
As we were loading the car back up, they approached us asking about our drone. They were extremely interested in it, and one of them said he had researched the DJI Phantom and was saving money to get one. It made me feel better about our drone activity, knowing that our first two encounters with people were so positive. I am sure not all will be this way, but it was a good start.
With the road clear, we continued up the hill to one of several trailheads for the Taylor Creek Trail. We passed up the first two, opting for the further third trail which would put the downhill stretch first, and the uphill part later in the afternoon. However, within one hundred feet of getting on the trail we came across a bridge that was out, and after crossing the creek we couldn’t find the trail again.
After encountering a “lost trail” at this trailhead, we drove to the second trail head. We set out walking downhill toward the first trail, happy to have found a path. But this trail was in similar condition as the previous one, with logs across the trail at regular intervals. Bridges were out so any creek we came to required us to get wet crossing.
After some walking we came to an old homestead meadow, which provided the opportunity for a drone flight. A meadow made for a nice “safe” place to fly the drone. No trees. No waterfall. No rocks.
We stopped at two separate meadows and got some good footage. But the kid opted not to fly this day, leaving all the footage and flying to me. Even with the safe environment, I do not think he was not quite ready to get back in the saddle. I don’t blame him. The crash had been a jarring experience.
After crossing a river to get to the second meadow, we lost the trail again altogether. I just do not think Taylor Creek Trail is of priority to the Forest Service. It is falling into disrepair and returning to the wilderness. It makes me sad to see such beautiful trails in this condition, something that demonstrates our priorities as citizens and government have shifted away from these natural wonders.
Again, the highlight for me on the Taylor Creek Trail was the variety of wildflowers. Here is a sampling of the shots I got that day: