Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Suicide Canyon

Right up front: No, I don't know why they call it Suicide Canyon, nor has anyone explained why the first rappel, a 190-foot drop, has been named "Lover's Leap."

One thing Suicide Canyon made clear to me was how canyoneering thrives in Southern California. This is one of the harder canyons to get to and, still, there was plenty of evidence of people regularly descending it. 

Starting near Tujunga Dam, the route quickly leaves an easy trail for a faint path that steeply climbs through brush and over loose soil and rocks. Think hand-over-hand in places that start to feel vertical. So precipitous that if you stop for a moment, you slide backwards. Eventually that tops out to a plateau of sorts covered by cat's claw and other vines that rip off flesh as you push through. My arms bled from cuts I strangely didn't feel. Not much of a trail here. We just relied on Rich's GPS to guide us to the drop-in point which was steeper and looser than the climb up.

But once in the canyon, the eight rappels were a joy to negotiate. Somehow, this canyon is just right. Tall, long rappels are interspersed with easier ones. Even during a drought, there's water here. Relaxing is the best word to describe Suicide Canyon. (When will I ever again get to put relaxing and suicide together in the same sentence?)

Suicide Canyon: The first rappel is in the sunlight and the approach through the thick brush is in the upper left of the picture.

Rich busting through the brush.
Cammy working her way down the loose, steep slope to the top of the first rappel.
Cammy on the first rappel.
Kevin checking out a vertical section on the first rappel.
Rich, midway through the canyon with (I believe) Fox Peak behind him.
Jerri's rappel device called the CRITR.
Kevin on a rappel near the bottom.
Cammy rappelling with Jerri belaying. Note the water seeping down the rock. During a drought!

Rich about to step into the mystery leaves (he isn't sure what's underneath; a pool of water, actually).

Jerri rappelling on the second-to-last drop.

The final, 170-foot rappel.

Monday, November 10, 2014


A few recent shots from Calistoga and the Napa Valley ranch that my family has owned for more than a 100 years.