Moving Water @ Potem Falls

“It’s prounounced POH-TAM falls” My father told me after I had returned from an afternoon hike with my oldest son. “That man died up there awhile back. Fell off. His brother died too, going up to show someone where.”

That was a nice little story to make me feel extra safe about the place I had just gone.

Potem, Poh-tam, Poh-TEM Falls, whatever it’s called was/is a great place. Recently, in an effort to get out and take more pictures, I’ve begun a weekly hiking regiment with one of my kids (this way it doubles as a family event, as well as an artistic venture,) Brenando is 6, and a fairly decent hiker. By decent, I mean he puts up with me taking photos, and doesn’t complain too much about the distance we travel.

The main problem with our weekly adventures is that we’re limited by drive time, and getting back by dinner. I made the choice for this weeks drive- Potem falls. Potem falls is located about 30 miles East of Redding. (I get all my ideas and directions from a local waterfall website, that has pictures and directions for a lot of north state falls).

I put Brenando in the car, and headed out.

After heading the 30 miles east, we turned onto a road for the last 9.1 miles of the trip. The road turns to dirt about 3 miles in, and Paco had warned me it might be muddy. The road was scattered with debris from various rock slides, but nothing that made forward progress very tricky.

The waterfall website listed the turnout at 9.1 miles, to head down to the falls. when my trip meter hit 9.1, I saw a pullout, and parked the rig. Bernando and I got our stuff, and started looking for a “trail” down to the water. There was no clear trail marked. So we started downhill. to say we were sliding in the leaves and mud is an understatement. A couple times we came close to rolling down. Bernando has a bad habit of clutching onto me like a wet cat everytime he starts to slip…ad to it the fact he won’t take his hands out of his sweatshirt, it just makes him panic even more.

10 minutes of “hiking” down the hillside, I decided this was not the right spot. We headed back up, and drove further down the road, to the next pullout, which was about .1 mile ahead, and there we saw an actual trail. Note to future Potem hikers, where you start your trip meter DOES matter. There’s a marker that looks like a sign used to be there…two poles on a cement block…that’s where the trail begins. The trail switches back and forth along the water down to the falls…which is impressive.

The falls seem to be about 80 feet high. It’s a very powerful waterfall…so much so that actually getting close enough to photograph it from the base of the falls is almost impossible, due to mist. I tried a few different places, and each time I set up, the wind shifted and I was covered in mist. I hate wearing glasses, they get misted up, making it MORE difficult to focus my shot, and due to my long shutter speeds, I could never get a shot off without misting of the lens…which can’t be too good for a camera. I vowed to come back in late summer when the flow might be a little less.

Making photography more difficult is my son, who bless his heart, just wants to explore…sitting in place while I set up a shot can’t be fun. So periodically he scampers on rocks, or trees to pass time…which causes me to flip out and yell at him like a parent in Wal-Mart.
“Careful!!!, get off those rocks!! You’ll fall in the water!! Now!! Get down!!” He glares, then stays in place, and I get to re-focus on the picture. We sat and watched the waterfall a few minutes then walked up the trail a bit to shoot the creek/river. The water was moving pretty fast, so I was extra paranoid about Brenando getting too close to the edge…add to it the whole sides of the hill were covered in wet moss…and it made trekking down to the edge for a picture sketchy. At one point I had to climb right to the edge to move a twig that was in my way…normally I don’t move parts of mother nature around, but the twig/tree was REALLY annoying…so I went down to move it.

“Don’t fall in.” Brenando yelled at me, “You’d be cold.”

I was hovering near the edge of a 15-foot drop into freezing water, I wondered…”What WOULD I do if I fell in?” I scampered back up to my spot after that…finished shooting…and we headed back up the trail. Brenando let me know how BORING taking pictures is, and that he didn’t like it. We stopped a couple more times on the way back so he could pout while I took some pictures. We got back to the car without any real incidents, and drove back to Redding…just in time for dinner.

The waterfall itself is great. Really strong, and really impressive. I’ve heard from my dad that it’s also great fishing up there. I will go back for sure, even if I don’t know how to pronounce it.