Once Every Five Years

A Grandpa and Daughter moment as they approached the base of San Antonio FallsA Grandpa and Daughter moment as they approached the base of San Antonio Falls


7-February 2015: Something that I didn't really notice in our previous hikes was that even though the trail was quite easy to walk (as it felt like a paved maintenance road that now led to some private vacation homes or something along the way), the air was noticeably thinner up here. I guess we were just getting old now as such effects didn't really bother us in the past (or at least I didn't remember it).

Nonetheless, we took our time as Tahia, Julie and Dad led the way. I think Mom was just enjoying the scenery as she hadn't done this hike before. So even though I was lamenting the lack of choices to try to expand our waterfalling collection this Winter season (thanks to the drought), at least we could share with my parents and with Tahia something they hadn't done before....





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Day 1: THE FIRST ATTEMPT
When I awoke it was well after 6:45am. But Julie was well awake as I guess whenever we planned a day to do a hike, she had gotten up at 6am to make brekkie and tend to whatever matters that needed tending to. And even though we had planned to meeting up with my parents at 8am, it wouldn't be until 7:50am when we took off from the house with Tahia.

When we left our home, it was still chilly and foggy, and I wondered if that storm that was supposed to lash at Northern California and Oregon was also going to have an impact on our local weather even though the forecast seemed like it really wasn't going to put much of a dent. But when we got to the parents place at 8:20am, the fog was gone and it was quite sunny and warm (though we could see haze in the distance around us).

At 8:40am, we took off with no real sense of urgency because our goal for today was San Antonio Falls, which Julie and I knew was a pretty short and easy hike. Given that we had experienced a dry January after an impressively rainy December, we were hoping that we might get to let Tahia experience or play in some snow though we weren't really holding out hope for it. I guess that's what happens when Global Warming really jacks up the climate as it seemed pretty clear that the three weeks or so of Winter (as opposed to three months of it) was over.

By about 9:25am, we managed to make it to the easy-to-miss turnoff for Mt Baldy Rd as we left Mountain Ave. At this point, the road went switchbacking its way up some pretty tight hairpins, but Dad was being careful not to get anyone in the back seat carsick (especially Tahia who spewed one time when we attempted Cooper Canyon Falls when she was two years old).

Many cars at the San Antonio Falls trailhead The family crossing Mt Baldy Road to get to the trailhead Looking downslope at more parked cars at the trailhead for San Antonio Falls

Ultimately at 9:45am, we would get back to the familiar trailhead for San Antonio Falls, and not surprisingly, the split road was full of parked cars already here. Since there was no snow in sight (except for the uppermost elevations right on the mountaintops above us), we wondered how the falls would be flowing. Besides, the previous two times Julie and I had made it to the falls, there was snow around the falls. Come to think of it, the previous two times we went were five years apart in 2005 and 2010. And lo and behold, this time we were coming in 2015! For whatever reason, we tended to visit this waterfall once every five years!

On the paved maintenance road leading past this gate and towards the falls Something that I didn't really notice in our previous hikes was that even though the trail was quite easy to walk (as it felt like a paved maintenance road that now led to some private vacation homes or something along the way), the air was noticeably thinner up here. I guess we were just getting old now as such effects didn't really bother us in the past (or at least I didn't remember it).

Looking downslope from the trail at some impressive mountains Nonetheless, we took our time as Tahia, Julie and Dad led the way. I think Mom was just enjoying the scenery as she hadn't done this hike before. So even though I was lamenting the lack of choices to try to expand our waterfalling collection this Winter season (thanks to the drought), at least we could share with my parents and with Tahia something they hadn't done before.

Overtaken by a larger group of senior Koreans as we were nearing the falls As we had rounded the familiar bend with some impressive scenery downslope, we were overtaken by a giant Korean senior hiking group. They seemed like they were ready to take on a much longer hike than just San Antonio Falls. And when we had earlier spoken to a spry middle-aged man skipping with a pair of trekking poles and knee braces, he said he was intending to summit Mt Baldy on this trail, and I'd imagine that was where this big Korean hiking group was going.

Nice blue skies contrasting the mountains surrounding us as we were approaching the overlook of San Antonio Falls Mom and I contemplated doing it on today's excursion since he said it was only 0.9 miles uphill from the falls, but with Tahia in tow, we thought better not, especially since we weren't acclimated anyways and Julie had some errand to run at 1pm.

The view of San Antonio Falls from the overlook At about 10:20am, we made it to the familiar overlook showing the full extent of San Antonio Falls. Up until now, we hadn't seen the falls (I swore I could've seen other parts of the falls on the approach higher up the mountain), but now after seeing the falls again, we could see that it was somewhat laboring with below average flow (or at least below average relative to how we saw in each of the last five years). I wondered whether at this rate, the falls might hardly flow again in the coming years as we would continue to have snow-less Winters or have it in temporary fits and starts year-after-year as our climate would continue to get drier thanks to Climate Change.

Yet even with the somewhat subdued flow thanks to the dry January and early February, the 80ft three-tiered falls remained impressive, and I could see that Mom really liked it. Of course Tahia was busy being herself as she would make silly poses for the camera (especially since she was bothered by the bright sun up here).

Dad and Tahia continuing past the overlook towards the base of San Antonio Falls Mom getting by the tricky and steep eroded section of the scramble to the base of San Antonio Falls Tahia taking advantage of the snow that was left over by San Antonio Falls

And when we had our fill of this overlook, we then continued around the fence and took the familiar eroded path leading to the base of the falls. At first, Dad was skeptical of the tricky steep section that had to be traversed (especially with Tahia with us now), but with some care and utilizing the bigger rocks that seemed to be firmly attached to the eroding surface, we all managed to get across the obstacle, and then by 10:30am, we were finally at the base of the falls.

Another look at San Antonio Falls with some patchy snow on the lower left Getting closer to the base of San Antonio Falls Looking up from the base of San Antonio Falls Tahia enjoying herself in the snow patch by the base of San Antonio Falls

There was still a small patch of snow left near the falls, and of course Tahia and Dad went straight for that snow patch as she finally got to play with it this Winter. I guess we missed the boat in December and early January, when we could've let her experience her first snow since two years ago when we went to Yosemite. Little did we realize how few and far between seeing and feeling snow was these days.

Tahia enjoying herself on the snow patch with Julie making sure she doesn't take a spill Meanwhile, Mom, Julie, and I were busy taking photos and movies of the falls. The falls was quite attractively contrasted against the deep blue skies which were interrupted by a few patchy clouds that kind of clung to the uppermost ridges of the surrounding mountains. There was already a family down by the base of the falls with their kids (older than Tahia) busy sliding down the same snow patch that Tahia was busy playing at.

Tahia playing in the snow patch Then, there were some abseilers rappeling the full height of the San Antonio Falls, which was a first for us. Even more surprising was how some of these folks managed to ascend a not-so-obvious gully besides the falls, and they seemed to scale it somewhat easily. Obviously, we weren't going to do it because it looked like one of those things where it was easier to go up but next to impossible to get down without injury or gear.

The family enjoying themselves over some snacks at the base of San Antonio Falls And so we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at the base of the falls taking all sorts of photos while letting Tahia enjoy herself by the snow and then around the falls. Mom was trying to make Joshua and Sophia jealous since they couldn't make the hike and they seemed to have missed out on one that they could've easily done (I guess they were busy taking a kiddie photos or something on this day as commanded by their parents). Tahia was wishing that she could've played in the snow with Joshua, but I think she got over missing Joshua by being preoccupied by both the snow and the falls.

After taking a few more shots trying to compose the falls against the blue skies from the base, we then make our way back to the overlook as another large group made their way to the base of the falls. I think with this experience, both Julie and Mom were advocating bumping up the rating of this falls higher on our SoCal Top 10 List, and I might oblige. Julie even went so far to say that this waterfall was Fish Canyon Falls-like.

Looking up at San Antonio Falls from right at its base Another look at the base of San Antonio Falls from further downstream of the base Looking directly at the bottom tier of San Antonio Falls Last look at San Antonio Falls from the overlook

At 11:05am, we had reached the overlook, and then we were ready to take off, but both Dad and Julie said they saw a couple of spotted deer scamper uphill into the trees above us. I didn't manage to see them, but it seemed obvious that there were others who were looking away from the falls clearly having noticed the deer as well. I guess given how rare seeing deer was down in the local mountains, I'm sure it must've been exciting for the folks that got to witness them (but no one could photo them apparently).

The next group of hikers approaching the base of San Antonio Falls Time for the family to leave the base of San Antonio Falls Dad and Tahia getting across the tricky eroded section of the base scramble

As we were headed back to the trailhead, we saw an even larger army of kids in a very large group hiking apparently towards the summit of Baldy on this day. Talk about a popular hike!

The family making their way back to the trailhead after a satisfying hike Looking downstream at the scenery and some clouds appearing to come in to the basin The last stretch before reaching the trailhead; I swore the last time we were here, those slopes up ahead were covered in snow!

At 11:20am, we were back at the car. Even though we had misplaced our Forest Service Pass and didn't display it on our car, it seemed like we had gotten away with it this time. But that prompted Julie and I to go look for it when we get home since it clearly wasn't in the pack that we were carrying with us today.

And clearly with the elation of having yet another satisfying experience at a local waterfall, we had ourselves an uneventful drive back towards Rowland Heights for a lunch reward at Earthen Restaurant for some Northern Chinese fare...




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