California Travel Stories

Welcome to the California Travel Stories. Within these pages, you can read selected stories and musings about our waterfall-themed adventures in California. Hopefully, you'll find these stories entertaining and educational. Perhaps you might get a good laugh at our expense, or you might find some nuggets that you can apply to your own travels.

Thumb through the travel stories below. They are arranged chronologically with the most recent escapade at the top. Enjoy :)



Tahia checking out the view of the Los Angeles Basin from Monrovia Canyon Park (20-April 2014)
Easter Surprises
: Ultimately, we would go on the familiar winding road up to Monrovia Canyon Park. We were worried about the parking situation here given the past troubles the last time we were here. At first we thought about parking near the fee collection kiosk seeing that there were three or four open spots down there. However, we thought if there were going to be that many spots down here, why not go up and see what's up there before coming back down and prolonging our hike as a last resort?...[read more]



Looking along Pacific Coast Highway from our alternate parking spot for Solstice Canyon (13-April 2014)
Recovery By Waterfalling
: Mentally, I thought that we might actually make it to the trailhead for Solstice Canyon by about 10 or 10:15am, but at around 9:50am (just as we were approaching Temescal Canyon Rd), Tahia all of the sudden started crying in the back seat. When Julie and I asked what was wrong, she said her tummy was hurting. Since we were on the winding roads of PCH, finding a convenient place to pull over wasn't trivial. So we kept forward hoping perhaps to find a plaza or fast-food restaurant to stop at to see what was going on. But moments later, Tahia started puking. And it seemed like she was heaving quite a bit of stuff. With no one in the back seat accompanying her, she had no choice but to let the smelly mushy stuff get right on her clothes, the child seat, the seat belts, and even the stuff on the floor like my camera and the floor mats. Now, the sense of urgency to find a place to pull over safely was even greater...[read more]



Tahia and Julie hiking towards Eaton Canyon on a hot day (6-April 2014)
Our Pink-Eyed Pea
: ...there was a bit of unusual circumstances on our way out as we heard a loud circling chopper hovering right above the canyon. It was kind of ironic that we saw some memorial dedicated to "Arturo" shortly before we started hearing the choppers, and it got us wondering if someone was trying to reach the upper waterfalls that people always said were there, but the authorities discouraged (prohibited) people from doing...[read more]



Paradise Falls in beautiful weather on a Sunday afternoon (30-March 2014)
Waterfalling Independence
: Then, we turned left at the familiar signposted junction for Paradise Falls. Tahia was doing quite well during the hike, and we were still proceeding with Julie in front and Tahia trying to play catchup with her. In a couple of spots, Julie was pointing out the cacti to Tahia, and I think after one touch, Tahia didn't particularly like being close to the cactus...[read more]



Big Pothole Lake from Kearsarge Pass (29-August 2013 to 1-September 2013)
Still Life
: Then, as we were climbing the last few switchbacks, it started raining at 12:20pm. This was definitely not a good sign. When we encountered another pair of guy hikers who were coming back down, they too were echoing the earlier sentiments that it was definitely worth the view up at Kearsarge Pass. However, one of them expressed concern that it was going to be iffy about whether the weather would cooperate or not. Still, we trudged on. The rain got bad enough that we had to bring out our rain gear. Of course, when the rain gear was on, it tended to get hot real fast...[read more]



At the Vulcan Materials Quarry Facility (11-May 2013)
Mothers Day Orientation
: So once we found a fairly flat and shady spot near the top of the bottommost tier of Fish Canyon Falls, I was finally able to unsling the baby carrier and momentarily relieve myself of nearly 30 pounds of weight. Tahia was eager to get playing in the water so both Mom and Julie were keeping an eye out on her while shielding her from going over the fourth waterfall. Meanwhile, we were busy munching on our Chinese breakfast of sticky rice wrap that we had brought with us. I had already gone through one bottle of water so I had to fill up my bottle with a backup bottle that we had brought. And as much as I wanted to sit down and relax, there seemed to be at least a half-dozen or more wasps or bees swarming about me. Apparently, my orange shirt might have attracted them as if I was a flower to them or something because they seemed to leave everyone else alone. Lucky me...[read more]



Sturtevant Falls (7-April 2013)
Center of Attention
: The long flat stretch of hiking that Julie and I typically took for granted on all of our previous hikes now didn't seem to straightforward as I was carrying an extra 30 pounds on my back. Every little uphill stretch (no matter how slight) took its toll on me. I guess this would be my training for a planned backpacking trip in the Sierras late this Summer. However, what's missing from today's hike were the altitude sickness, the mosquitoes, and not having to shower for a couple of days. Not that Tahia didn't mind as she was busy laughing and pointing out everything she thought she saw or at least heard...[read more]



Cooper Canyon Falls (17-March 2013)
Cooper Canyon Retry
: At the Day Use area where we parked (and where there were many other cars parked), we went past a bathroom and picnic tables then past a gate as the paved road curved downhill. We followed this road until the pavement eventually looped into a little cul-de-sac with a picnic area, but then the road turned back up and there was no apparent trail to keep going. Something was off...[read more]



Trail Canyon Falls (19-January 2013)
Bottom Line
: Somehow the topic of conversation switched over to hiking blogs, and he told me that he consulted s couple of blogs, which he named to me (both of which I had heard). I was a little disappointed that he didn't mention our website, and the thought did occur to me whether I should tell him about our website. But I wanted to ensure we stayed anonymous so I didn't say anything about it...[read more]



Lewis Falls (5-January 2013)
Soldiering into an Old Haunt
: Complicating the scrambling we had to do, my parents were also having a little more difficulty than before since their joints were less flexible and more prone to pain. I guess that's something to look forward to with old age, and it further reminded me that family outings like these won't last forever. So we mind as well do as many of these as we can. We did spot a couple of guys going the other way. However, their pants looked muddy and wet, and it made us wonder if we were in for something harder than we had thought going into this excursion...[read more]



Solstice Canyon Falls (3-September 2012)
Not So Great Expectations
: It had been a while since Julie and I had gone out on a hike. The entire Summer had gone by, and even though we had gone to beaches, spent many weekends with family, and even went to Napa Valley on a make-up anniversary trip, there was something that was still missing. After a few discussions over this long weekend, we came to realize that perhaps what we missed was a true escape from the city and a return to Nature. So on this Labor Day, Julie insisted that we go out to a waterfall. I thought the idea was absurd...[read more]



Finally, the elusive Upper Escondido Falls! (14-April 2012)
El Escondido del Escondido
: I couldn't help but think how Mom and I missed out when we tried the scramble but didn't quite make it three years ago. Still, Julie and I relished this experience - the scenic allure, the adventure it took to get here, the ability to finally see what just about everyone else (it seemed) was able to see...[read more]



Mother and Daughter sharing the falls experience (8-April 2012)
"Eese-ing" Towards A Fun Easter
: That didn't go unnoticed by another lady who was amused by what Tahia was doing, and was quick to point out to us that our daughter was well aware of the falls. It's times like these where waterfalling truly is a gratifying family activity. It seemed like everyone here was having a good time (except for some ladies who anxiously saw their sons climb up the rock besides the falls). Even Julie and I felt that the waterfalling experience today was closer to the way it was supposed to be - uncrowded, laid back, and enjoyable...[read more]



Horsies on the trail (24-March 2012)
Cooler Heads
: ...it became apparent as we waited until about 9:15am that no HiPos from work were going to show up. I knew one guy (whom I had coordinated this event with) had to attend a funeral so that was anticipated. Still, I was a bit disappointed given how many other verbal commitments I had received, but I figured people might flake given the pattern of this kind of behavior for a while at work now...[read more]



A different take on the falls (10-March 2012)
Slim Pickings
: And so with that we finally completed our three-point turn and quickly tried to retrace back to the lower car park in search of this elusive parking spot. I was getting worried that after having paid the $5, we still might not have a spot and be out this amount of cash for nothing...[read more]



A reliable waterfall even in a dry winter (4-February 2012)
The Old Reliable
: As we got closer, it looked like someone was getting a citation. And when a cop handed a lady a slip that prompted her to say, "Oh my gosh!" (probably a reaction to the fine), we knew it wasn't cheap. Julie and I weren't sure what they did wrong considering other folks also had dogs on a leash but all we could do was speculate...[read more]



Early morning near Dingleberry Lake (11-August 2011 to 14-August 2011)
Under the Moonlight
: I think what sealed the deal about us stopping here was that we felt pretty frequent wind gusts that might've been coming from the mountain passes further up from us. That meant the mozzies wouldn't be as bothersome as long as the air was moving. And so it was. We unslung our heavy packs and called it a day. We were still probably at least 2 miles from Topsy Turvy Lake (our originally intended camp spot), but at this point, we were all exhausted and were ready to stop. ...[read more]



Monrovia Canyon Falls (14-May 2011)
This Time It Counts
: They had a bench facing a nice view of the Los Angeles basin under the May Gray. So that made for a pleasant feeding experience for the both of us (not that Tahia noticed the view though she did notice the surrounding mountains and even a helicopter). The only thing that made me a little nervous was a loud buzzing bumblebee that wouldn't leave us alone...[read more]



Bonita Falls (7-May 2011)
No Respect
: As I was stumbling along the bouldery wash, I quickly found out that I wasn't alone on this excursion as there were a handful of families and youngers going back the other way. I asked one mother how the falls was, and she said it was beautiful. That was very encouraging to me as I had worried that I might have been a month too late for this excursion especially given the heat wave we had this past week thereby melting away all the snow. The mother did warn me about some kids throwing rocks from the top of the waterfall indiscriminantly. So I considered myself warned...[read more]



Looking back at Millard Canyon (23-April 2011)
Ad Hoc Earth Day
: I guess also setting the mood was the dark gray skies on this late April Saturday. The weather certainly reminded me of June Gloom where the deep marine layer would burn off some time after lunch. Sometimes it would drizzle. But then with Climate Change, the June Gloom became May Gray. And now that it's happening in April, I wonder what kind of name they got for it now?...[read more]



Smog over Riverside County (17-April 2011)
Not Quite
: So I stole another glance at the Ann Marie Brown book and that was when I realized that it was an additional 1.5 miles from the gate to the campground. That meant it was 3 miles round trip, and when you add that with the 2 miles round trip of scrambling, it would be a 7-mile round trip affair!...[read more]



Couple embracing before Tahquitz Falls (10-April 2011)
Just Like Old Times
: But perhaps more practically speaking from a pricing standpoint, $12.50 per person was one of the cheaper alternatives considering that most visitors to Palm Springs could blow off a lot more money on spas, golf, shopping (at the nearby Cabazon outlet), or trying their luck at one of the casinos, among other things. Day trippers like us (from nearly two hours away) didn't fit their typical profile of a visitor. From the literature, we learned that they did clean up this trail from graffiti and transients using the canyon illegally as well as maintain the trail. Before 2001, this trail was closed to the public...[read more]



Muddy stretch of trail (30-March 2011)
Back to Basics
: It's funny how selective our memories are or how much we take for granted when it's just us two on the trail. All we recalled was that the trail was paved and easy, and there was no reason why we couldn't take Tahia in a stroller this time around when the time came. But little did we realize that there were parts of the trail where the road was beat up a little and mud inundated some parts complete with little ponds. Our stroller was taking a bit of a beating, and with the bumpiness of the ride, it must've felt like Tahia was offroading in a 4wd. Julie and I began to wonder if Tahia would even make it to her first waterfall... [read more]



Devils Postpile (19-August 2010 to 21-August 2010)
Slaying Demons
: Ed got his question answered about whether Minaret Lake was doable as a day hike, which we were considering doing tomorrow to at least witness what we were supposed to be doing as a backcountry excursion before plans changed. The lady told him that it was 16 miles round trip, and that number alone made it seem like a day outing there was a bit ambitious, especially since we were at altitude. Her expression as she said it also kind of planted the seeds of doubt in us that maybe we should find alternatives... [read more]



Me at Big Falls (8-August 2010)
Against Instincts
: Mom had already scrambled up the stream and around the corner. Julie had suggested that I follow her and either take photos of her or see what else it was that drove Mom to push further. I wasn't sure stream and rock scrambling beneath a waterfall was a wise move for I didn't think it was going to be worth it. The falls seemed like it was becoming more hidden the further up we went, trees were everywhere blocking the view, and it got increasingly steep as well... [read more]



Difficult rock scramble (25-April 2010)
More Adventure Than We Bargained For
: There was no obvious path to make it back up the vertical walls I had descended. When the father of the family saw my difficulties, he came over and we exchanged in a dialog as to how he was able to do it in the past (assuming he had done this before). Ultimately, he said I had the right idea on my approach to the scramble. Fortunately, I had found a foothold on the opposite wall where I could launch myself up and onto a real precarious ledge where I pushed myself up with my upper body before crawling onto the flat area above... [read more]



View of the San Francisco Bay (8-April 2010 to 10-April 2010)
You Are Your Environment
: ...as we got into Big Basin Redwoods State Park, we noticed that the dark overhanging clouds had produced drizzle, and it eventually became rain! The weather forecast said the rain storm wasn't showing up until tomorrow. However, here we were about to park the car and go on a long hike under rainy conditions. To make matters worse, I managed to forget to bring our rain ponchos. Being prepared was something I prided myself in, but I guess I must've removed the ponchos from the daypack and left them home during one of our local excursions... [read more]



Poison oak irritation? (3-April 2010 to 4-April 2010)
A Whatever Easter Weekend
: As we parked the car and got out, we could tell right away that we were in the mountains for the air was frigidly cold and there was a breeze that sent the temperature plunging even more with the wind chill. It didn't matter that all of us had windbreakers. The wind seemed to have knifed through their protective shells and straight onto the underlying skin... [read more]



Crowd waits for the van shuttle (27-March 2010 to 28-March 2010)
Exercise In Compromise
: We weren't sure if there was a limit to the number of people on the trail at one time. So we asked one of the employees there if this was the case. He just told us that all they were just enjoying the trailhead, which sounded a bit strange to us, but different strokes for different folks, I guess. Then the curiosity got the better of me so I asked the same employee what they're quarrying here...[read more]



Sunset at Treebones (18-March 2010 to 21-March 2010)
March Gladness
: As we got towards the middle of this stream crossing, there came a point where we had no choice but to wade through shin deep to knee-deep of water. Further progress meant resistance was futile. So we just sucked it up, got our feet completely wet as water was now coming in the boots through the top, and was squishing our way forward from this point on... [read more]



Temescal Canyon Trail (14-March 2010)
Selection Sunday
: Having lost an hour of sleep thanks to Daylight Savings Time, Julie and I awoke at 8:30am, which was late for us considering we wanted to get some hiking done today. We had a very pleasant dinner with a high school buddy of mine who we hadn't seen in years and our conversation lasted well past 11pm (before the Daylight Savings). I still am perplexed as to why we even bother with falling back and springing forward year after year when I have yet to hear a legitimate reason why we do this. Seemed like a silly tradition to me... [read more]



Backbone Trail (7-March 2010)
32 Miles From Santa Barbara
: We had actually visited both of the falls before, but our Newton Canyon excursion failed as we somehow missed that waterfall, and our Rose Valley experience happened during a pretty dry Winter. But today promised to yield better experiences given our pretty rainy Winter this year exacerbated by yet another Saturday rain storm yesterday... [read more]



Closure gate at Chaney Trail Road (28-February 2010)
Adventure Always Finds Us
: Today was supposed to be a quickie waterfall trip just to squeeze in one before Julie wanted to meet up with friends for her friend's birthday before noon. We didn't expect to take more than an hour or so, and it was a total last-minute decision. But that was when some unexpected things happened, and well, it just seems that adventure always finds us whenever we're alone... [read more]



Back at Paradise Falls (21-February 2010)
Return To The First
: As we had re-crossed the creek on an easier path over some flattened reeds, we couldn't help but notice a putrid smell that seemed to emanate from the bubbly plunge pool right next to us. I didn't remember the pool being this dirty the last time we were here, but apparently Julie noticed this too as she pulled a face and gave me that look that something really stunk... [read more]



Hiking in nice weather (14-February 2010)
Holy Jim Massage
: We had only gone roughly two miles along the rough road, but it seemed like we had gone further than that. Mom was sitting nervously in the back (I could tell by her silence) as her car was jostling back and forth as we went over each rut, pothole, and rock that were in our way. Up ahead of us were two women leaving a mini-van in a spot that didn't seem to be a car park. Mom suggested that I pull up to them and ask if they were at the falls or not. When we spoke to them, they said they didn't want to push their mini-van further along this road. So Mom offered to let them hop on in with us as we were all going to the falls. And they accepted... [read more]



Panorama on return hike (24-January 2010)
Opportunistic
: Continuing along the familiar trail, we noted that the trail was much softer and muddier than last year. However, it was disconcerting not to see or hear any stream. Still, we continued on, but all we could hear was silence broken only by our voices and footsteps. A little more than half-way there, we saw a hiker headed in the opposite direction. So we asked him how the waterfall was, and his reply was something like, "Well, I don't want to ruin it for you guys... [read more]



Eaton Canyon Falls (17-October 2009)
Spreading The Love
: There were a lot of firsts about today's hike to Eaton Canyon Falls. It was the first time I was leading a hike with co-workers to expose them to some of the local waterfalls as well as give them a glimpse of our world. It was also the first time we were visiting a local waterfall this late into the year (since we had also assumed that most of the falls here would be trickling or dry given how little consistent rainfall we get even during our Winters. We had a turnout of about a dozen people, which surprised me given most of my co-workers were more city slickers than nature lover. But alas, fires that started two days before the hike made the air quality real bad and we had to call it off... [read more]



Early morning light over Fifth Lake (16-July 2009 to 19-July 2009)
Mozzie Mayhem
: I couldn't figure out what was causing the stomach discomfort, whether it was ingesting too much DEET, or from the filtered water, or what. In any case, my bowels were telling me it was time to go, and it seemed like I was the only one with this affliction. It didn't matter that mosquitoes were swarming around and biting me in places where the sun doesn't shine (and where I couldn't put on DEET). I wasn't about to go in my pants. And it was during one of the three or four trips did I also manage to break the fly on the zipper on my pants - further adding to the dustiness, the stickiness of the sunscreen and DEET, and the overall general discomfort of not having showered for a while... [read more]



View of the Los Angeles Basin from Monrovia Canyon (12-April 2009)
No Easter Eggs
: And as we spoke with the ranger, she confirmed that we wouldn't be able to make it up to the falls. When Julie asked why, the ranger said, "I'll tell you why..." and pulled out a poster board with photographs of the Hwy 39. It turned out that the road was eroded and had fallen into the canyon. The ranger then went on further to say that when crews were hauling up more material to repair the road, one of the bridges en route had started to sink... [read more]



Panoramic trail view from the crest of the Switzer Falls Trail (7-March 2009)
Unrecognizably Different
: It has been about six years since our last trip to Switzer Falls. Back then, it was during a disappointingly dry winter so the falls itself was disappointing despite it being February. Well, that was 2003 and this was 2009. Still, a month ago we were wondering if we were in for yet another dry winter and a nasty, prolonged drought. But then came a very wet February and that set the stage for today's short but sweet outing into the Angeles National Forest beyond La Canada/Flintridge... [read more]



View of the LA Basin (1-March 2009)
Failure To Be The Early Bird
: It was a little before 9am when Mom, Julie, and I left the parents' place for Sturtevant Falls. In my heart, I wanted to leave earlier, but with a combination of a long week of work, wondering if I had to show up Saturday to work, trying to get caught up on sleep, etc., it wasn't meant to be... [read more]



At the top of Tenaja Falls (21-February 2009)
All About Timing
: I was getting a bit tired of stopping at some unknown pullout, getting out of the car, inspecting the scene for Ortega Falls, getting back on Hwy 74 without getting in an accident (thanks to the high speed traffic), then repeat. After what seemed like at least a half-dozen attempts, I finally gave up and proceeded to head north back towards Lake Elsinore. It looked like Ortega Falls would defeat us again just as it did about 7 years ago. As I was zooming past the Ortega Oaks Candy Store, Julie read a passage out of the California Waterfalls book. She said something to the effect that the pullout was 1.6 miles north of the Ortega Oaks Store between that and the village of El Cariso. Well, I guess we weren't going to be defeated after all... [read more]



Santa Barbara seen from Carpinteria (13-February 2009 to 14-February 2009)
Sandy Barber
: But this time, we decided to go for some waterfalls that have always haunted us since they were tantalizingly close enough to us, but we always had something that kept us from going to "Sandy Barber" whether it was our fear that the falls wouldn't be flowing, we were busy doing something else, whatever... So this time, we committed to this little bit of an excursion by paying for an accommodation (not cheap) a little over a week ago. Back then, the weather called for cloudy skies, but as the week progressed, it called for rain on the days we'd be there. Doesn't it always seem like something is conspiring to keep us from seeing the best waterfalls here? [read more]



Rare view of Catalina Island (8-February 2009)
Spontaneous Escape
: It had been a very dry winter even despite some sporadic storms that showed up in November and December. But we knew January was unusually warm and was pretty much a dud in terms of rainfall. So when the last three days had been raining pretty hard and continuously, I figured this ought to revive some local waterfalls. After all, it hadn't been since around this time last year that we did a local waterfall. So what the heck? Why not go for it on this Sunday morning? [read more]



Hiking in the snow (13-February 2008 to 14-February 2008)
Snow Good Valentine's Day
: It was still rainy and chilly, but Julie and I were quite relieved as the only snow left was on our car. Both of us were also relieved about finally going to the restroom after the tense hour of driving only 20mph through snow. When I hastily returned to the car and its comforting heating, a big caucasian guy in a blue jacket knocked on my door and had me roll down the window. "Did you just come down from the pass?" he said, pointing eastward. "Uh, yeah," said I, thinking he must be going the other way. "What was it like?" he asked. "Uhh, well, it was quite slow. There were a bunch of cops looking like they're about to close to highway," said I. At this point, I wasn't sure where he was going with this. Sensing my hesitation, the guy then said, "I'm with Channel 8 News. Do you mind if I film you?" [read more]



Patterns in the dunes of Death Valley (24-March 2006 to 26-March 2006)
Roughing It In The Desert
: In one moment, Julie and I used our tripod to take a couple photo here, but it was so windy that when the timer was armed and fired and we were smiling for the camera, the wind managed to pick up the tripod and topple it with the camera! It was too late in terms of the impact the camera made with the ground, but I also had to wipe away all that sand and salt that was suddenly all over the newly-bought expensive device... [read more]



Mom checking out the view from the Marble Falls Trail (28-May 2005)
Marmots and Ticks
: It quickly became apparent why some people put small wire fences around their vehicles while others left their hood open. There were marmots scurrying about looking to go underneath someone's vehicle and chew on the radiator hoses! My dad guarded the car armed with a trekking pole. He was determined not to let the radiator-hose-eating marmots underneath the vehicle and possibly disable the car... [read more]



A starfish seen by Alamere Falls (8-May 2004)
Nude Awakening
: At about 11:30am, we were past the overgrowth and back on the main trail. At that point, we started to notice some other hikers going in the opposite direction as us. As we had gotten closer to the lakes and ponds section of the trail, Julie and I started to notice that some of the hikers weren't wearing clothes! We had never shared a trail with nude hikers and we had to admit that it was kind of an uncomfortable feeling trying not to look and stare at the unusual scene. I'm sure had these folks been young and attractive (especially of the opposite sex), Julie might have forced me to keep moving. But this first guy we encountered looked to be pretty old and wrinkly and probably into his 50s or older, and I didn't need to be forced to keep moving... [read more]




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