Julie and I awoke at 6:30am and eventually left for the parents at around 7:30am. June Gloom was still upon us as the skies stayed grey, which kept things abnormally cool for this time of year (it was already August).
Normally, we wouldn’t consider going on a local waterfalling excursion this late into Summer, especially considering it was about to be the height of fire season. The Station Fire in late August last year was still fresh on our minds.
Yet somehow I had the feeling that since Yosemite National Park was seeing Spring flows even in July, perhaps we might be getting a better-than-expected waterfalling experience at Big Falls, the goal of today’s excursion. The last time we did this in 2005, the trail was closed. So we had to settle for views of part of the falls from across Mill Creek from within the Forest Falls community after having driven all that way.
And with today being 8/8/2010 (two years after they held the Olympics in China), maybe luck might smile upon us. After all, the number 8 was a very good number in Chinese culture (mainly because it sounds a lot like a word connoting fortune).
Then again, I could be cynical and say our mild Summer was a strange symptom of Global Climate Change where it seemed like the rest of the world was either roasting or suffering crazy floods. I’m sure we can’t count on mild Summers and heavy Winter and Spring rains to be the norm going forward though.
We made it to our parents’ place shortly before 8am, and after playing with the dogs and loading up the parents’ car with our gear, we were off by 8:20am.
As we were heading east, Mom was regaling us with her adventure at Turner Falls in Oklahoma. Apparently, she managed to sneak it in during a business trip.
Oklahoma was the last place I would’ve expected there being waterfalls (and an attractive one at that), but perhaps that gives Julie and I some hope to perhaps go to Texas and visit her cousins, finally.
Eventually, we made it past the familiar Forest Falls community and at the signposted Big Falls car park at 9:35am. There were already a lot of cars parked here this morning. So I’m sure it was a good thing we had gotten a bit of an early start.
The walk was pretty straightforward as we hiked on a sandy trail lined with rocks. So far, the temperatures seemed fairly comfortable and the skies were quite blue.
Not long into the walk, we saw a pair of women with bags full of crushed cans and plastic bottles. It looked like they were busy cleaning up the litter left behind by other visitors before who weren’t so considerate.
By around 9:55am, the trail started to skirt private property before heading right down towards a crossing of Mill Creek. The crossing was very straightforward as it looked like rocks were strategically placed so we were able to rock hop across the stream without getting our feet wet.
Once we climbed the embankment on the other side of the creek, we saw a Hazardous Area sign as well as a trail continuing up behind it. But we also noticed a closer look at the uppermost tier of Big Falls and spent some time trying to photograph it from this position. There were also smaller cascades nearby as well.
It seemed like a nice and shady spot to just chill out and listen to the water rush by. There was another family that was here and did just that by bringing a lawn chair and just chillin’ in the shade.
So we continued up the trail behind the sign, and after thinking this might be a long hike for an upper vantage point of the main falls, the trail suddently stopped at a black railing with another view of the uppermost tier of Big Falls. It was only 10:15am, and it seemed like an awful lot of driving for only a few minutes of walking.
But we all noticed that there were a pair of middle-aged men stream scrambling and climbing upstream well beyond the overlook that we were standing at. We weren’t sure if the scramble would be worth it since the falls looked like it wouldn’t really reveal itself a whole lot given the rugged twistiness of the canyon.
So after having our fill of the main overlook, we started to scramble over into the shallow stream. It was only an inch or two deep in most spots. So we were busy taking a few photos of the smaller cascades down here.
And just when I thought it was about time to get going, 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.
But then again, I realized that I had similar reservations about going to a waterfall in the middle of fire season, and I was already glad I went against my instincts and rolled with Julie’s eagerness to get out of the house and do something even if it was deep in the Summer.
Plus, Mom beckoned for me to join her.
Julie and Dad stayed behind as I made my move.
Once I joined Mom, we could see there were a few more attractive cascades further upstream though they were hard to photograph. But Mom evaluated the terrain and thought we ought to continue going up, essentially following in the footsteps of those two guys who had already gone up.
So after stream walking a little more and climbing up some rocks besides some gnarled fallen tree (while avoiding a few patches of poison oak), we saw there was a section that was steep but was certainly walkable. We knew that if we could just get beyond this one big tree obstructing our views, perhaps we might see more of the main waterfall in a much more satisfying manner than down below.
And that was when I said, “Wow!” aloud to Mom.
For right in front of us were two more tall vertical tiers beneath the now-slanting main upper waterfall. It was almost like Fish Canyon Falls all over again, except this time, we had to earn this view with a potentially hazardous scramble.
Even though the late morning sun was a little less than cooperative for us to photograph the falls (plus the shadows not helping much), we tried to milk our time here for as long as we could. It was too bad we didn’t have Julie’s camera, because then we could’ve taken a nice bottom-up movie of this part of the falls.
We also saw the pair of men further up beneath the base of the 2nd tier of the falls. Mom and I knew we weren’t going to go up there, but at least we were comforted with the notion that we were essentially close to the end of the scramble.
It was about 10:50am when we started to head back. This experience made me re-evaluate our Top 10 So Cal Waterfalls List, and now I was debating whether to make this waterfall #1 or #2. That was a thought exercise that kept me occupied as I was busy making the steep descent back towards the sanctioned area.
After joining Dad and Julie who were enjoying the fruits that they brought, we headed back to the car and drove off at around 11:15am.
I guess it was a good thing we left when we did because a large troop of Boy Scouts were at the overlook, and it definitely felt much more crowded there than earlier in the morning. Even the car park area was now full of picnickers chilling for a Sunday Afternoon.
Today’s hike seemed very invigorating. All Summer long since our Europe trip, we had been itching to do something. But it wouldn’t look good at work going on an international trip then immediately following up with a domestic trip (maybe to Banff or Alaska or even Fall Colors on the East Coast or something like that) so our options were limited. Nonetheless, we were totally glad we went waterfalling with the parents this time. Little did we realize just how badly we needed this!
Sure, mentally I wanted to finish overhauling our website‘s Iceland pages (as part of the big multi-month project to scrub all our pages and put in quality stuff), but perhaps this break was necessary to reset our minds and bodies. Julie and I felt that this break was what the doctor ordered, and perhaps we could now face the daily grind tomorrow in a little better shape than had we not done this.
By 12:40pm, we made it back to the Rowland Heights area for some Chinese food. My parents decided to go with a different Northern Chinese place than our usual spot. Sure it was against my instinct of wanting to stick with the comfortable post-excursion meals we would usually have at Earthen Restaurant, but with today’s theme seeming like going against instincts was the way to go, why not try something new this time?