Not that Tahia didn’t mind as she was busy laughing and pointing out everything she thought she saw or at least heard….
It was until about 9am when Julie, Tahia, and I finally started to leave the house and head for Sturtevant Falls. This was an excursion that we had been meaning to do for the last two or three weeks, but something always came up – Julie’s cold last week, a prior engagement the week before, etc.
Mom was going to join us for today’s hike until she realized that she had to finish off doing her taxes.
So we left the house with zeal as we were looking forward to spending time with Tahia out in the bush again. She hadn’t come with us on one of these hikes for a couple of months. The last time we tried to take her to Cooper Canyon Falls in March, she threw up from car sickness and she also had an upset stomach. So that aborted that attempt. In fact, it hadn’t been since Yosemite back in February that we actually spent time with her out in Nature!
Our enthusiasm was quickly curbed when we ran into snarling traffic on the I-605 north as they closed off four of the rightmost lanes and allowed the carpool lane to be used by non-carpoolers.
Anyways, it would eventually be about 9:40am when we would arrive at Chantry Flat, but as we had expected, there were plenty of cars parked alongside all the reasonably close pullouts to the Chantry Flat Fire Road entrance. Plus, getting lucky finding parking in the lot by the Pack Station was a pipe dream.
The tension of crowds and hard-to-find parking reminded Julie of why she was never nuts about doing this hike despite all the things that made the hike worth doing.
So I dropped off Julie and Tahia along with most of our stuff at the car park. Then, while Julie watched over our little girl and our belongings, I drove back down the forest service road in search of a parking spot.
At least we didn’t have to go through the trouble of picking up one of those Forest Service passes because Julie had bought one of the annual passes a few months ago. We still had another two or three more of these trips to make the $30 pay for itself, but at least the convenience of just parking had to be worth something, right?
At about 10am, I eventually found parking way down the hill, knowing that it might be close to a mile uphill walk just to rejoin Julie and Tahia! I brought along a couple of extra diapers just in case (since Tahia hadn’t pooped this morning) plus hiking sticks since I knew the balance would be necessary since having an accidental slip and fall would be bad with Tahia riding the baby carrier.
At about 10:20am, I finally caught up with Julie and Tahia. Even though it must’ve seemed like forever for them to wait for me, they didn’t seem at all bored. If anything, Tahia was consistently getting attention from passer-bys commenting how cute she was. Meanwhile, Julie would keep an eye on the little girl because Tahia always had a desire to go down the steps and exert her desire for independence.
After a few minutes spent putting Tahia into the baby carrier, then slinging on that carrier onto my back and hips like an internal frame backpack, it was finally time to take on the trail. This time, for a change, Julie would be the designated photographer on today’s excursion while I carried the precious cargo.
The weather was starting to warm up as the sun was trying to break through the thin layer of fog that was starting to lift and disperse. The descent down the trail was pretty much a breeze, but I was pretty consistently exchanging greetings or eye contact with people either going the other way or with people I happened to be passing as they’d make a compliment about giving Tahia a ride to the falls.
I was starting to get the sense that no matter where I went with Tahia, she was the center of attention.
As we made it past the bridge and beyond the end of the pavement of the Chantry Flat Fire Road, now we were back on the familiar trail that followed along the creek responsible for Big Santa Anita Canyon while passing by lots of manmade dams and idyllic log cabins.
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. It was fun to hear her listening to the bird songs and exclaiming to me, “Birds!”
I even quizzed her on a few things as I’d point out a big rock and ask her, “What’s that?”
To which, she replied, “Rock!”
And she replied, “House!”
When mountain bikers would pass us, she then exclaimed, “Motorcycle!” After correcting her by saying, “Bicycle,” she then repeated what I said.
Ah, it was so fun to see and hear her learning about her world like a sponge. I guess that was the joy of parenthood to offset all the trouble of taking care of her and looking after her when taking her out.
It seemed like more recollections of this hike became clearer to us as this was our third time doing this hike together. We passed by that familiar Bombadil’s Castle, which I thought must’ve been inspired by the Lord of the Rings books. That cabin somehow reminded us of those hobbit accommodations of the Shire.
Then, we traversed the familiar signposted stream crossing that said, “Fiddler’s Crossing.” It would turn out to be the first of three stream crossings. While quite a few day hikers struggled with these stream crossings, I’d put the trekking poles to good use to maintain balance and ensure Tahia wouldn’t get a nasty surprise if I would slip and fall over.
Some other folks who saw what I was doing to breeze through the stream crossings would figure out that that was what the trekking poles were for – balance! Sometimes I wondered before such a realization if they must’ve thought carrying trekking poles was more for old people or something.
Anyways at 11:10am, we finally arrived at the familiar Sturtevant Falls. As expected, there was a crowd here. But on this day, the sun was high on the horizon and the lighting on the falls was pretty open and lacking shadows (unlike our March 2009 visit where half the falls was in shadow). It seemed like the sun was battling with the thin clouds though because every once in a while, the sunlight was muted.
So while we all spent some time enjoying the waterfall, Julie and Tahia were playing in the water while I got to take a few photos of the falls. Despite the amount of sweat I produced in hiking here, it started to get a little bit chilly when the sun hid behind the thin clouds and a slight breeze came through the canyon.
When it was almost time to get going, Julie came back with Tahia, but that was when Julie told me that Tahia’s clothes were wet as she slipped and fell in the stream and got wet. Unfortunately, we didn’t bring spare clothes with us and so Tahia would have to deal with the damp clothing, which I’m sure wouldn’t put her in a good mood given how adults would complain about having to deal with wet clothes while hiking.
After about 5 minutes or so when we gained some momentum on the trail, Tahia changed her mood and started smiling again. And like the theme of today’s hike, people we’d pass by would say hi to her or would say some jokes like it was now her turn to carry me!
The sun started coming out in force when we finally made it back to the paved part of the trail. Now came the dreaded uphill climb that I knew would be a killer while carrying Tahia on my back. It turned out that Tahia started napping well before I started this uphill stretch so it was almost like I was carrying dead weight, which made the extra weight seem even heavier!
With slow and steady steps while taking a couple of breaks in waiting for Julie to catch up to me, we’d eventually make it back to the official trailhead at 12:20pm. It was too bad that this wouldn’t be the end of the hike because we still had quite a ways to go to regain the car. But at least the hike back to the car would be all downhill.
As Julie and I hiked back to the car, we came to realize that on this day, we must’ve parked even further away than our last visit here in 2009. It wasn’t until around 12:45pm when we finally made it back to our parked car.
There was an enforcement guy issuing tickets just a few paces uphill from where we were at, so I guess even if you’re parked further down the hill, you were still fair game to the officials if you didn’t have the pass displayed or if you parked where you weren’t supposed to park.
At 1pm, we finally were done changing Tahia’s diaper, changing her clothes, and getting out of our hiking boots. It was now time to drive to Din Tai Fung in the hopes of spoiling ourselves with soup dumplings for all the effort we exerted on this day.
At around 1:20pm, we’d make it to DTF, but it was crowded! After getting a number, Julie was told that she would receive a text message when our number was called.
After waiting for a half-hour, Julie finally went to the other side and learned that even over there, it was still another 70 minutes wait!
With Tahia getting increasingly fussy as it was getting past her siesta time, we finally decided to go across the street and get our lunch. Sure the soup dumplings there weren’t as good, but we had to do what we had to do.
Eventually at 2:50pm, we started to drive home. It was only then that Julie got her text message from Din Tai Fung. Oh well, some things just weren’t worth the ridiculous wait. Perhaps next time we’re in the area we might have a little better luck with the wait.
And so the drive home went by uneventfully. The hike was invigorating, but the MSG from our Chinese lunch was sure to induce an afternoon nap when we got home. Tahia was out cold once again.
All in all, it was another pleasant weekend hike spent with the family. Even though it was a repeat, just the idea of Tahia getting immersed in Nature and watching her grow with each passing day made these moments all the more worthwhile…