Day 2 (January 22, 2017): “Taking Chances With Timing”
We had another slow-paced morning as we all had slept in and woke up around 8am. We didn’t even start preparing for breakfast until around 9:30am. At that time, Julie was preparing the breakfast while I was making another batch of kefir.
Outside, the skies were overcast, but the rain was light. I was hoping that it would be raining hard overnight and start to calm down when it was time for us to go out, but Mother Nature had other plans, and according to the forecast, it appeared that the rain would get harder later in the day. I knew that driving under such conditions would be dangerous, but I guess we were taking chances with the timing as we were still chasing ghosts of waterfalls that we knew would only flow in the midst of the storm. Any later, and the falls would disappear the way Bailey Canyon Falls did.
The target for today was the Dana Point Waterfall. Julie already had experience with this waterfall, and while it was raining at home, when we showed up a couple of weeks ago, the falls was dry over at Dana Point. That just demonstrated how ephemeral this waterfall was, but Julie kept telling us that we should visit this waterfall anyways because the little “oasis” it was in was quite scenic. So mentally, I told myself that even if this waterfall wouldn’t be flowing, we ought to at least enjoy the scenery before casting judgement on it.
Once all the morning formalities were over, it was about 11:50am when we finally got out of the house. At that time, it was raining pretty moderately at home. But more importantly, we were wondering how the weather was like down at Dana Point.
As we drove off and headed south on the I-5, it seemed like the rain was getting harder. The street flooding on the sides of the freeway hadn’t started happening yet, but we were keeping our speed in check and keeping our distance with the car in front of us on the carpool lane.
While all the crazy weather was going on, I was listening to the Green Bay and Atlanta NFL playoff game, where right off the bat, it appeared that Atlanta was already taking it to Green Bay. I bet a lot of the experts didn’t see that coming as everyone was picking the Packers to win this game after the way they performed in eliminating the Dallas Cowboys last weekend.
Anyways, the further south we went as we continued past Tustin and Irvine, the less visibility there was on the roads as the rain was coming down a bit harder and the skies were becoming increasingly foggier. Eventually, we finally exited the I-5 near San Juan Capistrano as we took the Pacific Coast Hwy 1 exit towards the freeway’s end near Dana Point. It turned out that as we headed northwest on Hwy 1 then turned left onto Dana Point Harbor Drive, we could see the ocean against the sea of gray to our left.
I was thinking to myself that under better weather, this would be quite the scenic spot. And it became clearer to me that whatever this Dana Point Waterfall was, it was located near the ocean and might even be facing the ocean!
At 12:40pm, we were approaching what appeared to be a lot of traffic. Having been here before, Julie was saying that the waterfall was just about right here. So we mind as well find a place to park though the legal places to park were actually on the opposite side of the divided street. The near side already had a lot of cars parked, and so we decided to just park between a couple of the illegally-parked cars to get our fill of this place instead of fighting the lookie-loo traffic as clearly a bunch of drivers would slow down before the falls and try to take a photo from a cell phone while driving.
The rain remained hard as we parked with moderate street flooding. Julie and Tahia both had their gum boots on while I had my Chacos on. There were only two umbrellas (Tahia’s Hello Kitty umbrella and Julie’s tent umbrella) so it was a bit awkward to try to take photos and capture the spectacle.
As we got closer to the commotion, we could see at least over two dozen people donning umbrellas and taking selfie photos with cell phones and stuff in front of the gushing Dana Point Waterfall. The falls itself was flowing beneath some expensive-looking homes perched atop the immediate cliffs reminiscent of the kind of scene we might find in Malibu.
There were palm trees fronting the falls, giving what Julie called the oasis-like appearance. And there was a wide lawn area fronting the falls as well as a concrete gutter that was supposed to push the overflow into the grassy area on the other side of some police tape that was supposed to keep people off the left side of the grass. There was also a muddy hill fronting the plunge pool before the falls, which some people were brave enough to climb onto for some people shots before slipping and sliding to get back down to the grassy area.
As I was struggling to take pictures with one hand holding the heavy tent umbrella while watching Tahia, Julie was using Tahia’s Hello Kitty umbrella to take photos and videos of the Dana Point Waterfall with her iPhone. I didn’t quite have the control I wanted to while trying to capture the scene, and in the mean time, my pants were starting to get soaked under the nearly horizontal rain.
It was quite amazing to see this spectacle involving both the majesty of Mother Nature as well as the crowd reaction to what was going on here. I wondered if this was normal for this waterfall, or if rain like this was so rare that it brought about all those who were here or near here to see for themselves.
When we finally had our fill of this place, which we couldn’t linger for too long as the water definitely smelled as it was suburban runoff from the homes above the cliffs, both Tahia and I were starting to shiver with the cold and wetness. So we got back to the car at 1:05pm while Julie went across the street to use the restroom facility. I’d move the car over to the other side of the Dana Point Harbor Drive where there was some street parking to wait for her while also checking out the spectacle with a little more context from the opposite side of the street.
Five minutes later (as the rain continued coming down hard), we drove off and we were ready for a little bit of a late lunch. The plan was now to go to Urban Plates in Irvine again, and after about 35 minutes in the hard rain, we headed north on the I-5 then briefly north on the I-405 before getting off at Culver. Along the way, there was starting to be some street flooding on the freeway and I had to have seen at least three separate incidences of cars spun off or parked in the gutter off the side of the freeway as clearly they must have hydroplaned in the flooded parts of the freeway.
In one instance, I saw about a half-dozen cars clustered with a couple more cars a few feet away from them in the grass and gutter off the freeway. Definitely this was some serious driving conditions that had to be respected, and we knew what we were getting into when we decided to make the drive all the way to Dana Point to catch this ghost of a waterfall that at least made an appearance. We imagined how the Bailey Canyon Falls would have been dangerous to visit under such conditions given the stream scramble that was required and the likelihood of a flash flood.
At 1:45pm, we made it to the Urban Plates, which was surprisingly busy as there was hardly a table to sit at. It took Julie to sit and squat at a just-vacated table, which she had Tahia and I hold onto while she was ordering the food. We’d eventually get to eating our familiar chimichurri medium rare steak while Tahia got to have her belated birthday lunch of pizza and veggies (one of the few times we relented on letting her eat less healthy stuff).
Nearly the whole time we were eating, we were watching the rain come down harder and watch people struggling with the weather. The gutters were definitely filling up and I kept wondering to myself how much crazier the drive might become on the way back home.
At 2:50pm, we were back in the car after battling the pouring rain. It was a satisfying lunch and I was ready to go home at this point, but Julie wanted me to stop by the Whole Foods in Irvine before going home. So we had to make a ten-minute detour to get to that Whole Foods, and then finally get out of there by 3:15pm. It wasn’t until about 3:45pm when we finally got home, but we definitely had to be careful driving up the I-5 as there were a few moments of standing water even on the fast and car pool lanes.
Back at home, we saw that there was some mild flooding in the backyard, and so we were a little busy trying to get rid of any sources of blockages so the water would have a place to go as it would drain towards the city’s gutters and sewers. The main culprit was we used to have a brick sitting in a hole in the base of the fence to keep a cat from getting through. But I guess we overlooked the main function of that hole in the rare times it would rain hard like today, and that was a lesson learned for us.
So as the backyard was slowly draining towards more controlled conditions, we then were finally able to resume the rest of this rest day before facing the workweek starting tomorrow. According to the forecast, the rain was supposed to continue through the commuting hours tomorrow, which both Julie and I would have to face.
Quite interesting times these were…