When another couple showed up well after the Indian couple did, they were waiting for what seemed like the next 10-15 minutes while the Indian couple seemed to show no signs of wrapping up. The guy tried to disarm the antsy-ness of the next couple that showed up by offering to take couple pictures for them. But I think that latest couple that arrived wanted none of it…
Most of Saturday was spent letting Tahia go to Chinese school, which had been a Saturday ritual for several weeks now. Julie wasn’t very keen about losing 3 hours every Saturday morning, but she viewed it as an opportunity for Tahia to spend time with her cousins while also a chance at catching up with some friends and family who also have been doing this with their own kids.
The drawback for this was that anything we wanted to be doing on a Saturday (like hiking) was less likely to happen unless we happened to get a late start. So while Julie and Tahia were busy doing their thing, I was busy doing mine. And it wouldn’t be until around 1pm when they finally got home.
That was when Julie was insistent that we should go on another waterfall hike. She saw the forecast saying that there was going to be rain tonight and tomorrow so if we were going to hike, it would have to be now. At first, she wanted us to do Rubio Canyon Falls, but when we saw how difficult of a hike it would be, especially since we were getting such a late start, this seemed less feasible.
However, our plan B was to do Millard Falls since we knew it was an easy hike, but more importantly, Julie saw that a friend had done the hike to the bottom recently, which meant that the trail to the bottom of the falls must’ve finally been opened after all these years! In fact, we hadn’t done that hike since late December 2002!
So we were quite curious about seeing what that trail was like again, especially since we really didn’t remember a whole lot about it other than the falls didn’t have that much water when we showed up. This mental carrot kind of coerced me to break out of my inertia of just not doing anything on this day, and it was really Julie that kept insisting that we do this hike despite the late start, especially since Tahia had never seen it. And so our minds were made up that we could do the late start to the day with this waterfall…
It wouldn’t be until about 1:45pm when we had finally left home. It was pretty last-minute in that it took Tahia and Julie some time to get dressed in their hiking attire. Julie was flummoxed that she couldn’t find those hiking boots that she wore to the Julian trip last weekend. So she had to settle for some much older ones.
Generally, I don’t like late starts like this, but maybe it might work out in our favor since I knew places like Millard Falls (or almost any other waterfall hike near the Los Angeles basin) would be crowded so parking would be difficult to find. However, we also recognized that people tend to come in waves on the weekends, and perhaps our late start meant we’d be showing up when waves of people would be leaving! So this reverse logic might serve us well. The only bad thing was the prospect of facing traffic on the busy freeways.
The drive up the 605 then west on the 210 was pretty uneventful for the most part though there seemed to be quite a bit of traffic heading towards Pasadena on the 210. We initially were going to go by the local streets to Millard Falls like how we had been doing all this time before (by leaving the freeway at Lake, then going north to Loma Alta Drive before turning right onto Chaney Trail. However, GoogleMaps suggested that we remain on the freeway past Lake and heading towards La Canada / Flintridge.
We figured that we mind as well give this a try since I generally tend to think that staying on the freeway longer (even when there’s traffic) almost always would be faster than going on local streets where we’d frequently be stopped by traffic lights. And in our case today, traffic was sluggish throughout the 210, even as it had split with the 134. But we persisted and got off on Lincoln Ave, then headed north to Loma Altra Drive that way. Afterwards, we turned right onto Loma Altra Drive and got to Chaney Trail from the opposite direction.
Once we navigated through the mostly empty (except for still a bunch of parked cars on the shoulder) Chaney Trail, we got back down to the familiar car park for the Millard Campground and Falls. And as we suspected, we showed up just when a lot of cars were leaving so there were plenty of parking spaces. We managed to arrive at 2:45pm.
This could very well be the latest that we had ever started a local waterfall hike, but we knew that this was an easy and short hike so we didn’t fear the incoming darkness. Besides, Tahia woke up from her little car nap pretty eager to get on the trail.
The hike followed the familiar dirt trail leading first to the campground area, which looked like it was mostly empty except for one RV that was parked next to the restroom building, which looked like it had been there for quite a while. We were guessing that whoever watched over the campground must live in that RV and keep an eye out on things.
Next, we saw that all the fences were gone and that indeed the trail to the base of Millard Falls was open! So naturally we followed the trail which meandered alongside the creek responsible for Millard Falls. Since we knew there was water in the creek (we could see and heard the water in it), there was a good shot that the waterfall should still be flowing. However, we also knew that the last time we were here, the falls didn’t have that much water so it could be a case where the stream needed more water before it would put on a show. I certainly hoped that was not the case on our visit.
The hike within the canyon seemed to be more scenic than I remembered it from nearly 13 years ago! The canyon itself was surrounded by tall mountains and steep canyon walls. There was one old-looking cabin high up on one of the hills overlooking the trail, which I didn’t recall was there before, but then again, the cabin did look like it had been there for a while. Perhaps we just didn’t pay attention the first time.
Not long after seeing this high-perched old cabin (which looked to still be in use), we then saw a small split in the trail. One stayed close to the creek, but the other one looked like it went past what at first looked like some kind of window or shelter. But upon closer inspection, I suspected that this “shelter” was actually a former mine or something as beyond the opening, it looked like it kept going deeper into the tunnel though that tunnel appeared to be closed in (i.e. intentionally collapsed so people wouldn’t venture too far and risk injury or death).
That was yet another thing we didn’t really notice the first time around as well. With all the bear signs around the Millard Campground, Julie thought bears could use this little mine shaft as a den.
Beyond this “mine”, the trail curved this way and that, and for a 1-mile round trip hike, it seemed to be a bit longer than I had remembered it. But then again, I was letting Tahia lead the way and she was easily distracted. Plus, other hikers who were on the way out would say hi to her and engage in conversations with her.
There was one guy with a British accent walking a dog, who saw Tahia and briefly talked to her. When I talked to him, I learned that he had been here a couple of months ago when he said this trail was still closed. So that must’ve meant that this trail was only opened recently.
When we finally got to the familiar grotto containing the familiar Millard Falls, we could see that there were still boulders wedged at its brink, and that those boulders still had split the flow of the waterfall. However, unlike last time, it seemed like most of the flow of the creek went around the less-tunneled side of the boulder wedge.
There was a couple that was already here before us, and they saw Tahia approaching the falls first. So they indulged her by asking her things like her name, her age, and when I showed up at 3:25pm, they were commenting to me how cute she was. It’s always fun to see how other folks on the trail react to Tahia, especially since little girl was discovering the forest at such a young age, and perhaps it was disarming for adult strangers to see this kind of innocence that you really don’t see that much as you get older, especially on the trails like this.
For the next 45 minutes, we would spend a good deal of time just enjoying the falls. Tahia was busy creating her own little “museum” of little rocks that she’d stack on one slab of boulder next to the creek. Julie and I were busy documenting the falls before taking a handful of people shots. We even noticed that there were people waving from the boulders above the falls.
I knew that there was a trail that went by the top of the falls from the fire road from where the Chanel Trail was starting its descent down to the Millard Campground car park. I recalled doing that trail some six years ago, but I did recall seeing a couple of guys cliff climbing to get up to that trail instead of doing it the other way. So it was probably those two dudes that were standing atop the falls.
Anyways, that said, most of the time spent at the falls was spent waiting for an Indian couple who seemed to have hijacked the falls for their people shots for a good 20-30 minutes or so. While this was going on, we were letting Tahia play while Julie and I looked around to see if any of the boulders had fallen from atop the falls (since there was a huge boulder a short distance downstream of the waterfall itself). Was that the reason why they re-opened the trail? Who knows?
Anyways, back to the Indian couple who showed up later than us… When another couple showed up well after the Indian couple did, they were waiting for what seemed like the next 10-15 minutes while the Indian couple seemed to show no signs of wrapping up. The guy tried to disarm the antsy-ness of the next couple that showed up by offering to take couple pictures for them. But I think that latest couple that arrived wanted none of it.
When the Indian couple finally left, it was us and the latest couple at the falls. They, too, were having fun with Tahia. And they let us take pictures of them, since we told them that we weren’t in any hurry so we let them enjoy the falls first. When that couple left, we finally had some more moments alone at the falls before another older couple finally showed up to the falls.
That was our cue to leave as the canyon was definitely getting darker as the Winter sunset was looming. So we left the falls at around 4:10pm, and experienced the attractive canyon all over again on the way back to the trailhead. When we saw the mine shaft again, Tahia wanted to go inside, but Julie was insistent that we kept going to the car.
By about 4:35pm, we were finally back at the car, but that wasn’t before we heard some yelling from a couple of young troublemakers from probably one of the trails above the canyon we were in (since voices tended to carry down here). There was still one older couple picnicking at a table by the car park so we figured that it was likely to be safe to proceed to wrap things up.
I confirmed it, as I knew Julie wanted to remind me that I was about to succumb to my inertia. But in any case, this trail brought back some nostalgia from the first time we were here together. But as memory tends to be lossy over the years, it seemed like we created new memories on this little excursion. But most importantly, Tahia got new memories and she confirmed that she had had a lot of fun.
On the Chaney Trail on the way out, we were captivated by a glowing sunset scene with the orange glow of the sun piercing through some dark clouds above what appeared to be the general vicinity of La Canada Flintridge. So we pulled over at one of the curves of Chaney Trail to take in the scene.
Now, it was time to go to Golden Deli, which was one Vietnamese Restaurant that we hadn’t been to in over 10 years, we reckoned. Again, it was another chase at nostalgia. We went there for the cupcakes though they were unfortunately sold out of the chocolate-flavor we were after. So it was the classic bun hoi that we hadn’t had in so many years.
Thus ended the day. We did pay a visit to one of Julie’s friends who happened to be visiting from out-of-town (though she used to live here). And so indeed, we did a lot of catching up, but it also felt strangely like old times and yet so new with our new additions.
Indeed, waterfalling does that sometimes…