This first crossing was already a little on the tricky side as the group before us took a while to get through. When it was finally our turn, we managed to get across a strategically-positioned log without getting wet. Mom actually carried Tahia across on her side on this crossing. But with this first crossing already being non-trivial, we wondered how the remaining creek crossings would be. I guess we were going to find out soon…
With all the rains that we had been getting this Winter season, we now had a different issue in terms of having the opportunity for decent enough weather to go hiking. We were also stressing out about fixes that needed to be done to our home given the pretty crazy storm that rolled through the Southland yesterday, which resulted in some leaks that we definitely noticed in the garage. I guess these things generally don’t show themselves until you get bad weather, and with the multi-year drought that had persisted since 2011, such problems were essentially masked until the worst time would come – i.e. when heavy rains would come and they’d come hard and fast one after another.
And so it was that Julie decided we needed to fit in a hike on this Sunday. Never mind that the NBA All-Star game was today, but when we had to choose between being couch potatos or going outdoors on a hike, we opted to do the latter. Plus, last night, we had arranged with Mom about joining us on this hike so we could talk about some important issues regarding how to fund housing repairs and what we should be prioritizing since such jobs could quickly bankrupt us.
Anyways, it wasn’t until about 9:10am when Julie, Tahia, and I had finally left home and went to pick up Mom. It wasn’t until around 9:45am that we arrived at my parents’ place, where Dad was about to take Uncle to the Pala Casino, which seemed to be his new favorite hangout. Mom didn’t go with them though as she opted to join us on this hike.
By 9:50am, we left the parents’ place and headed further to the northwest towards Altadena. The whole morning was overcast and the dark clouds that seemed to hover around the San Gabriel Mountains as well as the San Bernardino Mountains made Mom question us over and over again whether this hike would be open or of it would be raining.
As we drove west along the 210 Freeway, we did see some wetness on the pavement, which suggested that there was some degree of rain here in the foothills. But we kept going on since my research last night and this morning from the US Forest Service website suggested that Millard Canyon (where we were going today) was not closed.
Mom hadn’t done this hike before so at least for her, it ought to be a treat. Plus, I was really looking forward to see what state the Millard Falls would be in, especially considering that we never made it to the waterfall’s base when it was in high flow. That said, I had recalled that this hike was supposed to be easy, but I also envisioned that the streams would be running pretty high so perhaps the hike wouldn’t be nearly as easy as before.
By about 10:30am, we made it past the crowded trailhead for the Mt Lowe Toll Road Trail and descended to the familiar Millard Campground car park. Thankfully, there were still some parking spaces for us this late in the morning. When we parked the car and laced up our boots (both mine and Julie’s boots were still smelly and damp from getting them drenched in Palm Springs last weekend), we could clearly hear Millard Creek rushing below the car park area. I had never recalled being able to hear and see the creek with such volume before.
After another 15 minutes of getting everyone ready (we had brought our hiking sticks just in case), we were finally on the familiar trail leading to the Millard Campground.
It wasn’t long before we saw a large group of hikers gathered near the mouth of Millard Canyon and the concrete ford. There was definitely a lot of water rushing across that concrete ford though thankfully, we didn’t need to cross it. But when we did get started on the official Millard Falls Trail, we had to go up some stepped wall adjacent to some cascades that I had never recalled seeing before (because Millard Creek was never this full) before we had to get across the creek itself shortly thereafter.
This first crossing was already a little on the tricky side as the group before us took a while to get through. When it was finally our turn, we managed to get across a strategically-positioned log without getting wet. Mom actually carried Tahia across on her side on this crossing. But with this first crossing already being non-trivial, we wondered how the remaining creek crossings would be. I guess we were going to find out soon.
Sure enough, after a few more minutes of hiking by some more surprising cascades as well as the familiar little mine shaft or something, we then encountered the next creek crossing. This time, it was a little on the trickier side as we had to do a combination of rock hopping as well as some nifty balancing on a long fallen log. Again, the group in front of us had to take their time as they had a large group that also included a couple of children. So while we patiently waited for them, it was then our turn to get across.
I first got to the log then waited for Mom to hand me Tahia, where I’d then get her to stand on the log when I’d also assist Mom and Julie across to the middle. Then, we had to do a little more nifty rock hopping before precariously standing on a collection of some branches to get across the remainder of the crossing. Again, my hiking socks weren’t dry even though my boots were getting wet from the outside.
Again, so far so good. We then proceeded to hike through what appeared to be a former landslide area as we found ourselves climbing over and ducking under fallen logs and rocks. But it didn’t take long before we had to negotiate yet another non-trivial stream crossing. With these crossings becoming so frequent, Julie and I felt like deja vu after our hike last week at Murray Canyon Falls near Palm Springs.
Anyways, the third crossing was short and sweet as it was assisted by a flattened log acting as sort of a bridge. However, the next stream crossing and those thereafter got really tricky. Somehow we managed to get across those until the canyon closed in even more. Then, we started to find ourselves hugging rock walls while trying to minimize the chances of dunking our feet in the water. I believe that I had briefly dipped my foot in the water in one of these rock-scooting stretches (by now, Mom was carrying Tahia on her back and she allowed her feet to get wet), but it wasn’t substantial to the point that I had to hike with squishy feet.
It seemed like we kept running into the hiking group in front of us as they seemed to be really delayed with each creek crossing. But shortly after some wooden totem with “Navajo” written on it, we walked along the swollen creek for a final stretch before encountering yet another stream crossing (more like hugging rock ledges again) before finally arriving at the impressive Y-shaped Millard Falls at around 11:35am.
Both Julie and I marveled at just how much volume there was in the falls as clearly we had never seen it like this before. When Tahia and Mom caught up, Mom was eagerly taking photos on her fancy iPhone6 while Tahia was looking for a way to chuck a rock or twig into the rushing creek to see it flow downstream.
That familiar large hiking group before us were busy taking group photos besides the base of Millard Falls though I’m sure it must have been a little bit of a challenge because the spray was blasting that part of the dead-end. When they finally had their fill of taking photos, we briefly got together to take people shots while showing some sense of scale as Tahia was checking out the falls while getting blasted by spray (hopefully there wasn’t too much bacteria in the water).
Before the large hispanic group left, one of them was kind enough to take a picture of all four of us. Shortly thereafter, we started to leave at about 11:50am just as even more hikers managed to get all the way to the falls.
Of course, on the return hike, that meant we had to negotiate all those creek crossings again, but at least we were armed with the knowledge that if we do happen to get our feet wet, it wouldn’t be too long before we could change out of our shoes back at the car. Good thing we did bring a change of shoes on this excursion!
After the first stream crossing on the return, I managed to briefly dip my foot into the water near a rock ledge as the camera on my hip pushed against the rock wall and sent me one step back into the creek. Still, it wasn’t too bad. But on the second or third stream crossing, there was the large group of hikers again, but this time, one of the men was busy trying to build a crossing with rocks and logs. It was kind of creative on his part, but it was also a bit time consuming.
Quite a few other hikers making their way out went right through the water. When I made my way across, one of the logs moved and I wound up dunking my right foot into the stream and by that time, I pretty much had to hike the rest of the way with a squishy wool sock.
The rest of the hike involved trying to figure out whether we were properly backtracking. We had a few route-finding moments, but we’d eventually get across each of the remaining water crossings. Everyone except Tahia had wet squishy feet by this point, and it was quite a relief for us when we finally made it back to the Millard Campground. By about 12:30pm, we finally made it back to the car park, where we eagerly changed out of our wet shoes and into our street shoes and sandals.
Inside the car, I noticed that our US Forest Service Annual Pass had fallen from the rear-view mirror. Luckily, we didn’t have a citation notice, but that would have really sucked if we were cited even though we had the pass hanging in plain sight when we had gotten started (or so we thought).
Anyways, it took another 10 minutes before we were finally able to drive off from the full car park. Then, we headed over to Tender Greens where Julie had pre-ordered a lunch, and then we drove over to Rowland Heights to have Chinese food at the Earthen Restaurant that we hadn’t had for a while. When we got there at 1:40pm, we missed Dad as he and Uncle had already left for the Pala Casino, but we had a nice time enjoying our relatively late lunch basking in our unexpected adventure as well as talking about Spring Break and possible hikes to do in the upcoming weeks given how much rain we had been getting.
A Palm Springs day trip with Mom and Tahia was on the radar, but I know I was personally eye-ing an opportunity to finally do Portrero John Falls (not an easy one) closer to Ojai. Indeed, it seemed like many of the falls I would have never entertained doing (especially in the Santa Monica Mountains, Santa Barbara area, and perhaps even Orange County again) were now possibilities. We’ll have to see how things play out.
By about 3pm, we were done eating (Tahia usually took the longest to eat as she was always a picky eater). The clouds looked quite dark over the mountains at this time, which made us quite glad that we managed to get our hiking done when we did. That was because later tonight was forecasted to rain as well as the day after. Although it certainly looked like the mountains were definitely getting some kind of rain as the clouds certainly looked menacingly dark.
Anyways, after doing a little grocery run at the nearby 99 Ranch Market, we dropped off Mom back at her place, and then we finally got to our place at 4:30pm. With everyone pretty much tired, Tahia took her nap while I was busy getting all the moments from this adventure into this blog while Julie was out doing some errands. With tomorrow being President’s Day, I’m sure they didn’t mind fitting more things into this day while looking forward to some kind of social activity tomorrow. I, on the other hand, didn’t have tomorrow off and so I was back to that familiar dreadful feeling of getting back to life, back to reality, even if it was just this one day that allowed us to escape the stresses and anxieties that was prevailing our collective moods in the past few weeks…