Plus, I was also a little anxious for our little girl as this would be her first time doing a five-mile hike compleletely on her own without us carrying her. Indeed, there was definitely some uncertainty to this hike by not just me but also our little girl. Then again, she didn’t really have a sense for hiking distances before a hike would commence so she was pretty oblivious to it all…
Since Tuesday, I had been out sick with a pretty nasty flu. However, it seemed like the symptoms had gotten worse with each passing day culminating in a sleepless night Thursday involving a failed emergency room visit and then a subsequent urgent care visit first thing Friday morning. Those sleepless nights were pretty much caused by incessant coughing, where cough syrup courtesy of Robitussin only seemed to make the fevers worse. And even the pharmaceutical strength codine prescribed by the urgent care doctor didn’t seem to do a whole lot to quell the coughing either.
Regardless, there was only so much laying down in bed all day long that I could tolerate (not that I was getting rest anyways considering all the chain coughing that made sleep next to impossible). I also knew that all the meds I was taking (both home brew and the over-the-counter stuff) made me feel like I wanted to hurl. Besides, all the OTC stuff was probably both poisoning my body while also preventing my body from doing what it needed to do to get better (hence the worsening fevers, it seemed, every time I took Robitussins).
So Julie was antsy about doing a hike since Tahia had no Chinese school this Saturday. And given the bitter disappointment of Bailey Canyon Falls a week ago, we were trying to figure out which hike to do today. Even though I was still getting over my flu as I was still hacking away with damaged lungs, I saw the logic in doing the hike to get out of the indoor air pollution and getting some fresh air instead. Besides, I’m sure getting a dose of vitamin D from the ever-present Southern California sun has to be beneficial to the immune system, right? In fact, I couldn’t remember when I had ever gotten sick when we were out hiking.
We ultimately decided on doing Fish Canyon Falls because at around June 2014, we had gotten news that Vulcan Materials finally opened up a more permanent trail allowing the public to access the waterfall without having to sign in and register for a shuttle with them. Doing Fish Canyon this early in the year wouldn’t have been possible under the strict limited access by Vulcan’s calendar back then, but now that it was open and with no rain in sight for the rest of the Winter and possibly this Spring, it was now or never to do this waterfall hike for this short waterfalling season.
It was about 9am when we left the house. Now while this excursion was last-minute, we did give Mom a call to see if she wanted to do this hike knowing that she might already have plans. After all, her place was on the way up to Duarte. When she said that she was able to hike with us, we promptly drove over to her place and got there at about 9:30am.
Our excitement in doing this hike was tempered, however, as I was fighting headaches and some minor bout of nausea on the drive up. It kind of undermined my decision on whether to push forward with what would now turn out to be an over 5-mile hike (since there shuttle park now had to be walked) instead of a more benign 4-mile hike.
Five minutes after we got to Mom’s, we picked her up, and continued on the drive north. Since we had noticed traffic on the I-605N by the 60 interchange, we thought that perhaps we should try a different approach. Mom told me that I could go north into City of Industry then head west on Valley to get back on the I-605N. When we did this, we realized that we were deposited onto the freeway not far from the I-10 interchange.
And it turned out that the I-605N wasn’t that congested at all!
So after going all the way north to the I-210 interchange, we exited at Huntington Drive, right in the middle of the interchange but biased towards the I-210 west ramp. Then, we followed Huntington Drive towards the familiar Encanto Parkway before following that rural road all the way to the familiar Vulcan Materials rock quarry. Once at the quarry, there was a sign saying quarry (pointing left) and trail (pointing right).
When we got into the open car park, we saw there were lots of cars already here, but there were still a handful of spots more, one of which we quickly snatched up. I had feared that we might be SOL of parking spots given our relatively late start, but we were fortunate on this occasion to have secured a spot at 10:05am.
As we were getting ready for the hike, the sun was bearing down on us as it looked like it was going to be yet another hot day today (yet another February day in the 80s or 90s). As my headaches continued and my lungs were burning, I once again questioned my sanity as to whether I was up for this hike or not. Still, I wanted to believe that a little exercise and sun would help boost my immune system versus staying couped up in bed inactive and ingesting more indoor air pollution.
Plus, I was also a little anxious for our little girl as this would be her first time doing a five-mile hike compleletely on her own without us carrying her. Indeed, there was definitely some uncertainty to this hike by not just me but also our little girl. Then again, she didn’t really have a sense for hiking distances before a hike would commence so she was pretty oblivious to it all.
And so my Mom and Tahia got the head start while Julie and I were still lacing up our boots, gathering lots of water, putting on sun block, and wearing our hats. As we were approaching the signposted gate at the trailhead, there was a pretty large hiking group chilling out at the car park, but one lady was on the ground who seemingly might have had a fall. There were enough folks in her party to take care of her, and so Julie and I kept going onto the trail.
The path at first was flanked by fences. We could clearly see the infrastructure for the quarrying operations around us. Just as the shuttle scenery was hideous, this part of the hike was just as hideous. Plus, there was no shade in this part and it was quite dusty.
Eventually, we’d get to a part where the trail then crossed some dirt road flanked by a pair of gates. There was a sign saying that the gates would close at 7pm regardless of whether there were still parked cars and hikers on the trail or not. So I guess we wouldn’t want to be stuck there and calling the cops to try to get out. And I guess based on that, we still can’t say trail access is open indefinitely as clearly Vulcan still called the shots for the time being even though the shuttle van was no longer necessary.
Speaking of Vulcan calling the shots, every time I see all the scars from the quarrying operation (now made even more prevalent by having to walk this stretch instead of being driven through it), I couldn’t help but think that someone (most likely a politician, laywer, and a bunch of people from the quarrying company) must’ve made money at the expense of those who wouldn’t bring money to those in decision making positions (which is technically a bribe, but money and politics seem to go hand-and-hand around the world, and I guess the City of Azusa was no exception). It’s the same story played out over-and-over again, and they could put spin on the signs saying how the high-quality rock here was important for buildings and roads, but this is what happens in a system where the environment is not properly valued. That’s a fault of the system, and it’s why we’re getting Global Warming along with a decline in just about every ecosystem on the planet for as long as industry rules.
Of course no one said that we had to keep building and sprawling or rewarding overpopulation by outsourcing labor overseas. It just goes to show you just how separated from reality and sustainability that the price signals from our economy sends to each and every one of us. No wonder why the environmental movement will never win as long as we continue to accept the economic system we’ve got now.
Anyways, the trail then went beneath some rock quarry bridge towering over us while eventually getting past another interpretive sign just as the trail veered left towards some vegetated wash. This part of the initial 0.7-mile trail seemed to be the rehabilitated part of the trail. I also noticed around us that the Mayan steps that were once here were gone. I suspected that they might have blasted the hillside and smoothed it out to try to remove that particular scar from all this unsightly quarrying.
Then, we finally got back to the old shuttle drop-off point as the wash trail got to the dirt lot in the back of the operating area. From there, we promptly went through the fence and yellow metal bridge over a rushing Fish Creek (a good sign) as we were back on the familiar trail with lots of narrow ledges as well as cacti and other semi-arid vegetation.
And it couldn’t be too soon that we got here because we started to notice stretches of shadows providing some momentary relief from the hot sun. In the past, we’d be doing this hike in the Spring when the sun was higher on the horizon so there would be even less shade than what we were seeing now. I guess that was one of the fringe benefits of doing this hike in February as opposed to 2-3 months later.
As expected, we would face some pretty narrow stretches of trail, and the trail itself generally went uphill. And even though I thought I had read that we would gain around 1400ft of total elevation in the entire distance it would take to do this hike, it really didn’t feel that bad. Even Tahia was able to do it pretty confidently, which spoke to how capable she had become over the years. Certainly, this was not a trail to be starting a five-year-old on hiking, but since she had been exposed to hiking at a very early age, and she had been able to hike on her own on shorter hikes before building up to this hike, it was good that she was doing something that hardly any of the other older kids that we know of could do.
Julie and I knew that it was more of a question of exposure and not giving into the spontaneous whims of the child. Besides, all this forest time was great for her body and soul.
One benefit of having Tahia on the trail with us was that most of the hikers going the other way actually yielded to her. And in the real narrow spots, other hikers would actually go backwards to a more open spot in order to let us pass. I guess it’s the innocence of a young little girl on a trail like this that made perfect strangers accommodate her.
Anyways, this trail seemed kind of longer than I remembered, but then again, it probably had more to do with the extra hiking we had to do to even get back to the shuttle drop off. My lungs were struggling somewhat, and I had a few episodes of chain coughing, but at least I was able to do so in open space and not in confined quarters where it might get someone else sick.
In fact, the more I thought about it, I couldn’t recall a time where we met sick people on the trail nor did I ever remember feeling sick on a trail. And Julie and I furthered wondered if hikes and walks in the outdoors should be a preferred remedy to getting over a flu or cold as opposed to “rest” while prolonging exposure to indoor air pollution and while taking in drugs from pharmaceutical companies proclaiming to make you feel better when in fact it may be poisoning you more than doing you good.
So I took this mental note to myself that being sick shouldn’t stop us from going on a waterfall hike. That said, the jury was still out about whether all this exertion would do me more harm than good.
After descending a familiar narrow part of the trail where we descended some makeshift steps wrapped around some exposed tree, we then got to the stream crossing, which was pretty straightforward to get across (though Tahia needed a little help to keep her feet dry), before we then continued the ascent on the other side.
There was one pair of ladies who saw Tahia doing the hike on her own and were amazed. The last of the pair of ladies stopped to ask me when we got Tahia started, and I told her we were carrying her around when she was only a few months old, but she did shorter hikes on her own over the years as we slowly built her confidence and ability before doing this hike. I guess she was lamenting that she was barely able to do this hike herself, and that she thought Tahia was putting her to shame. But now she felt inspired to take her kids hiking though perhaps something not quite as challenging for them as this.
Finally at about 12pm, we made it to the familiar Fish Canyon Falls. And this time, it seemed to have better flow than our May 2013 visit. Unfortunately, the topmost tier was in shadow so it didn’t really show up that well in our photographs. But just being here while the falls had a pretty healthy flow was still uplifting, and now we earned a bit of a rest as well as letting Tahia play around the calm parts of Fish Creek around the falls.
There were quite a few people lingering here as well. I guess this was pretty much on par with the other San Gabriel Mountains waterfall hikes in terms of popularity, and I could imagine this was a typical scene on a Saturday.
Tahia was busy collecting little pebbles and showing them off to us. Meanwhile, Mom, Julie, and I were having ourselves some organic seaweed as well as plenty of water. Julie forgot to bring the clementines so we couldn’t have a celebratory fruit snack. Still, we remained around the falls for a good 45 minutes before we finally decided that it was time to get going as we still had the return hike to go. Mom had a dinner appointment, and Julie also had one too with some out-of-town friends not seen in years.
And so we took off at 12:45pm. The shadows were persistent and they never really went away. So I guess that was the downside of visiting Fish Canyon Falls in Winter. But still, with Climate Change reducing our Winters to basically one or two big storms for the entire wet season (and that’s if we get ANY significant precipitation in any one storm!), visiting Fish Canyon in February might be more of the norm rather than the exception.
The hike back out was less about picture taking and seemed to be a little more smoother going than on the way in. It also felt cooler than it did earlier this morning. Part of it was the lengthening shadows as well as a nice little breeze. Still, we had to pay attention to Tahia as she had a couple of minor falls as she started to get cocky and not paying attention to where she was going.
Finally at 2:15pm, we made it back to the trailhead, which didn’t have that many cars anymore. We were so proud of Tahia for being able to make it on her own even though we knew she was tired and hungry. After all, we still haven’t had lunch at this time. So once we loaded up the car, Julie had it in her mind to look for a King Taco in the immediate area to get her authentic Mexican fix.
Just before we were about to leave, a young hispanic lady came up to us asking where the trail was. She kept repeating that this was her first time here, and that she came as a result of some online reviews. I hope she’d get started soon and bring enough water with her though because the gates would close at 7pm, and it was over 5 miles round trip.
In any case, that was her responsibility. Now, it was time to go have a late lunch. Tahia was already knocked out. Meanwhile, I had to plug up a bloody nose from blowing my half-stuffed and half-runny nose too hard.
It wouldn’t be until about 4pm when we dropped mom off at her place, but that wasn’t before we ate in the car at the King Taco in Baldwin Park. This KT seemed to be in a bit of an interesting location (seemed like this spot was a bustling new suburb decades ago). Still, the burritos we got were good, and their salsa verde always had a nice kick to it.
At 4:30pm, that was when we ourselves were finally back at home. There’d be no rest for the weary as Julie and Tahia would now get ready and leave the house again to meet up with long time friends. Meanwhile, I agreed to stay at home so it would be an all ladies night with their daughters.
In the mean time, I spent the time trying to eat the King Taco leftovers as well as chicken soup leftovers to feed my flu. However, little would I realize that the NBA All Star Weekend would be one of the most entertaining I could ever recall seeing on TV, especially with that slam dunk contest.
So in the end, I guess it all worked out. And plus, my coughing seemed to be less frequent than yesterday so indeed, it seemed like we were doing something right… We’ll just have to do this more often regardless of whether we’re sick or not…