It was a little after 8am when Mom arrived at our rental home. So Julie and I got our stuff together and got into Mom’s SUV. Since Mom didn’t like driving mountain roads, I did the driving. And we were off by 8:20am.
The drive was pretty smooth this Sunday morning. Traffic was light, and we figured most people were either going to church or recuperating from Chinese New Year’s Eve celebrations last night. Of course, we did our own little family gathering and were totally stuffed with food. So we looked forward to getting some exercise while collecting a new waterfall (our first local one this year) to boot.
As we were passing Irvine, Mom told us that the city was once a massive field of orange trees. In an “Aha!” moment, I realized that those orange trees were probably how Orange County got its name! Anyways, those orange trees are long gone as it’s pretty much a full-on city with lots of high cost suburbs sprawling into Laguna Hills and even creeping into the Cleveland National Forest.
We got off the I-5 at El Toro pretty quickly a little after 9am. And as we headed inland along the El Toro Rd, I was beginning to think that maybe this was going to be a quick half-day trip and we’d be all finished by around noon.
But that was until we drove extensively on surface streets for another 15 minutes or so before getting to the unpaved Trabuco Creek Road. From there, it was pretty slow going as this road seemed to be a bit rougher and flooded in spots (there were at least a half-dozen fords or muddy pools), and was certainly worse than most of the other local roads we have ever been on.
Still, this wasn’t anything new to me, so we deliberately made our way along. Really the only stress I had was making sure I didn’t damage Mom’s car. I already had a history of killing Dad’s MPV a few years ago after hitting a deer in Utah.
After another half-hour or so had passed, I began to realize that maybe this excursion wasn’t as quick as I had anticipated. I guess some of the dirt bikers who were zooming along the road was one indication of how rough going this might be.
We had only gone about two miles along the rough road, but it seemed like we had gone further than that. Mom was sitting nervously in the back (I could tell by her silence) as her car was jostling back and forth as we went over each rut, pothole, and rock that were in our way.
Up ahead of us were two women leaving a mini-van in a spot that didn’t seem to be a car park. Mom suggested that I pull up to them and ask if they were at the falls or not.
When we spoke to them, they said they didn’t want to push their mini-van further along this road. So Mom offered to let them hop on in with us as we were all going to the falls. And they accepted…
The two ladies were from Laguna Hills and one of them said they had just gotten Afoot and Afield: Orange County: A Comprehensive Hiking Guide by Jerry Schad as a Christmas gift. So they were giving this particular excursion a try.
Upon learning about our passion for waterfalls, the ladies shifted the conversation towards Niagara Falls since one of them was from the Buffalo area, and she used to visit the falls every weekend.
The atmosphere in the car was a bit livelier than the awkward silence Julie and I experienced when a girl wanted to hitch a ride from us in Moloka’i. But the jostling of the car kept prompting one of the ladies to go “Woo!” as if she were in a roller coaster. This was more like a “Holy Jim Massage” in my book.
Anyways, we finally made it to the car park by about 9:55am. But despite the difficulty in getting here, there were at least a dozen or more high clearance vehicles that had already made it here. So our trip notes weren’t kidding when they said this was one of the more popular hikes in Orange County.
The two ladies that hitched a ride with us already started hiking as we were still lacing our hiking boots and wearing our hats and sunglasses.
The hike proceeded at a fairly comfortable pace, but we were constantly slowed by the numerous stream crossings as we tried not to get our feet wet, though the Gore-tex boots helped quite a bit in this regard. Still, the healthy streamflow certainly meant that this falls was going to go pretty well.
Initially, the hike proceeded past several cabins that was very reminiscent of the cabins we saw along the trail at Sturtevant Falls.
But soon enough, we got to the official trailhead where a handful of mountain bikers passed us. Apparently, this was a pretty popular mountain biking spot, and there was even a sign that attributed the rehabilitation of this area to a local mountain biking group.
Eventually at 10:55am, we made it to the falls. There were a handful of people, but it wasn’t too difficult to get our naturesque shot of the falls. Still, the falls itself was rather diminutive, and I’m sure some might argue it’s not worth all that trouble to get here.
At 11:10am, we started heading back. And by 11:55am, we were back at the car. By this time, the car park was pretty packed, and there were even more cars parked outside the general car park area and along the road. Popular, indeed!
About a mile into our drive on the way out, we encountered those two ladies that hitched a ride with us earlier. They started hiking out well before we returned to the car. But we offered to take them back to their mini-van, which was met with a lot of relief. One of the ladies had soaking wet shoes (non Gore-tex) thanks to those stream crossings.
And during the next couple of miles of driving, we conversed some more. When we made it back to their mini-van, they asked for our website address once more. Maybe they might become fans and tell their friends about it. You never know when you pay it forward.
When we returned to the main road, we took a different route than the Live Oak Canyon Road/Trabuco Canyon Road route that we followed to get here. This time, we went through Rancho Santa Margarita where we saw numerous new homes looking rather expensive, then passed some man-made lake, before getting to Alicia Parkway to the I-5.
By 1:25pm, we were in Little Saigon for some Bun Cuon at Tay Ho. Mom had never eaten here before so this was our chance to expose her to more of the Vietnamese food that Julie and I loved eating.
Of course, we knew Chinese New Year festivities were in full effect as time after time, we heard loud crackling and popping noises from firecrackers going off in both the T&K Plaza as well as the plaza across Bolsa Ave. Fortunately for us, the firecrackers had already gone off besides Tay Ho as we could see lots of spent firecrackers lying on the ground…
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