So that right off the bat kind of hinted to us that this excursion could very well be a waste of time. Even Julie was starting to entertain the thought of just aborting this hike. But I told her that since we were already here, we mind as well scout out the trail and see what it’s like anyways. After all, it didn’t seem to make sense to drive out all this way only to turn back immediately without seeing for ourselves what the excursion was like…
It was about 11:55am when both Julie and I went to pick up Tahia from Chinese school. Since that class was about 3 hours long on Saturday mornings, we knew that any hiking we would try to fit in today would have to be in the afternoon. We did this last week at Millard Falls and managed to get surprisingly great results (especially since they re-opened the trail to its base recently). And so we thought to follow up on last week’s success (and perhaps the storm that came by the next day after our Millard Falls hike), we thought we might go off-the-book so to speak, and give Bailey Canyon Falls a try.
I say “off-the-book” because none of our guidebooks talked about this place. And so this would truly be a local attraction that we might add to our waterfall collection. It seemed like things were in favor of us having a successful hike given that we still saw some snow on the very peaks of Baldy and some of the San Gabriels to the west, but at the same time, we were also concerned about the warming trend that was happening this weekend and going into the next week.
In fact, it was forecasted to be in the high 70s today but well into the 80s and even into the low 90s during the week. All of these above seasonal temperatures were of course lacking rain in the forecast as well. And so we were having doubts about whether El Nino would ever truly show up in the form of saturation rains in the Southland (as expected and hyped up in the media), especially since February had historically been Southern California’s wettest month. But so far, it had been dry for all of the first week and looked to be dry for the second week of the short month.
I was telling Julie that this weekend could very well be the last weekend of waterfalling locally for the year (or at least for the Winter and Spring wet seasons). I was hoping that if Bailey Canyon Falls would be a success today, then we should give Rubio Canyon Falls a try tomorrow morning. I definitely wasn’t holding out hope of any recovery rains occurring for the rest of the Winter at the rate we were going.
So once we picked up Tahia, Julie had Tahia change out of her Chinese New Year outfit and into her athletic attire. And from there, we headed straight up to Sierra Madre for this Bailey Canyon hike.
The freeways were full of cars, but the pace on almost the entirety of the I-605 north was pretty fluid and brisque. However, the moment we got onto the I-210 west, that was when the traffic was sluggish. In any case, we’d mercifully get off the I-210 west at the Baldwin Ave exit, then follow Baldwin Ave north for a few miles through the town of Sierra Madre (which seemed to have a little bit of a small town charm in much the same way that Monrovia had its own little charming downtown area).
North of that downtown area, we then got into a residential area, where we then turned left onto Grand View Ave, and followed this road through more residential streets for several blocks (and two 4-way stop signs) before turning right onto Grove (which was the next street after the 4-way stop at Lima Rd).
Then, we followed Grove all the way into the Bailey Canyon Wilderness Park, which seemed to have some shady spots available. We gladly took those spots considering how unseasonably warm it was today. Then, we promptly got out of the car at around 12:35pm and took roughly 20 minutes or so to get ready.
As I was busy taking in this little city park with picnic tables, a toilet facility, and some signs talking about the area, Julie asked an elderly Asian couple who was returning from their hike about the waterfall. And to her dismay, they told her that there was no water.
So that right off the bat kind of hinted to us that this excursion could very well be a waste of time. Even Julie was starting to entertain the thought of just aborting this hike. But I told her that since we were already here, we mind as well scout out the trail and see what it’s like anyways. After all, it didn’t seem to make sense to drive out all this way only to turn back immediately without seeing for ourselves what the excursion was like.
And so with that mindset, we went through the park, then through a gate that wound up putting us on a paved road that didn’t seem to support public vehicular traffic anymore. The paved road generally went uphill then briefly descended adjacent to some kind of basin that didn’t have any water in it. I could tell that in wetter times, this basin was supposed to have water, but it was bone dry at the moment despite there being snow at the very tops of the mountains of the San Gabriels. So I guess even the rain from last Sunday and the saturation rains from the first week of January wasn’t enough to even revive five years of drought in this little pocket of the foothills of the San Gabriels.
Still, we pushed forward as the pavement then gave way to a more conventional trail just past a warning sign about flash floods. Seeing that sign kind of triggered a memory, where I had just read a sign talking about a couple of people who were swept away in a flash flood in Bailey Canyon. I guess that kind of gave me an early indication that perhaps this hike might not be as family friendly as I was led to believe from the literature during our initial research of the area.
It didn’t take long before the trail then went past a bridge over a dry creek. Again, that dry creek kind of gave us the indication that there would be no water going forward at the waterfall. Still, we kept going as the trail then skirted by a cactus grove (yet another indication of the arid environment we were in) before we then continued slowly uphill on more conventional trail.
The trail was actually somewhat narrow, and with the thick brush flanking the trail, I was also cognizant of the potential for rattlesnakes, which was another thing I had read about on the signage at the trailhead, where some guy kept a pet rattlesnake and wound up getting bit for some 15 seconds before his life was eventually saved after a blood transfusion and several doses of antivenin.
The trail then hit a junction just as the trail was really about to go uphill. The junction was signposted and clearly marked the waterfall trail descending into the dry creek bed to our left. It said that the falls was only a quarter-mile away so we figured that it would be a pretty quick excursion since we knew 1/4-mile wasn’t long.
But as we took the creekside trail, it soon became clear that the quarter miles of hiking wouldn’t be as fast and as straightforward as we had anticipated. That was because there were lots of overgrowth and we even had to hike within the creek itself.
Since it was dry, this hiking was not a problem, but we could totally envision how much trickier it would be had the creek had water, especially where we’d have to hike over smoothed out boulders or rock surfaces. The other thing was that quite a bit of the overgrowth seemed to contain what appeared to be poison oak.
It was funny that Tahia didn’t even need to be prompted before she learned how to walk with her arms up to limit her skin exposure to the toxic resins of the poison oak plant. And eventually at about 1:30pm, we’d finally arrive at the end of the trail, which featured a rock wall that had some wet stains and some slight streaks of wetness.
It was eerily quiet down here, and the sun had cast half-shadows in the little grotto we were in (so even taking photos of the dry waterfall weren’t that easy thanks to those shadows). Still, we took our photos and movies, and paid a little more attention to the rock walls enclosing in this part of Bailey Canyon. Someone had even set up some kind of fire ring here with bottle caps placed within it. Plus, we noticed one of the boulders just downstream of the falls had some graffiti on it (I guess that’s just not avoidable when something is this close to the urban blight of Los Angeles).
There was another couple that eventually showed up after us, but they left seeing that this place had no water. I think Tahia made it known to them that there wasn’t any water, and so that was kind of an ice breaker that had us conversing with these folks for a bit before they left. We’d eventually leave after them not long after.
The hike back was pretty much as uneventful as on the way in, but Tahia was more confident in her hiking navigational abilities as she continued getting past the poison oak-prone sections with her arms up while also getting a little ahead of us in some of the downsloping sections. Clearly, she was wearing in her little hiking boots that Julie had bought for her since before our Millard Falls hike a week ago.
There seemed to be quite a few folks around the trail on our way out, which highlighted the popularity of Bailey Canyon. However, we figured that they were more after Jones Peak and not after the waterfall since there weren’t that many people pursuing the dry falls.
Eventually at about 1:55pm, we made it back to the car. Several of the other hikers going the other way (i.e. towards the mountains) noticed Tahia and made small talk with her as she insisted on being the leader of our little hiking group while still being way ahead of us by several paces.
Back at the car, the shade had served us well. We weren’t terribly sweaty, but we were a bit on the hot side. For an early February hike, this was sadly becoming more and more of the norm.
Anyways, I had concluded to Julie that there was no way we were going through the trouble of doing Rubio Canyon tomorrow morning. In fact, if any waterfall was not directly in a drainage containing a lot of snowmelt, then I wasn’t going to take any chances waterfalling it. With the Bailey Canyon experience, we could see that it wasn’t part of any of the watersheds containing snowmelt, and we figured Rubio Canyon wouldn’t fare much better.
So I guess we now knew the limits of the short waterfalling season in the Southland. And without any more saturation rains, our local waterfalling was pretty much done for the season. Forget the Santa Monicas, forget the western side of the San Gabriels except for the reliable waterfalls we had seen too many times over the years, and forget any more trips down to the San Diego area, and for sure forget about Santa Barbara.
Certainly with Global Warming, these short and sporadic Winters are pretty much the new normal, and we’re just going to have to deal with it.
Disappointed from this hike, Julie figured that since we’re already in Arcadia, we mind as well go straight to Din Tai Fung. I guess since it was now about 2pm, having a late lunch might serve us well as we wouldn’t be forced to compete with the crazy long waits that we’d typically have to suffer through whenever we’d go to DTF under more normal hours.
And by 2:15pm, we’d get there, wait maybe 20 minutes, then finally have our soup dumpling cravings satisfied. After the lunner, we’d eventually wind up at my parents’ place at 4:30pm, which was just in time for my Mom’s little Chinese New Year dinner at her place.
So even with the exercise, the disappointments, and the ability to salvage something out of nothing, in the end, we still spent the special occasion with the people that mattered most, and that was a win in my book…