I guess that was the thing when you try to mix Nature with urban and suburban developments. I knew that further up the drainage, the waterway must have passed through Lake Forest and Mission Viejo so with all the runoff that got dumped into the waterways, the closer to the ocean you’d get, the worse off the water quality would be. And that putrid smell from the water definitely reinforced this notion…
After spending the better part of the holiday week between Christmas and New Years working real hard on migrating the website into WordPress, Julie thought it was a good idea to get out of the house and go visit a waterfall. When she saw on her phone about a blog (I believe it was the OC Mom’s blog) that talked about this waterfall in Aliso Viejo, it was her perfect excuse to get out somewhere, especially since her hopes at going up to Running Springs to do some snow tubing wasn’t going to happen given the forecast for more snow and high winds.
I had my doubts about a “new” waterfall in Orange County, and I knew that Aliso Viejo was pretty much a suburban area that was not likely to have a waterfall of any significance (let alone one that would actually flow). Otherwise, it would have been long known by now.
While my mindset was still on trying to get as much scripting done in support of the website migration (a project that had gone on for at least a year or 9 months past the promised delivery date; especially with some major frustrations in dealing with a contractor who wasn’t honest with us about his capabilities and the scope of work he was taking on so I ended up taking on most of the work myself), I knew Julie was right about getting out of the house and getting outdoors. And while this hike wasn’t going to burn off the pounds we had piled on from all the holiday food (and sweets!), it was better than nothing, especially with tomorrow being a workday.
And so eventually by 10:40am, we broke through all the inertia and finally got out of the house. Outside, it was overcast and threatening rain, and we had gotten some pretty decent rain the last couple of days as well as last week around Christmas eve so if this waterfall wasn’t going to flow now, it probably wasn’t going to flow at all except for floods.
Well, we drove off and immediately got onto the I-5 going south. The drive was familiar to us because we had just taken this freeway all the way down to San Diego on Christmas day to Sea World and we had been down to San Diego (or at least Carlsbad) a few times last year. I guess having a growing child does that to you as we had hardly even come down to that area before having Tahia.
The traffic was pretty light as we were going down the freeway. There were a few sprinkles here and there that got onto the windshield during the drive, but it was pretty much holiday light as I was listening to some bowl games being played on this Monday late morning.
Eventually, we got off the I-5 at Alicia Parkway, but instead of heading inland towards Lake Forest and eventually Trabuco Canyon (which was where Holy Jim Falls was), we went towards the ocean and towards the suburb of Aliso Viejo. And even as we drove the multi-laned surface street of Alicia Parkway, we’d eventually get to the proper turnoff at Pacific Park Drive, which then skipped over to Deerhurst, which went right between a handful of communities of condos. We then turned left onto Foxborough, which descended to a dead-end right at the Journey School as well as the start of the Foxborough Park.
We got there at 11:15am, which was not bad considering that we were essentially past Irvine and Laguna Beach and well on the way towards the San Diego County in another 30-60 minutes or so further south.
Even though there were about a half-dozen cars parked here, there was plenty of street parking, which convinced me that this wasn’t a very popular waterfall. So I had pretty low expectations and these observations kind of affirmed those lowered expectations.
That said, Tahia didn’t hesitate to get out a bubble blower thinking that she might get to blow bubbles while playing at the park nearby or while doing it on the hike. So after taking a much-needed restroom break, we then got onto the paved two-lane foot and bike path though we did see one guy ride a motorized mini-bike or something along this path. I suspect bicycle riders would also use this path to get from the suburbs towards the ocean.
The first thing that I noticed while walking this paved path was that there was indeed a creek that had water in it (the maps called this waterway “Aliso Creek”). While we could hear the distant sounds of a lot of cars whizzing by the Alicia Parkway as well as that sense that we were in some well-manicured suburban neighborhood, it was still pleasing to see the serene creek with some duck and some other birds I wasn’t used to seeing here. There was also the hint of Fall colors (at least by Southern California standards) in the foliage that still had yet to fall on the ground.
After passing by a couple of families leaving the park with their kids (probably coming from the falls), it didn’t take long before we got to a turnoff deviating from the paved path and onto a dirt track flanked by sticks leading towards what was obviously the Aliso Viejo Waterfall. Well, it was technically a waterfall though I could already see that it was barely 5ft tall or so. Still, we had to be careful with Tahia not to get too close to the brink of the falls because even at these modest heights, a slip and fall here wouldn’t be pleasant.
Speaking of unpleasant, the water definitely had an unpleasant smell so we knew very well that this water was polluted. But that didn’t stop Tahia from running towards the foaming plunge pool where we noticed bamboo sticks on the floor and tried to place them in the water in an attempt to make a “bridge” or a “raft” out of them. We kept a close eye on Tahia so as to not put her fingers in her mouth or eyes given the dirtiness of the water here.
I guess that was the thing when you try to mix Nature with urban and suburban developments. I knew that further up the drainage, the waterway must have passed through Lake Forest and Mission Viejo so with all the runoff that got dumped into the waterways, the closer to the ocean you’d get, the worse off the water quality would be. And that putrid smell from the water definitely reinforced this notion.
Anyways, Julie was having fun experimenting with Facebook Live while at this falls. Meanwhile, I was observing more closely the geology behind this waterfall, but the more I looked, the more I realized that the pseudo-dirt-looking-pavement thing that was filling in the gaps between the boulders above the falls could very well be what was causing this waterfall.
Without that apparent man-made intervention, this creek would be nothing more than a stream rushing through boulders and might not even be a waterfall. So I guess for that reason, this wasn’t a true natural waterfall in my mind. Julie disagreed, but regardless, we got our time outdoors, let Tahia enjoy this spot for a few minutes more, and then we left the spot and got back to the parked car at 12pm.
This was hardly a hike, but I could totally envision how the kids who might be attending the Journey School or living in the condos here could very well consider this little pocket of nature their getaway in a way. But now that we had our fill of this place and got our modest pleasant surprise to start off the new year, it was now time to head for lunch, where we wound up going to a familiar plaza in Irvine that had an Urban Plates as well as a Creamistry that I swore we had been to several years back when we could as a family stomach more sugar in our diet.
Eventually by 12:25pm, we’d arrive at the Urban Plates. Then, we’d get our lunch of somewhat clean food, and be on our way running a grocery errand before returning home before 3pm. It definitely felt a lot more like a Sunday today than a Monday, but tomorrow was going to be the first workday of the New Year, and I guess I had that weird feeling where it was time to return to real work, but at the same time, I didn’t mind sleeping in and working hard on the website migration while spending more time with loved ones.