At the same time, we also had to be careful not to get too close to any of the cliff walls because it appeared that the bighorn sheep also inadvertently kicked down some rocks that rolled rapidly towards the base. At the same time, some of the icicles were cracking then falling to the base. So while we wanted to sit and chill for longer just to enjoy the bighorn sheep and waterfall show, we knew that it also wasn’t safe to be here for too long…
The day began like a pretty lazy holiday where both Tahia and I were still in bed until around 9am. It felt like a lazy week because ever since Christmas Eve, both of us were recovering from a stubborn cold. In fact, I had lost my voice since over the weekend, and only started to get it back yesterday (Wednesday). Not only that, but both of us were also having trouble trying to shake off our coughs (mine seemed to be keeping me up at night for the past two nights).
So Julie insisted that we do a hike today no matter how late a start we’d be getting. She figured that we needed the fresh air as staying couped up at home (and all its indoor air pollution) probably wasn’t helping matters anyways. And so after a brekkie of gluten-free blueberry muffins, Julie and Tahia were busy getting ready, and since I didn’t need much time to get myself ready, I was tasked with looking for a suitable hike.
Since the so-called El Nino still hadn’t really come along in full force (I think all these raised expectations about the pending saturation rains is probably setting us up for another disappointing year precipitation wise), it was very slim pickings as to which waterfall hikes we should be doing. At first, we were considering San Antonio Falls because there was a chance Tahia might be playing in snow, but we had just done that hike last Spring and we knew it wasn’t much of a hike. Then, I realized that perhaps Bonita Falls might be the way to go since it was only I that did it four years ago.
So I had made the decision to just go for that waterfall for better or worse (I’m sure the graffiti problem would still be there), but I figured the traverse of Lytle Creek wouldn’t be nearly as deep as it was back in 2011 so both Julie and Tahia should be able to do this no problem (well, we might have to carry Tahia across in the worse case).
We finally got out of the house at around 10:15am. All of us were still in jackets as it was quite chilly on this New Years Eve, but it had been chilly for pretty much the entire month (at least when the sun was down). The drive out towards Rancho Cucamonga was pretty uneventful and actually quite smooth, but when we got to the I-15, that was when the traffic got a lot more tense. I guess a lot of people were headed north to Las Vegas in time to count down to the New Year.
It wouldn’t be until about 11:20am when we finally made it to the familiar Lytle Creek Trailhead. There were already quite a few cars parked by the road, but like before, there were still spots for us to park without issue. Perhaps the bigger issue I was more concerned about was perhaps a car break-in since with all the graffiti we knew was along this trail, this wasn’t exactly the safest area from a crime standpoint.
As we got out of the car, I could see right away that Lytle Creek was nowhere near as deep as our last time here, which was expected. And actually, the creek crossing itself seemed like it was pretty doable as we noticed quite a few logs were laid out to make the stream crossing easier without ruining shoes. Of course, in anticipation of this crossing and all the rock-strewn hiking later on, Julie and I wore Gore-tex hiking boots just in case so we were quite prepared.
Anyways, we managed to go slightly upstream towards what appeared to be a wooden plank that traversed half a split part of Lytle Creek. Then, there was another log-assisted crossing (this one more natural-looking than the first) on the other side of the split stream. This was more upstream than the direct crossing I did four years prior. So it was a relief for us to see how relatively easy it was to get across.
By about 11:35am, we made it past the private camground nearby and then entered the boulder-field, which was really a very large wash. We knew we had to hike up this wash for a bit. So I first suggested that we follow the route that hugged the southern wall of the wash since Julie and Tahia weren’t sure of where we were supposed to start leaving the wash towards Bonita Falls. But by hugging the wall, that part of the trail wouldn’t be missed.
Not surprisingly, we saw graffiti all along the cool shadiness of the wall. We even saw graffiti on the barks of some of the dried up trees as we traversed the width of the boulder field. Tahia even wasn’t very happy seeing the spray paint assault on anything surface with some kind of space so right away she could already sense that something wasn’t right about what was going on here (or maybe she was just copying Julie’s reaction to what she was seeing for the first time on this hike).
The hike was pretty rough since we were consistently going up and over a bunch of ankle-busting rocks strewn about. So that made for some pretty slow progress since we were keeping a close eye on Tahia’s footing while half holding her hand and half letting her figure out the best route to walk.
Eventually, we got to where the hike left the wash. Since I knew where to go, this wasn’t an issue, but I could totally see how unsure the walking could be to the uninitiated. Anyways, there was another group of hikers that showed up to the wash before us even though they had clearly gotten a later start than we did. So that got Julie wondering whether there was an easier route than what we took.
Anyways, we then ascended up the trail following along the creek responsible for Bonita Falls. At this point, Tahia felt more confident in her steps and went up without our assistance at first. We then went past a familiar sign that was plastered with graffiti so there was no way of telling what this sign was supposed to say.
Then, we continued climbing up the trail besides more graffiti-laced rocks before we got to a steeper climb that I didn’t quite recall from the last time. I guess that just showed how much memory can fail you without hints like pictures or writing down notes. Maybe I was more sensitized to the climb since I now had to make sure Tahia and Julie could get through this injury-free (something I wasn’t as concerned about four years ago when I solo’ed this hike).
The rock climb in some sections did have the potential for a slip-and-fall. So I kept a close eye on Tahia letting her figure out how to get up past those sections (while I was close behind her in case she was about to fall). Eventually at 12:25pm, we made it up to the Bonita Falls. Julie was quite surprised by how tall it was, which totally made her look past all the graffiti.
Tahia was also congratulated by the family that was here before us telling her that she made it and that she did well. We were also told by the family that there were bighorn sheep that were feeding right near the falls before they had left.
“Darn! We had just missed it I guess,” I thought. Oh well, if we’re quiet enough (we weren’t on the approach as Tahia was talking pretty loudly), they might come back.
And so we were spending time enjoying this spot as we could see there were icicles surrounding the main 75ft or so drop of Bonita Falls. That seemed to excite Tahia since she was such a fan of Disney’s Frozen. Sure it wasn’t snow, but I guess icicles were the next best thing.
While we were busy trying to capture this last of the waterfalls that we’d be visiting in 2015, suddenly we started to see bighorn sheep high up on the neighboring cliffs feeding on some of the shrubs growing up there. At that point, we tried to be as quiet as we could while we were busy trying to observe and capture on photos and video what they were doing. It wasn’t often that we get wildlife sightings on a waterfalling excursion, especially in Southern California, but here it was – our New Year’s Eve Surprise!
There’s something special about seeing wildlife in their element as opposed to a zoo. And I figured that it was watching them do their thing with Nature being the provider as opposed to a zookeeper that just simply can’t be replicated in the zoo or aquarium. Indeed, moments like these are what’s really needed in life though we know that such moments are becoming rarer. So we savored and treasured this lucky surprise.
At the same time, we also had to be careful not to get too close to any of the cliff walls because it appeared that the bighorn sheep also inadvertently kicked down some rocks that rolled rapidly towards the base. At the same time, some of the icicles were cracking then falling to the base. So while we wanted to sit and chill for longer just to enjoy the bighorn sheep and waterfall show, we knew that it also wasn’t safe to be here for too long.
Anyways, after one couple came here and went (and finally noticed the bighorn sheep when we told them), there was another younger group of folks (smoking and cussing, but otherwise cool) that showed up just as we left. We also pointed the bighorn sheep to them and wished them a Happy New Year before we left.
At about 1:10pm, we made the descent of the trail back to the graffiti-laced sign. So from here on out, it was pretty much wash hiking, but now we were keen to try Julie’s suggestion of hiking outside the chilly shaded area and more into the sun-exposed parts of the wash where it appeared to be slightly less rockier and more flat than on the way in. At least since we knew the general direction we had to go to get back to the car park, we were free to pursue this alternate route since we wouldn’t get lost.
Sure enough, the hike did seem a lot easier and faster on the way back. By about 1:45pm, we were back at the car after making another traverse of the Lytle Creek. This time, we crossed on some handful of strewn out trees that kept our feet dry for the most part (except for one misstep by Tahia where her Nikes briefly got dunked in the creek).
Nevertheless, both Julie and Tahia made it back, and it was a very fun hike for the whole family. The car also wasn’t broken into, which was another relief. And now, we looked forward to having a late lunch.
We’d eventually make it to the King Taco in Upland (on Mountain Ave, which was the same road leading up to San Antonio Falls and Mt Baldy), which was still busy at 2:20pm. It had been a while since we had our fix of carne asada and pastor tacos, and it pretty much hit the spot.
Then, we’d later have a My Delight cupcake fix at 3:15pm though they pretty much ran out of all the flavors except for weird holiday flavors like egg nog, ginger bread, as well as smores. They really didn’t have any more chocolate cupcakes left. And yet they still had a line, which I figured there’d be a lot of disappointed folks. I guess they were probably here to pick up boxes of cupcakes for a New Years Eve holiday party or something.
Then at around 4:30pm or so, we’d finally get to my parents’ place to have ourselves a spontaneous New Year’s Eve dinner before finally getting home at around 9:30pm. We’d pretty much keep it low key since both Tahia and I were still getting over our colds and we didn’t want to worsen it by staying out late at night, but at least we celebrated the New Year in our own way and in the ways that mattered the most – with loved ones and with the reassurance that only Nature can provide when you put yourself out there and experience all it has to offer…
Hopefully, 2016 can provide more experiences like this one…