Day 2 (January 1, 2022 – Los Angeles, California): “Going Full Circle”
It was once again 6:30am when Julie and I awoke.
And while I was betting that most people would have trouble getting up in the morning due to New Year’s Eve festivities (and super spreader events perhaps), we had an opportunity to get another early start to the day to try to visit new waterfalls.
However, on this day, I was debating whether to go for just Josephine Creek Falls or to try to fit in Bailey Canyon Falls since it had rained so much last week.
Nevertheless, it still took us quite a bit of time to get ready and to leave the house.
And this was further complicated by the fact that Julie wanted to meet up with someone to sell something that we don’t use anymore as well as to pick up something from the local farmer’s market.
Fortunately, the buyer had the courtesy to inform Julie that he couldn’t wake up in time for the 8:30am meeting time, and that she gave up on getting the eggs from the farmer’s market.
Too bad these storms have been getting fewer and farther in between no thanks to Global Warming and Climate Change.
That said, there were at least two or three CHP vehicles that I saw on the way so they were definitely looking for speeders, but with such smooth traffic, it was easy to go well over 10mps above the speed limits.
So we got to the Bailey Canyon Park at 9:05am, and not surprisingly, there were still plenty of parking spots though people were coming in just as we were getting ready.
Thus, even on a day like today, this place is still popular, and I’d imagine the hike up to Jones Peak had more to do with that than Bailey Canyon Falls.
Still, I was anxious about the flow of the falls this soon after the saturation rains that ended on Thursday (it’s Saturday now).
So we quickly geared up and went back along the familiar picnic area before going up the paved road towards the Bailey Canyon Nature Trail.
However, it didn’t take long before we ascended the paved sloping road towards some hillside of planted desert vegetation just past a manmade concrete slope trying to pass as a genuine hill.
Then, we bypassed the familiar bridge over the dry wash draining into the water catchment that was dry, which was not a good sign that Bailey Canyon Falls would be flowing because that was exactly what we saw in each of our last two visits over 4 years ago.
We then got up to the fork in the trail where Jones Peak kept ascending to the right while the “Nature Trail” dropped into the canyon to the left, and from there on out, it was the familiar narrower hike up to the dead-end of the falls.
Unlike the other times we had done this hike before, there was actually water in the creek where there was hard bedrock, but where there was dirt, the water seemed to disappear underground.
There was one local who was coming out of the canyon and doing this hike in flip flops with her two dogs, which Tahia loved to interact with very much.
Then, we continued further where the treefall obstacles that I remembered having to traverse the last time were gone. However, there were other evidence of landslide obstacles that went into the canyon that I didn’t recognize.
There was also a landslide adjacent to the trickling wall of Bailey Canyon Falls that I didn’t recognize before either.
That underscored the inherent dangers of being in the saturated confines of a canyon like this during a rain storm (i.e. when the falls could be seen flowing but it wouldn’t be safe to be in).
Just as we were about to leave the falls, another couple showed up with two small dogs, and this got Tahia interested again as she always loved interacting with dogs.
This couple were locals, and they said that they were at the waterfall yesterday (they actually “snuck” in because the park was closed), and they saw that the falls had a little more water (like a running faucet) than it did now.
We speculated that you’d have to be here in the midst of a rain storm, but with all the landslide evidence (not to mention flash flooding risk), we knew that wouldn’t be wise.
And so we quickly got back in the car, I had to hear it from Julie about how Bailey Canyon Falls was a waste of time, and then we headed west on the I-210 en route to Sunland.
From there, we then drove the familiar streets leading to the mouth of Big Tujunga Canyon, which would usually be how we’d access Trail Canyon Falls.
And on this day, we saw there were numerous cars parked along shoulders (and makeshift shoulders) of the Big Tujunga Road all around the gated turnoff leading to the trailhead for Trail Canyon Falls.
This hike has now really blown up into a full-blown busy spot (whereas in the past, I remembered being only one of a handful of people doing this hike).
It just goes to show you how the most accessible of all the Los Angeles waterfalls are now pretty much crowded, especially since the pandemic.
I was glad we didn’t have to compete for parking on this day, and we kept going up along the Big Tujunga Canyon Road as we ultimately got past the Big Tujunga Dam Overlook, and then saw there was a long, unsigned pullout.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a pole that probably marked the informal landmark to identify the fairly hidden trail leading to Josephine Creek Falls (which I learned about through the Angeles Adventures blog).
After overshooting the pullout, I found the next pullout and then turned around and stopped the car at the unsigned large pullout where we were to start the Josephine Creek Falls at 11am.
So it was pretty much just me getting ready, putting on a GoPro that I wore on my head, and then embarked on the narrow trail leading up to the pole I saw earlier.
Right off the bat, I could already see that this was indeed a narrow and seemingly easily-eroded trail, and I was wondering to myself whether this was a sanctioned trail, or just one that got a lot of informal use.
In some early parts of the trail, there was quite a bit of cliff exposure with views to the west towards the Big Tujunga Dam Reservoir in half-shadow as well as views across the head of the Big Tujunga Reservoir towards Fox Canyon.
I knew there was another waterfall in that canyon that someone submitted on our website, but seeing how there was too much water in the reservoir (it’d require swimming to get to the mouth of that side canyon), that would have to be another adventure.
In the first 10 minutes or so of the initial part of the hike, I noticed that the slope of the mountainside this trail was hugging definitely made me aware of the risks involved.
It also made me keenly aware of how easily this trail could be gone with more passing storms (and especially soil-destabilizing fires) resulting in more landslides and eventually the cliff-hugging parts of the trail becoming impassable.
That said, I finally arrived at my first glimpse of the top of Josephine Creek Falls, where I noticed that a new ravine was dropping off to my right.
It looked as if though someone set up some kind of natural ridge wall (or maybe made the trail below that ridge), which acted like a fence so I wouldn’t fall into this side ravine.
But upon looking past some of the vegetation blocking the field of view, I saw what appeared to be the top of Josephine Creek Falls definitely flowing!
Bingo! After all the dinky waterfalls seen throughout these last two days, I finally got a waterfall experience that wasn’t disappointing!
Anyways, the trail kept going as it veered to the left, still hugged narrow ledges, and ultimately descended a wider ridge as it started a series of switchbacks.
Along the way, I continued to get views towards the Big Tujunga Reservoir as well as the Big Tujunga Creek in the other direction, where there were some orangish trees at the bottom making the place look like it’s still autumn.
As I got to the first of the switchback ends, I also got another look into the Fox Canyon, where I could also hear a louder rush of water, but I still couldn’t see signs of a waterfall in there (though I knew there was one there).
Now, as the trail headed back towards Josephine Creek Falls (and would do so a couple more times in this series of long switchbacks), I could see more of Josephine Creek Falls in context.
Unfortunately, it was against the sun so photographing it for perspective was tricky at this time of day.
In addition to still trying to stay balanced on the narrow ledges and not giving into some other eroded sections, I was also being pricked by some sharp Yucca plants protruding onto the narrow trails.
As I continued descending the switchbacks, I also started to get into the shadows of the adjacent north-facing mountains that this trail was hugging, and so I was starting to get some better lighting.
There was one section of the trail where the slope was a bit slippery and steep, but it still remained on the trail so it wasn’t like I was cliff scrambling like a mountain goat.
Eventually, I got down to a switchback where the trail looked like it kept going forward but narrowing into what looked like overgrowth (and more steep cliff scrambling I’m sure).
After getting through a couple more narrow and eroded ledges, the trail then descended into even thicker vegetation until finally at 11:50am, I made it down to the bottom of the Josephine Creek Falls.
Granted, there were still eroded and narrow sections, where access could no longer be safe over time with increased use and/or increased erosion exacerbated by Global Warming-induced fires or intense storms, per se.
So while I was all While there was what seemed to be a side stream feeding what seemed to be a former landslide area or something, I also noticed another trail going between and over some fallen trees before finally reaching the actual plunge pool of the falls.
I wonder how much longer before word gets out about this place and explodes to attract even worse disrespecting folk who will start tagging the rock walls and trees here (as well as add to the increasing litter).
I probably had a pretty solid 30 minutes or more before I finally started to sling back on my pack and camera gear, and then started the fairly moderate ascent back up to the Big Tujunga Canyon Road.
Yep, this was an upside down hike, but now that I had a better understanding of what’s going on here, I’m sure with a bit more cooperative rain storms and the right timing, I might try to pursue other waterfalls in this area (conditions permitting).
Before I started my hike back up, I did notice there was someone in the distance wearing red.
I thought he was going to join me at Josephine Creek Falls, but he seemed to be too low into the canyon so I’d imagine he was disappearing somewhere closer to the Big Tujunga Creek.
As I continued my ascent, I never saw that person again, but as I slowly continued up the switchbacks, I took my time as I captured more photos of Josephine Creek Falls from a distance.
And even though it was against the sun, it appeared that the sun was already starting to sink lower so I took advantage of the shadows and increasing high clouds to get a few more shots with the better lighting conditions.
Eventually when I got back up to one large boulder, I noticed the words “Big Tujunga Can. Trail” scrawled on it.
I wasn’t sure if this was legitimate signage or markings by the US Forest Service working this area, or if this was just informally maintained by a local.
But for some reason, I didn’t notice these words on the way down, but I definitely noticed them on the way up.
In fact, they were the only “sign” that I saw throughout this trail, and that’s why I wondered about whether this was a legitimate trail or not.
After all, there were switchbacks instead of dicey cliff scrambles (a sure sign of amateurs trying to take the shortest but most unsustainable route over the safer and longer way), which is not indicative of a haphazard trail.
Anyways, shortly after going past this marked boulder, I then encountered a couple (a man and a woman) who were coming down.
“I’ve already been,” I told him.
He also told me that he was from the valley but he comes to Big Tujunga Canyon often to f*** around so he knows this area pretty well.
But it definitely wasn’t possible on this day because the reservoir levels were certainly high enough to force a swim to get into that canyon.
He says he comes often enough that he can come on a Monday or some other weekday to explore these other waterfalls beyond Josephine Creek Falls.
When he started mentioning other waterfalls in the area, I did ask about Fall Creek Falls, which he didn’t mention. And that got him talking about the fire road.
He also told me that you can walk down that fire road to get a good look at the multi-tiered Fall Creek Falls, but to get close to it, you’d have to cross the creek, and that still depends on whether they release the dam water or the creek levels in general.
That got me thinking about maybe coming back here the following week to check that part out before we lose our rainy season, because who knows?
Maybe that last storm that passed might be it for the rest of this year with the way Global Warming has exacerbated our droughts!
With that, they continued down the canyon (probably going to Josephine Creek Falls), and then I continued up towards the Big Tujunga Canyon Road.
Eventually, I made it towards the ridge where I had my first glimpse of Josephine Creek Falls’ top earlier, but this part of the trail was narrow so I stood off the side to let them pass.
I overheard the father of this family of four asking about whether this was the right place for Josephine Creek Falls.
I confirmed it for him and even told him that you can see part of the falls from here.
That said, I kind of didn’t want to tell him because he was playing loud music, and I wondered if encouraging him might encourage other people of his ilk down into this spot (and hence possible tagging, litter, and more people doing this kind of stuff).
Maybe I shouldn’t judge, but it definitely wasn’t a good (nor respectful-to-Nature) sign if you’re blaring music instead of just enjoying the silence of Nature (and maybe even getting a surprise wildlife sighting or two).
When I finally got back to the Big Tujunga Canyon Road at 1:05pm, I saw that there were a handful of cars parked in the same pullout as we were (earlier on, we were the only people here).
I wasn’t sure if this was a lemmings effect or not, but judging from the first two or three people I encountered that really seemed to know this place already, maybe it was just the parked cars that piqued the interest of that family heading down.
Regardless, when I showed Julie the pictures and videos of what I captured with this hike, she then started to turn on me telling me that I misinformed her about some internet picture showing the falls where I wasn’t sure was Josephine Creek Falls.
Adventures in general have an uncertainty of outcome that comes with the territory, and if you don’t have a positive mindset (after all, how can you know in advance if a hike is worth it or not, especially if you’ve never been before?), that’s on you!
Anyways, aside from that bit of drama, we briefly stopped by the Big Tujunga Dam Overlook for a brief look down at the dam and the mouth of the reservoir, but the litter below the overlook was definitely off-putting.
Then, after having our fill of this spot, we decided that instead of driving back to Sunland to then go to Arcadia for some DTF (Din Tai Fung), we instead headed further east en route to the Clear Creek Station along the Angeles Crest Highway.
We actually had to go through one junction (the other route went to Palmdale) before hitting a second junction at the Hwy 2 itself.
And boy, was the Angeles Crest super busy, especially with people going further up the mountains and towards the snow, I’d imagine.
I couldn’t believe how many cars were headed up that way, and it really felt like we were going against the grain as we were heading back down towards La Canada-Flintridge, and eventually the I-210.
After getting past the Rose Bowl (I still had never been to that stadium in all my years of living in LA though we saw the Goodyear Blimp), we’d ultimately get to the Westfield Mall by Santa Anita.
That was where we got to the new DTF location at around 2:05pm, but upon learning that it was a minimum of 2-3 hours of waiting, we decided not to stick around for that and settle on some Hainan Chicken takeaway at Side Chick.
That place hit the spot though Julie was bummed that we were 0 for 2 on rare eating experiences (Houston’s last night and now Din Tai Fung today).
But with so many empty tables, I had to believe that DTF was short staffed and probably had to observe COVID safety protocols as well.
And eventually by 2:55pm, we were done with this lunner and got back in the car to head for home.
It wouldn’t be until around 3:35pm when we finally got back home, and it was just in time for Tahia to play with the cousins who were in the neighborhood doing piano lessons.
And so ended this eventful New Years Day.
I always say that when we go on trips, the trip doesn’t start until we experience a legitimate waterfall.
Well, I guess I can extend that saying to say that the year doesn’t start until we experience a (new) waterfall, and what a way to kick off the New Year!
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