No Easter Eggs

12-April 2009: Like many of the hikes we had done in the Southern California area this year, the one we intended to do today was a repeat of what we did a long time ago when we were still taking pictures with Julie's analog Nikon camera.

And since today was going to be the last local hike we'd be doing probably for this year and the last one in the country we'll be doing for a while, we figured this would be a great opportunity to break in some new hiking boots and see the parents one last time before our big trip later on this week.

So on the agenda, we intended to head up Azusa Avenue and check out the Crystal Lake Recreation Area to revisit Soldier Creek Falls. It was going to be Mom, Julie, and I on this outing while Dad was taking Grandma around for some shopping.

We got all the preparations, etc. out of the way and headed out from my parents' place at 8:30am.

With the nice sunny skies and relatively comfortable crisp air in the high 60s and low 70s, we figured this would be perfect hiking weather.

Mom also thought we should take Azusa Avenue up to Crystal Lake instead of the freeways because she wanted to show us some of the latest developments that have been taking place in Covina.

And as we drove up the pretty quiet streets this Sunday morning, we could see that much has changed in the way of development from new shopping centers to a sports recreation complex and even more new homes.

We even passed through a charming little foothill town that I believe was downtown Azusa.

At a little after 9am, we got through most of suburbia and headed onto the Hwy 39. But just as we were about to get further into the mountains, we saw a sign indicating numerous closures up this road including Crystal Lake.

So we all stopped by the adjacent ranger station to inquire about the situation.

And as we spoke with the ranger, she confirmed that we wouldn't be able to make it up to the falls.

When Julie asked why, the ranger said, "I'll tell you why..." and pulled out a poster board with photographs of the Hwy 39.

It turned out that the road was eroded and had fallen into the canyon. The ranger then went on further to say that when crews were hauling up more material to repair the road, one of the bridges en route had started to sink.

In any case, she told us that the road had been closed since 2002 and was planned to reopen in the Summer of 2010. However, she was skeptical about whether that date will be honored because Hwy 39 is a state highway and the lack of funding had caused numerous delays.

Julie and I looked at each other and noted that we were lucky to have seen the falls when we did.

And besides, this is probably giving Nature a chance to restore the Crystal Lake Area and its surroundings more or less. Except Climate Change is still reducing the Winter precipitation and allowing unnatural wildfires to go crazy in that area. But at least there's one less thing messing things up - i.e. humans polluting, littering, trampling, basically dissing Nature in general.

In any case, there wouldn't be any Soldier Creek Falls today, but at least we had a plan B. And that would be Monrovia Canyon Falls.

And after briefly getting onto the I-210, through downtown Monrovia, and past the Monrovia suburbs, we were at the Monrovia Canyon Park at around 9:30am.

There, we dutifully paid the fee collecting ranger the $5 fee to get in. He then asked us, "Are you guys with the church groups here?"

We collectively said, "No."

He then continued, "OK. Well, don't do anything Easter Egg hunts up there. We don't want kids looking for hidden eggs and end up grabbing a rattlesnake."

"That wouldn't be good," said I, chuckling.

The car park I guess that kind of reminded us that today was Easter Sunday. We don't normally pay attention to these things, but we did think about how perhaps that might make our hike not as busy as we had remembered it in the past.

Anyways, we were at the car park at the trailhead shortly thereafter. While going up the narrow two-lane switchbacking road, Julie mentioned that she didn't remember this area being so developed. And indeed, there seemed to be a whole lot of cars in the picnic areas at the base of the climb as well as a few odd buildings.

I didn't remember this either, but then again, it had been probably eight years or so since we've been up this way. Besides, I recalled this was one of the first waterfall hikes Julie and I did together so indeed it was back in the good 'ol days.

A manmade dam very reminiscent of the Sturtevant Falls hike The hike was pretty straightforward.

After passing through a well-established picnic area with plenty of shade, we proceeded to walk on the fairly narrow trail. After an easy stream crossing, the trail gently sloped upwards passing by a handful of manmade dams reminiscent of our Sturtevant Falls excursion as well as following the gurgling, meandering stream.

Narrow trail in spots, but still gentle and relatively easy Most of the hike was well-shaded so it felt pleasantly mild. The lush green scenery surrounding the gurgling stream made for a very serene setting.

Breaking the silence was just us conversing amongst ourselves and lots of Asian people going the other way (Were they from the church groups or were they local residents? Who knows?).

Mom in front of the falls It wasn't long before we were right at the shady base of the falls. The flow was pretty much as we had remembered it, but our last time took place in August. So that kind of confirmed to us that this waterfall was a rare consistent year-round performer.

Julie trying to touch the falling water We took photos and basked in the pleasantly cool scene for several minutes.

And as we did so, little by little people started trickling in.

Eventually a lot of people showed up at the falls Eventually, there were at least a dozen people or so at the fairly small opening beneath the base of the falls. That was our cue to leave and get back home in time for a family lunch.

By around 10:30am, we were back at the trailhead and car park. And right before we proceeded to leave the car park, I noticed a nice little lookout area showing the LA basin.

View of the Los Angeles Basin On this sunny and fairly clear Spring morning, the view was nice. But I can certainly envision smog and haze getting in the way (and in our lungs) on hotter days.

As we left the park and headed back to the entrance, I waved to the fee collecting ranger at the front before leaving. Mom wanted me to stop and tell him that we didn't find any Easter Eggs, but that thought didn't cross my mind as I drove past. Oh well, no punchline would be delivered at this time.

Another half-hour or so later, we had lunch at the familiar Korean-Chinese joint called The Earthen Restaurant in Rowland Heights.

View of the San Gabriels Pretty good stuff. And accompanied by Dad, Grandma, my brother and his wife, it was a great way to get caught up again and enjoy each others' company.

A fitting way to end off this Easter Sunday - with nature, loved ones, and a sense of peace...

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