LOOKING PAST THE FLAWS
Even though we were at the not-so-well-marked car park at 1:15pm, it took us a bit of time to get prepared. That was because we could see Lytle Creek below us and it looked like it would be a somewhat intimidating crossing.
The creek was going at a pretty good speed, and there was whitewater no matter how far up and down the stream we looked from our vantage point. We knew we had to cross it in order to get into the bouldery wash beyond.
So knowing we’d get our feet wet, I clipped on my boots and Julie’s boots to my pack. We were both wearing our smelly Keens, which I don’t think had gotten use since any of our jungle hikes in which we knew our feet would get wet (probably not since Thailand or even Hawaii, which were at least three years ago now).
As we made our way right down to the banks of Lytle Creek, we were a little put off by some of the litter around its banks as well as some traces of graffiti. Still, we were focused on the task at hand and that was finding a way to cross this rushing creek.
Recalling some of the things taught in those survival shows you see on Discovery Channel, we looked for the widest part of the creek because that was where the stream would be the shallowest. The narrowest parts was where the water would be deepest and most dangerous (despite the temptation of shortening the distance you have to cross).
So eventually we found a spot where we decided to go for it, but Julie was a little intimidated by the crossing. And given the fact that she was due for a pumping, she decided to back out and let me go on my own. I was a little bummed that she couldn’t join me and share this experience (especially since we drove all the way out this here), but it wouldn’t be fair to pressure her to do something she mentally wasn’t prepared to do.
So with that, I crossed the creek backpack and all, doing my best to make sure my wallet and camera stayed dry. As I was crossing the icy cold water, I was facing upcurrent with my pack unstrapped around my waist, and basically I was side stepping slowly across the rushing creek with a piece of wood I used as a hiking stick for balance.
Eventually, I made it to the other side where I found a place to sit down, change shoes, and clip on the Keens to my pack. I beckoned at Julie to do the crossing, but all she did was wave good-bye to me.
At first it literally seemed like I was all alone in the boulder field. It didn’t seem like anyone else at the time had already crossed the stream.
So the first thing I did was go right across the wide bouldery wash until I reached the south wall of the canyon. The intent was to hug the wall until I saw some sign or trail leading up the drainage where Bonita Falls was. I heard it was easy to miss, and hence that was why I intended to hug the wall.
Now what was a bit sad about this was that there was graffiti all over the wall and even on some of the rocks and dead falls on the ground. I guess the bright side of this was that I could use the tagging as a sort of trail marker so I would have some general idea of where to cross the wash on the return. Still I couldn’t help but think this was as if Echo Park or East LA or some other barrio was brought right into the heart of the San Bernardino Mountains.
As I was stumbling along the bouldery wash, I quickly found out that I wasn’t alone on this excursion as there were a handful of families and youngers going back the other way. I asked one mother how the falls was, and she said it was beautiful. That was very encouraging to me as I had worried that I might have been a month too late for this excursion especially given the heat wave we had this past week thereby melting away all the snow.
The mother did warn me about some kids throwing rocks from the top of the waterfall indiscriminantly. So I considered myself warned.
Continuing a few minutes further, I saw a pair of youngers descending down some path and into the wash. I wasn’t sure if this was the place I was supposed to leave the wash, but after going up the path that they had gone down, it wasn’t long before I saw a sign, which was very encouraging.
Unfortunately, the sign was covered in graffiti so there was no prayer of even figuring out what this sign was supposed to say. But nontheless, I was encouraged by this as well as the somewhat obvious trail of use that led further inland.
As warned by the mother I spoke to, the path did indeed get steeper. However, it wasn’t anything terribly difficult, and it seemed like someone took the trouble to even make rock steps. There were even some diversion trails getting around deadfalls.
I wasn’t sure if the Forest Service regularly maintained this trail, but it definitely seemed like there was some kind of maintenance going on here despite the spray-paint assault on the canyon.
Eventually at around 2:10pm I finally made it to the base of Bonita Falls. And it looked quite impressive, especially considering how waterfalls this tall were quite rare in the Southern California area.
Unfortunately, the sun was pretty much on top of the falls at this time of day so it made photographing it rather difficult. And I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how I could take photos of it without sun flares ruining the photograph.
In any case, as I was scouting around the potentially beautiful spot, I was a bit bummed by how much graffiti was all over the place here. And it was really too bad, because this could’ve easily been one of the better waterfalls in the Southern California area.
I figured since I was here already, I mind as well see where it was going.
And when I snuck a peek inside the cave, I could see it was nothing more than some piles of stones (probably for recent fires) as well as broken beer bottles and lots of graffiti everywhere. So I guess given the circumstances, there really wasn’t anything special about the cave (though there probably should’ve been as I suspected they could’ve been dens for mountain lions even bears when they were more abundant in times past down here).
Perhaps even more off-putting was that I saw a pile of toilet paper stained with poop left out in the open besides rocks covered in graffiti. I guess that about summed it up in terms of the lack of respect of this area; that a place that was so beautiful could be treated like a toilet.
As I was about to make my way back down the scramble, I heard a family make its way up here. One kid was having a nosebleed while another was indiscriminantly throwing rocks. I wondered if this was the kid the mother I saw earlier was warning me about.
In any case, since I heard Spanish spoken amongst themselves, I greeted the family with, “¡Hola!” and told them that there were caves up where I was at. I didn’t go any higher though I did recall from my research that there was a third cave, and perhaps there was a way to view the falls from the top of the rim.
Back down at the falls, I took a few more parting shots before I finally was on my way out of the canyon at 2:45pm.
About ten minutes later when I was back at the wash, I came to the realization that I had completely forgotten to take a movie of the falls!
This time, I returned to the same vantage points around the base of the falls that I had been to earlier but now with the intent of taking movies instead of still photos. One kid was saying, “¡Loco!” out loud because I guess he thought the path was steep and something he didn’t consider trying out.
In any case, the family was on their way out and once again I had the falls to myself. As I took more movies, I came to realize that the sun was a bit lower than before and it didn’t create as much sun flare in my photos. So I snapped a few more repeat shots to take advantage of the slight improvement in the lighting situation.
And finally by 3:15pm, I was on my way out of here!
I’m sure I couldn’t let Julie wait at the car for too long, and I felt like I spent at least an extra 30 minutes or so thanks to my little snafu.
So without further delay, I jammed my way back down the canyon and back into the familiar bouldery wash. I could see the family that left me behind up ahead. It seemed like they had found an easier footpath within the wash or something, but that involved crossing the creek from which Bonita Falls flowed. Plus, it seemed like they were heading to the campground so I didn’t follow their route.
So I continued hugging the south wall again going past a few other folks appearing to go in the opposite direction (to the waterfall no doubt) before I saw some heavily tagged section of wall that was kind of my signal to cross the wash and get back to the familiar crossing of Lytle Creek.
After patiently watching some youngsters cross the creek (giving their girlfriends piggy-back rides to keep them dry), I said, “Good job” to them and then proceeded to do my final crossing (changed shoes and all).
And by 3:40pm, I was finally back at the car where Julie was patiently waiting asking me, “So how was it?”
I gave her my camera so she could scroll through the photographs, and when I told her it only took me about 30 minutes each way, she regretted not joining me. Still, she saw the amount of graffiti and litter around the falls in my photographs, and that prompted her to say, “Man, some people just have no respect for Nature.”
At 3:50pm, we were on our way out of the Lytle Creek area. But that wasn’t before we snuck in one last photograph of one of the upper tiers of Bonita Falls from nearby the private campground. Unfortunately, the falls was a bit distant and hard to see given the haze. I could see why few people bother to take a photograph of the falls from here.
And with that, we headed back home but not before making one quick stop at a King Taco in Ontario. After all, we did have a bit of a KT craving, and when we heard there was one out in these parts, we were sold.
It wasn’t until about 5:45pm that we returned home. As anticipated, today’s excursion took the full day, but in the end, it’s not how much time you spent doing the excursion more so than the times you remembered about it. And so as a result of today, we looked past the flaws and reminded ourselves that we do live in a beautiful place that we could hopefully cherish and keep going for ourselves and our kids and their kids.
Respect, I tell ya!