Not So Great Expectations

Solstice Canyon Falls with surprising flow in late Summer despite 2012 being an unusually dry year

3-September 2012: It had been a while since Julie and I had gone out on a hike. The entire Summer had gone by, and even though we had gone to beaches, spent many weekends with family, and even went to Napa Valley on a make-up anniversary trip, there was something that was still missing. After a few discussions over this long weekend, we came to realize that perhaps what we missed was a true escape from the city and a return to Nature. So on this Labor Day, Julie insisted that we go out to a waterfall. I thought the idea was absurd since we had such a dry year and I was almost certain there weren't any waterfalls worth going out of our way to fight traffic, parking, and the hot weather. In any case, despite my resistance, Julie was determined to get us out of the house and so she dragged me and little Tahia along...

Even though Tahia was done with her breakfast by around 9:30am, I still felt we were getting a late start. It wasn't until around 9:45am when we finally loaded up the car, got our hiking gear, brought Tahia's lunch and midday milk, and pulled out of the house.

This time around, Julie drove the car as I realized that I had left my wallet at home. So for once, I got to sit with Tahia in the back seat.

The driving was lighter than expected. Indeed, it must've been holiday light. During the drive up the 605, I was looking out towards the foothills along the 210 freeway knowing yesterday there was a forest fire that appeared to be in the direction of the Crystal Lake area.

We didn't see any signature plumes of rising smoke, but there was ceertainly a greyish-brown haze draping over the San Gabriels and San Bernardino Mountains. Our original plan was to go to either Sturtevant Falls or Monrovia Canyon Falls, knowing we had a decent chance of seeing a waterfall at least flow up there. However, given the apparent smoke that was still lingering there, we decided at the last minute to take the I-5 in the direction of the I-10 towards the Santa Monica Mountains. We figured at least we wouldn't have to deal with the forest fire hazard as well as the poor air quality.

The holiday-light traffic got us pretty quickly towards PCH. We eventually decided to do the Solstice Canyon Falls hike and in no time ended up at the familiar 76 gas station by Corral Canyon Road. And as anticipated, there were already cars parked on makeshift pullouts besides the narrow road.

After making one loop into the limited parking space for the Solstice Canyon trailhead, it was hardly a surprise that there weren't any parking spots available. There were even people waiting in their cars at the car park waiting for someone to leave and vacate one of the few spots there.

As we left back to Corral Canyon Road, we went uphill since we saw quite a few people walking down from that direction. After driving a short distance around a bend, we saw a significantly larger pullout with a view of the ocean, but just about all of those spots were taken too.

But Julie swore she saw someone walking back to their car back down the hill so she quickly did a U-turn and went back down towards the bridge. And sure enough a couple of about to leave though the parallel parking spot they were about to vacate looked awfully tight. But just then, Julie saw someone pulling out of one of the sanctioned overflow parking spots and acted quickly to go around the couple that was about to leave and seize the newly opened spot in the overflow parking.

It was a good thing she acted fast and did this because just as she pulled into one of the few marked perpendicular spots, another SUV had just turned left.

So with that bit of stress finally out of the way, we took our time to change Tahia's diaper, get the backpack where Tahia got to get a ride in, plus some water, sunscreen, and camera, of course. And even during Tahia's diaper change, there were a couple of folks who thought we were about to leave and waited behind us. I guess it just goes to show you how difficult parking here can be without getting an early start.

Carrying Tahia onto the trail It wasn't until about 11:15am when we were finally out on the trail. Well, we still had to walk the 0.2 miles on the narrow paved road leading to the last car park and official trailhead, but at least we knew it wasn't going to be a long hike. And personally, I was glad it wasn't going to be a long one because Tahia had definitely gotten heavier since the last time I carried her on my back (well, technically on my hips since this pack was like a frame pack), and the puffiness of the scattering of clouds above suggested to me that it was going to be yet another humid late Summer's day.

At least the hiking was kind of fun and interactive as Tahia would say, "Hi!" to everyone that passed by. And how could anyone resist not saying hi back?

Still giving Tahia a joy ride on the trail The hike was mostly uneventful except for one little interlude where we opted to take the lower stream route instead of a higher, hillier route just past the Keller hunting home. We made a note to ourselves not to go this way on the way back, especially since I worried about the risk of falling over and hurting Tahia, or have more branches whip past my head and into her face.

By about 12pm, we finally made it to the familiar Roberts home. There were already quite a few people here, but the sound of gurgling water at a time when we had been expecting completely dry conditions encouraged us to continue closer to the falls.

Pretty busy at the burned Roberts Home Even though Tahia had been socially active to start off the hike, somewhere towards the end, she dozed off and was taking her belated mid-morning nap. And when we arrived at the falls, we found a little spot where we could lay down the pack and finally start to move freely.

That was when Tahia was upset at being aroused enough to wake up thereby interrupting her nap. But as soon as she realized there was a waterfall, she quickly stopped crying and said aloud, "Pu bu!" (which was Chinese for waterfall).

First look at Solstice Canyon Falls in surpringly decent late Summer flow It's priceless moments like this that the trouble of taking Tahia out in the bush was really worthwhile. Julie went ahead and carried Tahia over to the crowded make-shift viewing area at the base of the short waterfall. Meanwhile, I took the DSLR and scrambled my way across the stream and towards what appeared to be an alternate lookout on the other side.

The scrambling here was a little rougher than I had remembered so care had to be taken to ensure I didn't drop the camera nor bash it against the hard rocks as I was scrambling. Eventually, I scrambled up to where there was some chimney-looking thing and that was where I went past a pair that was picknicking towards a precarious lookout that was blocked by a large rock.

Some chimney-looking thing near the top of the falls From up there, I took a seat and went ahead to soak in the atmosphere of people down below having fun while at the same time I was taking both movies and photos. But watching Tahia and Julie down by the base made me quickly want to get my business done so I could rejoin them.

Soaking in the scenery When all was said and done, we left the waterfall at around 1pm and quickly walked back towards the car. Tahia was enjoying it when I was bobbing up and down as part of my walking motion because that kind of made it a sort of roller coaster for her. So given the fun we were having, we ended up back at the car rather quickly at around 1:30pm.

Last look at Solstice Canyon Falls After one last diaper change, we were able to drive off and head towards the Marmalade Cafe for lunch since this was something different besides the usual Duke's Malibu, Malibu Seafood, or Neptune's Net lunch spots that we'd frequent in the past.

While it was busy at the cafe, the food was a little on the disappointing side. But it didn't matter because we got to feed Tahia her lunch, and then enjoy some organic gelatos a couple of shops away in the same plaza.

By about 2:30pm, we finally changed Tahia's diaper one last time and then fought PCH traffic before getting onto the I-10 and the I-5. It wasn't until around 4pm that we finally made it home. Everyone was sleepy (except me, who went ahead and composed this travel blog entry) so the household was quiet during the waning hours of this Labor Day.

In the end, I was glad that Julie dragged me out of the house. As depressing as this year's waterfall season was locally, it's amazing how Nature was able to surprise us. And in the end, we had one of those late Summer days that we'll certainly remember fondly when we look back and not have to worry what might have been had we succumbed to my complacency and my not-so-great expectations of waterfalling in the Southland in the Summer.

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