Julie and I awoke at about 5am. The plan was to try to arrive at Mom’s at around 6am, and then scurry over to the Vulcan Materials Quarry at the trailhead for Fish Canyon Falls. But before we were about to execute on this plan, I took one last look at the schedule, and that was when I realized that I had looked at the 2009 Access Dates!
So it turned out that the next opportunity to see the falls wasn’t until March. And straight away, we had to improvise and come up with an alternative.
And with some consultation with Julie, we decided to head back over to Thousand Oaks to check out Paradise Falls. This was the first waterfall that Julie and I had seen together so we figured this bit of plan B would be a fitting return to the first waterfall this time bringing Mom along.
Besides, after having seen Up, we realized that wouldn’t have to go all the way to South America to see Paradise Falls. For in this context, our Paradise Falls was the catalyst that essentially launched our worldwide waterfalling endeavor from its humble beginnings…
It wasn’t until 6:15am did we finally leave for the parents. It was still a little dark as heavy patchy clouds were everywhere. It wasn’t as sunny as forecasted earlier this week, but at least we knew the rain wasn’t supposed to come until much later in the day.
During the hour-long drive out to Thousand Oaks, we were conversing about some stuff that Mom learned at work. One was something about a central super computer where all apps were pretty much be run over a network, which is kind of like the iPhone concept. Mom seemed quite sold on the idea. I was a little skeptical, but I guess “progress” always tends towards fewer human laborers in the loop, and this seemed to be a logical step in that direction.
Later in the drive, we heard a little more about her management dramas. Sometimes I wonder how she can get any work done when some of the workers that get absorbed into her group make things difficult for the organization. I guess that’s something I should be cognizant of if I’m to try to lead a team towards a goal.
The car park and exposed trail was more scenic than we remembered the first time we were here. Rocky cliffs watched over the Wildwood Park and neighboring residences, and the patchy clouds allowed pockets of these cliffs to be painted with light when the sun managed to penetrate through.
We could see the ravine below us where the drainage towards the falls was at. It was kind of strange to see houses flanking the canyon itself, and it just goes to show you how developments encroach on once wild lands.
We weren’t sure which of the two trails leaving the car park we should take, but after a few minutes, we eventually figured out that it didn’t matter as the two trails joined a few minutes into the hike.
Something noticeably absent from this hike (as opposed to last time) was the high and dry grass where menacing rattling sounds emanated. Today, there were mostly lower brush and grass, and no rattling sounds as it was probably too cool for the rattlesnakes to be out in abundance.
We’d eventually reach a fork in the trail where the left fork led to some place called Parking Lot No. 1. It looked like they used to allow vehicles this far into the trail, but with the absence of vehicles now, it’s now all for foot traffic.
Once again, there were a couple of trails we could take from here. One was signed for the Moon Ridge Trail. Another went past a closure gate and descended along a fire road.
We opted to take the latter, and it wasn’t much longer before we junctioned again with the Moon Ridge Trail. Boy, these criss-crossing trails sure made it a little confusing. But at least we saw some teepee way below in the distance, and we figured that might be a landmark to shoot for.
Anyways, the Moon Ridge trail looked a bit narrow and rugged as it tended to go up and down past a couple of gullies. That made us hesitant to take this more direct route and go with the longer but more gradual fire road path we were already on.
As we got to the bottom of the descent, there was a spur trail leading to the left along Indian Creek. A sign indicated there was an Indian Cave there, which was something I didn’t remember seeing the last time. So I seized the moment and checked it out myself. Julie and Mom continued over to the Los Arboles Nature Center for a restroom break.
The cave was at the top of some wooden steps leading right up to its mouth. It wasn’t an extensive cave, and I didn’t find any Indian rock art or artifacts, which wasn’t surprising considering they would’ve been long vandalized by now, I reckoned. So I didn’t spend too much time here, and rejoined Mom and Julie a few minutes later.
After passing by a muddy patch along Indian Creek, the trail followed alongside the flowing creek further adding to the serenity of the scene. But tempering this peace, our minds speculated on how a local man who frequented the falls died here a few weeks ago when we got bombarded with heavy rains during the latter part of January.
The muddy track made us speculate that maybe the creek swelled past its banks and onto the trail area. Then again, maybe it was the brief rains from two nights ago that caused this latest bit of saturation.
Not much longer, we passed by a trail junction where a trail joined us to the right as it descended down from what we suspected was where that teepee was that we saw earlier from Parking Lot No. 1.
From here, the trail narrowed as did the Wildwood Canyon itself. Then, the trail followed a narrow ledge with reassuring fences to minimize the likelihood of falling into the Indian Creek.
There was a sign here indicating the path along the creek itself was not an official trail. This must’ve been a recent development because I distinctly remembered Julie and I followed this trail towards the top of the falls before a rattlesnake sighting stopped us in our tracks and frightened Julie to the extent that forced us to retreat back to the main trail.
Anyways, after the narrow section of the trail, we saw the top of the falls and knew the final descent wasn’t much further. I guess the relative peace and quiet of the morning allowed us to see ducks alongside the creek. I could imagine most of them would go flying away once more people started showing up.
And as we continued, we couldn’t help but notice that the wooden steps here seemed kind of new and definitely more developed than what we had encountered on our first visit where it was a bit eroded, slippery, and steep.
But once again, the best views were still to be had from the other side of the creek, and that was when Mom and I crossed to get better photos. Julie stayed behind as she started to feel some stomach discomfort. We weren’t sure if it was the BBQ yesterday. I wasn’t feeling so hot myself since I played basketball (for the first time in three years), and my knees were definitely feeling it whenever I pushed off while the right knee was bent.
Still, that didn’t stop Mom and I from enjoying the falls once again. The shape of the falls looked pretty much the same, but the plunge pool seemed a bit darker than I remembered. Plus, the presence of bubbles and foam in the water made me wonder whether there’s something foul in the water.
When another family made it to the falls, we noticed a kid went across the creek over the fallen reeds. It seemed like an easier way to go, and when it came time to leave, Mom and I followed the kid’s lead. And when Julie saw how easy it was to cross over the reeds, she decided to get to where we were at to take more waterfall movies from a more direct viewing position.
As we had finished re-crossing the creek on that easier path over some flattened reeds, we couldn’t help but notice a putrid smell that seemed to emanate from the bubbly plunge pool right next to us. I didn’t remember the pool being this dirty the last time we were here, but apparently Julie noticed this too as she pulled a face and gave me that look that something really stunk.
We wondered if this had something to do with the increase in suburbian development further up the canyon where sewage and other suburban waste was being drained into the creek responsible for this falls. I guess this was just another instance of Nature getting spoiled by aggressive development thereby further reinforcing the notion that things experienced in the past almost always seems better than the next time they’re experienced. Clearly, there’s no coincidence.
But then again, could it be that we tend to romanticize about things done further in the past than seeing it the second time when reality is closer to our conscience?
So we left the falls, traversed the narrow canyon past some cacti (attesting to the semi-arid conditions of this area), and then climbed that uphill section up towards that teepee we had seen earlier. That teepee wasn’t actually an authentic one as it was really more of a picnic shelter in the shape of a teepee.
Mom made a pretty funny remark of how if Indians still lived in these parts, they probably wouldn’t be able to survive off the land given how defouled urban developments have made it.
By 10:15am, we made it back to the car park, but by then, we could clearly see that the parking lot was pretty much full at the time. Plus, we had been saying “Good Morning” to lots of hikers (many with dogs) going the other way as we were headed back. I guess it was a good thing we started our hike early because it’s probably going to be a zoo had we left an hour or so later.
Since we had made good time on this hike, I entertained the idea of stopping by Newton Canyon Falls on the way home. But Julie was still feeling discomfort in her stomach so we decided to can the idea and head back to the parents to meet up with Dad and Grandma for lunch.
And so the excursion pretty much ended at 11:35am as we had some delicious Northern Chinese fare from Dad’s favorite place. And then Julie and I headed home, dropping Grandma off at her place. And we had the rest of this Sunday afternoon to unwind and prepare ourselves mentally for yet another work week in the rat race…