Slim Pickings

Tahia enjoying herself at Monrovia Canyon Falls

10-March 2012: And so with that we finally completed our three-point turn and quickly tried to retrace back to the lower car park in search of this elusive parking spot. I was getting worried that after having paid the $5, we still might not have a spot and be out this amount of cash for nothing...

With an unusually dry Winter (even by the standards of our already arid climate), Julie and I haven't been waterfalling as much as we'd like this year. So we were itching to do a waterfall on this day with our daughter, but with very few reliable waterfalls in the Southern California area, which one should we do?

Last month, we were pleasantly surprised by the performance of Eaton Canyon Falls. So what should the follow up act be?

We ultimately decided between Sturtevant Falls or Monrovia Canyon Falls.

And given the usual tasks of changing, feeding, playing with, and just taking of our daughter in general, it was 10am before we knew it. This meant we'd be getting a very late start and I'm sure it would be crowded no matter where we went given the fine weather.

So we ultimately decided on Monrovia Canyon Falls since we knew it was easy. Never mind that we had taken our daughter to this falls in May of last year. At least this time, she should be able to interact more with it considering she's a bit more aware of what's going on around her now.

So shortly after 10am, we took off from home and did the mostly uneventful drive up to the falls. We got off the familiar exits, passed through Old Monrovia town, and even followed those familiar "Fountain to the Falls" signs. However, when we got towards Canyon Drive, that was when we saw numerous cars parked along the road.

That was a bad omen, I thought. Then again, it was about 10:30am so perhaps we were right at the peak of the Gaussian curve of visitors on a typical weekend day.

Shortly thereafter, there was a ranger next to a sign that said "Parking Lot Full" or something to that effect. I was about to pull a U-turn when the ranger beckoned me towards him and said that I could go up (shortly after I overheard via his walky-talky something to the effect that someone had left).

And so we dutifully proceeded up the road, got to the lower car park where we paid our $5 admission fee, and then went all the way to the upper car park where (not surprisingly) the lot was full.

Just as we were about to give up hope, Julie noticed a spot on our left near the end that looked vacant. However, there was a woman socializing while standing in the middle of that spot. I had already suspected that she was probably saving the spot for someone, but Julie wasn't too pleased about it saying, "She can't do that!"

So with Julie encouraging me to insist on taking that spot, the lady pretty much told me what I had already suspected. Then Julie (in a somewhat confrontational tone) said directly that she couldn't do that. The lady insisted that the rangers let her do it.

After a minute or two passed, a ranger pulled up by us after I beckoned him towards us. At first he was about to refute what the lady was claiming, but then there was another ranger who then showed up and told him that what she said was legit.

The ranger then proceeded to say that there was a spot that opened up on the lower car park.

And so with that we finally completed our three-point turn and quickly tried to retrace back to the lower car park in search of this elusive parking spot. I was getting worried that after having paid the $5, we still might not have a spot and be out this amount of cash for nothing.

So when we got back to the lower spots, we saw there was a group of backpackers squatting on an empty spot. I'm betting that they were doing the same thing too (waiting for someone in their party to take the spot).

This was already getting old real fast. I guess this is what happens when you're not here early. I'm sure the dry Winter didn't help matters since waterfalling locally was now slim pickings of only a small handful that would still be resilient against the unusual climate bringing about the dry conditions. So instead of the same volume of people dispersing to visit a larger number of local waterfalls, they'd all concentrate on only the ones left that would still be performing.

Trailhead for Monrovia Canyon After a little bit of tense discussions between Julie and I, we decided to go back up to the upper car park noticing that there was at least a car that went downhill. The question was whether it was a car that left because it couldn't find parking or whether it was a car that vacated its spot.

Finally getting started Anyways, back at the top, we lucked out and saw an opening, which we quickly took. Of course after the fact, another spot opened up that happened to be in a shady spot, but at this point, we were just happy to be parked close enough to the trailhead so as to not have to carry Tahia longer than we needed to.

By now, it was about 10:45am.

The familiar picnic area But as we were getting ready to take her on the hike, one thing I forgot from the Eaton Canyon experience was how long it took even for us to get started. We still had to bring her milk, food, diapers, plus get ourselves ready to go. We also changed her one last time before we could finally take off.

Before all was said and done, it was about 11:20am when we finally started the hike!

Finally past the picnic area and on the trail Our daughter was getting a little heavier being that she was already past a year-old. However, my pack was still heavier since it had to carry her food, milk, water, and diaper bag. Plus, my pack also had to carry both of our water bottles plus some snacks.

So Julie took on the task of taking Tahia along for the ride on the way there.

Still on the trail The trail started off like we had always remembered it. Sunny day, quiet picnic area, then onto the narrower path where the trail descended towards the main trail.

We could tell we had been here many times when we could anticipate particular little sections of the trail like the initial creek crossing which was easily traversed without getting wet.

Narrow part of the trail Then, we went through a short flat part of the trail beneath lots of trees while going alongside some man-made dams. We still weren't sure what they were there for. We couldn't see much evidence of diversion or mini-hydroelectricity. So the only thing I could think of was either flood control and/or sediment control?

Anyways, it wasn't long before the trail started its somewhat gradual climb. It was here the trail narrowed and with Tahia in tow, we had to be careful not to get too close to the edge of the trail nor get too close to the rock walls where Tahia might get knocked on the head.

Julie making sure Tahia doesn't get hit on the head by that tree Plus, we had to be careful not to let any of the overhanging trees knock her on the head either.

It's funny how we take these things for granted without bringing a baby along. Now, it's like everything matters.

Playing at the falls By about around 11:50am or so, we made it to the busy waterfall. The flow of this waterfall seemed pretty consistent with late Summer flow (at least what I could recall from our very first time here, which happened to be in August). However, it was still decent flow and enough for everyone here to picnic and play in.

Tahia seemed to enjoy the waterfall this time around as we let her walk around a little bit as well as feel some of the stray splashes from the falls while posing for pictures. That seemed to amuse her quite a bit as it was totally unexpected on her part.

Looking up at the falls But when all was said and done, we still had to try to feed her milk, which was always a challenge. And given the distractions present at the falls, it also didn't surprise use that she refused once again.

So we promptly got our stuff and headed out. This time, I was the one carrying our daughter while Julie was carrying my pack. It was only then that Julie realized that my pack was heavier.

My turn to take little girl back As we were partly on the way out, I noticed Julie lagged behind for a few minutes. It turned out that someone alerted her that something fell out of my camera bag. It was a good thing we paid attention to that person because it was the backup memories that fell out.

We eventually returned to the now-emptier car park at about 12:45pm. I guess it might be worth noting that if we want to do a hike when it's not as tense for parking, perhaps the afternoon might be the time to do it, but the problem with that is that you pretty much lose the whole day waiting that long to do the excursion.

Anyways, Julie and I were hoping to go to Din Tai Fung for some soup dumplings, but we were pretty sure it would be packed. We were hungry and somehow waiting over a half-hour to get seated for xiao long bao while baby's lunch and nap time would be compromised just wasn't appealing to us.

As we took our time driving towards the desired lunch spot, Tahia managed to finish her milk. So with that out of the way, we were ready to feed her food at whatever restaurant we'd end up at.

When we got to Din Tai Fung, it was packed as usual. So we went across the street to this place called the Dumpling House. It didn't take us long to get seated though the tables were a bit small - making it easy for Tahia to reach for whatever was not half-way across the table.

Nonetheless, Julie and I were resourceful about utilizing the limited space while we helped each other out trying to occupy her while she ate.

It was one of those moments where it probably didn't seem like much, but it was the kind of family bonding time that I'm sure we'll look back on fondly when the weekend is over and the rat race continues...

It was about 3:30pm when we returned home. Nap time...

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