"Tahia's Request" (San Antonio Falls - January 16, 2016)
A snow-filled adventure to San Antonio Falls
As we were ascending the Baldy Rd behind this long line of cars in front of us with steep switchbacks along the way, I started to notice that an indicator light was on saying "A/T Temp". We didn't know what it meant, but it didn't seem good, and to compound the issue, it seemed like Mom's SUV was stuck in a low gear as the car seemed like it didn't want to change gears no matter how fast we were going. We even started to smell something like it was burning and we were worried it came from our car. We only had a couple of more miles to go (albeit uphill) before the familiar trailhead, but now we were worried about whether we could even make it back home after the hike let alone up to the trailhead...
It was about 8:20am when I finally awoke. These late wake-ups seemed to be the norm as my 4:30am wake-ups for work definitely took its toll. And with this only being the second full workweek this year, this was not a good sign. Whether this lack of energy was due to my age or something, it was certainly probable. But I was definitely nowhere near retirement age so the beat went on.
In any case, as I was getting mentally ready for a lazy weekend, Julie suddenly decided that since Tahia didn't have Chinese school today, we mind as well do a hike. Of course, she laid this on us around 8:30am, which was already a late start, especially since all of us were in PJs, and I knew it would take close to an hour to get ready to leave.
We Face-Timed my Mom, and when she bought in to this last-minute hiking excursion, she took the time to pick up Joshua (Tahia's cousin), which excited Tahia. As for the hiking excursion for the day, Tahia wanted to do San Antonio Falls (and she wanted to do this even on New Year's Eve when we wound up doing Bonita Falls
so Tahia's request was long overdue in her mind, I'm sure.
And with the saturation rains from over a week ago, there was definitely snow in the local mountains. But I figured with the dry week that we had this past week, perhaps the only snow left would be just patches. So we weren't all that prepared to do any sledding or even bundling up with thick jackets. Indeed, we thought this would be a quick excursion, and everybody'd be back home before going about our dinner-time plans at 3pm.
After our last-minute hectic scrambling to get ready and out of the house, we were finally on the road at 9:30am. First order of business on the day was to get over to my parents' place to pick up Mom and Joshua. And after about 25 minutes of uneventful driving, we were at my parents at 9:55am.
We decided to take Mom's SUV, which was a little bigger than our Honda CRV so we had to take some time to get Tahia's car seat detached then put into Mom's car. We also had to do some last-minute preparations and bathroom duties before we were finally back on the road at 10:15am.
The skies looked a bit on the foggy and hazy side as we looked towards the direction of Mt Baldy. In fact, none of the mountains could be seen through the haze, and I wondered if it would be foggy up near San Antonio Falls.
Anyways, the drive was pretty uneventful as we took the 60, then the 57, then the 210 east as we got off Base Line Rd. Then, we followed our own driving directions (from our website
as we were debating whether to take Base Line Rd as opposed to Mountain Ave), and from there, we followed a trio of cars that seemed to be going in the same direction as us.
The uphill drive seemed to go by smoothly until we started to follow a much longer caravan of cars. And as we passed by a couple of developments and villages, it dawned on us that these places were quite busy. We weren't sure why it was so busy at these villages, but we still kept on.
As we were ascending the Baldy Rd behind this long line of cars in front of us with steep switchbacks along the way, I started to notice that an indicator light was on saying "A/T Temp". We didn't know what it meant, but it didn't seem good, and to compound the issue, it seemed like Mom's SUV was stuck in a low gear as the car seemed like it didn't want to change gears no matter how fast (or slow) we were going. We even started to smell something like it was burning and we were worried it came from our car. We only had a couple of more miles to go (albeit uphill) before the familiar trailhead, but now we were worried about whether we could even make it back home after the hike let alone up to the trailhead.
As we finally got up to the general car parking area alongside the divided road near the trailhead for San Antonio Falls, we immediately saw that parking was scarce. And at the same time, Mom's SUV was struggling while that A/T Temp light persisted and the car was jerking as we were slowly laboring our way further up the mountain now looking for a suitable place to park. With so many people here and traffic on the road, Julie and I couldn't remember having this much trouble trying to find parking before.
Eventually at 11:20am, we ultimately decided to put the emergency lights on and just park awkwardly behind a trio of cars (one of them seemed kind of "double parked"). At that point, we got out of the way of traffic, turned off the car, then read the owner's manual to see what A/T Temp meant.
It turned out that A/T Temp meant the Automatic Transmission Fluid was running at too high of a temperature. Somehow I wasn't that surprised by this since the car was definitely laboring, but Mom said that she had changed the engine oil not that long ago. However, when I told Mom that the transmission fluid was different than the engine oil, and when we asked when was the last time Dad had the transmission fluid flushed out, that was when she realized that perhaps we didn't do that bit of preventative maintenance and now we have this anxious moment.
After another 20 minutes of waiting for the light to go away (but didn't), we finally decided to make an attempt to find a more suitable parking spot. However, the car still labored after going a few more feet in this state, and we eventually squeezed our way kind of between a pair of cars (where one truck was kind of double parked like the last one we were stopped behind), and so it made for a little awkward exiting from the car.
We knew that whoever drove these cars we were parked tightly next to would probably not be happy with us so we put a message on our dashboard saying "Sorry, Car Problem, Must Stop Car" might disarm any animosity.
We figured that now with the car parked, we mind as well do our excursion to hike San Antonio Falls and maybe even play in the snow next to this car park area so by the time we're back at the SUV, the A/T Temp light we go off by then. Of course, I also thought about whether we might have burned off the transmission fluid as well. In any case, this was the state of mind and stress we were in at the time, but we mind as well get out there and enjoy Nature.
Julie and I had never seen so many cars and so many people here in all the times that we did the San Antonio Falls hike, and we were wondering if it was the snow conditions that made it as popular as it was. After all, on the opposite side of the road from the Falls Rd, we saw lots of people building snow men, sledding, and just enjoying the rare Southern California snow. Mom also indicated that this weekend was the MLK long weekend, so perhaps that added further fuel to the crowdedness.
At 11:50am, we were finally at the Falls Rd, which was also the San Antonio Falls route. And it didn't take long before we realized that the hiking would involve quite a bit of traversing ice and snow-covered pavement. Ordinarily, this would be one of the easiest hikes we'd be doing for a waterfalling excursion, but with the snow and ice, it wound up being a bit slower and a little more slip-and-fall-hazardous that ever before.
Our pace was slowed even more when both Tahia and Joshua kept kicking the snow or looking for snowballs or ice chunks to throw at us and induce a snowball fight. Still, both kids were full of energy, and just watching them having so much fun and enjoying the snow like this was fun for us adults. Indeed, who needs Big Bear when you can just get up to Baldy on this waterfalling hike to enjoy it?
With the road partially paved and partially covered in ice, it wouldn't be until around 12:25pm when we would finally arrive at the familiar lookout point for San Antonio Falls. There were quite a few people going in both directions throughout the hike as well as at the overlook. But given how long it took for us to get here as well as the car situation, we decided that we weren't going to do the dicey scramble to get all the way to the base of the waterfall this time around.
We were surprised to see that the falls didn't really blend in with the snow as there was quite a bit of exposed cliff surrounding it. There was even a lack of snow in the hairy part of the scramble leading down to the base (had we decided to do that). We figured that the falls must have been facing south enough to get the most sun exposure while the rest of the ravine would experience enough shadow to retain its snow. That was pretty much the only explanation we could come up with as for how just the falls and the area to its right had noticeable less snow than the rest of the entire place!
Nevertheless, we were pretty content to take our photos from this overlook just as the sun was coming out and the skies were clearing to blue. I also brought my tripod thinking this would be such a short hike, and we took advantage of it for some family shots in front of the impressive 80ft waterfall even though it wasn't all that visible on our photos thanks to the shadows and the blending in with the snow around it.
At about 12:50pm, we left San Antonio Falls and headed back to the car park. It was getting a little late, especially since we still hadn't eaten lunch, and the kids were quite hungry. We tried to hold ourselves over with clementines as well as some dry seaweeds and organic cheese puffs, and so by the time we got back to the car at 1:10pm, we decided to just get back in the car and head for home (all the time crossing our fingers that the A/T Temp indicator would turn off).
And back at the car, we saw that the scene seemed even busier than it was upon our arrival. Some fortunate folks managed to snag our awkward parking spot (we warned them about it), indicating just how difficult it was to find parking on this very busy day of snow play and waterfalling.
Fortunately for us, the A/T Temp light did not turn on, and we were on our way home. This time, we took Mountain Ave (towards Upland) on the return so we could give the My Delight Cupcakes place another try, and then drop Joshua off with his parents first thing so he'd be back in time for their evening activities.
We eventually wound up back at the My Delight bakery at 1:55pm (where we scored about 5 chocolate chocolate cupcakes), dropped Joshua off with his folks at 2:25pm, and then had our late lunch ate the Earthen Restaurant at 2:40pm (which was just in time before they would close for the afternoon at 3pm to prep up for dinner).
The lunch really hit the spot, and even Dad joined us for the festivities. When the lunch was over, we recovered our car at 3:50pm, and at 4:25pm, we were finally back at home. And thus ended this spontaneous getaway, where for one day, we got to combine snow play with waterfalling, which was especially rare in the Southland. And with the threat of yet another dry Winter (even with the El Nino predictions), we just have to be opportunistic about our outdooring excursions. After all, with climate destabilization going on, there's no telling how many more of these opportunities we'd have to spend quality time together while still rejuvenating from Nature as sick as she is these days...
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