It was about 6:30am when Julie and I awoke in somewhat of a groggy state. It had been a while since we willed ourselves to wake up this early (it was still dark) on a Sunday morning, but since we had planned on visiting Sturtevant Falls on this day, we knew that the parking situation was the driving factor for the early start. But Julie had it in her mind to still make breakfast and insist on Tahia drinking her milk as well, so it wouldn’t be until after 8am that we would finally be out the door. Nearly 30 minutes later, we then met up with my parents who would be joining us on a hike for the first time this year (and the first time in what seemed like a long time given how dry 2014 was).
This hike was actually a second take on an attempt to do it. Three weeks ago on the penultimate day before New Year’s Day, we thought we might be able to do the hike and beat the parking situation by attempting it on a weekday. Unfortunately, it started to rain on that day and so we aborted it. We ultimately went to Din Tai Fung for lunch (and the hour-long wait to get seated) since we already made it all the way out here to begin with.
By 8:40am, my parents drove their car since our CRV was a little cramped to fit four adults plus a somewhat wide car seat for our little girl. And the drive went pretty smoothly as the traffic was light.
As we were anxiously making our way up Santa Anita Ave, we ultimately got up to the twisty mountain road leading up to Chantry Flat. That was when we found ourselves following a caravan of vehicles, which meant that our fear of a repeat bad parking situation had been realized. And sure enough, there was another separate caravan of a half-dozen cars further up ahead of us slowly making their way past the parked vehicles towards the same place we were going.
Well, at least, we had been experienced in coming here so we knew that the order of operations was to go up to the pack station at the hopelessly crowded car park at the end. Then, temporarily get out of the way of traffic so we could secure a forest service pass (knowing they actively patrol this area for unpermitted parked vehicles), drop off Julie, Mom, and Tahia with our gear, then drive back down the hill looking for parking.
It wouldn’t be until about 9:30am when Dad and I finally managed to find an awkward parking spot. We were probably a bit further down the road than we were a couple of years ago when we last did this hike. In fact, the view back towards the LA Basin was partially obstructed by a neighboring hill, where in the last time, we were already treated to decent direct views of the basin. So all that effort for an early start still didn’t cut it on this day.
Now, Dad and I made the somewhat uphill paved walk alongside many of the already parked cars. Dad and I were getting a kick out of how some folks were parked at such an incline that I swore it wouldn’t take much effort to flip the cars over. We also saw quite a few other folks sit down and wait for their ride to the start, or other folks making the mistake of finding parking down here but not having the pass in hand so they’d have to walk all the way back up then walk all the way back down to put the pass in the vehicle, then walk back up to the start of the hike.
Anyhow, Dad and I certainly worked our way to the crowded Chantry Flat gate at the familiar start of the hike. Julie and Mom commented on how Dad and I already looked like we had done a hike to even get to this point. Nonetheless, it was now time to make the downhill paved walk down into Big Santa Anita Canyon. This time, Tahia was walking on her own though I did bring the carrier just in case, especially since the final climb back up wasn’t going to be easy.
Once we got down into the canyon, it was shady and comfortable, which contrasted from the fairly warm temperatures on this day. It really seemed like January was shaping up to follow the same pattern of the last few years – i.e. hardly any rain and warm temperatures regardless of how cold and wet December was. I guess climate change had established this disturbing pattern, which I’m sure isn’t helping our water situation.
So we walked along the creek on the Gabrielino Trail passing by the familiar man-made dams and the cabins that were grandfathered in before it became prohibited. On today’s hike, we actually saw quite a few folks inhabiting or running errands just outside their cabins, as it was the strongest indicator yet that these cabins were actively used and maintained. I wasn’t sure if these folks actually lived here, or if they were merely staying here as guests or something.
By about 10:35am, we finally made it to the familiar cabin labeled Bombadil’s Castle, and shortly thereafter, we crossed the creek at Fiddler’s Crossing. And after a couple more creek crossings, we then finally made it to the crowded Sturtevant Falls at 10:55am.
There had to have been at least 30+ people down here so there was a bit of a buzz of activity from people taking selfies in front of the shadowed falls to others ignoring the signs and making the steep scramble higher up the cliffs in search of ways to the top of the falls and beyond.
The family made one last creek crossing towards the quieter side of the creek where we got frontal and angled views of the falls without the denuded tree blocking the views. Since it was quite early in the year, the sun wasn’t high enough on the horizon to illuminate and color the falls like when we first saw it over 10 years ago on a fine April day.
It was surprising how little waterflow that the falls had, which probably suggested to us that the dry January so far wasn’t helping matters. And it probably also indicated how badly hit we were from the drought. So this made me wonder how the other falls that we were hoping to see in places we had forgotten about like San Diego County or the deserts, etc. might fare.
Anyways, Tahia, ever the exhibitionist, was making funny poses as we took many photos to try to capture this family moment. Too bad Tahia’s cousins couldn’t make it on this day (being NFL Championship Sunday so they had to attend a friends’ party or something). Tahia was definitely asking for Joshua over and over again. Perhaps next weekend, we might try a different hike where the kids could keep each other company.
Nonetheless, it was about 11:15am when we had our fill of Sturtevant Falls, and it was time to go. About 40 minutes later, we then made it back to the familiar uphill paved walk leading to Chantry Flat.
While Tahia was complaining that she was tired, we managed to keep her mind off the subject long enough before we were more than 2/3rds the way up at about 12:10pm. It was finally at that point that we put Tahia in the child carrier, and carried her all the way up to the main road, then hiked what seemed like the last 1/2-3/4 mile back down to our parked car.
It was about 12:35pm when we returned to the awkwardly-parked car. Tahia was finally out at this point, but once we were back in the car, she was re-energized and insisting on watching Elsa on Mom’s iPhone.
By 1:10pm, we had lunch at the Earthen Restaurant, which was something Julie and I hadn’t eaten in what seemed like forever. As usual, the Northern Chinese stuff hit the spot. Though Mom and Dad did eat here last night as an out-of-town guests insisted on going there. Hopefully, they weren’t too sick of the food, but given how quickly we ate pretty much everything that was ordered, I guess we left that place pretty satisfied.
And the rest of the weekend was spent either napping, or in my case, watching an unbelievable finish between Seattle and Green Bay, and then watching the Patriots and Colts.
It was finally a relaxing weekend (which was rare these days given how busy work had been throughout last year and the start of this year). I’m sure we all could use another one of these local adventures. Besides, we were already thinking about possible waterfalling excursions as road trips or further abroad later this year…