Update: As of June 2016 this trail has been closed until further notice due to the 2016 Fish Fire
I have become a social media hoarder of all things hiking on Facebook. So when I saw the link to an article 10 Waterfalls In Southern California I immediately opened up my bucketlist and jolted down every waterfall in that article. Now I have this long list of waterfalls, mountain peaks, desert oasis’s and anything of interest in Southern California that can be hiked to. It is a beautiful list, it is a well rounded list, but it is just a list and doesn’t do me any good if I never visit anything on this list. Last weekend, Saturday April 23, 2016, I decided I would attempt my first solo hike to a place on my Bucketlist. After doing some research I choose Fish Canyon Falls in Azusa because 1. it was well traveled 2. it was closer to me than most 3. it was low enough not to have any leftover snow since our weather has been so weird lately and last but not least 4. it was only a 5 mile hike so it wouldn’t have me out all day.
The night before, I packed with excitement, making sure that my first aid kit was complete, all my electronics were charged and ready to capture my whole trip, I had enough food for 5 days (even though I was only going for a couple hours) and that my clothes were all laid out for the morning. I wanted to get up early to get to the parking lot at the trail head when it opened at 7am. When I was doing my research I found that all the reviews suggested you get there early or do it during the weekday.
Saturday morning I awoke with a spring in my step ready for this new adventure, solo hiking. I was really looking forward to it since I have done some solo cycling and I have actually learned that I really enjoy my own company. I am able to work out problems I am faced with when cycling up a hill and I find I take the time to literally smell the roses along the way. Life is good when you’re left alone with your thoughts and I am hoping I find that with solo hiking as well. I got out of the house at 6am, I thought that it would only take an hour to get to the trail head. But when I pulled up the location I previously marked the day before it was a 1/2 hour longer than I thought. I was already a 1/2 hour behind my schedule and I hadn’t even left my driveway, not a great start but I was still early enough I thought so it wouldn’t make a big difference.
The freeway was empty and I felt like I was making good time when I exited the freeway. I was still following my GPS and it started to take me up Hwy 39 San Gabriel Canyon Rd. I knew this road from cycling. I actually really enjoyed this area and I started to get excited until I realized I had gone up the mountain road too far and that I must of missed the turn somewhere. I pulled over and found that I had marked the Waterfalls for my destination not the parking lot and the route my GPS was taking me was around and above the falls. That explained the extra 30 minutes I was accounting for. Luckily I figured it out or I would have been over an hour past my schedule. I was able to back track and find the parking lot. It was only 7:10 and I could see the ranger just leaving the now opened parking lot. I rolled in expecting to the be the only car there but there were already at least 10 other cars parked there. Judging by the amount of cars that early and the reviews on how packed this place gets I knew there were going to be a ton of people on this trail.
I got all my gear load on my body, I’ve must looked ridiculous with my large pack on my back, my camera in one hand, my phone in another and my GoPro attached to my shirt. This was a only a 5 mile round trip flat hike, but I really wanted to test all my gear and figure out which one would be best to take on future hikes. I also wanted to get comfortable using all of it. I just got a new Samsung Galaxy S6 Active and haven’t compared the camera to my little Sony digital camera I had for years and I am still trying out which attachment to use with the GoPro Hero 4 that gets the best shot while hiking. This trail was the perfect trail to figure it all out on.
The trail head starts on the property of the Vulcan Materials quarry. The green fence line will walk you through the middle of the working quarry safely but do not go off the trail. The quarry is a full functional quarry and is always running. As I was walking along the beginning of the trail I couldn’t imagine that there would be any relief from the hammering sound of the machines moving the rock around, but as you move slightly away from the green property fence and through the meadow of beautiful flowers the sounds slowly fade yet still faint in the distance. I stopped every few feet to test the close up feature on my phone’s camera. The picture of the flowers turned out as vibrant as what my eye was seeing. So far I am very impressed with my phone’s camera.
The fence line finally ends where the stream crosses under a steal bridge. You are now off the quarry’s property and entering the true wilderness. As well as this trail is traveled I was some what surprise on how clean it was. I only saw a few pieces of trash along the whole trail. Reading some reviews of well traveled trails the biggest complaint is always about how much trash is left behind by the many people that don’t understand Pack it In / Pack it out.
After you pass over the bridge the trail takes you left behind a canyon wall and that is where you leave the faint noise of the hammering quarry. Your ears are now full of the sounds of the small bubbling creek and birds chirping in the morning light. I was left alone in my thoughts, the small group in front of me was now far ahead due to me stopping every 100 feet to take pictures and there was no one behind me yet. I was now on the trail for about an hour when a few people finally passed me. It was a little hard at places to let people pass because the trail is somewhat narrow especially on the ridges but it was do able. At this point the trail didn’t seem that busy.
All along the trail there are signs telling you about the history of the area. I love finding out about local history especially before you get to your location or while you are at your location. It’s like reading the book before you see the movie. Not everyone does it so it feels like you know all the secrets while the story unfolds in front of you. The trail drops itself under the low hanging trees and opens back up to give you green lushes views of the valley. The stream along the trail always speaks to you the whole time never leaving you lonely. Its’ words are spoken softly as the trail slightly gains in altitude while it stays in the valley and you walk to the sky and then raises its’ voice as trail descends and hugs the stream. There is so much beauty around that it is hard not to stop every few feet to take pictures.
I cross over the stream keeping the chatter of the water to the west letting me know that the falls are getting close. At this point I can’t wait to get to my destination. My speed has picked up and I can hear the falls in the faint distance. As I round the corner I see the top of the falls to my left over the tops of the trees lining the valley. I felt like I was a kid again when we would go to the beach for the day and my mom would make us look for the blue ocean as we got closer. I saw a glimpse of it and it was beautiful. Then I hear the dreaded BEEP BEEP BEEP. My GoPro died. I almost made it to the falls with the GoPro but it didn’t happen and I was so close I didn’t want to pull over to change out the batteries. I just pushed forward. The last turn put you face to face with the three tiered falls. There was a flat rock that should have had one of those signs that say “Take Scenic Picture Here” while on the road. It was an amazing location before you descend to the falls.
There was already a crowd of people there all trying to get their picture with the famous waterfall. People were trying to climb up the falls to get that perfect shot for their social media feed. Some people were trying to have a war of noise pollution with their favorite song blaring on their smart phones while most found a corner of wilderness and was just enjoying the rewarding waterfall after a short hike. There wasn’t an empty space along the water line except for a couple. I grabbed one along with another solo hiker and her dog.
I have found that when I am out doing things like hiking and cycling I run across the most friendly sincere people. People are more relaxed and just in a happy place. My new friend and I had a great conversation about our upcoming trips, hiking solo and our blogs. We tied up our conversation and said our good byes and decided, as a group of 20 boy scouts entered the fall area, it was time for us to start heading back.
I started to make my way out of the falls area just in time because as we were leaving another group of 60 hikers were making their way in. This was the crowd everyone in the reviews warned you about. After I passed that group there was another group of 50 that was trailing behind them. It was a mad house and I was glad I wasn’t caught between the two groups. Once those two large groups passed it wasn’t as bad. The trail opened up but there were still a lot more people hiking up just not in large groups. My pace was a lot faster now that I was heading down quickly probably because my camera was packed away. I did however take some pictures with my phone after I found a couple of Geocaches. If you are unfamiliar with a geocache you should look it up. They are small treasures hidden around the world and the GPS locations are put online at https://www.geocaching.com/play. Some are easy to find while others take some thought process. The caches can range from a something so small that only holds a piece a paper so you can log your find to a large ammo can that has swag in it like key chains or hot wheels. I love these because it usually takes me to places you would miss along your journey, weather it be hiking or visiting a new city.
I ended up finding two different caches along the way out which put me in the back of the crowd. I didn’t really notice how far back I was in the crowd of hikers until I crossed the bridge onto the quarry property and felt like I was in line at Disneyland. I could see the parking lot but the crowds were moving like slow moving cows. I finally made it back to my car and my jaw dropped when I saw the parking lot. It was 11 at this time and the parking lot was so full that people were parking over a mile down the street. I was so thankful my car was next to the trailhead. I popped up my trunk, kicked off my boots and had a picnic in the back of my car. I finished my first solo hike and I didn’t get lost, I didn’t get hurt and I made friends. I would say that this was a great day.
3 Comments Add yours
Great blog post. Just the right amount of info and photos. Good story telling. Most of all congrats on your first solo hike.
I can’t imagine being around that many people. It’s great to see so many others enjoying time outside but I find when lists get posted on social media or in print the hordes arrive. I’m thankful there are a ton of trails to choose among and that I have the flexibility to hike the more popular ones either off season or mid week.
Thank you for the feed back. It makes me so happy that people enjoy my blog posts about my adventures. I love sharing and writing about all of it. I didn’t really like the amount of people on the this trail either, I really enjoy the peacefulness of nature as well. Hopefully I can get to some more quite trail time in the future 🙂
Nice write-up! Thanks for sharing the link to 10 waterfalls. I never knew about Geocaching. That’s neat! We zoom passed the crowd on the way down then slowed down once it was just two of us. I thought the same thing. It’s like an amusement park! It was nice meeting you, Becky and it looks like you had a great experience of solo hiking. Hope to run in to you again in our future hikes! Happy Hiking!