Mountain Falls in the Morning
Memorial Day – Monday
On a day when we, in the United States, take a day to remember those who fought and died for the freedom that we all should receive I walk in the steps of those who came before. I followed the trails created by explorers of the more recent past that crossed lands, which were homes and relaxing ‘vacation’ spots of those from the much further past.
Early in the morning, around 3:30 in fact, my eyes opened without purpose and then I was wide-awake. I couldn’t rightly stay inside, or even stay in the desert all day, so I searched through the AllTrails app on my phone. Even without wifi the app showed me heaps of the trails nearby, and since I knew it would be hot I narrowed the search to semi-nearby trails with waterfalls. I ended up with trails near Lake Arrowhead in the San Bernardino National Forest.
Originally I planned to do the Oak Glen Preserve Trail since it is rated as ‘moderate’ and says it has a waterfall, but when looking at a basic map it looked too close to the road, and not enough in the mountains so I bailed on that one and took the 18 (highway 18) to the 38, the scenic route around the north shore of Big Bear Lake, back to the 18, and to the 173 before finding all of the thin dirt roads. It may have taken around 2 hours to find my way to the first trailhead, at the Splinters Cabin Day Use Area. Unfortunately, I forgot my backpack at work so I didn’t have the patience to bring my water, selfie stick, or lunch. I only brought the clothes I wore over my swimming suit, the sunglasses I was wearing, my watch, phone, GoPro5 Hero that was clipped onto my belt loop, and my iPod that continued to play episodes of Beyond Belief; my favorite show on the podcast called The Thrilling Adventure Hour.
Because I hadn’t looked at pictures of the area I was expecting more forests than what I got. Trees were slightly scarce and many were burnt, but I still hiked part the Pacific Crest Trail, which followed the Deep Creek River northward. Even though it was only 9 o’clock at the latest the late May sun was already beating down on me. It wasn’t hot enough to make me sweat, but I still could feel my skin start to tighten. As I didn’t even realize that I was heading towards the falls I had no clue where I was actually going. The dirt path, which was just wide enough for one person, and maybe their dog walking next to them, tightly clung to the side of the hills. Continuing to follow the trail more and more evergreens popped up closer to the trail, the drop off on the downhill side of the trail became increasingly steep, so steep in fact that if you were to slip you would be rolling and flipping for at least a minute before hitting the rocks in the river below, if you weren’t lucky enough to be caught by the scratchy bushes and dead trees on the way down.
In a seemingly short amount of time there came an interesting fork in the road; to the left would continue on the PCT, but to the right, a blue spray-painted arrow points down a nearly 50˚ path. The steep descent had scattered rocks and exposed roots to walk on and hang onto, like an ill-constructed ladder, but there were more dangerous sections with extremely loose sandy gravel that caused me to slide and land straight on my ass on more than one occasion. But when I finally made it to the river, it was lovely. There were already some people making their way to the small shore opposite of the waterfall, but I didn’t care and just removed my shoes and socks and walked through the water that is just before the falls, trying to stay balanced on the flat rocks, over to the huge boulders.
After taking a moment to just enjoy my surroundings I remove the excess clothing that I’m wearing down to my swimsuit and pick up my GoPro so I can record the action of me jumping 15-20 ft down into the pool of water below.
I looked down and, even though I am definitely not afraid of heights, the water seemed to pull further away. I closed my eyes and didn’t open them again until I was looking straightforward at graffiti on the opposite wall of rock, which had “peace” written underneath a picture of a face in profile. It calmed me and I knew that if I was going to jump, I couldn’t look down. So, I kept my eyes forward and jumped.
The fall was short, barely had time to feel a jump in my stomach. When I hit the water feet first, I instinctively curled up in a ball. My body continued to gently sink until my butt hit the sandy bottom, which is when I pushed upwards to breathe some air again. Once air returned to my lungs I completely felt the cold of the water. In a polite way, “it was truly bracing”, in the real way “SHIT, it was freezing”, but what can one expect from water that is following from snow runoff. I left the water as quickly as I could, the first submerging shocked my system so much (I felt) that swimming and even breathing was becoming difficult. I climbed onto a boulder that was partly sticking out of the water and climbed back up the side of the rock mound to get back to from where one can safely jump.
I ended up jumping three times; strangely it got a bit more nerve-racking each time. I think it was because of the fact that my feet and the rock that I stood on were getting increasingly slippery and the fact that I knew exactly what was coming. Each time my butt brushed the sandy bottom, and I rose out of the water to instead swim over to the sandy island near the opposite end of the pool. There wasn’t much of an area to really swim around in since most of the water was low enough for me to stand up and still have my chest out of the water, so I decided to call that section a day I explore somewhere else.
On the way out I enjoyed climbing up the steep section of the trail, once again listening to my iPod as I used the roots and rocks to scale towards the main trail again. Reaching the PCT again I got bored with walking and elected to do some trail running instead, passing a few people on their way in. Friendly people just smiled and greeted me with a good morning, since it was still only 11. After crossing the bridge and making it back to the parking area a couple who asked me how it was, “so beautiful” I replied, which led to a short conversation to the trail and a water. I didn’t notice until they pointed it that they thought I was just super sweaty when I ran up toward them because my tank top was soaked with the water that was left in my bikini top. We had a short laugh and each of us went our respective ways.
While coming up to my car, I noticed the forest ranger and got nervous for a second because I don’t have an Adventure Pass. Luckily, no ticket, and when diving out I was happy to give my parking spot to someone else who wanted to go for a nature walk. Driving out, along the one car thick, rocky, dirt road I had to pull off to the side a few times to let people pass. This would ordinarily be annoying to me, but we all smiled and waved at each other, even wishing each other great days as we passed. Even still, I am glad that I left early, so I wouldn’t have to fight for space with a huge number of people while trying to have my own getaway. So these are the right kinds of mornings you want for a holiday, which can lead to amazing afternoons.
to be continued… here