28 June 2016

"Summer Adventure" # 1

A couple weeks ago we had our first "summer adventure" that the boys and I had planned. My mom went with us, we took our lunches and plenty of water, we picked up an Adventure Pass so we could park in the Cleveland National Forest, and we headed out, following the GPS to some coordinates we had found on the internet.

We were searching for Black Canyon Falls outside of Ramona. This was supposed to be a relatively easy hike to a swimming hole, although there wasn't very much information about this hike online, other than that the road to get there was narrow and curvy, and the hike started out from an old campground that was abandoned in the 80s because of flooding. I knew it might be too hot if we waited until late summer, so we planned this one as our first adventure of the summer. 

It took us a while to drive there -- for some reason the GPS took us on a round-about road that looped around through the hills and became narrow as it curved through a beautiful canyon that seemed really far removed from civilization (although on the way home, the GPS took us a much more direct route through a different canyon and past Sutherland Resevoire, which shaved about half an hour off our previous drive in). But the drive in did make it feel a lot more like an adventure. :)

When we arrived at the old campground, we continued driving down the dirt road past the campground to see if there would be more places to park, but it turns out that was a very narrow, bumpy dirt road that we did eventually find a spot to do a 10-point turn in order to turn my minivan around and get back to the campground (so I would avoid driving on the dirt road past the campground in the future).

When we got out of the car, we headed out on a narrow trail from the campground that went north-east. Because I hadn't read too many details online about the hike itself, when the trail got more and more narrow and eventually became overgrown in spots, I was second guessing myself about if we had taken the right path or not, especially since there were no signs or trail markers. I didn't have any internet access there on the trail so I couldn't look up any of the websites with descriptions of the hike, but fortunately my Google maps app was still working, and I had written down that the trail headed roughly east from the campground. So since the stream bed by the trail ran north-east upstream or south-west downstream from the campground, I figured we were on the right path and we'd eventually find our destination if we kept going upstream. 

From there, we left the overgrown path and stuck to the dry stream bed the rest of the way. There was quite a bit of poison oak along the trail and in patches along the stream bed, so the rocky area along the stream bed was better to avoid the poison oak. As we continued upstream, I wondered if there would be any water at all. We could see marks on the rocks showing that there had been water there in the past, but it was totally dry. (Meaning there are probably lots more spots to wade and get wet if we ever go back in the springtime). And even if there wasn't any water, there were lots of cool rocks to scramble over. 

Eventually, we found a tiny puddle between some big rocks, and I pulled one of the rocks out of the way so the opening was big enough for Harley to stick his head in and get a drink. As we continued upstream, there was another bigger puddle, and then we came to an area that was wet, but it was so thick with moss that there were bees sitting on the moss that floated across the majority of the surface of the little pools. Up further, there was a small stream flowing down over smooth rocks. 

And eventually we got to the swimming hole. I was pleasantly surprised that there was actually plenty of water for the boys to swim. There was one young man there who was fishing, and Harley ran played with his black boxer the whole time we were there. The fisherman guy was a little quirky, but harmless. He had been camping there for a few days, and I think he was living off the fish he had caught. There were 3 fish on a line in the water that he had caught. And at one point he showed us his "pet" turtle -- he said it had kept getting caught on his fishing line, so eventually he caught the turtle and tied some paracord around it's shell kind of like a leash. 

The boys all had fun swimming. And Elijah caught a little garter snake that had been swimming in the water. They were playing on a little rock in the water near some tall reeds, and every time they bumped the reeds little clouds of yellow pollen billowed up from the reeds. We enjoyed our lunches there, and I took off my shoes and cooled off my feet in the water. I was rather tempted to jump in and swim too, but we were planning to go to Julian on our way home for some pie, and I didn't really feel like going into town all wet.

I eventually convinced most of the boys to climb up on the rocks above and jump down into the water. Camden was the first one to be brave enough to do it. They climbed up above on the rocks on the right side of the pool, then lowered themselves down a little rope someone had tied up there, to get down to the spot to jump in from. They did great!

When we left, the boys all went ahead and Mom and I picked our way back downstream, avoiding the poison oak. Eventually we got to a point where there wasn't a good way to get back from the stream bed to the trail without having to go through thick patches of poison oak, so we had to backtrack just a bit upstream to find a better spot to get back on the overgrown trail. We did a little bush wacking, but got back on track before too long. When we got to the car the boys were waiting there patiently, playing with some red ants. 

We all piled in the car, took the quicker route back toward town, and Nana treated everyone to the best pie in Julian (a town that's famous for it's apple pie): the caramel apple pecan pie with the cinnamon ice cream at Apple Alley Bakery. 

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