03 June 2016

Three Sisters Falls hike

On Memorial Day our family hiked Three Sisters Falls outside of Ramona with our friends, Chris & Danielle  Thompson and their boys, Bode & Harlan. This was the first time any of us had done this hike. We had read varying reports about the hike online -- some saying that it was really hard, others saying it was a challenging hike but you should be fine if you take plenty of water and avoid going when it's too hot, and some saying it wasn't too bad and they had taken their kids without any problems. 
So we made sure we each carried plenty of water, plus we brought a big jug of water in the van in case we needed more after the hike.  We packed lunch, and Michael took his suture kit along with our first aid stuff. We figured we'd be ok. 

It was a pretty remote area, and we eventually found where a number of cars were parked alongside a curve in the dirt road. There was a sign there warning that this was not an official trail. And even though it was a sunny day, there were other people on the trail, but not anywhere near as many as you would have expected for a popular trail on a holiday. 

We walked down an easy path until we came to a sign and the trail turned downhill. From there, the trail got more narrow, and gradually got more steep -- it was a nice descent. At times we could see across the valley to the waterfalls in the distance:

After going downhil for a while, we came to a steep part where people had tied up a few different ropes to hold onto while walking down through the really fine dirt that filled your shoes with every step. I liked that part -- the ropes weren't entirely necessary, but they were helpful in a few spots that were especially slippery in the fine dirt. I went down this part with our 7 year old, Courtland, and his friend, Harlan, who's a tough little 5 year old, and they thought it was great fun. 

 After going down further, we hit another fun part of the descent: the next spot where people had tied up a couple of ropes was a rocky area. In this spot, hikers both hiking down into the canyon and those hiking up back out of the canyon paused to form a couple lines to wait to use the ropes. As we waited our turn, my friend, Danielle, noticed that one of the men hiking back up out of the canyon was only using one hand to climb up the rope, and she offered to give him a hand, but he quietly refused. That's when we saw that his other hand was terribly swollen -- and the woman hiking with him told us in passing that he had climbed up some rocks "that he shouldn't have been climbing" and had broken his hand. Ouch!  I'm glad no one had any really serious injuries while we were down there, because the only access would be by helicopter, plus the cell coverage down there was non existent for most of the hike, so it'd be hard to get help if you really needed it. 

While we waited our turn to climb down the ropes, Courtland climbed down ahead of us, and then while I was climbing down, he climbed right back up the rocks (he didn't need to wait in line, because he didn't use the ropes at all), so he could wait his turn to climb back down again because it was fun. {Thats's my kid}.  

After that, there wasn't anything really challenging on the rest of the hike towards the falls. Once we reached the creek someone told us it was better to stay on the left side of the creek, rather than crossing over o the right side, and go upstream from there. The creek was surrounded by wonderful large and medium boulders, which were great to climb on and jump from rock to rock. 

We walked upstream until we came to the first falls, which wasn't a lot of water this time of year. 

Then we continued right up to the next falls, which Michael and the boys promptly got in and swam around in the few feet of water in the pool. We had lunch there, and got to relax a bit. 

We carefully went up to the third falls, because there were some more ropes leading up there and we wanted to be cautious with the kids, but it wasn't anything too difficult. The third falls was the prettiest, with water trickling down from above into a larger pool and then spilling over the edge to the falls below. This one had large, smooth rocks where we laid down and relaxed for a while, and Courtlabd even fell asleep. I took off my shoes and put my legs in the water, which was cold, but not too cold to enjoy on a warm day. Michael hiked up to the top of the third falls to look around, but I felt like just staying and laying on those rocks. 

We eventually headed back down the trail, going out over the rocks along the creek again. The boys tried to play a game where they weren't allowed to step on anything but rocks, which worked in most areas along the creek, but they eventually had to give up and step on dirt in a few spots. 

Then we headed back uphill. It was steep, and it was kind of challenging to trudge uphill through that really fine dirt that slides downhill when you step in it , (but it felt like the good kind of challenging). 

Luckily it wasn't too hot out. It was warm, but not one of those unbearably sticky blistering hot days that are just miserable to hike in. Nothing like that. I would have said it was about 75 degrees out, although Michael thinks it was at least 80. 

Michael and I had prepared ourselves to drag overtired, whiny kids out of that canyon, because we knew that it was a long descent down, followed by a long climb back out at the end of the day when everyone's already tired. But surprisingly, the kids did quite well overall and most of them didn't even complain as they hiked back out. 

Most of the kids had gotten ahead of us on the trail, so Michael had gone ahead of us to catch up with them. I kept thinking we would catch up to them, but we never did. The next time we saw all of them was at the cars. Harlan was a little trooper -- he was the youngest kid I saw on the trail that day (other than a toddler I saw with a group near the creek, which I assume was carried in). He just kept climbing up that hill and never had a hard time. 

I, on the other hand, had kind of a hard time. I wasn't feeling great, so kept drinking water more and more regularly throughout the hike to avoid dehydration.  I knew I needed to keep drinking, so I did, even though every time I took a sip of water my stomach felt a little worse. I stopped for quick breaks along the trail several times on the way up, but by the time I reached the sign at the top of the hill where the trail wasn't steep anymore, I stopped and sat down for quite a while because I seriously felt like I was going to throw up if I kept moving.  I had told Chris & Danielle to go ahead, but after a while Chris came back to make sure I was ok. After sitting for some time, I felt ok enough to keep walking to the car. But I didn't feel better until about half an hour after I got in the car and sat with the cold air blowing in my face. That's the first time I ever got sick while hiking -- and the funny thing is that it was warm, but I've hiked in much hotter weather before, and it was challenging, but I've done more challenging hikes before. All I can figure is that I was starting to get overheated. I'm glad it didn't get worse than that, and I'm crossing my fingers I never have to deal with that again. 

Because I was feeling so lousy, I'm afraid I wasn't very good company when we got back to the cars, and didn't even say anything to our friends after the hike was over. Fortunately, the kids had the idea to invite them over for swimming and pizza. So we picked up some pizzas and the swimsuits and towels, and we all met up at my parents' house. Michelle & her kids joined us for a swim, and we all sat a chatted in the hot tub for the rest of the evening. A great end to a fun day!  (And I think the hot tub was a really good way to prevent our muscles from becoming even more sore and stiff than they already became for the following week). 

Ever since then, I've really wanted to go back and hike Three Sisters again -- not so much to prove to myself that I can conquere that trail, as to enjoy the fun & challenges of that hike again while getting a great amount of exercise in all in one day. Plus, with how few people there were on the trail on a holiday, I imagine there wouldn't be too many other hikers there on the average weekday, and since it's not an official trail and it's pretty far removed from civilization, I think it's work to take Harley with me and let him go off leash. I probably would have made plans to go back and hike it again already (if the kids were still in school), except as the days get hotter the further we go into summer, I know the idea of hiking that trail just becomes more and more stupid (there are too many stories of people getting in trouble and having to be life-listed out of there after becoming dehydrated or getting heat stroke) -- I'm going to have to wait until winter when it's cooler. So, maybe I'll plan to go back and tackle it again as soon as it cools down -- I could take my brother to show him the trail and so I could have a hiking buddy, and go during the day sometime while the kids are in school. That's my plan. I'm looking forward to trying to get in a few different fun hikes this winter and spring to destinations that aren't wise in the heat of the summer, like Cedar Creek Falls and the ladder slot canyon trail I read about in Anza Borrego Desert. There are so many cool places to explore around here, I can't believe I grew up here in San Diego (and we always got out and did lots of fun things), and I've still got so many new places like this yet to explore. 

No comments: