29 January 2017

Tenaja Falls Exploration

Yesterday Kolby & Elijah had a deacons basketball game at the church at 10am, and after the game we had one of those rare Saturdays without anything else on the schedule for the day. Since last summer, I have been eyeing these really fun-looking hikes out in the dessert, and waiting for some free time when the weather wasn't too hot and it wasn't supposed to rain to explore some new slot canyons that we haven't been to before. But the hike that I really want to try out is a few hours drive from here and the hike itself is a few hours long, so it's the kind of thing where we would need to get up in the morning and go spend the whole day. 

Since we didn't have an entire day free yesterday, we decided to make the most of all this rain we've had over the last few weeks and find a waterfall. I found one up north of Temecula, 1 hr and 20 min from us, called Tenaja Falls. The photos online of this waterfall didn't look especially impressive -- I mean, most any water feature on a hike in the San Diego area is great since we have so few waterfalls here, but even though Tenaja Falls is 150 long, it's more like 150 feet of cascading falls in different tiers, rather than one massive falls rushing over the edge of a cliff. But there were some pictures of the pools at the falls, which looked really pretty. And when I watched someone's video of their drive to the falls down a very narrow, pothole-ridden road with barely enough room for two cars to pass each other, I decided this looked like the adventure for us.  :)

So after the basketball game we threw the kids and the dogs in the car and headed out. 

It was a pretty drive, and the narrow road at the end as we approached the falls trailhead just added to the effect of the rugged adventure. The one downside was the fact that we were definitely not the only ones who had the idea of hiking to a waterfall after the heavy rains, so we had plenty of opportunities to scoot all the way to the edge of the narrow road to allow cars to pass, and we were lucky that someone was leaving when we arrived so we were able to find a parking spot in the small overcrowded parking area off the side of the road.  [The parking area/trailhead was at  33.549121, -117.394503]. 

As soon as we parked the car, Camden discovered that he had gotten into the car in his socks and accidentally left his shoes at home, so he did the hike in his socks. 

It was an easy hike up to the falls -- there was a stream crossing at the beginning of the trail (you could find rocks to cross on to stay dry if you were careful). But the water was a few feet deep, probably 6 or 8 feet across, and flowing quickly. We met another hiker who told us he had been there before when they just walked across a dry stream bed. 

We hiked up the trail, which was uneventful, other than Camden taking a little longer than normal as he hiked in his socks, and lots of hikers stopping to pet the dogs as we went along. 

At our first glance of the falls from the trail, I could tell that it was a more impressive falls than it had appeared from the photos I'd seen online. 

When we got to the top of the falls, we climbed down to the first pool, (which wasn't hard for us, and just took a little extra assistance to get the dogs down too).

The water was too cold for swimming (which means it was actually cold, since my husband and boys will often swim in much colder water than I would ever consider getting into), and we took off our shoes, but no one did more than a little wading in the pool -- until Courtland slipped and went entirely in. (At least he was good natured about being completely wet the rest of the day). 

We decided to hike around the far side of the falls down to the second main pool, which looked pretty steep from across the falls, but really wasn't tough to get down to, even for the dogs.

After the boys waded a bit, climbed on the rocks, and played with sticks in the water, we decided to climb back up to the top of the ridge and check it out.
When we got up there, we thought we could handle climbing (and a bit of bushwhacking) down the far side of the ridge to get down to the pool at the very bottom of the falls, and then making our way downstream back to the trailhead. It took some convincing before Kolby and Courtland would put their shoes back on for the rest of the hike, but Isaac insisted on hiking all the way back to the car barefoot. (And Camden continued to do the same out of necessity).  We climbed and slid down the ridge and made our way to the pool at the bottom of the falls, with a nice sandy bank. 

It'd be such an ideal destination on a hot summer day, except that the water flow would surely be much lower, if not nonexistent. And there were already too many people there for my taste (including one guy climbing around the rocks at the top of the falls playing very loud music that couldn't be ignored, and another group of adults up there who were smoking something that smelled awful). So it was nice, because the further we climbed down the falls, the fewer people there were.

The rest of the way back we just followed the water, walking along the bank and crisscrossing back and forth across the rocks. And I eventually gave Camden my shoes and walked back the rest of the way in my socks (he wasn't complaining, just slowing down more and more without shoes on). From down there, we were able to avoid the crowds, and get off the beaten trail. It was a great end to a fun day. 

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