26 February 2017

Cedar Creek Falls

Yesterday we hiked to Cedar Creek Falls (aka Devil's Punchbowl), a waterfall outside of Ramona & Julian. We invited my family to join us, but Mom & Aaron weren't feeling well, so it was just the 7 of us, plus the dogs.  I hadn't been there since I was about 15 years old, and have been looking forward to doing it again for a while. 

We've been waiting a while to do this hike -- until the whether wasn't too hot, because there are lots of warnings about people and pets getting heat stroke on this trail in the hotter times of the year. And this trail was closed down for a while, because people were using it as a party destination and there was overcrowding, and someone died either cliff jumping or falling from the Falls. But since then it has been opened back up, with permits to limit the number of people on the trail each day, and rules about not climbing the rocks surrounding the falls, and no cliff jumping (although plenty of people were jumping from the lower cliffs while we were there). 

Anyway, we expected a hike somewhat similar to Three Sisters Falls, but although this hike was a long downhill descent to get to the waterfall like Three Sister's is, that's about the only similarity. Cedar Creek Falls is a single, large falls with a large, deep pool at the base.  I don't know exactly how high the falls are, but I'd guess somewhere around 80 feet, so it is an impressive waterfall (especially for Southern California). And we have lucked out on all our waterfall explorations lately, since we had so much rain the last couple months, because there was a lot of water flow -- we heard other hikers commenting that sometimes the falls can be just a trickle, or even have no water flow at all. 

Anyway, the hike was relatively easy, even the long descent back up to the trailhead on the way out -- compared to Three Sisters, at least. And although the falls was beautiful and we really enjoyed this hike together as a family, there were far too many people on the trail and at the falls for my liking. (I know, that's what we get for going on a Saturday, but we did that so Michael could go with us). And the occasional signs along the trail telling people to stay on trail to avoid erosion, and the signs at the falls telling people not to climb the rocks or cliff jump -- all a little too much for me. I prefer a more wild trail, with less government involvement (rules), and more feeling like you're out in the middle of nowhere really exploring. That being said, I am so glad that the local government did decide to re-open this trail and make it available to the public again, rather than keeping it closed for good -- and I'd put up with plenty of rules and trail signs to be able to have access to it. I think it's a sad day when any nature location is closed to the public. 

Anyway, the long walk down the hillside was scattered with wildflowers, and occasional boulders along the trail that the boys enjoyed climbing. And with the nice water levels, there were a few stream crossings at the bottom of the hill. One of the parts of the hike that was most fun was a huge rock outcropping to the left of the trail that was just within view of the falls -- everyone else was looking straight up toward the falls and didn't stop, but we stopped to climb those rocks and got great views of the falls from up top. 

When we got to the falls there were lots of people sitting on the rocks at the base, and a few climbing around on the side and up top. Several college-aged kids were jumping from the rocks to the left of the falls. Michael would have done that too, if it hadn't been for us trying to follow the rules of the permits. But some of the boys got into the water a bit, and Michael decided to take a swim. The water was freezing, and he took a long time to warm up afterward. He also hurt his knee somehow when he was swimming, which made the hike back out rather painful for him, but he roughed it out & made it back up. (Swimming in cool water on a hot day would be one reason to brave that hike in the summertime). 

I was all prepared to try to be patient, and to help the kids along on the long hike up and out -- just because this was our fourth hike of the week and some of the hikes earlier in the week were pretty strenuous. My muscles are still a little sore from several long hikes in a row. Surprisingly, though, the boys walked up ahead of us on the trail all the way out and waited patiently for us at the trailhead. Only Courtland slowed down and walked with us the last mile or so. But though he said he was tired, he didn't slow us down any. They really did great. 

So, my favorite hike is still Three Sisters, hands down. I love the fact that it feels more "wild," and the trail itself is more challenging, and there is so much bouldering while making your way upstream to the falls, and no signs or regulations. Just be smart, pack plenty of water and food, explore, challenge yourself, and have fun. 

I'd love to do a long hike to a cool destination like these once a week, if only we could fit it in to our daily schedules (even on a day when I don't have a lot going on while the boys are in school, I still need to be home in the morning to see the boys off, and in the afternoon when they get out of school -- so it limits how far away I can go for hiking while they're in school). I guess we'll just have to settle for school holidays and Saturdays for now. 

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