While Michael was with Kolby & Elijah at boy scout camp last week, the three younger boys and I decided to plan an overnight adventure. After doing a little swimming and cliff jumping on Friday, we headed up to Azusa and grabbed some dinner and some ...
While Michael was with Kolby & Elijah at boy scout camp last week, the three younger boys and I decided to plan an overnight adventure. After doing a little swimming and cliff jumping on Friday, we headed up to Azusa and grabbed some dinner and some food for breakfast at the Costco there before heading up the canyon to tackle the Bridge to Nowhere hike for a second time. We had gone back and forth trying to decide between backpacking and sleeping in the car on this trip (but I just didn't quite want to try out my first backpacking trip with kids without any other adults along), so we decided on the car. Because Michael had the van at the boy scout camp, we had his civic -- but the boys tested it out at home and decided it would work just fine. Because the dog's paw pads were a little roughed up from a hike earlier that week, they stayed at home and my family helped take care of them (which freed up a little room in that little car). I slept in the driver's seat, Isaac in the passenger's seat, and we folded down the back seats to expose the opening into the trunk. Courtland slept across that back seat area, and Camden opted to sleep in the trunk (which isn't quite as bad as it sounds, since it was open to the inside of the car). They loved it! It won't be too many more years before there's no way they could fit in those spaces anymore. Although it was a smaller space than when we have slept in the van in the past, I did fall asleep, and only woke up once at night when other people in the parking lot were talking -- then I was surprised when I woke up a second time and it was already 5:30am and the sun was out -- I can't believe I slept most of the night in the car without waking up at all.
We headed out on the trail at 6:15am, and with the way the canyons are situated and the trail generally follows the right side of the canyon, although the sun was out and was slowly rising & shining over the mountains onto the opposite side of the canyon across from us, we hiked almost the entire 5 miles to the bridge before we hit a gap in the hillside beside the trail which allowed the sun to shine on us. That made for a very comfortable morning hike that never got too hot. The boys swam and jumped into the swimming holes near the bridge and watched the bungee jumpers jump from the bridge before we headed up stream to explore further than we had hiked before. With a little coaxing I was able to convince the boys not to stop at every single swimming hole on the way upstream, only by promising them that if they would keep moving on and go exploring as far as I wanted upstream then I would be glad to let them stop and swim as much as they wanted at every spot along the river when we returned downstream. We finally got a few miles up river from the bridge to where the canyon walls just barely started to feel like they were getting wider and less steep, and we picked a pretty little turquoise swimming hole to be our furthest point on the hike that day. We stopped and swam and then decided to build a dam, which eventually raised the level of that little pool a couple of feet.
When we headed back downstream the boys stopped and swam in a few holes, but then they came across the tent. All along that river there is evidence of abandoned gold miners' campsites -- I don't know why so many people have gone to the effort to haul camping & mining equipment all the way out there, only to leave it long abandoned (we came across numerous weather-worn tarps, tents, several sleeping bags, buckets, pots, broken shovels, some shoes, a pick axe, and a wheel barrow without a wheel). And of course, my boys wanted to take all of it home. They didn't understand why I refused to let them haul back a perfectly good pick axe for the 7 or 8 miles back to the car. And had the wheelbarrow had a wheel, I'm sure they would have insisted on giving each other rides in it all the way back to the car. I did give in when they found the tent, though. They ran over and told me they found a tent, and when I saw the faded bag with a large hole down one side and a handle ripped in half, I said no way. And when they pulled a tent out of the bag that appeared to be in perfectly new condition, I told them that a tent without poles is useless. But when they pulled a smaller bag out with a complete set of poles, I had no more arguments. So they took turns carrying that tent all the way back to the car, and are eager to try it out in the back yard soon. (At least we did our part to clean up a very small part of the things that have been left out in that wilderness area).
Anyway, we had planned to hike in all the way along the river, but when the boys found the tent they were so excited to go home and use it that night that they opted to hike back on the trail so it wouldn't take as long. It took us about 2 1/2 hrs to hike to the bridge in the morning, and we tried to beat our time on the way back, but we only just barely beat it by hiking back to the car in about 2 hrs 20 min. We were tired by the end, but nowhere near as tired as last time we did this hike. I think knowing what to expect and tackling it again anyway helps a lot with that. At one point during the hike Camden told me we should hike there every Saturday, then we would be strong. And near the end of the hike he turned to me, gave me a hug, and thanked me for taking him there. (Love that -- don't get that very often, so have to enjoy it when they do that on their own). I asked the boys on our return hike to rate their top 5 adventures in order of favorites: one boy listed Bridge to Nowhere as his favorite and Three Sisters as his second, another one listed Three Sisters as his favorite and Bridge to Nowhere as his second, and the other one couldn't decide which of the two was his favorite. They also included some like Black Canyon, Black Star Canyon Falls, Barker Valley Spur Trail, and Penasquitos Canyon Waterfall. One thing I like to point out to the boys while we're on a challenging hike (but when we're at a point in the hike when they all happen to be feeling pretty positive about it, not when they're totally worn out and starting to complain), is how doing our adventures helps us to know that we are strong and we can do hard things in life. At one point I asked them, "Aren't you guys glad that you have an 'adventure mom'? Or would you rather have a soccer mom?" [And for a split second I regretted asking that question, thinking they very may well think they'd prefer trying out soccer because it would be something new and fun to try]. But I was relieved when Courtland got a grin on his face and answered, "No, I would prefer to have an adventure mom, and an adventure dad, and 2 adventure dogs, and 4 adventure brothers!"
That's the parking lot where we spent the night
9:00pm fell asleep
11:00pm woke to talking
5:30am woke up
6:15am started hiking
8:30am sunshine hit us
8:39am arrived at bridge
It's hard to see in the shadows, but that's Courtland jumping off the rock into the water down there.
8:52am sun came over mountain to swimming hole near bridge while Camden was doing a cannon ball into the water
The sun just crested that hilltop as I took this picture of Camden jumping in.
I just love how clear the water is in the whole river, and how every deep pool is a beautiful turquoise color!
9:50am headed up river
10:15am saw water coming from side canyon and decided to explore
10:18am Camden got startled when he stepped within about 3 or 4 feet of a rattlesnake, we saw a little waterfall up the canyon a little further
Look close! (It never rattled once).
I loved the occasional remains of stone structures that we sometimes came across, even in the more remote areas.
11:45am Isaac caught his foot between rocks in the river and feel & hit his head -- luckily he was just fine, but had a decent-sized goose egg on the side of his head
12:20pm dam building
1:09pm finished dam
This shows how far we ended up going on this hike.
1:28pm headed back down stream
2:20pm boys found tent
3:22pm left bridge to hike back
One thing I love about this hike is that there are so many different little paths to get to/from the bridge (but it's hard to get too lost, since you will eventually get there if you keep following the river). Because we took a slightly different route back this time, we came across these remains of a tiny stone cabin, not far at all from where we had hiked past previously, but had never seen this before. I love these little pieces of history out there in the middle of nature.
We met some new friends who showed us a little swimming hole with some fun cliff jumping that the boys tried out off of Ortega Highway. All three boys jumped it as soon as we got there, and then Camden ended up jumping 4 more times -- our friends said that spot was 22' high. (I did some climbing and swimming, and jumped off a much lower rock, but had no desire to jump off the big one). We explored some small pools a little up stream, which were getting pretty mossy this late in the season. And climbed up under the bridge a little ways.
(I think they call this "puddle jumping" -- that water's only a couple feet deep).
We hiked to Horsethief Canyon today for the first time with my sister Michelle & her kids. Caught lots of frogs, and my boys jumped into some puddles. From the water level lines on the rocks we could tell it would be a great place to come in the Spring after a heavy rain -- but not nearly as much water as I'd prefer this time of year. The kids still had fun playing there for hours today. And I'd say all the little ones did surprisingly well on the hike back out, especially since it was almost all uphill on the way out.
Taking a rest under a manzanita tree.
Lovely large oak trees once you get down into the valley.
A tan Praying Mantis, to match the dry grasses.
We got to the water at the hottest part of the day -- so even though there wasn't as much water as I'd hoped,
we were grateful there was some water to cool off in.
The hike from the car to the water was mostly downhill, and took us a little over an hour with the little kids, and just a bit over 1.5 miles (I didn't start recording our time until we got a little ways down the trail).
Project Rescue Tadpoles: They decided to save the tadpoles that were stuck in a tiny sandy puddle and move them to the larger pool where they will have more of a chance of developing into frogs before the water all dries up.
Had lots of fun with the kids at Black Canyon yesterday. (There must have been a flood this winter or something, because the main pool had changed so much since the last time we were there -- most of the reeds and some small trees were gone, making the pool much larger than it was several months ago). Walking upstream from the abandoned campground to the main pool was a fun short hike, and the kids enjoyed catching tons of frogs and stopping to jump in every pool we passed along the way. We had the main pool to ourselves for a little while, then more people gradually joined us until there was a little crowd of swimmers & rock jumpers there, plus several dogs all running around having fun together -- too bad we weren't the only ones there like we have been in the past, but really I was just surprised there weren't more people there with it being a holiday. And Michelle & I were brave and we both did the slide down the rock into the water and jumped in. Ended up walking up to the dirt road to head back to our cars, rather than picking our way back downstream (saving ourselves about half an hour) -- this worked out well, so we never even hit the breaking point with her little ones after a long warm day at the water. Great day!