This week we took a day trip to Forest Falls, CA, so that our 18 year old daughter could check out a camp where she was considering a summer job. Once that was accomplished, we set out to make the most of the destination; a two hour drive seemed a little much if the only result was a 30 minute visit to the camp. There wasn’t much to the town itself – other than the camp, there were just a lot of charming mountain-cabin type residences, a Mexican restaurant, a post office and a few other businesses.
Had we considered the name of the town, we might have had an inkling of what we would eventually find, but as so often happens, the meaning of the name had become eclipsed by its functionality as a label for the town, and we missed the clue right in front of us. And so it was tempting, after a cursory glance around, to give up and drive back down the hill to the nearest mall and simply take the kids to a movie.
But we had driven for two hours. Through L.A. traffic. We were not going to give up so easily, and the scenery around us was so beautiful, we weren’t ready to leave it. Besides, as a family, we have a history of discovering delightful places and meeting interesting people at the very point where our trip appears to be derailing.
And we couldn’t help but notice that the hills that rose steeply on either side of the town were covered in snow, almost close enough to touch, so we followed the main road, hoping it might lead us up past the snowline.
It ended a disappointing half a mile after the town, but there we discovered a park.
And better yet, actual patches of snow!
You have to understand that my kids have never lived anywhere but Los Angeles. This was only the second time any of them had been able to touch snow, and the first time the younger two were 2 and 4 years old and don’t remember it. So this was road-trip heaven.
After a snowball fight or two, and the discovery on the part of the younger two that snow really is freezing cold and there is only so much snow play one can indulge in with bare hands, my husband discovered a sign that said “Waterfall Trail.”
Again we hesitated, debating whether the trail, which at first glance seemed to lead only through flat, high desert terrain, was named accurately. Again, the name of the town escaped us.
On top of that, we reasoned, there didn’t seem to be enough water in the creek beside the trail for there to be an actual waterfall at any point downstream. In true L.A. fashion, we suspected that the whole thing was going to turn out to be false advertising.
The scenery was breathtaking, and with each bend we rounded it got even better. The kids insisted that that roaring noise in the distance had to be more than just the wind in the trees, so we persevered.
The trail was well-marked at some points, lined either side with rocks. At other points it was not so clear, seeing as it led through areas completely covered with the same kind of rocks interspersed with sandy patches that might or might not actually be the trail. We eventually decided that the trail crossed the creek beside which we had been hiking and ascended the opposite bank.
Since the creek had dwindled to a trickle at this point, we had no problem crossing it. Mounting the bank on the other side and rounding a hill, we discovered that there was indeed a waterfall, and that it had nothing to do with the tiny creek we had been hiking beside.
Further hiking up a steep hill revealed that there was actually a series of waterfalls, with the top one being the most spectacular in height.
We found some rocks and sat for a while, taking in the roar of the water and the silence around it. The 13 year old pulled out her journal and spent a good 15 minutes of bliss drinking in the surroundings and writing her thoughts.
The 12 year old hid under fallen trees and jumped from rock to rock. The 18 year old tested the temperature of the water and filled a bottle with it, reasoning that the 100 foot drop it had just traversed would have filtered it, and we all tried a sip.
(She later told us she had climbed further up and discovered a half-decomposed dead bird floating in a pool upstream, which gave us pause for a few, heart-stopping moments, until my husband noticed the twinkle in her eye. But that’s a story for another post. Perhaps one about “why my children are so mean and I’m sure I don’t know where they get it from.”)
And then it was time to reluctantly retrace our steps back to the van, carrying a camera full of images and refreshed and rejuvenated hearts. I think it was on this part of the trip that one of us said, ‘Ohhhhh, right, Forest FALLS!” We climbed wearily into the van and wound our way down the mountain road, blasting Ed Sheeran’s “I See Fire,” since we felt like we had been on an unexpected journey worthy of Bilbo Baggins and wanted to squeeze the last moments of adventure out of the day.