Best laid plans and all that…
Leap day is a special day that happens only once every four years. A day that doesn’t seem to really exist. So, no matter what you choose to do, it’s okay. Now I’m not condoning any Purge like experiences. Let’s be real. But, it is a free day (as long as you’re not working) to do something, anything you like. I chose to spend mine in nature.
Monday February 29th was a beautiful day. A little hazy but warm and bright. A great day for a hike. I wanted to spend it with my dogs, so I searched google for a hike close to home. I came upon a new hike in Tujunga called Trail Canyon Falls. A moderate hike of mixed terrain with multiple stream crossings and a waterfall. Great! The directions I found on Yelp where fairly specific and the review was written two days ago, so I felt confident to journey on. Knowing there is no cell service in most of the Angeles National Forest I hand wrote directions on scrap paper, leashed up 3 of my dogs and hit the road.
Not all Yelp reviewers are created equal. I was to turn off the 210 freeway at the Sunland exit and continue on Foothill Blvd until reaching Oro Vista. Then turn left and head towards the mountains. So far, so good. The road becomes Big Tujunga Canyon Road. I was instructed to drive apx 3 miles, turn left up the dirt road (that looks like a fire road) and park down by a group of oak trees at the trail head. Sounds easy enough. Unfortunately there was nothing at the 3 mile marker. I found some recreational signs about respecting the river. But no trail head and no trees. I get out and walk towards a bamboo lined river bed only to see lots of trash, articles of clothing and an alcove fit for a homeless community. This can’t be the place. So back to the SUV we go.
Driving up the road a bit further I find a fire road with a gate (like described) but it has a numbered address and the gate is locked. I decide to leave the pups in the car and investigate. I climb around the gate and travel by foot down the dirt road. A group of oak trees is seen in the distance. Maybe? Just maybe this is it. But then, a shirtless man unloading boxes with his back to me enters the scenery from the right and I know that once again, I’m wrong. I turn and begin to walk back to my car. Then my NY paranoia takes over and I break out into a sprint. I realize I’m trespassing and they must think who is this girl in a hot pink tank top and tight lululemon pants running in my driveway? I make it back to the SUV and drive off just in time to see an older man (not the shirtless one from earlier) walking briskly to the gate and brandishing a cane. Whew….good thing this day doesn’t really exist.
So now I have two choices. Go home or continue on this weird fake day adventure.
Well, I’m already in the Angeles National Forest. So what if I have no GPS. If I drive long enough I will find a trail head. Continuing on Big Tujunga Canyon Road I pass Wildwood Picnic area and a few scenic turnouts. Some trails, but nothing like what I was looking for today. It’s one thing to meander along an unmarked trail with a friend. Doing it with three dogs is not as fun. Especially when this area is known for ticks and snakes.
As I approach Vogel Flats one of LA’s finest pulls up behind me. I describe to the local sheriff about the trail I’m seeking. He has never heard of it. But tells me if I continue on down to the Vogel Flats Fire Station and make a left, there is a similar stream crossing trail near Stonyvale. Okay, fine. Whatever. At this point I just want to get my Goldendoodle in the water and my feet on rocky ground. I follow the sheriff’s directions, and wind up at the Stonyvale Picnic area. At the far end of the parking lot is the Grizzly Flat Trailhead. Hooray! Let’s do this.
Even though this was not the trail I wanted, this was a fabulous hiking tail and had similar enough terrain to the originally desired trail that I was apt to forget my recent trespassing infraction. The trail starts out rocky before reaching the first of multiple stream crossings. I could hear the faint “om pa-pa” bass line of southwest music in the distance. A small group had gathered along the river bed to relax and chill out with friends. My favorite thing about this trail is the varied terrain. Just like my intended, I ventured from desert to river bed to cliff side and back again. I crossed the same bamboo lined stream at least four times and in between wound my way through the desert landscapes complete with wild sage and large boulders. Each time I paused to snap a picture or untangle my pups leash from around a cactus I heard a not-so-faint rustling in the nearby bushes. This area was teaming with wildlife. Both my dogs and I were on alert. Last thing this make believe day needed was a trip to the vet.
The trail opens up to wide space before climbing up the cliff side. The switchbacks are unsteady and slightly treacherous. I definitely caught myself on a tree branch or two while my sneakers slipped through the moving landscape. UP until this point I had been telling myself that I although this trail was nice, the terrain was rather flat and I was looking to work up more of a sweat. Me and my big mouth. This climb was a serious butt burner and I could feel my thighs warming up quickly. My tiny little Pomeranian was taking eight steps for each of my two and I worried about his stamina. The tiny man is usually great on walks but all this uphill climbing was making him pant big time. I check my hiking tracker to see I’ve climbed a little under 700 ft. in elevation and a distance of about 1.5 miles. Time to turn back or I’m pretty sure I’ll be carrying my tiny Pom home. Down the hill we go.
My Goldendoodle, Elle took every opportunity to swim in each stream crossing as far as her extendable leash would allow. She is soaking wet and smiling. I think she is enjoying this day more than any of us. Hearing the faint melody of the river music means the parking lot is close.
When I returned home I logged on to Yelp to recheck the directions to Trail Canyon Falls. Maybe I copied it down wrong? Nope. What was written was simply not there. But I did scroll down a little further to read another review and low and behold the “fire road” had a name. At 4.3 miles up Big Tujunga Canyon Road you will find a dirt road on the left called “North Trail Canyon Road.” Less than a half mile down that road is the parking lot lined in oak trees. I vaguely remember passing that street sign while I was trolling up and down Big Tujunga Canyon Rd. I can’t be mad. I had a great adventure. I spent a beautiful day in nature with three amazing rescue dogs, enjoyed the momentary rush of almost committing a misdemeanor but thankfully not get caught and was pleasantly surprised by a hike I didn’t even now existed. What a happy accident. Perfectly suited for a make believe day.