Saturday, January 27, 2018

Stoddard Peak, Angeles National Forest


  • Adventure (parking) Pass required.
  • NO restrooms.
  • Parking lot is small BUT you can drive down the dirt trail road for more parking or park along main road. Pay attention to signs!!!
  • Road is very rocky, uneven and dusty. Use caution with your car if you decide to follow it down. 
  • There are private cabins at the beginning of the trail. Please be respectful.
  • Turn off is easy to miss--refer to pix below. 
  • Last 1/4 of hike, up the hill to the peak, is sort of over grown and will have brush. Long sleeves and pants recommended.

This was my first time on this trail. I hiked with a group of women who are also members of Girls Who Hike LA. My goal for this year is to attend at least one group hike a month with this awesome community.  

This hike is a nice, moderate, mid-level hike. 6.2 miles round trip--though with missing the turn, I think we did about 7 miles. From the parking lot, take the road along the left. TO the right of the parking lot is a preserve sign and boulders blocking an asphalt fire road. That is NOT the trail you take to Stoddard Peak. After you head down the dusty, gravel covered road, you will pass a woodsy, cabin community. There are residents and private property. As always, please be respectful. 

Most of the trail is uphill and covered in bark and acorn hats combined with slippery gravel and rocks.

There is a nice amount of tree canopy at first but eventually the trail becomes full sun. As the landscape changes, be aware of the turn off (see pix below). It is very easy to miss. We missed it the first time but another hiker had a map that we could consult to realize our mistake. 

The trail is primarily dry but there are at least 2 creek crossings near the beginning of the hike. The water was very shallow and I can imagine it drying up in the heat of summer. The creek was wide in one spot so we moved to the left to cross at a narrow spot. 

The tricky part is the last quarter mile or so. You turn right from the trail and head up the hill. The brush is very over grown and the trail is easily missed. This is where you need to be sure you are wearing long sleeves and pants, suitable for hiking. This part of the trail is also full sun.

As you reach the first peak, you may be tempted to stop here. This is NOT Stoddard Peak. The trail for SP continues along 2 peaks before you reach Stoddard. The 2nd peak requires you to gingerly go around the back of a large boulder peak. You will follow it around the boulder and continue on to the next peak.

Don't miss this turn out!!

Stoddard peak has  triangular metal sign that seems to be some sort of marker. In the center of that last peak, there is a rusted old can. Open it up to reveal a log book. Be sure to sign your name!

Get up that hill!!!
NOT Stoddard Peak
BUT one of the peaks you will pass
on your way to it. 
I normally do not like hikes without some sort of water feature, especially a water fall, at the end. This hike, though, was great. Of course I was in good company but also because it's not that strenuous and there was a creek to cross and the views at the top of Stoddard Peak are breath taking.
Oh, depending on what time and season you do this hike, the water levels may vary, parking can be scarce and the mountain can be cold. I was freezing in the parking lot while we waited for other group members to arrive. I warmed up quickly enough though.

Standing atop Stoddard Peak.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

How to Find Devil's Gulch Falls aka Secret Waterfall along the San Gabriel River via Bridge to Nowhere Trail {Part 2}

Is that the longest post title ever or what!?! Haha. This secret water fall is secret for a is VERY well hidden. Since it is still fairly unknown, there is not a true trail leading to it, there is wild brush but little trash at the falls with random items along the way.


  • Adventure Pass required for parking.
  • Vault toilets at lot, below at trail head and along the road before the lot. Bring your own TP.
  • Weather and water levels vary. Wear layers.
  • Your feet WILL get wet. Plan accordingly.
  • Beware of POISON OAK exposure at final river crossing up to falls.
  • Hike is about 8 + miles round trip.
  • You will pass miners, their work area and camps.
  • First half of trail follows Bridge to Nowhere trail--there will be small hills, bouldering and river crossings.

This account assumes you are at least somewhat familiar with the Bridge to Nowhere trail as you will be following it for the first half of this hike. The first marker to be aware of is entering Sheep Mountain. You will cross the wooden bridge and see the sign. Continue to follow the trail along the river. You will travel over rock face, use caution--always use caution. Then the trail will narrow and cross what looks like a former rock slide are with small gravel. You will come down a hill and cross over an open area with gravel, rocks and sharp, pointed yucca plants. 


Eventually you will reach a point where you MUST cross the river, regardless if you are heading to the Bridge to Nowhere or not. Normally you would cross over to the *left* side of the river, then *back* across to the right, sort of like a U-turn to avoid a large rock face that enters the rivers edge. (it is on your right as you make this crossing)

In this case, STAY on the LEFT side of the river--do NOT cross back over here. Follow along up the river, from the left side. It will sort of feel like a trail because of flat ground with small rocks.  You will stay on the left side most of  the time while crossing back and forth.

First crossing back to the right
side of the river.

The first time you cross back to the right will be because the 'trail' dead ends into the river and you have no other option but to cross over. Trekking poles or a large stick may be good as you are crossing the river to help with stability. For the most part, we were able to keep our feet and shoes fairly dry with a few toe splashes, by rock hopping. If we had to step into the water, we looked for the most shallow spots, hopped quickly across and toughed it out. 

When you have no idea where you are going, it can feel like forever, but don't worry, it will be quick and easy on the return. The next major marker to be aware of is a large ditch/rock quarry/active mining area on the LEFT side of the river. 

Active mining area.
Ditch/rock quarry

We stayed along the left side but at this point, we crossed back over to give the miner his space. There were also tools on the right side but he was working on the left so we left him alone and gave a wide berth. You should see extremely large piles of big rocks. He is digging ditches and moving rocks, had a wheelbarrow, and other tools. He has been there probably a few years. Last summer (2017) when we passed, he had a ditch the size of a room and we passed by on the left. He has rearranged so many rocks and expanded his work area significantly since then, at the time of this writing.

Another marker that may be helpful is coming upon lime/light green colored rocks face. This is also located on the left side of the river. This will help break up the confusion and affirm you are on the right track and have NOT passed up the tributary yet. You will climb on this a little to continue traveling along the left side of the river. Eventually you will pass slightly red rock. 

The next significant marker is an abandoned camp or mining area on the right side of the river. You will need to cross over at this point to the right. This time had way more cast offs and materials than last summer (2017). There were clothes and shoes spread out all over and some still in bags. There were tarps but also signs of previous mining attempts, long, large tubes all along the right side of the river. The atmosphere may feel a little eery and you realize you are very alone on this road less traveled.

 At this abandoned area you should see a very, unusable swing. It may have barbed wire wrapped around it--I do not recommend using it. Keep moving forward up river. 

Some points along the left side will feel open, airy and the ground will be flat. At  other points, you WILL be stomping through brush, tree branches, over rocks, fallen trees, avoiding getting stabbed by yucca plants--keep going. Maneuver however you need to continue moving up along the river. You can travel up the center of the river when it is shallow, if you like. Some areas are deeper and the water moves more rapidly with unstable river floor of rocks and small boulders. 
Can't see in this pic but that is where
the water flows down/over from and into
the San Gabriel River.

When you finally reach the tributary streaming into the river, you will probably be on the right side of the river OR in the river itself. Its a tricky spot and can easily be missed. Right where the stream is flowing into the river is a bit of a deep and potentially unstable spot to step with rapid flowing water. We chose to cross a couple feet past it, where it was shallow and you could see the river bed. It is well hidden with brush and it makes you doubt it is anything more than a random trickle of water.
THIS IS IT! It's what you have been searching for. Yay. We entered on the right of the tributary. It is uphill (sort of) but not too hard. Use caution because now your shoes are wet and rocks will be slippery. It is over grown so also be aware of poison oak. I did not notice any poison oak on this trip but we were very aware of it last summer. Some boulders you need to climb up, will be waist high. There will also be inclines of gravel. 

The falls begins to come into view.

The pictures can not do it justice!
Devil's Gulch Falls

Enjoy a serene moment taking in the view. During the summer, we got in and stood under the falls. This time we did not get in at all and simply took selfies from the shore. Enjoy a quiet and serene lunch listening to the falls. It's breathtakingly beautiful. 

Eventually you will head back down and out. Keep an eye to the left on your way down to catch sight of old ruins and the remains of a road or foundation {I don't know which}.

We traveled down the center of the river for awhile. We came upon a weekend gold miner and he advised us of a 'trail' along the 'right' side of the river, which is now on our left as we are travelling *down river*. We ended up staying on that side most of the way since we did not have to stay aware looking for the hidden tributary. We crossed back over at the point where we initially crossed and separated from the original BtN trail, to rejoin the trail.

These graffiti arrows are not noticeable when you descend this gravely part of the trail after sheep mountain. They work as good markers to be aware of to get back onto the trail, up above the river. When/if you come across these, they are on your left or right in front of you. The trail is just to the left of this picture and easy to miss. It heads back up above this rock face. 

I hope you enjoyed this trail and find the secret falls. In case you are more of an auditory person...I also made a VIDEO! lol It is a scrappy video that I initially planned on using for my own personal notes. Please keep your expectations LOW. I made this on the fly. It may or may not be helpful but I hope it is.

Let me know if this helped and if you have any more questions, I'll try to answer them.

See you on the trails. 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Devil's gulch Falls, San Gabriel River, along Bridge to Nowhere Trail {PART 1}

The only reason I will rise before dawn...
for a great hike!
This was the moody sky as we drove up the mountain.
In part one of this 2 part post, I will review the trail as usual. In Part 2 I will share tips and markers to find this gorgeous hidden and little known waterfall! So be sure to check back, because you don't want to miss part two-I guarantee it!


  • Adventure Pass required for parking. Pay attention to signs and postings.
  • Lot gets packed, plan accordingly.
  • Vault toilet at lot, down at trail head and along the road before the lot. Often out of TP, bring your own.
  • Canyon can be cool and shady (depending on season) or extremely hot in full sun. Dress in layers and check expected weather.
  • Trail can be rocky, dusty, dry and have gravel.
  • Be aware of sudden rock slides.
  • Hike/trail is unmarked and about 8 miles round trip.

Nature's bridge! Try to keep your balance for
dry shoes and feet.
This hike follows along the Bridge to Nowhere trail, past Sheep Mountain bridge until you hit the river. We hit the trail fairly early, around 8 or 8:30am. GPS started tweaking and took us up the backside of the mountain that we had never driven before. It was a chilly start to the day and I was almost under dressed but warmed up soon enough. 

This time of year, during California winter, temps may be low and today was no different. Water levels will vary depending on rain and weather conditions.

The first half of the trail, as stated, follows along the Bridge to Nowhere trail until you get back down to the river. From the river, you do NOT go back up to the mountain ridge to the bridge. You stay along the river. Stay tuned for part two which will have more detailed directions and information.

Winter in California.

Follow the woody path to adventure.
 Water didn't appear too much higher than in times past and definitely not as high as this same time last year. Last season we had a very wet winter, which our drought stricken state poorly needed. So far, weather conditions have returned to "normal" with very little rain.

We were able to make most of the river crossing with dry feet except maybe a toe splash here an there.

This hike, however, will eventually require you to step into the water to access the hidden falls. No getting around it. Also, the nature of the trek requires many river crossings. No point in wasting time trying to find a spot with enough rocks to stay dry when you can just as easily step pin on most sure footing. Much of the river was very shallow but there are parts that require care and caution as it's moving and deeper. Trekking poles or a stick would be helpful.

Southern California mountains boast native plants acclimated to our dry conditions, succulents and drought tolerant foliage. Trails tend to look like what you might expect to see during a traditional autumn day. Warm hues of red and orange line the dusty brown trails with pops of green through out.

This time, on our way back, we saw actually caught sight of a Big Horn Sheep. This was a first. The animal was at the top of a cliff digging for something and causing a rainfall and rockslide of small boulders, and rocks! It was fascinating to witness but we were so glad that we happen to be on the opposite side of the river as they pounded down into the water and ground.

Careful with those yuccas--those spikes hurt!

The waterfall is hidden within a small grotto and can be tricky to locate. The main point is to stay along the river and and to the left. Although, in order to really find the entrance, you have to be on the right or walking in the river to see the tributary pouring in from the left. If you stay to the right of the river the entire time, you may miss it if you are not watching to the left.

Isn't she a beauty?
The pic doesn't do her justice and I couldn't fit
the full falls in the frame.
The water falls in two streams along a deep, green, moss covered rock face. It's absolutely gorgeous. When I hiked to this fall last summer, there was very noticeable poison oak. I bathed myself down with Tecnu Wash when I got home and immediately washed my clothing to be on the safe side. It can also be used as a preventive if you wipe down with it before contact. Since it was so noticeable we were able to easily avoid it. This time, I did not see any and there's a risk I may have come in contact with it unknowingly. Always pay attention and know what it looks like.

Gold 'miner' camp.
The San Gabriel River is home to many gold panners. Some have been searching for gold for years and some are weekend warriors hoping to suddenly strike it rich. I have never had an negative interaction with either but always be aware of surroundings and be safe, as with any hiking excursion.

Clear Blue skies ahead of us as we end our hike. 
Since this trail requires hiking further up the river into lesser known and unmarked area, you will see active panners and their camps, tools, gear and remnants of camps. Technically, it is illegal to dig around the area and along the river but that does not stop them from doing so.

We came across a few camps and the atmosphere can feel a little sketchy. Use wisdom and caution. We let the panners have their space, kept our distance and kept on moving.

In my next post, I will have {scrappy} video clips and pix of what to look for as you attempt to find this hidden gem.

See you out on the trails!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Growth Mindset for Adults

I'm excited to attend my first official guitar class tonight! {I've owned my guitar for 11+ years!!!!} I saw a FB ad for a FREE group class just for females. I'm hoping lessons after that, are affordable. I'm also back to ballet on Thursday nights. Its a riot-I  to dance but I am NO ballerina! Lol
I am now convinced if you want to experience *personal growth*, over come fear of failure and perfectionism-taking a ballet class is the answer. Lol I'm obviously there to learn or I wouldn't be in the class. But not being already good or excelling at something is way out of my comfort zone. Who wants to intentionally fail?
I am in my last semester of my teaching program and I found also taking a class like ballet, has helped with my "growth mindset" over all. It may sound silly but allowing myself the grace to be clumsy in ballet has helped me to accept grace and make mistakes in my methodology classes and student teaching.
In my 20-25 years of marriage I developed a strong fear of failure and perfectionism. Because you know, if I was just *perfect*, my marriage wouldn't have ended and my children's father would have *loved* me. {eyeroll}
This has been so eye opening for me and also empowering but not without great struggle and a lot of work to untangle myself from this unhealthy and irrational way of thinking.
What are you doing to stretch and grow your mind, body & spirit?

Monday, January 15, 2018

Friday Hike Day: Hermit Falls,Chantry Flats

Hiking crew.
Actually we hiked on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  Chantry Flats is a very popular recreation area and home to numerous trail heads. Parking can get pretty crazy, especially on weekends and holidays.

Do gooders!
Collecting trash for soda. 


    • Adventure (parking) Pass is required.
    • Vault toilet at trail head. {HOT TIP: the upper lot has real flushing toilets that are not as used. Bring your own TP just in case!}
    • Steep asphalt road at beginning of hike--remember this for your return.
    • Dog friendly {on leash} trail.
    • 3< mile round trip.

One of many infinity pools along this trail.

Once we found parking and headed toward the trail, we noticed rep under a canopy at a table. She was having out trash bags and offering a FREE soda to anyone who filled up the bag at least half way with trash. This was such a great idea! I always think of this too late and forget to bring trash bags. We grabbed a few and the kids were really on it. There actually wasn't much trash along the trail, over all but there were plenty of plastic bottles that had obviously fallen along the sides of the trail, but they were unsafely out of our reach so we had to leave them behind. But as you can see, the kids did work together to fill up one full bag and two other bags half way (our friends with their bag are missing from this picture).
Another natural infinity pool.

This hike is rather mild on the way in. Pretty much all downhill. You know what that means...uphill all the way back. Haha. It's a beautiful season to enjoy this trail. Dry and dusty at first but then it moves closer to the creek and lush greenery surrounds you. The trail can be dry, dusty and narrow. 

Eye level view of the top tier of the falls.

While we were hiking in we actually witnessed a young man FALL OF THE EDGE of the trail. Granted, he was being very reckless, riding a skateboard along the trail. One of his tires was too close to the edge, the edge gave way and he fell and slid down the side of the mountain. Lucky for him, he was caught by a tree and his friends were able to pull him back up. No major damage or injury and I hope he learned his lesson. Always use caution and be safe. The trails must be respected. 

Once you arrive at the falls, you will notice it is tiered with pools separating the tiers. The largest pool may be deep enough to jump in. Some hikers have jumped from the higher cliffs. PLEASE use wisdom and caution. There have also been deaths at this location due to careless behavior. The falls are a nice spot to stop and have lunch before the return. Unfortunately it is also home to plenty of graffiti. 

This trail also features cabins, private property, please be respectful. You will see dams, similar to what you see along the neighboring Sturtevant Falls trail. 

I recommend this trail except for the parking challenges. You can park along the highway in designated areas. Pay attention to all posted signs. Be careful walking along the highway to the trail head.

I wonder if you could slide down this
into the pool below?

View of the top two tiers and adjacent pools. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

For the Momma Who's About to Lose Her Ish!

No judgment here momma. I'll raise a Hunger Games two fingered salute in solidarity to you. Take a deep breath, walk away, lock yourself in the bathroom--but take your phone so you can read this. 

Times get hard. Having a toddler can be hard. Having a teenager can be hard. Heck, getting out of bed and resisting the urge to go out in public in something other than pajama pants, can he heck-a-hard at times. This isn't every day life. But it's real life sometimes. like, when you're in school, your kids are in school, one or more of your kids have gotten the flu {the vomitrocious kind especially}, there is other extended family crisis, you're a solo-mom, or your 8 year old  has decided today is the day he is going to be his own person and refuse to do anything you ask him to do, ever. Or like it's one of those days that end in 'day'. 

Here are my 25 years of parenting suggestions that may or may not apply to you. Feel free to use the ones that do. 

Eliminate any thing you can for this season! It will NOT always be like this. Here are a few simple tips. HUGS!!!

1. Meals-is it work or relaxing for you? If it feels like more 'work': get ready made or one pot meals. Use paper plates and disposable utensils. Ditch the food guilt and feel proud that your kids are fed today. 

2. Take a walk or exercise everyday. Seriously, it will help your brain, emotions, heart and mental state. You can google it. It's true. I know you wish you could get to the gym, even if all you do is sit on your phone, in peace. Let the guilt, wishes and dreams go. This is the time to circle the wagons-we're not in the wild west or on the Oregon Trail but those of you who remember when that wasn't a board game--I think you get what I'm saying. 

3. When kids come home-drop the stuff and take a walk around the block. This really isn't a repeat of the previous suggestion, I promise. This time you *include* the freaks of your womb not try to escape from them.This will give everyone a chance to transition and reconnect.

4. Eliminate or minimize sugar intake. Consume lots of water and protein. Being hangry never helps and can seriously alter moods. I get it. We're all emotional eaters over here who would rather consume a sticky, fried donut than feel whatever we feel but--it won't help. Ok, well, it might for a minute, but not later. Trust me on this one. Step away from the sugar rush and eat a string cheese--ok dairy free, whatever. Just stick to the protein! 

5. 20 second minimum, hugs for each kid when they get home, after bath, before bed and any other time things are feeling tense. Hugs also help to reduce stress. Often it feels like the last thing we want to do is give a hug to our spawn behaving like twerps but they probably need it the most in that moment. Come on--you know it will help you too. It's like when mothers are suffering from Postpartum Depressions--doctors recommend they hold their baby more! The physical connection is great but counting to that 20 will give you a moment to breath and not do or say anything you will regret. It forces you to slow down, think and breath. You need oxygen. Duh. 

6. Smile. It tells your brain it feels positive. Really. Try it right now. Do it. Ok, now hold for 10...20 seconds. Well now it's just ridiculous so you have to laugh. But doesn't that feel better already? It's not full {fool?} proof, ya know? These are more like 'guidelines'. 

7.Touch your kids (tousle hair, pat on the back, tickle ear). Human touch helps lessen stress and maintain connection. Like the HUGS! 

8. Give yourself and your kids compliments. LOOK for positive things to say. It will help you stay focused on the goodness around you. Try to overlook negative behavior or responses as much as possible.

Life WILL get stressful. It happens. Expect it but be prepared. You will be able to handle it better if you are prepared, just like a fire drill! File this away in your brain, under life skills and crisis preparedness drills. We should really have those for aspiring parents. I'm not even joking.

You're ok momma. You are going to continue to be ok. You don't have to live life as normal, like everything is ok, when it's NOT. Life gets messy so why would we expect it to stay perfectly or even moderately organized? Be nice to yourself (oh! Tip #9?) It's ok if your kids wear mismatched socks, two days in a row, of the same non-pair. No one ever died of stinky feet.

Stay strong-You got this! 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Friday Hike Day: Sturtevant Falls

It's been a long time since we've hiked to Sturtevant Falls. It's a very popular trail and the home to numerous trailheads. Parking can be a bear. Adventure Pass required!!! There is an upper and lower lot and they fill up quickly. Many visitors park along the mountain road sides. Adventure Pass is still required. Be sure to read ALL posted signs. This trail IS dog friendly.

Vault toilets at the trail head/lower lot corner--often out of toilet paper. Here is a HOT tip though; there are flush toilets at the upper lot. They aren't used or noticed as much so they often have plenty of toilet paper.

So the thing about this trail, that makes is moderate, is a steep asphalt road at the beginning, and therefore at the end, of the trail. This road is about 1/3 of the entire hike to lower Sturtevant Falls. Beyond the asphalt road (which can also be a much higher temp than the air in warm weather so use caution with dogs). 

Beyond the initial asphalt, the trail is rather mild. There may be stream crossing, depending on weather and season. Right now there is plenty of lush greenery. There are cabins along the trail and they are private property. Please be respectful.

I would not call this trail stroller friendly due to a few creek crossings and rocks along the trail. However, a super adventurous parent or caregiver may be able to maneuver a jogging stroller with help, over rough spots. Really, I would recommend a child, hiking carrier for best results. 

On this hike, we passed a set of three pack mules for the first time. The upper trail leads to a camp ground and everything must be packed in and out. The large camp can be reserved by groups for special events. There are also regular hike in camp sites. 

On this hike we caught sight of a brown butterfly (moth?) with bright blue dots, a lady bug infestation, a newt and the pack mules. In times past, we've come across a garter (?) snake, report of a bear, monarchs and lizards. You never know what you may discover while adventuring in nature. 

The waterfall was flowing very nicely. The pool at the bottom was more than I've seen it in a long time. Funny since we had so much rain last year but not so far this year. California is still in drought conditions, technically. 

Wear layers. You will warm up quickly but near the falls, in the shade of the canyon, it can be several degrees cooler. It was a very mild weather day today. The water looked refreshing but I did not even put my feet in. I wasn't feeling %100 but knew hiking would help. 

I know that hiking is good for my sanity and the health of my family over all. With school this past year, taking up my weekdays, I could no longer do our weekly Friday Hike Days. It was such a bummer but it was a sacrifice we had to make. I have enjoyed this holiday break between semesters to unwind a little before the final crunch time! 

Wow! I loved how the light was playing with us here.
Only two of my 4 and of the 3 still at home.

All these 'kids'. So glad the whole gang was back together again.
But trying to get everyone to look and smile at the same time...
STILL a challenge. Haha. 

Sturtevant Falls from the side.
Way too gorgeous.

Sturtevant in her glory.
The rocks at the bottom of the shot, usually mark the edge
of the pool
This time, the water went beyond. 

 Get outside and ENJOY!