After our first adventure into the San Diego mountains we were hyped up to explore some more. I had been told that there were some lovely waterfalls in the county, and with the rainfall this year I figured it would be the best time to check some out. The week was spent researching to determine which falls I wanted to see, and which I would be physically capable of getting to. This was going to be my first hike in several years, and I am not in the best shape, so I figured I would need to find something on the easy side. There weren’t too many that fit the necessary categories, but eventually I settled on Kitchen Creek Falls. As I mentioned in my previous post, Jeremy has a dream of one day hiking the entire PTC, and the Kitchen Creek Trail follows it for a few miles so I figured this would be a fun day trip!
We prepared our day bag with plenty of water and lots of healthy snacks to keep our energy up. Though the trail is fairly short, I figured we would spend a few hours exploring and I would need all the energy I could get. Jeremy works on a bike all day every day, so he has legs of steel and and the stamina of a friggin’ race horse. I, on the other hand, work two jobs that mostly require sitting on my butt at a computer. We packed some trail mix, protein bars, and turkey jerky, along with other necessities, and by Friday night we were ready for our adventure.
We woke up bright and early and were greeted with heavy clouds that looked ready to dump rain on us at any minute. In the city there isn’t usually much rain, but out in the mountains it was expected to be much worse (though still not bad). We lost steam for what we thought would be a relaxing day in the sun hanging out at the waterfalls, and for a brief minute decided not to go. And then I remembered that I grew up in Washington, and I would be ashamed of myself if I seriously let a sprinkle throw off my day. It isn’t like I haven’t hiked in the rain before! I expressed this to Jeremy and he agreed, so we grabbed our rain coats and hopped in the car.
To get to Kitchen Creek you simply head east on I-8 and exit on Buckman Springs Rd. You turn right once you exit, and then left onto Old Highway 80. Follow this until you see a small parking lot on the right, which is just before the Boulder Oaks Campground. The entrance to the trail is right across the street from the parking area, and you’ll see the PCT/trail markers.
A few minutes after this the trail will cross under the freeway overpass and head north.
As we continued on up the trail the clouds/fog became denser, making visibility of the surrounding area practically non existent. Though I was disappointed by missing out on the view, I was thoroughly enjoying the rain and clouds as it made me feel at home.
I didn’t even mind being cold and wet for hours!
At some points we could only see a few yards up the trail, and there were lookouts where it was just a vast, white emptiness in front of us.
We had read that there was a turn out from the main trail where you could climb down to the falls, but it is not labeled. There is a regular marker for the main trail, which is on the right hand side, and the trail then curves to the right. At this same point there is a smaller, less visible trail that branches off to the left. There is no sign and nothing indicates access to the falls, you have to really pay attention. We ended up walking right by it in the fog, and we could hear the falls below but couldn’t see them! This was all we could see:
It is a little off putting when you can hear the rushing water but you have no idea how far below it is.
At least if you see this landmark you know you’ve gone too far! We turned around at that outcropping and headed back to the marker mentioned above, and this time we could see where the trail split and followed it until we had to climb down to the creek.
After a few minutes walking around at the creek/waterfalls the fog began to lift, allowing us to actually see around us. I was extremely grateful, the timing was perfect!
They are not particularly large, and I hesitate to call them waterfalls. Perhaps there are larger falls somewhere else if you explore more, but this seems to be where most people go and it was a bit slick for us to walk around too much. We roamed about for a bit, but by this time we had been out for a few hours and our clothes were soaked through so we were beginning to get a wee bit chilly. We decided to head back and it was like a whole different place now that the fog was clearing out.
The thing that struck me the most during this outing was the vast array of color seen in the plant life. I found myself stopping every few minutes, enthralled by a single plant that would catch my eye. Here are a few of my favorites:
This one has a bee inside that seems to have passed away, which broke my heart.
Naturally I was rather exhausted by the end, given how long it has been since I did something truly active. However, I also felt extremely refreshed! The break from the heat and sun was much needed, and with the rain I felt as bright, cheerful, and renewed as all of the plants I had seen. We enjoyed our time out here so much that we went home and immediately began scouring the map for more places to explore. Since we had spent this weekend in the rain, we figured next week we will see the desert. Not that I am eager for even more intense heat than I experience on a day to day basis… We’ll see how it goes, stay tuned!