Life is messy. And busy. Stuffed full of to-do lists and commitments overflowing from your plate. Like many families, we’ve spent the first two months of the New Year passing the flu, and stomach bugs, and colds around the house like a hot potato. Zero fun. Now that we are all mostly on the mend, it was time to get back outside and do what we love. Hike. We bought our Adventure Pass back in January and haven’t had a chance to use it yet, so yesterday we shot up the 210 to the Chantry Flat Recreation Area in the Angeles National Forest. It was our first time here.
We hiked the Sturtevant Falls trail, about four miles round trip. The first half mile is down a paved road into the canyon. When you reach the bottom, we followed the dirt trail across the bridge into a magical shaded forest that follows a running stream. The kids loved the cute storybook cabins, comparing them to Minecraft Villages and deciding what type of villagers might live there. There were spots along the stream where the trunks of the trees were covered entirely with ivy and we imagined little gnomes and fairies making homes in the roots of the trees just below the leaves. We hopped rocks to cross the stream three times and only one of us left with wet feet.
We stopped at Sturtevant Falls, a lovely 50-foot waterfall, and had a light snack on the rocks nearby. This is a well-trafficked trail so plenty of people were there also enjoying the view. We made our way back and talked about waterfalls, living conditions in different states, and inflation. Yep, we actually had a long conversation about money, how it has changed over time, and the cost of living.
Maybe we weren’t at a desk or the kitchen table, but we were still learning. I say we, because I learn from them just as much as they learn from me. When we’re not sick, we try to take at least one day during the week to go hiking. I believe being outside and connecting with nature is one of the best ways to decompress, and it’s good for all of us to get the blood flowing and move our bodies. Turn off the TV, put down the video games, and get outside. We all need some time to play.
I think about my time as a child and all the days I spent sitting bent-kneed at a desk with worksheets and blackboards for my view. I am lucky enough to provide a different experience for my own children. One of my favorite things about being a homeschool parent is our freedom to explore. I like to take the kids hiking during the cooler months of the year. Previously, I focused on shorter hikes with interesting elements. But now we have entered a new phase. The kids no longer complain after the first mile. They look for what’s up ahead and keep moving. I can say code words like “geocache” and they’re on a wild hunt to find one. Or I can bring along my secret weapon – my nephew – wherever he goes, they go. I carry plenty of water and snacks and they keep going.
The last two hikes we did were about 5 miles each and we were greatly rewarded for our efforts. First, we went to Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park for a hike to Dripping Cave, AKA Robbers Cave. Legend has it that cattle thieves and train robbers used this cave as a hideout years ago. The trail is relatively easy and mostly flat. We parked at the Awma Road parking lot and hiked the Aliso Creek trail to the Wood Canyon trail. Out and back it’s about 4.6 miles but if you turn off to explore Cave Rock from the Wood Canyon trail you add about another half mile to the hike. When we arrived at Dripping Cave the kids were excited to explore and loved climbing the other nearby rocks. We had our lunch here and then headed back the way we came. We were lucky enough to cross paths with a deer on this hike, which doesn’t happen very often, but the kids were delighted to see it.
This week we decided to explore Red Rock Canyon near Foothill Ranch. We started at the Borrego Canyon trailhead at Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park. The 1.3 mile trail is very slightly uphill for an easy climb. At the intersection of the Mustard trail we stopped to have snacks and were entertained by a tiny gopher who loves oranges. From Mustard, we connected to the Red Rock Canyon trail and followed a rocky dry river bed, climbing a bit more than we expected. The climbing and rock scrambling was worth it though, as the payoff dropped us in the center of rocky red cliffs that surrounded us with majestic formations carved by erosion. the kids enjoyed climbing and exploring the walls of Red Rock Canyon and we spent a good 45 minutes exploring before heading back. Overall, we hiked about 5 miles round trip for this one, but we enjoyed all of it.
I love these days where we put the books and worksheets and computer assignments aside and get outdoors and walk the dirt paths to wondrous worlds making memories with our family and friends. Never did I imagine that I would be able to spend the days like this with my kids and I am thankful for the opportunity. They always ask, “Do we have to take the freeway?” Well, yes kids. Because everywhere worth going requires a little bit of effort. But soon, it will be time again to stretch your legs.
What’s your favorite Southern California hiking spot?