Hiking L.A.

Blogged: December 6, 2006

Switzer Falls

Hiked: November 18, 2006

The weekend before Thanksgiving arrived and more than a month had passed since BF and I had been able to go on a hike. The simple explanation for this was that we had visited family up in Portland, Oregon one weekend, and then I proceeded to be ill with a viral cold (diagnosis thanks to my mother, the doctor and reigning queen of over-the-phone diagnoses).

But on Saturday, November 18, I finally felt well enough to venture out. Unfortunetly, BF and I didn't get our act together until very late (as usual). We had invited a friend to come along, and by the time we all figured out where to hike it was almost 3pm.

Because of this, we chose a short, four-miler just a few miles up the Angeles Crest Highway. We decided to hike to Switzer Falls, a popular hike among Angelinos in the know.

To arrive at the trailhead, you drive down a side road that descends about 500 or 600 feet into the canyon below. You start at the Switzer picnic area and head downstream from there. However, when we arrived at the gate, we were confronted with a large sign informing us that the gates would close at 4:30. BF drove us down the road halfway, just to check the scene out, when we saw multiple patches of broken glass on the ground. It seemed that many cars had been broken into at some point recently. Because of this, we didn't feel great about leaving my car below the gates, especially if it were to get stuck there overnight. So BF dropped the friend and I off and returned the car to the highway above.

A quick aside: the friend shall now be known as "Danger Mouse". I say this because when I told him to come up with a fun alias for the Hiking L.A. blog, he jokingly presented this as an option. He never came up with another one, so Danger Mouse it is.

Back to the hike. BF parked the car and carefully hid from sight all valuables. He then met us back down the path and we headed on our way.

The hike itself is very easy and pleasant. For the first half of the trail, you simply follow the stream on mostly flat terrain. The trail crosses back and forth across the water, but the stream was very low so this was an easy undertaking. Here's a view from the beginning of the trail:


And BF getting artistic:


About a mile in, the trail climbs the canyon wall and you gain all your elevation (600 feet in all) within a short distance. At this point, you find some nice vistas of what I gather is Bear Canyon:


Then you descend toward the falls and the shadows. There you eventually find the slightly diminutive falls. Here's Danger Mouse demonstrating his bravery:


It was getting dark at the falls, so we decided to hoof it back to the car. The light had completely faded when we reached the flat part of the trail again, but we each had flashlights, so it wasn't a problem.

There was only one mishap to report. As we walked in the dark, BF led, I was in the middle, and Danger Mouse brought up the rear. At one point, a large tree trunk crossed the path at about forehead level. BF ducked under it, and as I also ducked under it I thought, "Maybe I should warn Danger Mouse about this." Then I thought, "No, it's so obvious!" I didn't want to be patronizing, so I kept my mouth shut. The next thing I heard was a loud, cartoonish "boiiinnggg" and I turned to find Danger Mouse splayed out on the ground. Lesson learned: better safe than sorry. Luckily, Danger Mouse wasn't seriously hurt.

We arrived back at the picnic area without further incident and started our climb up the steep road back up to the car. I had to take a few breathers on the way up—I'm a slow climber and I was still recovering from that pesky virus. One of the great surprises of the hike came when I was pausing on the road staring up at the stars that don't come out in Los Angeles. I saw a shooting star, and then Danger Mouse spotted another, and we realized that it was the night of the Leonid meteor shower. Even though we weren't in an ideal geophysical position to see the show, we got to see at least a dozen shooting stars between the tree of us. Considering I can see about 5 stars on any given night in Los Angeles, this was certainly a treat.

When we arrived at the car it was still intact and our goods were still inside, thankfully. Then Danger Mouse asked if we might be interested in hitting up In N Out Burger on the way home. We told him it was basically a tradition at this point, and we wouldn't think of eating anything else, let alone anything healthy. So we three went off into the darkness, towards double-doubles animal style, a warm shower, and a good night's sleep under the obscured L.A. stars.


At 2:32 PM, Blogger O said...

Hi! I haven't been to switzer falls before but they say it's popular.. I was just wondering how easy it was to find the trail. Is it nice to go around Winter there too? can you email me back info on this, I'm planning to do this around winter when my friends come to visit..thank you very much...



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