So I took to the Internet to find a good hike. There is a very important lesson here: DO NOT TRUST THE INTERNET IF YOU VALUE YOUR LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!
I found a site: 100 Things to Do in Big Bear. Most of the 100 things were activities that encourage you to spend money and are not dog friendly. Rent a boat, rent a kyack, (except on the website it was spelled correctly) rent a bike, go para sailing, go shopping, go eating...etc. But somewhere down the list was "Hike to Aztec Falls." Sounds good. So I then Googled Aztec Falls and it had a description something like this: "From the trail head, hike .4 miles to the falls." It was described as tall and deep and you could jump off rocks or go swimming. Perfect. Nice short hike, water to play in... everything we were looking for. There were also directions how to get there. "From Lake Arrowhead, turn on Mill Rd (or something like that) and park at the trail head."
Well, my first mistake was not checking how far Lake Arrowhead is from Big Bear. Aztec Falls should not be on a list of things to do in Big Bear. Maybe "Things sorta close to Big Bear" or "Things closer to Big Bear than Los Angeles." It took us around a half hour of twisty, car-sick inducing roads to get to Lake Arrowhead. Then, once there, we had trouble finding the road to turn on, and once we did turn onto it, it was another 1/2 hour to the trail head. But before we hit the trail head, the road turned into dirt and there was a symbol showing it was the easiest of off-roading roads. Which is good, unless you are in a mini-van. I lost my nerve and we parked and started to walk to the trail head. We let the dogs off leash and Pie promptly almost got run over by a caravan of 3 full sized vans. We walked for a bit in the hot, dusty, heat and the road became paved again. What the??? Soon after that we came to the parking lot of the trail head and it was full of passanger cars so I suppose the mini-van would have been fine. If that is the case they shouldn't have put the off-roading sign up. ffluffy was not amused.
|Where the dirt road changed back into a paved road.|
|Pie leads the way. This was after the van incident.|
Aztec Falls is on the Pacific Crest Trail and we took a path to get to the PCT. First we came to a water hole and let the dogs swim after the hot, dusty walk to get there.
|Not Aztec Falls but pretty!|
|Dottie was happy to cool off.|
|I like how Bob is watching Fancy and Dottie.|
Then we leashed up and headed onto the PCT.
|Heading to the PTC.|
Judging by the number of cars in the parking lot, this was a very popular destination. We came to the PCT and realized we didn't know which way to go. I expected signs, but there was nothing. I thought I remembered something about "east" but based on the time of day and the sun's location, I couldn't tell which way was "east." I was pretty sure the trail was going North/ South.
We picked a direction and soon ran into a guy walking some huge Akitas. One was off leash and it was neutral so not a problem, except the trail was so narrow it was hard to get by! I asked him if he saw any falls this way and he said no, so we turned around and headed back the other way, over a cool (and pretty high bridge.)
|Crossing the bridge.|
|View down the canyon from the bridge.|
Well, that way started taking us up out of the canyon. There was no shade and it was hot and dry.
|Hot, narrow trail.|
|Going back and trying the other way.|
Up and up we went. We passed the .4 mile mark and saw no falls. Since it was so dry and it was out of the canyon, we came to the conclusion the falls must be the other way, and the Akita guy had missed them. Or maybe since he was hiking with Akitas, he hadn't made it .4 miles. So back we went.
The good part about going the other way is it was mostly shaded. Eventually we started hearing voices coming from the bottom off the canyon, but we were still up at the top of the canyon. How do we get down there?
Well, much to our dismay, we found out. There was a crazy, vertical, unsafe looking "trail" heading down the side of the canyon. It was almost more of an eroded cut out than a trail. We had come this far, so we started down. The soil was loose, and it was very steep. I made the dogs wait and I started down. Then I would release them to me and I'd go down further. I used roots for handholds and on some sections went down almost on my rear. Did I mention it was steep and unsafe? The pictures do not do it justice. Nowhere on the Internet websites did it say how difficult it was to get to the falls!
|ffluffy starts down the "trail."|
|Super steep, curves to the left and gets steeper.|
|Dottie waiting to be released.|
Almost at the bottom of the perilous decent, the trail split off. To the right it was dirt , more steep and loose and deep and to the left was huge rock boulders with deep, leg breaking fissures. In my mind at least there is always a concern of a dog slipping off a rock and getting a leg stuck between 2 rocks and breaking it, so we decided to take the dirt side. Halfway down the "trail" I took the camera off my neck and put it in the backpack so if I should fall and slide down the "trail" it wouldn't bang me in the face and strangle me. That is another reason I don't have more pictures of navigating the "trail" and the boulder fields.
We made it down mostly in one piece, only to find ourselves in a new boulder field! We could see the river, but no falls. Based on the sounds of voices, we figured the falls were down stream. We carefully picked our way over the rocks and boulders best we could. As soon as the dog's feet got wet, they began to loose all traction on the boulders and they were slipping all over the place. We carefully, but gamely continued on until we came to one last, very large rock. I told the dogs to wait and went up and I could finally see the pool at the top of the falls!
But, our troubles were not over as not only was it very crowded, but there were two tiny, yappy dogs, who immediately saw me and started barking. One was a wiener dog. How did a wiener dog get there when we had so much trouble?
ffluffy had enough and turned around to go back. I continued on. The dogs were able to get to the top of the boulder ok, but the drop off on the other side was too big. I straddled the top of the boulder and held on around their hips to slow them down as they went over the other side. Then I followed them down- there was a nice little step half of the way down.
There was quite a party going on with girls in bikinis and dudes drinking beer. I hardly got any pictures because I waded to the other side of the pool to get away from the party goers and I wasn't sure how deep it was so I left the camera behind.
I went out to look at the falls and almost slipped over! I guess I didn't really come close to going over but I did slip a tiny bit and that was enough for me to abandon looking at the falls! Of course all the dogs had to go check it out so it became necessary to shout at them to get back also.
|Only picture I have at the falls. This is the top. In the upper right is the section I lowered the dogs down.|
I talked to some of the people hanging around I learned you could jump off the falls but the pool at the bottom is only about 7 feet deep so it is possible you could hit your feet. I was also told there was a way to get down to the lower pool without jumping by going over the rocks but after I got to the top (with the hot rocks burning my feet and the dogs slipping all over the place) I couldn't see a way for me to get down, much less the dogs. I also asked if there was an easier way to get out but it seems like the only way in and out is the way we came. (How did that wiener dog get down there?)
Here you can see people jumping off the rocks and a scene of the falls.
I went back down the hot rock to the pool and I had to warn the party goers that the dogs were coming through and they'd probably want to move their beer. We got to the bottom of the rock without spilling anyone's beer and I waded back across the pool. I knew ffluffy was waiting so it was time to go. I do wish I had taken a picture of the falls. Getting back up and over the boulder was an effort in teamwork. Once again I straddled the top and called the dogs one by one. I grabbed them around the scruff and back as they came up and hoisted them over. In another section I gently tossed Fancy from one boulder to another and caught Dottie as she came across and started to slip.
I was very proud and pleased at how well all three dogs listened to commands like "wait," "over," "NO!" "come over," "get off." Who knew such commands would come in such handy while navigating a boulder field? Since I could see better what was up ahead, I was able to direct them which rocks to climb and which to stay away from.
I came close to having a heart attack climbing back out of the horribly steep canyon. Just as we reached the top a family with a small girl was contemplating the descent and ffluffy and I both warned them and even advised them not to do it, but the dad got all macho and said it would be fine.
Of course the .4 miles back to the trail head was easy and we once again went swimming when we got to that watering hole. The water was not cold and felt very good!
|The pappillon isn't much for swimming.|
|It was a perfect temperature!|
|Dottie comes to visit.|
|Fancy too. It actually wasn't that deep, I was sitting down.|
|Fancy is lord of her domian.|
|Bridge in the background.|
The rest of the trip was uneventful, except the walk back to the car was just as hot and dusty as the walk in.
I had a change of clothes at the car, so I did not have to spend the entire ride out of Arrowhead wet. We ate at an historic Inn of some kind in Arrowhead. I had a chicken pot pie and it was yummy!
|Pretty good place to eat.|
On the way back to Big Bear, we could see smoke from the fire down in Idlewyld.
This is a very picturesque location and the falls are cool. But the trip to get down there is not easy and even pursuing the Internet now I see no mention of the hazardous nature of the trail. Maybe if we were mentally prepared for a difficult descent it wouldn't have been so hair raising? Maybe we are just wimps? Maybe all the other people there that day (and the people who usually go) are younger and more adventurous? Our total mileage for the .4 mile hike ended up being 3 miles with the walking in on the dirt road, the not knowing which way to go (don't go over the bridge) and the hiking down to the falls. I am not recommending this hike unless you are under 20, don't mind crowds of beer drinking party goers, and are ready for a perilous decent.
After our Aztec Fall adventure the rest of the evening was spent resting!