The apartment was pitch black, but in the distance I could see the music room light on- signaling two things; that I must have slept through my alarm and that it was time to go. It was Sunday morning, our neighbors upstairs had just recently passed out from their rowdy Saturday night but we were about to be just beginning our day. The second day of Bri’s visit we were heading to the desert to hike the bucket list item- Three Sisters Waterfalls Trail.
Up before the sun, it was important to get on the road as early as possible to avoid getting stranded by the hot California heat. Even though it was February, temperatures were undoubtedly rising to the mid 80s by noon and the last thing we wanted to do was be hiking in mid-day. Eyes half open, Bri, Dave and I loaded into my car and departed into the wide-open desert. Even though the moon and the stars were still brightly shining above- the temperature reading on the car only increased with every ten miles we drove east.
Sipping on Starbucks as we drove past the canyons, cactus and mountain tops the sun slowly began to show her rays. We took a left turn and suddenly found ourselves winding along a gravel road. The occasional flooding, missing pavement and lack of civilization was a bit refreshing. It’s good for the soul to get out of the city and to see what Mother Nature has to offer. The length of the drive, we quickly realized, stemmed from the contrast of the speed that you were able to drive on this almost invisible road. With nothing blocking the edge of the canyon, it was amazing to look out and feast your eyes upon the endless blues and greens.
When we finally arrived at the trailhead, I was a bit surprised by the amount of cars that were already parked. Not only was it only 8am but also there was no one else on the road as we were driving in this morning. Sure enough however, there were several vehicles already lined along the dirt road. As we evacuated the car, we began to load up the backpack with our waters and strip off the layers we foolishly thought we might have needed. At 8am the sun was already beating down on our shoulders proving it was going to be a sunny and beautiful day, perfect for the hike we were about to take on.
Starting at the trailhead, the first part of our hike would be a short, straight walk on gravel down a small hill. It was a nice start to the hike- downhill. In fact, majority of the hike to the waterfall was downhill which was nice for us to get warmed up. In hindsight however, it was very much a pain but more on that later. For now, the hike down was awesome. It was a small path, forcing us to climb single file as I charmed Dave and Bri with my own rendition of “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas.
Suddenly, the nice and friendly path we thought we were enduring, turned vicious on us. There was a rope tied to some branches and rocks that you were forced to use to climb off the cliffs. We were scaling rock walls, while debris from above shuffled on our heads. It was quite and unexpected section of hike but we aren’t a group to shy away from adventures and danger. All three of us thrive on new experiences so this was a perfect hike to take on.
After another section of rope, forcing us to climb backwards down a cliff the trail closes off and we are on our own to find our way. We decided to follow the river upstream to find the waterfalls, which were the main focus of this hike. Hiking along, I continued my Disney sing-a-long with little participation from the others. Careful as to not glide our legs along any poison ivy, we cut through plants, skipped over the stream and balanced on rocks to keep our socks dry. At moments, it felt as if we were lost in the wilderness but at the same time it was a very freeing feeling. There’s something to be said about getting lost with direction in the middle of the woods.
Out of nowhere there was a break in the trees and we could see the waterfall straight ahead. It was a sight straight from a travel brochure. High between the trees and deep in the valley there were three waterfalls that powerfully ran together creating the stream we had been following. On each end of the fall was a pool that people were swimming in. It was a storybook sight and I found myself unable to wipe the smile from my face.
Covered in dirt and sweat, we headed toward the top of the valley so we could sit on top of the falls and let our feet dangle over the edge. Unsure of a clear path, we created our own that had my heart racing at points. We found ourselves scaling the edge of the rocks more than twenty feet above the ground only this time, there was no rope guiding us along. I loved the feeling of adrenaline that rushed through my body as we were climbing, totally unsure where we were heading next.
Once we reached the top, it felt like a sweet victory. We were able to enjoy a breathtaking view, a granola bar and some water while we relaxed in the sun for a bit. It began to grow a little more crowded below- even some dogs had somehow managed to make the hike. We were all extremely puzzled how they managed to get the dogs through the ropes but it made me happy to see them happily prancing around in and out of the ponds.
As the sun rose higher in the sky, I was already looking forward to the breakfast burritos that were awaiting us back in Pacific Beach. Daydreaming of the burrito made me not want to climb back up but instead wanting to eat right now. Unfortunately for my rumbling tummy that wasn’t an option and back up we were forced to go.
Just as we had expected, the hike up was definitely not as fun. Since the hike down was simply that- all down, the hike up was of course, the opposite- uphill. Great. It proved to be even challenging as the sun rose higher and seemed to beat down with more force. The beady sweat trickled off my nose and my dusty hands gripped the rocks as we climbed through the stream again.
Slowly but surely we made our way back up that mountain. Trudging back across the waters, hoisting our tired, sun stricken bodies up by the ropes then finally crawling through the loose sand that spewed back in the faces below you. Just when we thought the end was in sight- we realized that not so friendly “short” walk at the beginning was left. Now, what seemed so short was the longest stretch of land I’ve experienced in some time.
Collapsing into the car, we were dusty, sweating but full of pride. This was a bucket list hike I had wanted to do since moving to San Diego last summer so I was ecstatic to finally getting to check it off my list. Plus, doing it with Dave and one of my best friends is a nice bonus. Now all I wanted was that breakfast burrito, get me to the beach!