You know, it just may be that Dan and Hannah are a little smarter than you think. Sure, the jury is still out, but check out our story and see what you think.
Driving south on The 101 to the Pacific Coast Highway (US 1) in early February 2020, we come to Malibu, the home to the rich and famous. Though there is a small parking lot at the trailhead that costs $8, we park a mere 100’ away on the PCH for free. That’s just how we roll.
Parking on The 101 in Malibu
For the first ¾ of a mile, we walk on a dirt trail just feet from the paved Winding Way East of Malibu Mansions. See below.
The narrow dirt trail is center left in this picture.
Malibu starter home
Granny shack (Granny Gates that is)
At the trailhead into the back country, we notice three highway patrol cars without an officer around. Hmmmm. Later we see them coming out as we are hiking in; at about that same time, we see a helicopter above. I channel my inner Magnum PI and come up with a theory about all this activity. I’ll fill you in at the end of the blog.
With the Lower and Upper Escondido Falls as our destination, we meander along a wide dirt trail skirting the creek for the next mile. Evidence of the Woolsey Fire (November 2018) is evident along the creek bed. Yet, I am happy to report that the charred trees and landscape is returning to its natural state of green.
With no rain to speak over the last two months, we are not surprised that there is just a trickle coming down the Lower Escondido Falls.
The trickle is barely visible amid all the mossy green.
One falls down and the upper falls to go. Not so fast, my friend…
To the right of the lower falls, we make out slender ropes up the cliffside to the upper falls. Can you make them out in the photo below? There are thin.
Really! On the Internet, I had read that ropes would be available for hikers/climbers to get to the upper falls, but these are not ropes!
But then to our right we see two twenty-somethings take to a side trail up the mountain side. Deciding to follow them, we soon see a very steep slope with loose, small to large stones on this parched mountainside, bracketed by jagged rocks to our left and branches, mostly charred, to our right.
Hannah grabbing a metal stake on her way out
Almost immediately, our hiking shoes slip on the stones as we grasp the hillside rocks to steady ourselves. Inching up as loose gravel/stones cascade down the hillside with each step, we turn to our right to grab charred branches, some of them no longer attached to a tree!
In ten minutes, we have climbed but 60 feet up this, what seems to be, a 70 degree slope. Looking ahead, we see 20 more feet of loose gravel without branches to cling to. Aware that climbing down is going to be no walk in the park, we show maturity beyond our years and make a 180. Never to see the upper falls.
Our drama continues. Inching backward feet first, we slip on the loose gravel and stones up to 5” in diameter. Twisting, we grab onto tree branches burned in the Woolsey Fire.
Hannah using the strap to descend
Soon to reduce our center of gravity, we go butt first to negotiate the steep hillside. Spotting a one inch wide strap secured to a tree, we inch backwards down another 20 feet.
With 25” still to go, we grab on to fresh branches sprouting from the nearby tree and take baby steps as we dislodge more loose stones. At last, terra firma. In past blogs, I’ve often described many trails as not perilous. Let me tell you, today’s final 80’ of the trail is indeed perilous.
Looking at each other, Hannah and I have zero regrets about turning around, grateful that we are not heading to Malibu Urgent Care rescued by, yes, the officers we saw earlier on the hike.
Here’s my theory. The three officers were there for a rescue of a hiker who, once to the top of the Upper Falls, thought he/she could not descend. The helicopter was ready to airlift said hiker from the upper falls if the officers couldn’t manage the rescue. Just a theory.
Your call. Maybe we are brighter than we look. Then again maybe not.
Click here for more hiking details to the Escondido Falls.