Dan and Hannah Get More Than They Bargained at Escondido Falls in Malibu, California in 2020

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.

Esc map

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.

Esc 1 park by roadside

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.

Esc 2 H on Winding Way

The narrow dirt trail is center left in this picture.

Esc 2B one mansion

Malibu starter home

Esc 2C another mansion

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.

Esc 3A D with trail sign

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.

Esc 3D use H on trail

Esc 3C H on trail

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.

Esc 4A lower 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.

Esc 5 the rope

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.

Esc 6 starting the climb

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!

Esc 6A higher up

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.

Esc 6B using the strap

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.

11 thoughts on “Dan and Hannah Get More Than They Bargained at Escondido Falls in Malibu, California in 2020

  1. Wow! Good survival instincts. Clearly your past California hiking experiences have been formative! Of course I probably would have turned around earlier…but you made the right choice! Thanks for the suspense filled post.

    • Thanks for the feedback and encouragement. I look at these pictures and think how different things are in California and now here in Maine. The Portland Press Herald reports that the curve has been flattened in Maine. Same in your area?

  2. Just want you and Hannah to know that if we ever hike with you (assuming social distancing is not still a thing), trails with straps are off the itinerary. We watched a rescue training drill on an AZ peak — all the equipment, vehicles and manpower it takes to retrieve one injured or lost hiker. And if you’re stuck up there at dusk, forget it. You’re on your own till morning.

  3. You’re so funny!!!! Yes, your minds are as agile as your skinny bodies!!!! Well done! No trips to the ER for you (both)!

    One of your last blogs made me think ahead (not a skill I use often) . . . covid making you think, what will your life look like in the future? Less mobile, faculties working, and where?????? Ugh – think I’ll stay in the moment. . .( I do thank God for great health and happiness at 81)!!

    About covid – Randy has been saying “let it rip”, sounded like tough guy talk, but a pediatric cardiologist wrote in the WSJ today, that we did this wrong – should have sheltered the old, let the virus go through. Instead we prolong the duration, and tank the economy. Who really knows??????

    But Dan and Hannah, keep well, and safe and enjoy those wines at 5. We are enjoying that more than ever! xoxo


  4. LOVED the Malibu Starter Home and Granny Gates captions!!! What would you do with all that space, Granny Gates?! Yikes, this post had me on the edge of my seat, and yes you two are smart cookies! So glad you got your Carpinteria/SoCal/dose of Vit D, and pickleball paradise in, before this all hit! And like Nellie, I will refer to the previous post. Rosemarie, at 92, thrives on phone calls from family/extended family. Something good for us all to remember when we think of our homebound friends and relatives! (Well, now we are ALL homebound, lol! ) And should you lose your pickleball smash some day, Dan, you still have your pen! Steven Colbert’s FIL, ninety something, still mows the lawn. He showed a video to prove it! Not that I look forward to that as my only ambulatory activity! Thanks for taking us on a hike today!

  5. Pingback: Dan and Hannah Hike Solstice Canyon in Malibu, California – over60hiker

  6. Wow you guys are hero’s! Just to let you know I also went on this hike and as I was walking along the path and bent down to pick up a rock on the trail and noticed my legs had ticks all over them, 10+ all sizes. These were Western Black Legged Ticks, the ticks that are testing positive for Lyme Disease in Malibu. I looked closer at the blades of grass that bent over the trail and saw the entire area is infested, ticks all over them, horrifying! It is life threatening to contract Lyme Disease (ticks carry multiple pathogens). Do a quick google search “Malibu Lyme Disease”.

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