Sunday, May 15, 2011

Hike to Paradise Falls

Written by Diane Beauton

No doubt about it, hiking is a new experience for a sidewalk stroller, but one that is very rewarding. We begin our hike to Paradise Falls in Wildwood Park wearing our newest hiking gear. I graduated from a little black fanny pack to a double holster water waist pack and Cindy to a larger fanny pack to a full on backpack stuffed with trail mix and granola bars. Cindy armed with her knife and I with pepper spray; we were ready for the challenge of another hike.

Wildwood has many trails that lead to Paradise falls and being a newbie hiker I voted for the high trail, the easy trail and Cindy just wanted to hit the trail – any trail. Small problem though, the signposts didn’t point, beginners go this way! So we eeny, meeny, miny, moed it and headed on the east-bound trail. Another small problem; turns out we were on the low trail, the windy, narrow more difficult, look over the edge trail, but it was a breath-taking view.

As I followed behind, Cindy did a great job as scout calling out, “narrow road, rock to the right, poison oak to the left and bee.” She is definitely ready for a job as a “wilderness guide.” The downhill hike into the valley was a little tricky for me but Cindy was in the lead for a very good reason- to break my fall; what are little sisters for?

The scenery looking down into the valley was humbling to say the least and our little point and shoot cameras didn’t do it justice but its there for the capture so we snapped away framing flora along the jagged hillside, wild daisies, flowering cactus and a glimpse of the falls from a birds-eye view.

The canyons are crawling with predators’, the winged kind like the damselfly and the California black gnat (they bite and feed on blood), four-legged lizards, six-legged velvet red ants (flightless wasps) and especially the two-legged variety, known as people. The later being more like stalkers of the wild aspiring to capture that perfect awe-inspiring shot that lands on the cover of National Geographic.

Finally we reached the glistening waterfall and tranquil pond that fed the running creek and the cool shade of the trees. The sound of the waterfall, the gentle breeze and rock formations made the hike worthwhile, somewhat like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. After taking more pictures we headed back ‘up’ the trail in search of the easy way back. What I learn is there is no easy way ‘up’! What else did I learn, bring more water!

All the colorful wildflowers make the wild a haven for bees gathering honey and pollinating – all kinds of bees. It didn’t take long to heed the warning calls – “little bee, big bee, really big bee and SWARM”! Yes, SWARM or "killer bees" as Cindy called the alarm. Midway on the trail is a shaded resting spot and viewing point in the design of a tee-pee; here we stopped to munch and rest. This is where we saw the SWARM of bees, thousands of bees buzzed by over-head. There is nowhere out in the wild to take cover, so reminder: “add Benadryl along with Avon Skin so Soft to keep away Mosquitos and those 'pesky' black gnats) our one casuality after biting Cindy to list of things to bring on hike.” Back on the trail the uphill climb was a bit difficult for me so we moved along at a snails pace and since there were no trees I took cover under the shadow of every bush along the trail. This experience gave me a whole new view of the spirited pioneers and their perilous journey West.

The hike took us about 3 hours, not bad considering I’m out of shape and we stopped to take pictures.

The wilderness trails are dusty and cracked and steep and windy but its landscape is dotted with multicolored blooms and lush foliage where birds nest and critters roam. Back in the concrete jungle of highway road rage and parking lot crazies; I think I'll continue the occasional wilderness hike with the company of creepy crawlers and things that go buzz.

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