Big Horn Mine

An abandoned mine that once operated in the 1890’s, Big Horn Mine, was just waiting for us to explore. And, believe it or not, it is waiting for YOU.  

The hike is fairly easy, and the views are just amazing. 

Distance: 4 Miles RT, Fairly Easy **Adventure Pass MUST displayed

To get to trailhead, you’ll need to get to Wrightwood; the drive can feel long yet enjoyable. Passing Mountain High ski resort and Grassy Hollow Visitors center campground, and right before road closes on Highway 2, Vincent Gap is your stop.

Our hike started late in the afternoon, with nowhere to be but on the trail exploring, we took our time knowing hike shouldn’t take that long. Regardless, our headlamps in packs at all time. 

Arrived to Vincent Gap Trailhead at around 1pm. Goofed off a little; it was kind of windy so Christopher tossed on a thermo under his sleeveless shirt, and we were good to go. Christopher was happy with his  new daypack; perfect fit, comfy and way lighter than backpackers pack. 

At the end of the Vincent Gap parking lot, the trail begins. Go passed the white locked gate; there are multiple trails. Follow sign for MINE GULCH. In about 5 minutes a fork is reached. To the left, Vincent Cabin and to the right, Big Horn Mine. We did not explore the cabin, word on the mountain is that it’s an off-trail trek, be cautious and if possible have GPS handy.  

We stayed right at the fork, heading to the abandoned mine. In about 3/4 mile, a treacherous drop off must be traversed. Very doable, just requires to stay focus on trail. The rocky rugged terrain looks sketchy, and has room for only one person at a time. Keep alert, and you’ll be fine.

Passed that, a small hill must be conquered, then flattens out. This got us a bit out of breath, and forced us to take our first water gulp. 

You will pass a mine structure on the right, this means you are closer to your destination. Keep going. After rainy days, or while snow melts, there’s most likely to be running water coming from inside the mini mine. 

2 miles into the hike, we arrived to our destination: Big Horn Mine. Full story of mine can be found here 

It was awesome, the views of Mt. Baldy were spectacular. And, the exploring began. ​

​Christopher decided to explore, ignoring the fact we were already hungry. At the beginning of the mine structure, there is a way up. It is steep and slippery, good grip is key. 

Once you reach the top of what once was the factory, there is a mine protected by metal bars. 

One of the bars is broken off, and it is manageable to squeeze in. Headlamp or phone light is needed, it is pitch black a few feet from entrance.

A scavenger hunt for our headlamps in our packs; spotted, packs remained off while making it across. Let the exploring begin.​

​We walked about 10 minutes into the mine, reaching a split on the road, or should I say, mine. To the left, the mine gets deeper and darker, and to the right, what seemed an outlet to the running water spotted upon arriving.

Already close to starving, we convinced ourselves the mine would look the same if we went further, and decided to turn back.

Before we started grubbing, a quick litter pick up was performed. The amount of water bottles and cans was insane. 

Time to munch: we stopped by a Subway before heading up the mountain. Best idea ever, wife has always been a good thinker.

While eating, a group of 4 hikers sat down at a distance. They looked tired, and dirty as can be, as if they had gone deep into the mine. Only one way to find out, I just had to ask. 

Apparently, they were inside the mine for a few hours, going a few miles deep. One of the guys, pants rolled up to his knee, said “there are a few crossings that are about knee deep.” The time was now 2:45pm and they had been inside the mine since around 11am. Crazy if you ask me, but then again, that’s is one of the best ways to discover and explore. 

Our exploring needs satisfied, bellies full, we were snapping a few pics until BAMM!! Humans… lots of them. And they were loud. A tad bit too busy for our taste, we quickly grabbed our packs and bailed.​


As dramatic as it sounds, that’s exactly how it all went down. 

Back on the trail, retraced our steps and hiked back with a smile on our faces, happy campers. 

Along the way, we had spotted patches of snow off the trail, Christopher was in heaven. Even for that short period of time. He would run up to the snow patch, and play while we caught up, then back to hiking.

3:45pm, hike concluded, all situated and ready to hit the road.

Black Star Canyon Falls

A seasonal waterfall? Hhhmmmm, i don’t know if I can call it that. Nevertheless, this nice hidden gem in the Orange County area, Black Star Canyon Falls is a must check-out.  A quick 6 mile hike (RT) that should not be taken lightly. Multiple stream crossings and some bouldering towards the end, will make the trek that much more rewarding.

ADDRESS: 13333 Black Star Canyon Rd, Silverado, CA 9267

Distance: 6.7 Miles RT, 800-1000 ft gain/loss, 4-7 hour hike, depending on pace

Our hike to Blackstar Canyon Falls was a challenge. Not in distance or bouldering, but in backpacking for Christopher ; full gear including 1 1/2 liter of water added his pack to a little over 6lbs.

We arrived to the trailhead parking lot at 12:20pm. No time to waste, hopped out of car, packs on, let’s do this we said. Right off the back, Christopher was not happy with the heavy pack.  Having weight on your back slows you down tremendously, and more effort needs to be put into your body. 

As is always the case, the start is usually the hardest. Nevertheless, he was reminded why he was doing this and pushed to the falls like a champ, with a positive state of mind.
Once passed the locked gate, trail continues on to a cement fire road for about 15 minutes. Fire road becomes all dirt in about 1/2 mile, here you want to go slight right, and continue with desired pace. Beware of the electric fences to keep trespassers from private homes.

At 1 1/4 miles, we reached a bridge with a small running creek underneath; this we thought to be really awesome. There’s a 2nd bridge about 1/2 mile after that. Right before the 2nd bridge crossing, a few hikers spotted a peacock. Here, we took a 10 minute picture break. We kept our distance from peacock, snapped a few pics, and got on our way. Keep eyes open and ears alert for wildlife.

The dirt road continues and a fork is reached at 2 1/2 miles. Here, the road continues towards the left and detours to falls to the right. You will see a wooden sign for BLACK STAR CANYON FALLS right in front as you approach the turn. This is the moment we had been waiting for, the fun part. Dropped about 20 feet on a narrow slide-like trail down to the river, and right away started following the creek up. No trail from this point on.

Multiple crossings are required. There is no specific trail to follow, you have to use your best judgement as there are multiple ways to get across and keep moving forward. Poison Oak is everywhere, watch your step while going thru grassy areas.​


A blue metal sign is located at .5 miles, keep left. Now, the fun part, this is where the bouldering really begins. 

Do not underestimate the 0.4 miles that are left to the falls; this is the fun part yet also the hardest, as you will be climbing some huge boulders. Plan to take the same amount of time as the previous 2 1/2 miles. Some spots get technical, tackle the climb with confidence and simply make sure to have good grip to pull yourself up and feet are stable to push yourself up. All is very doable, simply keep alert and on your toes with the short bouldering section.​


Along the way,   after a rainy day, there will be lots of mini falls everywhere. The trail itself is just a joy, and knowing you are closer to the 80 foot waterfalls just motivated us to keep pushing forward. 

After several hundred feet gained in a short distance, the last climb, a 20-foot waterfall signals you are near. Off to the right, hands up, feet down secure on rocks, up you go. Climbed. Arrived.

The falls were stunning. The main stream falls into a man made cave allowing water to flow into a 2nd smaller waterfall. I was tempted to climb onto the fall and cave, however, the rocks seemed very slippery and too risky. Also didn’t want my son to think I am some kind of daredevil in pursuit of danger; because after all, there will come a time when what I do will speak loudly over what I say. Lead by example.

Although this trail has gotten very popular, the amount of people at the falls did not bother me much. We stayed there for about an hour, just enjoying the view. Cooked a dehydrated meal, and at around , started hiking out. Retraced our steps as best we could, being extra careful while looking for beat way down the boulders. 

Even though we always pack headlamps, my main concern was to make it back to the dirt road junction before dark. I was shocked to see soo many people making their way up with no water or even light. Strongly suggest an earlier start, that also gives you room to explore more if ahead of schedule. 

Back to the road, to what seemed to be a death march. The short 2 1/2 miles felt like 5. Luckily, we had company. Trail friends found on the trail, right there and then. A couple, who we chit chatted with all the way out. They were really cool, and we exchanged hiking stories and shared some laughs.

About 10 minutes before returning to trailhead, Christopher had given all he had. He was exhausted , and shoulders sore as can be. I carried his pack for the remainder of the way.

Made new friends, the hike was really good, waterfall did not disappoint, and training session was a success in my book. 

Christopher’s pack is comfortable, and I believe it is all a matter of getting use to the weight. That simply means, more adventures 😜
Depending on your pace and desired amount of time at falls, plan to be on trail between 3-6 hours. I suggest a nice meal packed lunch and plenty of snacks. Water can be filtered from stream, or a reusable water bottle is a good choice.

Remember, if you pack it in be sure to pack it out. Leave no trace. #trashfreeearth

Our Family Ways

If I told you that this place we call home (EARTH) has so many wonderful places, would you believe me? You might have been watching a TV show and saw a waterfall you can only dream of. Or, a meadow that seems out of this world. Luckily, I have some great news, there is a way to get to all this wonderful places. All you are required to do is get out and EXPLORE!

When you connect with nature, peace and tranquility start to form inside you. You realize how small we are in a world so big. Problems and life issues are viewed differently. The quote “IT’S NOT THE DESTINATION IS THE JOURNEY” becomes the new way of thinking. The views from the mountain top leaves you speechless. And the discovering of new places become a necessity. 

 Choosing a lifestyle for the family is sometimes a hard task; Sharing the exact same interests, enjoying free time doing what you really love, and most importantly, being together. For the Amaya family, such has not been the case. We all love the outdoors, and enjoy exploring. My wife and son look forward to our weekend adventures, and we plan our hikes around family events if any. For example, if on Saturday we have a get-together, we plan an early morning hike or Sunday hike. Sometimes we’ll do both, yeah we are kinda on the coo coo side for nature.

Our adventures started small and slow, little hikes here and there any chance we got. Until, we realized the outdoor way of life is life. It became a necessity to get out and explore. To get some amazing views from the top, and the journey is a much more rewarding experience while getting there. We also realized, this is so simple, so us. Not much is needed to enjoy the outdoors, just a good willing heart, ready to receive and embrace all that nature has to offer.

It is not just a reason to escape reality, because that is something you can not escape from. Rather a way to find yourself, find inner peace and tranquility. Although when we are in the mountains, not much in the real world matters. No cell phone service means no distractions, aside from those on the trail.

Christopher really loves nature, and has taught my wife and I the importance of caring for it. This, I believe to be the biggest blessing and our backbone to our adventures. If we want our children to care for nature, first they must learn to love it. He fights for a trash free earth, and has earned a patch to prove it. This patch, is not just a simple patch, it is a lifestyle he has chosen.

I, myself, can happily say that hiking and being outdoors has brought peace for me and my family. We take a hike any chance we get; to clear our minds, to de-stress and to connect with ourselves. Christopher joins us in our hikes, he is happy when we are exploring. Although sometimes the steepness of the trail gets the best of him and starts getting fuzzy. This is easily fixed by distracting his mind; we do rhyming words, count to 100 in multiple ways, and do sentences. We take turns choosing a word, and the winning sentence gets a share of M&M’s or Snickers. This has also helped Christopher improve with school work.

It’s all a matter of getting out there really. Start somewhere, and before you know it, you’ll get to your destination. The rewarding journey is almost as priceless as the mountain top. Christopher loves a challenge, and has always pushed himself, on the trail and anywhere. We would take a hike to the Angeles National Forest, the river is his favorite spot, Bridge to Nowhere trail to be exact. At first, he would be able to hike about 2 miles, and I would have to carry him back down. Slowly but surely, his distance started increasing. Soon, he was able to do the entire trail up, 5miles; I’d carry him back down. Once he was able to do the distance, we started going uphill and gaining a couple thousand feet. It took us several attempts to get him to where he is now. When we least expect it, he is going to be carrying me down the mountain.

One of my biggest accomplishment so far has been climbing Mt. Whitney via the High Sierra Trail. Currently training my wife and son, in hopes to do the 76 mile traverse up to Mt. Whitney. My 6 year old son, Christopher, really enjoys hiking. He loves attention and also likes to motivate friends on the trails. His longest and toughest hikes in the training process to name a few: Mt. Baldy, Mt. Wilson, Cucamonga Peak and Strawberry Peak, and still counting.  

** THIS BLOG FIRST APPEARED ON Make Life Count webpage 




From Rivers to Icey Tops: Mt. Wilson

​​The Chantry Flats trail to the summit of Mt. Wilson is considered a strenuous, 14 mile loop, that climbs a little over 4,000 vertical feet. It was a long day, Christopher’s longest hike to date and he still had a smile on his face.
We arrived to the trailhead at around 8:15am, to a full parking lot. Parking fills up quick, as the trail to Sturtevant falls is very popular and shared for the first 3/4 mile. An Adventure Pass must be displayed. An overflow lot is available, it’ll run you $10. Parking along side the road is an option, however the farther down you park, more steps will be added to your already long hike.

No other choice than to park down the road, 8:30am, an extra 10 minutes to get to trailhead; situated, packs on, good to go. The first 3/4 mile down the paved fire road is fairly easy, no effort is required. At the end of the paved road, the Gabrielino trailhead junction is reached; a 1 mile detour can be taken to Sturtevant Falls. We kept left at the fork and headed  up to Mt. Wilson via Winter Creek trail, skipped the falls. Due to recent heavy rain, the water was flowing nice and strong. Walking along the creek was amazing. It was all fun and games until, the first crossing at about 1/2 mile from junction. Wife led the way, and tried to find a good spot to cross, failed. After a few minutes, and no results, I began to loose my head as the wife struggled across and Christopher didn’t want to risk getting wet. I couldn’t help him cross and keep us dry, no rocks or logs for balancing. “Just go thru,” I kept telling him. “NO!!” he replied. Back and forth, until, I decided to just get my feet in the water and carry him. The morning was pretty chilly, temperature on my watch read 43 degrees, and being in between the canyons and trees did not help. Feet soaked, and 5 minutes later, another crossing, feet wet yet again. 2 more crossings after that, I was already soaked, however was not really ready to fully submerge my feet in the freezing cold water every again. No choice, in order to keep Christopher dry, I had to get in. Done, crossed.​ Let’s get to stepping.


In 2.2 miles, Hoegee’s campground is crossed. Our trek continued and we arrived to what seemed like the official beginning of the Mt. Wilson trail, 2.6 miles later. This is where the fun begins, elevation was starting to go into full  effect. A small 2-3 minute break, snapped a pic and video, got on our way. 

Up, up and away, the trail got steep and our pace slowed a little. A nice slow yet steady pace as we approached mile 4, the time was now close to 11am. Christopher was feeling good, and he decided to MARCH like soldiers and sing, all he wanted was to reach mile 4 because Elizabeth, my wife, told him he can have Skittles or M&M’s for doing such great job. Good thing he can’t differentiate distance yet 😜 we kept going until the bench, approximately 5 miles from start. Here, is the junction to the Sierra Madre trailhead, and the ascend gets gradually steeper. We had lunch, mingled with a few other hikers, chilled, back to trekking. 

In about 3/4 miles, Mt. Wilson Toll Road becomes the main trail, a much quicker pace was picked up, as it had not much elevation gain. To our surprise, there were patches of snow and very soon the entire trail was covered. Wife was not so happy; she dislikes like being cold, let alone walk in the snow. Our toes wet and numb, temperature dropped, and clouds covering the sun, the last mile or so was not so pleasant. Pushed for the peak, and found some hiking friends/superstars on their way down from the summit; Evonne, Nathalie, and Theseus. 

2:15pm, with still 15-20 minutes to summit, determined to get to the top, we pushed a bit harder. The melting snow created a small river on the trail, about ankle deep. Feet wet yet again. Finally made it to the summit, and walked over to the museum. It was closed, however, they usually have coffee and hot chocolate for hikers. Very much appreciated. I refilled my coffee mug, and we enjoyed the view. It was cold, so we decided to just have a snack and head back down after coffees were chugged. 

The wife and kid

We set out to bag Mt. Wilson, and we pushed, and pushed and pushed for the peak, about 6hrs later, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. 

What goes up must come down; and so, we began to descend, 3:15pm. Christopher is into running, and I take advantage as much as possible. Usually, when going downhill, He asks to run, and without hesitation, my wife and I gave him the green light. “Sun is going down quick,” I told her, as we ran down the mountain. We knew a storm was heading our way, that gave us a little more motivation to keep running. Impressively, Christopher ran almost 3 miles down, until we reached a junction. To the left, Winter Creek trail, back where we came from with multiple river crossings, “not in the dark,” we said. We went for Upper Creek trail, to the right at the junction, still about 3 miles to go, however no water. Headlamps on, we continued to walk in the dark for about 1hour. It was quite, and lonely. Our only objective was to get to the parking lot. No breaks, just kept pushing up the hills as we gained a few hundred feet. Some little sprinkles were felt, luckily, we were already close to trailhead parking lot. Made it back to the car, close to 6:10pm. Christopher was beyond exhausted. He took a nap on the way home, and went straight to bed upon arrival.
**Home to an observatory high in the mountains, Mt. Wilson stands at 5,710 feet above sea level. Mt. Wilson is the first of the six pack of peaks, as suggested by in great training for longer more strenuous hikes such as Mt. Whitney or a thru hike, John Muir Trail, or in our case, High Sierra Trail.


Theseus aka @OZ _OUTDOORZEN


A Weekend To Remember

Sometimes after work, I go home and sleep, and dream of mountains. And sometimes, I decide to skip the sleeping part, and get to a mountain. Scheduled for a crazy adventurous weekend, and my work schedule already all kinds of fucked up, I knew I would be getting little to no sleep. Why sleep when you can adventure, right? 3 destinations, coincidently one after the other, location wise. Would have been pointless to drive back home some 60miles one way. The plan was to camp in our car, or look for a cheap room to nap and shower.

First stop, Riverside Mt. Rubidoux – Trail clean up with Trash Free Earth. Later that day, set up and attend wife’s aunt wedding, about 15 minutes further down Riverside. Sunday, a long 3 hour drive to Schmidt Burro Tunnel near Red Rock Canyon. I should mention the 3 hour drive was already starting from Riverside. I did question myself a few times why did I get myself into such a crazy mess.

Off work, 3:35am, rushed home to make sure all was packed and ready to go. My wife was excited about the weekend, and even though she treasures her sleep, she was down. In fact, she packed all our party clothes, and hiking clothes the night before, as we had no plans to return until Sunday evening. Meeting time for clean up was 7am, and we were about 1hr 10min away. While wife and kiddo slept, I made several trips to bring stuff from and to the car. 4:45am, tried waking up the wife, Elizabeth, and failed. 5 minutes later, failed again. 3rd time was the charm, now 5 minutes to 5am. She got up, showered and got into some hiking clothes. Christopher sometimes gets moody being up so early, “it’s still noche,” he says. This time however, was as smooth as can be. 5:35am, triple checked our gear, everything looked good, time to go. Almost out the door, and I hear rain drops. No problem, luckily we were still home, grabbed our rain jackets. Now, good to go. 

First destination reached, ahead of schedule, 15 minutes to spare. The morning was chilly, and light showers would come and go as we sat in the parking lot of Mt. Rubidoux waiting to see signs of our crew. Hopped off our car, tossed on rain jackets, jaw dropped as we approached the large group of volunteers. About 50 people not caring about a lil rain, and looking to make a difference. That was awesome. Motivating.

Trash Free Earth founder, Daisy, provided a brief description of what they do, and introduced her team. They are an awesome group, being the change they wish to see in the world. Definitely click the link and show them some love. She then handed gloves and adviced us to grab buckets for trash and recycles. Kristin, from Hike Inland Empire set up this hike, who also shared info from her group.

 Shortly after, we begun making our way to the beginning of the trail, I’d say about 1/4 mile from parking lot. The paved road continues for about 1 1/4 miles, and gains between 400-500 feet to the summit. A walk in the park, literally. The city views are really nice, worth every step as you make your way to the summit. Buckets and grabbers in hand, our mission started; no trash left behind. Christopher took my grabber and started taking care of business. 

In 3/4 mile or so, a bridge is reached. A good spot for a nice break or enjoy some history. Look around and check out the posted plaques for info. Also there is a cool watchtower; it is locked. Here, a group pic was taken and the large group was divided into 2. Group A was assigned to clean the bridge area, group B was to keep walking up about 5-10 minutes to the summit of Mt. Rubidoux, where a huge cross stands. The cross can be seen from the freeway, and calls for attention. A set of huge stairs must be mastered before reaching the summit. 

We all scattered like ants, only instead of food, carried trash into buckets and bags. My friend Jason went passed the cross, and had a spot to clean all to himself, greedy much. Christopher decided to go to Jason and give him a hand. I followed. Wife also followed. Little pieces of trash everywhere, time to get down and dirty; grabber, hand, grabber, hand, alternating as the small pieces of trash would fall from grabber. We received back-up, more volunteers arrived to assist. 35-40 minutes, all visible trash was removed. Around  8:45am, started heading back to the cross and down the stairs; all volunteers were gathered and a few were sorting out the trash for proper disposal. Christopher spotted the American Flag right above us and wanted to go explore. “Let’s go,” I told him, I’ll follow you.” Wife joined us. The watchtower was right below the flag, maybe about 100 feet away, “awesome ” Christopher said as he started walking in that direction. Snapped a few pics, walked down to the tower than started going back to join our group. Only to realize they were no longer there. Did we take long? We quickly started speed walking trying to catch up. Christopher had a better idea; he wanted to run down the road. I really liked that idea; he started running, I did too. His main goal was to catch up to Jason, however, we ran about 5 minutes and our group was nowhere to be found. He got tired. Walk, rest, ran some more, repeat. Until we started seeing people from our group, but no Jason, we kept running. “I see him,” he said, and ran faster, “Jason, hi, I’m right here,” Christopher said. Jason smiled said “hi” and Christopher was at ease. That only lasted for a few seconds, then asked, “should we keep running?” I grinned a smile and ran next to him closely. Reached the beginning of the trail in no time, and waited for wife and rest of group. Walked back to parking lot, mingled a little, a group photo was taken, and trash was weighed. Surprisingly, trash picked up added to 203lbs. A great morning came to an end as we departed to our next destination; my wife’s aunt wedding.

Our best option was to get a room at a nearby hotel, as the wedding was only about 15 minutes from trail. Not only would we save gas and time, we’d be able to get some sleep instead of driving. I knew I had a long drive the next day, and going back home would have added another 100 miles or so for next day’s drive. 

All settled, we decided to book a room nearby. My wife and her mom were coordinating the wedding, and setting everything up. Her mom didn’t want to take the drive back after setting up and coming back to the event, so we went half on the room. It all fell into place.

Quick stop to get breakfast at a mexican restaurant on our way to the venue. Arrived around 12:30noon and quickly we got down to business. Chair covers, table centerpieces, dishware, napkins and last touch ups to turn a hall into a ballroom. Check out Tiffany’s Party Rentals for all your party needs, service is great and prices even better. And the results, just take a peek at some of the events, pictures speak volume

 2:45pm All squared away and ready to transition into party mode, we headed to the hotel room to check-in. As soon as the door was opened, my eyes already located the bed, and my body went to it like a feather in the air. While everyone was transforming, Christopher and I took a  quick 2 hour much needed nap. My turn to shower, wife woke me up. Water was cold, to fully wake me up. Showered, changed, ready, let’s party. Close to 6pm, we all arrived to the venue. Moments later, guest started to arrive, family members sat in the table next to us, so the chit-chatting began. More and more guest arrived, it was so many I lost count. Not that I was counting though.

Unfortunately, Christopher did not feel so good, and said he started getting a stomach ache. Wife suggested I go back to the room, and come back by 1am to clean up, as the banquet hall had a strict pick up policy. Even though it was a short drive, I decided to sit in the truck hoping Christopher would feel better and get back to the wedding. That, didn’t end up happening, as I layed with him in the backseat of the truck and we were both out for the count. Close to 1:30am, woke up just in time to help pick up and gathered our stuff; plates, napkins, centerpiece bases, linen, chair covers, it all had to go. Some guests were kind to help us. All packed and ready to go, my mother-in-law went home, we went back to the hotel.

Afraid to close my eyes, I layed down and watched wife and kiddo sleep profoundly. About 5 alarms set, within 5 minutes of each other, I knocked out, 2:25am. Only to be back up at 4:30am, leave room by 5. 2 hours of sleep, GOLDEN, i thought.
Plan was to meet Berto in Victorville at 6am, that was about an hour drive from us. From there, we would drive another 2hrs to get to the tunnels. En route and on time, I was feeling good and excited about the adventure ahead. Wife and Christopher slept some more along the way. Rendezvous point reached, gathered up with Berto’s friend, Harold and his family, hit the road. 

After a long to what seemed never ending drive, we reached a glitch, a closed dirt road, due to floods, here we would begin making our way up the mountain. Bummed out as can be, but not determined to turn back, Berto followed a detour around the highway. A long drive just turned longer, but hopes of getting to our destination were high in the sky. A great sacrifice if you ask me. 

Arrived to the final dirt road, Berto said it would be about 30 miles. A bit worried about my car, as it has some high clearance but not 4X4, decided to go and just wing it. 3 miles in and huge rocks, mud holes and loose dirt became a big obstacle. I was maneuvering like a boss, however my car wasn’t getting any traction. I was mad and disappointed; Berto saved the day. He suggested we ride in his truck, a bit squished but we fit. Car parked, locked, hopped in Berto’s truck.

The road got really rough, and the mud holes deep, though the splashes were fucken amazing. First time being off road in such rugged terrain, I think I was more excited than Christopher, my 6 year old son. A few miles later, 8:17am, arrived to beginning of the Schmidt tunnel. The area was lonely, not a single soul out there that morning. 

The 1/2 mile hand-carved tunnel was waiting to be explored, by us. And that is just what we did. Grabbed our packs, kids went in to take a look, came back, “guys, it’s very small,” they said. We took a look, my pack came off, as the entrance is a bit on the narrow side. Tossed some snacks in my pocket, grabbed water bottle, all set. The kids were eager to go into the tunnel, their feet were itching and their patience was wearing thin.

Headlamps strapped on, inside we go. The kids led the way. After about 5-10 minutes, a junction is reached. Yes, another tunnel, inside the tunnel. As if we were not having enough fun already. We decided to go to the right, simply because you can see a speck of light. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, literally. 

Out the tunnel, WOW, talk about rewarding views. We were all in awe. Superb. There’s an old saying, TAKE A PICTURE IT’LL LAST LONGER. and so, we obeyed and snapped a few pics. Back into the tunnel, straight ahead was the junction, to the left is the exit, and straight is the unknown. What did we do, you may ask? Well, I’ll tell you what we did; we did what any explorer would do, went into the unknown. 5 minutes, less than 1/4 mile, the tunnel becomes smaller and smaller and smaller, until, it is a tunnel no more but a dead end. Back we went, at the junction now, turned right to head back to the cars. 

Driving back out on the dirt road was as exciting as the drive in. There were multiple small roads though, and we were trying to back trace our route, because my car was somewhere along the way. Found the car, then took on another tunnel, which lead nowhere. Kids loved it anyway. 

Hopped in our car, headed back to the paved road. Once there, made a right turn and drove some 20 minutes to Red Rock Canyon State Park, for a quick pit stop and restroom break. The time now 11:13am, we decided to check out the awesome rock formations up close. A small 10 minute walk into wet fresh clay, our shoes were not looking pretty. But then again, we didn’t care much about that. As beautiful as it was, it was also as slippery as can be. My wife slipped, went down, knee souvenir. Kids were slipping too. I tried going up a rock, tried grabbing on to a hard surface that was not as hard as I thought, and down I went, ate it. Hands, knees, and jacket covered in clay. I wasn’t worried, a wash and a wipe down fix, no biggy.

Back to our cars, Berto and Harold were going back the same route as it was closer to their home. Being super tired and having very little sleep, I decided to call it  day and drive home a shorter way. As much as I wanted to take the drive through the mountains, I was done, almost on empty on sleep. Farewells to our friends. We departed different directions. 

About an hour later, Wife took the wheel, I napped for a few minutes. One last stop, Islands Burgers in Burbank, 45 minutes before getting home. As I joked around with the wife about who was paying the bill, Christopher made up a rule; whoever touches a phone while on the dinner table, pays the bill. In other words, no phones allowed. We have joint accounts, however the no phones rule was a great idea, and went into full effect immediately. 

A little past 6pm, we were finally home. All of us took showers, pj’d up, and relaxed. Talked about how crazy and awesome the weekend had been, and concluded that we should do this kinda weekend maybe once every 2-3 months, just add a few more hours of sleep. Another great idea. 

A fantastic sleepless weekend, all in the name of adventure and exploring. 


Saturday Trail Clean-up



Sunday Exploring 


Top Of The Notch: Mt. Baldy

In winter, our local mountains have snow. Yes, you read right, SNOW. Right in our own backyard. Rain means snow at higher altitudes. 

Mount San Antonio aka Mt. Baldy is the highest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains, it’s peak stands at 10,064ft above sea level. Located off the 210 freeway borderline of Los Angeles County and San Bernardino county, in the Angeles National Forest.  

The Top of the Notch restaurant: A restaurant that sits 7,300 feet above sea level in the middle of the mountains? how cool can that be. The restaurant is accessible year-round, and it is only a short drive away from the Los Angeles area. There are 2 ways to get to the Notch: ski lift chair and hiking.

The ski lift elevates you 1,500 feet in just under 15 minutes, the fee $20-$25 round trip. The views on the way down are nice, well worth the ride. Groupon tends to have a great deal; food and ride for a discounted price.
About our hike: We start at the San Antonio Falls trailhead, an ADVENTURE PASS is required for parking. Big 5, Sport Chalet and REI have the day pass for $5 or a year pass for $30. We then follow the fire road, 3 miles, 1,500 feet elevation gain. This trail is fairly easy, and as long as you keep one foot in front of the other, you will reach your destination. Withing 0.8miles, San Antonio Falls is reached. A 10-20 minute detour can be taken down to the falls. Be careful ! Though there is a small trail, it is in some places slippery, specially if snow is present. Not a huge drop, but will definitely leave a bruise or scar. We enjoyed a nice break here, took off our packs, and had a snack. After about 10minutes, we continued our hike. From here, the road gets less traveled, meaning the snow is much fluffier . The level of steepness increases just a tad bit. Pace is key; going too fast might wear you out, cutting your trip short. 

Once at the Notch, you can enjoy a packed lunch, or a fancy meal from the restaurant, which is very yummy and the price is not up the roof. There is an option to hike up to the Notch, and get a one-way ride down, should be $12-$15. 

The Top of the Notch restaurant has flush toilets, full dining menu, and cold beer. Furthermore, a live band plays in a stage on the weekends. A great treat if you ask me. 


Trailhead coordinates: 34.266172, -117.62684 (34° 15′ 58.21″N 117° 37′ 36.62″W)

take the I-210 E towards the Claremont area. Take the exit Base Line Road, and turn left at the light. At the light, turn right onto Padua Road. Follow Padua Road until you reach Mt. Baldy Road. Turn right onto Mt Baldy Road for about 9 miles. Pass through Baldy Village, here you can stop for an Adventure Day Pass. Keep going down Mt. Baldy Rd 4more miles, Look for parking once beyond the Manker Flats Campground. Trailhead is to the left hand side, look for a few blue porta-potty’s . Park along Mt. Baldy road, display ADVENTURE PASS, and hike on. Ski Lift parking is just 0.6mes down the road, keep going until you come to a dead end.


Winter Wonderland
San Antonio Falls – Summer time