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Cedar Creek Falls & Mildred Falls

After a very wet winter in Southern California (my first winter here) I returned to Cedar Creek Falls to see them running in Spring. The difference to the first visit in October 2010 couldn’t possibly have been any bigger!

I started in the afternoon around 2pm and began the hike from the San Diego Country Estates trailhead again, just south of Ramona. Workers were doing maintenance to improve and partially re-route the trail. As I reached the crossing of San Diego River, the first surprise waited for me: it was entirely impossible to cross without getting into the water – it was not the trickling creek that I remembered at all, but an actual, rushing river. Duh, what did I expect, that it would be some easy boulder-hopping again? Silly me. :)

I grabbed Toni to carry her, because the current was too strong for the little dog to swim – she would’ve been swept away. Continuing on the trail Cedar Creek was swollen too, the three crossings on the way to the falls meant getting more wet feet. As I got closer to Cedar Creek Falls, I already heard the constant rushing of water. Areas of the trail just below the waterfall were flooded.

At the falls proper, that rushing had turned into a roar, drowning out normal conversations – another hiker shouted “amazing!” as we watched the water rush down wildly, over the rocks. It was difficult to make photos because the downdraft wind into the rocky bowl kept the spray of the water flying directly in my direction, onto the lens. I turned away, wiped the lens clean, covered it with my hand, turned back around, made exposures in burst mode, and turned away again to repeat.

I climbed up on the slope at the side of the falls to get a view of the canyon below and made some more photos (details are available in the slideshow, just click on a thumbnail below). Later on, I continued up on the old dirt road that is called Eagle Peak Road – it continues into Ritchie Canyon, another side arm to the San Diego River with a waterfall: Mildred Falls. It is the highest waterfall in San Diego County, but is rather ephemeral in normal years and only runs immediately after rains.

After this wet winter however it was simply amazing and beautiful. I reached a good viewpoint just as the sun began to disappear behind a ridge and only had to wait a couple of minutes until the falls were entirely in the shade, to make a longer exposure. And then it was time to head back down on Eagle Peak Road, cross the rushing San Diego River again, and hike back up to the trailhead.

I did not know yet what a treat this wet winter and these beautiful views of the waterfalls were. I’m glad I preserved the memory in photos.

This article was added to the site in March 2015 and dated back to the day the photos were actually made.

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