East County springs swell after recent rains
For the adventurer at heart, there is a magic place right into the deepest folders of El Cajon Mountain, on a trail that not many know about, that takes the wondering souls up to a spring hidden behind old oak trees and huge boulders splintered down from the majestic peak.
This is the place where deer come to sooth their thirst, a place for coyotes to rest from their daily chase, an oasis for the horse back riders who may or may not want to keep going up the mountain from here. Up to this spring, the switch back is gentle with very few more abrupt hiccups, but nothing hard or dangerous, just perfect for a healthy heartbeat for the whole family. Mountain lions survey the valley below at night listening for the prey’s cry, based on the fresh tracks found in the mud, mixed with paw prints left behind by bobcats, foxes, rabbits and other wild creatures that reign over this rocky, golden land.
The recent abundance of rain created a more spectacular view for the ones who bravely chose to exchange the remote for the beaten mountain path – several water falls playfully rolling down on the West side of El Cajon (El Cap for the locals) mountain. The rain woke up the river bottom also and there are musty ponds all over under the chaparral or in the open greenery, eager creeks bouncing over the rocks along the ranches below, celebrating the bountiful landscape home to countless wild flowers, croaky toads and the squeaky call of the predatory birds. =
To get to the spring and see the waterfalls up close, one has to come down El Monte Road in Lakeside up to the 5.5 mile mark, park on the left side of the road and go from the trail head down into the river bottom through a luxurious canopy of oak trees and palm trees, then come up into the open and keep going up the rocky path following the natural creek up until the fire road going East from El Capitan Reservoir. It’s not a good idea to cross the fenced area, as there are several private properties around. It’s better to stay on the path. From the fire road, take the trail to the right (west) and follow the switch back up to the rockiest area, for about 45 minutes (beginner time). Stop when you see the first oak trees on the path and the biggest boulders. Climb on the boulders if you want (everybody wants), drink some water, eat your orange and look up. Do you see the waterfalls?
If you keep going up the trail, you can get closer to the waterfalls and even cross the water at one point, at about 30 minutes up from the spring. Because of the slippery slopes and the rolling water that creates landslides on the path, it’s better to wait until it dries out a little before pursuing this adventure and, of course, wear suitable shoes. It’s not recommended to hike during the rain, because the weather changes fast on the mountain and lighting is highly possible. Don’t hike alone either, one twisted ankle could put you into the hazard’s way and this area is not a park, but pure wilderness. Keep in mind that it’s also hard to get cell connection around there, so let somebody know where you’re going and when do you plan to return.
Safety precautions aside, do not forget your camera at home though. Breathtaking views of the waterfalls, the panoramic perspective over El Capitan Lake Reservoir and the dam, also the valley below and colorful blooms along the way will make this trail an unforgettable experience.