Ma and Pa Modern Adventures: waterfalls, frogs, and salamanders, oh my!

We love waterfall hikes.
In fact, they rank among our most favorite kinds of hikes.
Southern California is notoriously dry, and has been even more than usual for the past few years.
However, there are still some wonderful waterfalls to be found if you look hard enough.
And given the extra rain we got this winter, the waterfalls are flowing better than they have been for the past couple of years.
This spring has been wonderful for us in finding lots of full creeks to splash in.
And yesterday we found a full waterfall.
It was glorious!
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We hiked the Millard Canyon trail to the falls.
The trail has been closed for a number of years due to a fire.
It is recently re-opened and still uncrowded and beautiful.
No trash or graffiti like on some of our other favorite hikes in this area.
We are hopeful it stays that way.

The trail up to the falls was lush and green, and full of rocks to scramble over.
At some parts the creek splashed along beside the trail and sparkled in the sun.
It was pretty perfect.
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Also along the trail were these beautiful white flowers, actually a weed, called Mexican Devils.
It is considered an invasive weed and can take over native plants.
It can also cause respiratory illness in horses.
Its really pretty, but after seeing how much of it there was along the trail, it is easy to see how it could choke out native plants.
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We also found many, many frogs at the waterfalls.
And let me tell you, it was quite a thrill!
We found this guy, the California Tree Frog.
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These frogs are nocturnal and take shelter in rock crevices near water during the day.
This was the first time we had seen these frogs and when the kids saw a number of them hanging out inside some cracks in the rocks around the waterfall, they were so thrilled.
I encouraged the kids to handle them gently, while they looked closely at them for observation, and then to let them go.
It was so much fun to meet a new kind of frog!
FYI: all reptiles and amphibians carry salmonella in their digestive tracts.
I learned that the hard way when I got salmonella after touching a baby turtle.
Not fun!
I always make the kids wash with hand sanitizer after catching any of these little creatures.
Of course, this was the one day I was out of hand sanitizer.
Thank goodness for my other mama friends coming to my rescue.

There are high, rock walls around the canyon and waterfall.
The big boys, of course wanted to explore those, and so we did a little bouldering.
We got pretty high up one of the steep canyon walls before I looked down and thought maybe we should stop climbing.
Even though all of us really wanted to go on.
But those rocks were slippery, and went crashing down the hill when our feet knocked them loose.
I didn’t want to knock out any kids at the bottom of the cliff.
Nor did I want to see one of the boys go rolling down the hill.

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So we found a less rocky place and slid down the dirt hill on our feet.
Those boys are growing more adventurous by the week!
Its a lot of fun.
But also……a little nerve-wracking!
I may need to invest in safety gear for them and their climbing!
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I also spent a lot of time chasing these little guys.
They ran up and down the trail like mountain goats.
I’m not kidding!
I think they are going to be even more comfortable chasing and finding adventure than the big boys, because they’re getting an earlier start.
I love that they get to have these days of fun and exploring with their best buddies.
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After the 1.5 mile back to and from the falls, our awesome group of mamas and kids felt like we really hadn’t hiked much.
So we decided to explore another trail.
It was quiet and peaceful and green and followed along the same sparkly, dancing stream.
Oh it was just heavenly!
The big thrill was when a couple of the little girls found a couple of salamanders swimming in the water.
We were all so excited!
The big, brave Daddy that was with us for the day picked them up and let the girls hold them.
I felt brave too and held one too.
It was smooth and soft and a little slimy feeling from being wet.
It had a bright orange stomach.
And after the pair were returned to the water, Davy and I watched them begin to wrestle.
Turns out salamanders return to the pools they were born in to “wrestle” or mate.
They swim together under the water, twisting and turning and getting busy!
It was pretty cool to watch.
This spring has been really great to us for seeing lots of mating and eggs, and brand new babies everywhere we go.
Nature is a great teacher.
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But I guess I needed to learn a little bit more about nature.
Because we learned that the salamanders we so excitedly held yesterday are actually poisonous.
They were California Newts, and the most toxic of all salamanders.
I had no idea.
Neither did the other mamas in our group.

James, however, knew and told me when we got in the car that salamanders are poisonous and we shouldn’t have held them.
He learned it from the wilderness survival guides he likes to read.
My friend Karen, whose daughter was also holding the newt, texted me and said, “are you having any symptoms? These salamanders are toxic!”
Thankfully we were all fine and learned a nature lesson we won’t forget.

Form now on I’ll always remember not to pick up salamanders, that I must always check that I have hand sanitizer in my bag, and that I need to read a wilderness survival handbook STAT!
Time to earn my nature mama cred.
And to be like my Boy Scout son, and BE PREPARED.

We sure do love our adventures!
This is learning at its very best.
“The world is our classroom.”

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