California is experiencing a drought - a bad one. Nearly the entire state has been affected - our streams have dissipated, our lake shores have receeded, and our reservoirs have run dry. Restrictions on water usage are in place, and there's signs of the drought everywhere - in dead, brown grasses in the median of the road and in the empty fountains outside of office buildings. Sometimes I don't know how there's still water flowing out of my faucet when I turn on the shower.
But then, in mid January, it started raining. And it didn't stop for nearly two weeks. I hadn't seen anything like it since I'd lived in Southern California - and neither had my colleagues and friends who have lived here their whole lives. It was by no means an end to the drought, but it made a dent. Parts of Malibu even experienced flash flooding and mudslides. And the first thing on my mind was getting outside.
I was confident that the streams and waterfalls would be resurrected - even if just for a short time. So I headed to Solstice Canyon in Malibu, where the trail meanders past the remnants of a mid-century canyon mansion before ending at a waterfall.
The hike begins at a canyon road off the Pacific Coast Highway, and the sparking ocean disappears as the trail descends into the canyon. As we hiked the trail further into the shade of the trees, we heard first but later saw vibrant green parrots roosting in the ancient and giant trees. the stone walls of a brave early settler's cabin still stand across the creek on the other side of a new bridge. And there actually was a creek, babbling and flowing in all its glory. It sounded marvelous.
The trail follows the creek, and actually crosses it on a few occasions, which gave me the opportunity to get my hiking boots wet for the first time. Following the creek upstream, the trail leads to the "Tropical Terrace House," the aptly named and architecturally trendy mid-century mansion that's since been scorched and reduced to two remaining chimneys and a large stone patio. And though it must have been incredibly difficult to build a home in a lush canyon, I soon realized why they did - they would have had a view of the waterfall from their bedroom.
Just around the corner from where that home once stood is the base of a multi-tiered waterfall. So close, that on a cool summer evening the sound of the falls could have lulled the occupants to sleep. But these days hikers are lucky to see any waterfall at all - the water is rarely flowing as a result of the drought.
I was thankful for the rain, but also thankful for the sun on the day of my hike. I was so happy to hear the sounds of flowing water and feel the spray from the waterfall as I climbed towards the top. Mailibu felt a little bit more alive that day - refreshed, renewed and a little more at ease. And so was I.