The colors were amazing, brilliant oranges and yellows, worthy of a painting but instead only captured by cameras. It was with that brilliant light that I fell in love with the wilderness. This was my first time truly outside. Not just in the woods, or a few miles from a road. I’d been backpacking in West Virginia and North Carolina before this, but never had I stepped foot in true wilderness.
When we saw a few small shelters and signs, we knew we had reached the end of the trail. This was the observation point for the Ice Field. The view from this area was… other-worldly. The way the pure ice and snow stretched out before us. Three hundred square miles of ice. That’s about a quarter of the size of Rhode Island, and we stood there in awe of this. Formations like this once covered much of North America.
These three sites--Russell Cave, Ruby Falls, and Mammoth Cave--represent a range of karst landscapes that played varying historic roles in the southeastern United States. There's Russell Cave, which provided shelter to people for millennia; Ruby Falls, excavated only in the 20th century and opened as a tourist site, now renowned for its stunning formations and underground waterfall; and of course the incomparable Mammoth Cave, with its seemingly endless trails.
Located about 35 miles west of LA, Escondido Falls is the tallest Waterfall in the Santa Monica Mountains. From smooth paths to rock climbing, the trail offers a little bit of everything for everyone.
The map of the area is wrong. The trail on the map continues due west from the pass, then descends a steep embankment down to Boulder Creek. In reality, the trail turns south and follows a sharp ridgeline gradually to the water. This way down to the creek was stunning. When I reached that ridge, I stopped and stood there in total awe of the valley unfolding before me.