My February 2016 Photo of the Month is Cedar Creek Falls, made during a clearing weekday storm in East San Diego County.
I have had some unpleasant experiences attempting to photograph the Falls on weekends, both before and after the permitting system was put in place.
I took the day off from work to go during the week, and as luck would have it, we had a storm blowing through the area. Cool temperatures made a normally strenuous hike enjoyable. When I arrived, there were a couple people who were leaving. Otherwise, I had the entire fall to myself for most of the two hour period I was there. Only at the end did a couple additional people visit.
I was hoping for a larger flow rate, but even with the rain, the waterfall drainage was about the same as it usually is. It certainly was nice to enjoy San Diego County’s most famous waterfall with some peace and quiet.
Rethinking Cedar Creek Falls
Cedar Creek Falls is both beautiful and problematic. It is incredibly busy, even with the permitting system. I suspect many people flout the need for permits, especially since you can descend into the San Diego River Gorge without one. I have never seen a Forest Service Ranger in the canyon checking for permits. Last time I was checked was at the trailhead.
The waterfall really feels like a different place when you can enjoy it quietly without all the crowds and rowdy people. Perhaps that is what I was missing all along.
Interestingly, I did see another helicopter flyby, who clearly entered above the canyon, circled around the Fall, and then headed out. This seems to happen every time. I am not sure if this is tourism or people monitoring the waterfall.
While this is an easy landmark and not a particularly challenging image to make. I did have to take a day off during the week to get there and enjoy the solitude. So while I made some other great images this month at Mt. Helix, Mt. Soledad, etc., I think I will go with this one.
If you want to see the Fall from a much different angle, see my friend’s image taken in 2015.
As always, thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy the image.
T.M. Schultze is a San Diego-based photographer, traveller, and writer. He writes, photographs, and draws things of the outdoors that have inspired humans for thousands of years. He co-authored the Photographer’s Guide to Joshua Tree Park which can be purchased here.