The tragic death of a hiker at Three Sisters Falls this week highlights the danger of hiking this popular East County trail.
Getting to the trail is an adventure in itself with miles and miles of dirt road to navigate before you even reach the trail. Once there, the real danger is hiking in the heat.
The hiking trail near Julian is strenuous with direct sunlight covering much of the route, which can present dangerous and even deadly consequences for humans and animals.
On Tuesday, Nathalie Reed, 20, died while hiking back up the hill to the parking lot. The temperature at the time was in the mid to upper 60s.
The San Diego Medical Examiner's Office has yet to determine Reed's cause of death.
John Paulson and his friend Zack Downey, two college students who are on summer break, were on the trail Thursday well aware of Reed’s death two days ago. They both have hiked this trail before and brought plenty of water with them.
"Everyone underestimates how much water you need,” Downey said. “But you drink all your water going down and kind of forget you gotta come back up."
Emergency responders all too familiar with the dangers of the trail say it can be deceiving — especially for hikers unprepared for the steep return from the falls back up to the parking lot.
Hikers need to start hydrating well before the trip, especially as hot summer days approach, rangers said.
Paulson said even though he’s a relatively healthy young man, he still made sure he brought plenty of water on the hike.
"Tons of water,” he said. “I've got a full Camelback, two liters, and then another 40-ounce water bottle."
Rangers with the Cleveland National Forest said inexperienced hikers should first try the Three Sisters Trail in cooler winter or spring months — and they recommend everyone carry at least a gallon of water.