Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fish Canyon Falls Hike - September 25, 2010

Fish Canyon Falls with no water
See Fish Canyon Falls Hike Description at Dan’s Hiking Pages

The 80-foot, three-tier Fish Canyon Falls is one of the finest in the San Gabriels and the two-mile trail to get there is a treat. I’ve hiked it many times since it is practically in my backyard in Azusa. Most of my hikes in Fish Canyon over the years have been when Vulcan Materials offers one of its access days where they provide free shuttle service through the query to the start of the trail. In looking at my hike log, I noticed that all my hikes in Fish Canyon have been in January through July except for one in November. So I decided to see what Fish Canyon is like in early fall.

Vulcan Materials Fish Canyon access day
7:07 a.m. - Sign the log at Vulcan Materials office. There are five other parties with a total of 18 hikers who have already signed in. Take the short van ride with Peter, Anna, and Rima. They have used my website. We chat as the van takes us to the start of the trail.

7:10 - Start the hike. It’s not hot yet but it’s not cool either with the weather forecast to hit 100 today. There is water in the creek at this point but it is not flowing. I take a fast pace. Fall colors are beginning to accent the scenery. Brown leaves crunch beneath my feet. I often wonder what our local plant communities would have looked like prior to the introduction of various non-native grasses and weedy plants that turn brown shortly after the rains stop in the spring.

Heading north on Fish Canyon Trail
Many of the trees are much leafier now than in the spring when I usually hike Fish Canyon, giving a different feel to some of the sections of the trail. The red fruit of the holly-leaf cherry (Prunus ilicifolia) is in abundance along the trail. I don’t recall having seen this ripe fruit on hikes early in the season.

Just past the “spiral staircase” several young branches of poison oak span the trail. I wonder if the hikers before me navigated it safely or if they’ll be itching like crazy in a couple days. I don’t have my clippers with me so weigh the branches down with rocks.

The tributary at Darlin’ Donna Falls is flowing but I keep going without taking the side jaunt. I arrive at the main creek crossing and find it to be completely dry. I suspect that this is a harbinger of what I’ll find at the falls. Climbing now on the east canyon wall and my final pitch. As I get closer I can hear the noisy voices of hikers at the base of the falls but hear no water.

Fish Canyon Falls with no water
7:55 - Fish Canon Falls, 2.0 miles from the start. No water falling today. There is water in the lower pool but the main pool is virtually dry except for a little puddle at the rock face. There are 10 people here, and they are quite noisy. Perhaps the absence of the roaring sound of water is why the people’s voices are notably loud. I visit with Peter, Anna, and Rima, who arrived after me.

8:35 - Leave the falls, right after Peter and company. Cross the creek and step into the first direct sun of the morning. Arrive at the Darlin’ Donna tributary and invite the others to join me to see if the falls are flowing. We scramble up the ravine a stone’s throw and find Darlin’ Donna Falls flowing nicely! I run face first into some poison oak. Cleanse it well with mugwort and water; I’ll know if that does the trick in a few days [it worked]. Take a pic of a butterfly. Back on the trail I stroll along. Sun is now warm. Pace is slow as I take time to photograph some plants. I pass periodic parties of hikers coming up the trail. .

Looking south in Fish Canyon
As I approach the quarry and its massive rock walls, I wonder about the disposition of Vulcan’s plan to mine of the west slopes, still pending the signature count for a referendum.

9:44 - Finish hike. Wait at the footbridge for a few minutes for the van to arrive. Back at the Vulcan office I sign out at 9:51. There are 74 hikers who have signed in at this point.

Fish Canyon Trail
Epilog - An enjoyable outing. I can always expect a hike to Fish Canyon Falls to offer varied experiences. Met some nice people, enjoyed some fall colors, and experienced the unique setting of a dry waterfall (had seen Fish Canyon Falls dry only once before: July 7, 2007). Always appreciate Vulcan Materials providing these access days. icon

See Fish Canyon Falls Hike Description at Dan’s Hiking Pages (including links to my other Fish Canyon blog posts)

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