Saturday, August 4, 2012

Fish Canyon Falls Hike - August 4, 2012

Fish Canyon Falls
See Fish Canyon Falls Hike Description at Dan's Hiking Pages

I had never hiked Fish Canyon in August—for good reason—summer is not the ideal time to be hiking the front of the San Gabriels, particularly in a location where water is supposed to be the highlight. But Vulcan Materials put the date on their access days calendar to provide free shuttle rides through the quarry to the trail. My suggestion to Vulcan was to concentrate more of the access days in the spring when the conditions are outstanding. But they spread the days out into the summer months with August 8 being the last date for the year. So with limited time for hiking this weekend and the absence of motorized wheels, at the last minute I decided to go. It was more out of curiosity. I really didn’t suspect many people would show up.

I jump on my bicycle at about 9 a.m. for the 20-minute ride to the Vulcan Materials site at the month of Fish Canyon. To my surprise there is a long line of cars. I ride to the front and the guard says they have already reached 500 and are letting people in only as people are leaving. Thankfully I have to wait only a couple minutes. I chain up my bike, jump in a van, and two minutes later I’m at the trailhead ready to begin.

Weedy conditions on Fish Canyon Trail
9:30 - Begin hike. As I stroll up the trial I’m not surprised to see dry, dead grasses and weedy plants. It’s such a very different look than the lush, green beauty of springtime. A light marine layer is burning off to hazy sun. Thankfully the temperature is unseasonably mild. Nothing is no bloom expect for California buckwheat and a few occurrences of cliff aster and chicoryleaf wirelettuce. As I look beyond the immediate weediness I appreciate the rugged beauty of this canyon.

Some of the 650 hikers on Fish Canyon Trail
Streams of people are coming back down the trail. It is crazy crowded. For the entire trip I was never out of earshot of voices, some quite ruckus. There is water in parts of the creek, but it’s not really flowing. Beyond the weeds, the deciduous trees, such as white alder and bigleaf maple, are in full leaf. The tree of heaven jungle really feels like a jungle. Poison oak is beginning to turn its fall colors.

I am pleasantly surprised to see a flow of water at Darlin’ Donna Falls. As I arrive at the creek crossing, I find it strange to see it bone dry. I meet a gentleman named Bob Jones (no relationship to the university). We chat as we continue up the trail together. Still streams of people leaving. I figured since we’ve seen hundreds leave the falls, there would not be many people there. I was wrong. As we approach the falls, there is not the sound of flowing water, just a cacophony of human voices and the splashes of kids throwing large rocks into the lower pool.

Fish Canyon Falls, not flowing
10:35 - Fish Canyon Falls. Tons of people! What an unlikely place for so many people to be in August! I’m honestly puzzled as to why the crowd. Perhaps many people really don’t have a sense for the seasonal variations of the San Gabriels. Maybe they are thinking it’s summer, so that means beaches, lakes, rivers, and waterfalls. But with a reasonably small drainage area and low rainfall totals, Fish Canyon Falls today is a big dry rock with crusty moss.

Crowd at Fish Canyon Falls
At any rate, most people seem to be having a good time. This is Bob’s first time here and he is really enjoying the beauty of the canyon. I stand on a dry rock in the middle pool and the waterline comes to my waste. A snake slithers through the water. Some guys are jumping into the lower pool, which seems a little risky since the water level is so low. I visit with Chris and Mei, whom I’ve met on previous hikes here.

Fish Canyon Trail
12:25 - Leave the falls. Crowds are thinned out a little. Temps are warmer but not bad. Stop to see the rare Dudleya densiflora (San Gabriel Mountains liveforever) but it’s past its bloom. I point some gals to Darlin’ Donna so they can say they saw a waterfall. The warm sun brings out the aroma of California bay. The agave (century plant) sports a handsome bloom. A bee seeks pollen from the yellow prickly pear blossom. A few yellow flowers linger on a lone canyon dudleya growing out of a rock. Noisy voices are a constant reminder of the large numbers today.

1:25 - Done. A couple dozen people are waiting for the shuttle.

View south on Fish Canyon Trail toward the Vulcan quarry
Epilog - It was a good outing. Now I can say I’ve hiked to Fish Canyon Falls in every month except for October and December. I enjoyed meeting various ones who recognized me from my website and were kind enough to introduce themselves: Sue, Kumar, Lee, Bob, Anuk and Dee, and Vince. And it was nice to see Chris and Mei again. The Vulcan supervisor said they had more than 650 for the day, which rivals the biggest days on the books. It’s still puzzling to me why so many people showed up in August. Perhaps they thought that since it was on Vulcan’s access day calendar, it would still be in a good season to hike. Be as it may, it’s great to see so many out hiking! icon

See Fish Canyon Falls Hike Description at Dan's Hiking Pages

NEXT > Fish Canyon Falls Hike - April 6, 2013
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Sun icon It's Summertime!
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1 comment:

  1. Hi I'm Jhon and I am the secretary of the wilderness club at Cerritos college and we are wondering if you would be willing to come to our college and meet our group to maybe share some of your adventures, tips, and beliefs. We are like yourself avid hikers, explorers, and great fans of mother nature and we have been using your site and blog as a source of information on hikes and it's really useful.
    If you want to know more about us you can go and check us out on our Facebook page and see some pictures from our hikes......

    Please any feedback is graciously accepted and we thank you for time.