Saturday, April 6, 2013

Fish Canyon Falls Hike - April 6, 2013

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

It’s springtime and once again Vulcan Materials provides their free access days to hike to Fish Canyon Falls. Starting next Saturday, April 13 and continuing for most Saturdays through June. Vulcan will shuttle hikers through their quarry in Azusa to the beginning of the trail, making a very pleasant four-mile round trip hike to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the San Gabriels.

For years volunteers from the City of Duarte maintained the trail. But two years ago Duarte got upset with Vulcan over the proposed mining changes, so Duarte threw a tantrum and stopped maintaining the trail. Of course, it doesn’t hurt Vulcan; it just impacts the thousands who will hike to the falls this season.

Beginning of Fish Canyon Trial
So the folks at Vulcan contacted me and asked if I could survey the trail and make sure it’s in adequate condition to host the crowds. And I am happy to help, making it my second annual pre-access day trail survey outing.

I awake to a cool, gloomy morning—perfect weather for such hike. I arrive at the gate of Vulcan’s Azusa Rock facility at about 8:45. The security guard is expecting me and drives me through the quarry to the start of the trail.

8:51 - Begin hike. Cross the bridge and entered the Angeles National Forest. The guard walks with me around the first bend to show me a rock slide that covers the trail. Thankfully there is access right through two large boulders. I continue up my beloved trail, eager to see what I find. It’s cool and the marine layer hides the upper hillsides and ridges of this rugged canyon. The flowing creek provides a soothing soundtrack.

Blue disks on Fish Canyon Trail
Things are green but not as much as in years where there is good rainfall. Grass hugs the trail. One goal for today is to photograph samples of every plant species in bloom. I’m a little surprised that there is not much in bloom yet. The most prominent flower of the day is blue dicks*. Other blooms include Bolander's woodland star, common sunflower*, western thistle, mustard*, wallflower*, holly-leaf cherry, elderberry, Pacific pea, spreading larkspur, vinca (periwinkle)*, clematis (vigin’s bower)*, eupatory, wishbone bush, common yarrow, everlasting*, agave, miner’s lettuce*, wild cucumber*, poison oak, purple nightshade, filaree, sugar bush, stinging lupine, tree tobacco*, California suncup (primrose), mule fat, morning glory*, and phacelia*. There will be many more in the months to come. (* plants with asterisks are featured in my Fish Canyon Trail Plant Guide.)

Fish Canyon Trail
I’m enjoying the solitude of having the canyon all to myself. The trail is in reasonable shape. There are a few places where rockslides have buried the trail, but climbing over them is doable. It really needs a trail crew to come in and do some heavy maintenance. The three deadfalls that block the trail are still there. I reported them to the Forest Service last year but for some reason they haven’t mobilize a sawyer crew. I don’t know why; it would seem that the thousands of hikers who will be on the trail would justify the Forest Service to give this trail some attention.

Dan at Darlin' Donna Falls in Fish Canyon
I take a side jaunt to Darlin’ Donna Falls. It’s flowing modestly. I continue down the trail. As I approach the creek crossing, I am surprised at how low the water is. I am able to just step across rather than negotiating a series of rocks. Now climbing the east canyon wall, I’m thankful that it’s still gloomy and cool. There are couple dense patches of poison oak intruding onto the trail which will require some major attention. My anticipation builds as I the near the 80-foot, three-tier waterfall.

Fish Canyon Falls with no one there
10:37 – Fish Canyon Falls. It’s a rare experience to be here by myself. A crowd usually dominates the scene. Today there is an eerie peacefulness. The flow of the falls is meager. Unless we get some good rain this season, this waterfall will be a mere trickle by summer. I enjoy the beauty and solitude of the setting. Across the stream in the clearing, someone had torn out a huge section of the poison oak vines and left it in a pile in the middle of the clearing. It also appears that they burned some of it in an illegal campfire! It certainly would be poetic justice if these vandals suffered ill effects from their stupid behavior. I spend a good chunk of time cleaning up the site and picking up a bag full of trash.

A young man and women arrive. They hiked in the long way over Van Tassel Ridge. As I have some lunch a man arrives, then a couple guys with a dog, then three more guys. All of them came the long way. The sun is starting to burn through the gloom.

Approaching the Vulcan quarry on Fish Canyon Trail
1:00 - Leave Falls with a big bag of trash in hand. Three more guys pass me heading to the falls. I enjoy the beauty of the canyon. It’s fun to be on this trail by myself. The sun is out now but it’s not too warm. Stop to photograph a couple blooms I didn’t see this morning. Hope we have some good rain in the weeks to come to water the plants and bolster the streams and falls.

4:40 - Arrive at the beginning of trail. I call the security guard and soon he arrives to drive me back through the quarry.

Stinging Lupine
Epilog - It was a long and productive day in my beloved Fish Canyon. I really enjoyed the solitude. Next week there will be hundreds tromping the trail to the falls and I wish them all a safe and enjoyable time. icon

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

Plants See Fish Canyon Trail Plant Guide (April 2011) (PDF)

Plants See Plants and Wildflowers in the San Gabriel Mountains at Dan's Hiking Pages

NEXT > Fish Canyon Plants Hike - May 10, 2013
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1 comment:

  1. Nice write up, Dan. I hope the tiff with Duarte settles down. Maybe the SGMTB can lend a hand?