Sunday, May 17, 2015

Fish Canyon Falls Hike - May 17, 2015

Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest
My goal this year is to hike to nearby Fish Canyon Falls at least once a month to experience the full cycle of the seasons. A strong rain on Thursday and Friday provided a strong incentive for hiking to Fish Canyon Falls this weekend for my May visit. I love hiking after a good rain. Everything is fresh and the aromas are wonderful. When I hiked it on April 19, the canyon was showing the effects of a drought year. Now I’m eager to see what the rain was has done.

The Azusa Rockery & Geology Park - San Gabriel River Bike Trail access point
I decide to walk to the trailhead from my home in Azusa to add a couple extra miles of steps toward the Walking Challenge at work. After meandering through quiet Sunday morning neighborhoods, I enjoy picking a route across the wide San Gabriel River wash. I arrive at Fish Canyon Road near the junction of the stables. I turn right a walk the final quarter mile to the trailhead. A host of others also have in mind to hike Fish Canyon as the parking lot is nearly full.

On Fish Canyon access trail in Vulcan Materials’ Azusa Rock quarry
8:55 AM - Begin hike. It’s cool and cloudy. The heavy equipment of the Vulcan quarry sits silent. My pace is earnest. I immediately begin to take pictures of flowers. My goal is to photograph a sample of every blooming species I encounter today. As I transition from the fenced corridor to the riparian section, I’m delighted to hear the creek running briskly.

Heading north on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
9:12 - Cross the bridge into the national forest. I continue at a moderate pace and shoot flowers as I go. I’m a happy to see several occurrence of Plummer’s mariposa lily in bloom, Plummer’s mariposa lily (Calochortus plummerae) on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest which I did not see in April. The recent rains have freshened up things nicely. There is a fair amount of foot traffic coming and going, including a large hiking group. The temperature under cloudy skies is quite pleasant but it’s humid.

Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
A family passes me heading down and the lady has two fits full of picked flowers, including an entire dudleya plant. I explain to her that removing material from a national forest is against the law, but she behaves as though she does not understand English. As they walk away the man turns and says to me that she needs the plants for medicine. Oh, ok, it’s perfectly fine to violate federal regulations as long as the actions have medicinal benefits. Makes sense to me. Perhaps a name change is in order: Angeles National Pharmacy. And some dog owners also think that the federal, state, county, and city regulations requiring dogs to be on a leash don’t apply to them.

There’s a traffic jam at the spiral staircase as several groups converge coming and going. I take the side jaunt to Darlin’ Donna Falls and find it to be flowing nicely. Dan Simpson at Darlin’ Donna Falls on Fish Canyon Trail en route to Fish Canyon Falls

10:32 - Cross the main creek and am happy to see it flowing. In April it was dry. I am delighted find buds on the rare Dudleya densiflora starting to form. The rare San Gabriel Mountains liveforever (Dudleya densiflora) on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest As I get near the falls, happy voices are amplified by the sheer canyon walls.

Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest
10:50 - Fish Canyon Falls. Wow, the rains really did give it a kick. It’s flowing better than it was on April 19. About 18 people are here enjoying the setting. I relax, take pictures, and chat with various ones. Hikers come and go. I love this place. So many great memories here. The overcast sky makes for great lighting to photograph the falls (full sun causes harsh shadows). The increase in graffiti is sickening. A couple mallard ducks land in the pool. Ducks at Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest That’s cool! I’ve never seen ducks here. They soon fly away as a young man decides to take a swim in the frigid water.

Owl on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
11:55 - Leave falls. The sun is now peeking through the clouds. I enjoy the beauty of the rugged canyon. After the creek crossing my eye catches some movement on a rock near the creek. It’s a massive bird sitting there. He is still now. I want to see it move more but I don’t want to throw anything at it. As I walk back and forth along the trail, I can see his head rotating to follow me. It has to be an owl. Amazing! I don’t recall ever seeing one in all my years hiking in the San Gabriels. Continue along, I look down and see a small snake slithering across the trail! Small snake on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest Cool! I should catch it and offer it to the owl. Oh, I’ll let nature handle itself.

Goffer snake on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
I continue along just relishing this amazing canyon. The weather is perfect. I chat with various ones I meet. There are lots of people on the trail today yet I enjoy spans of solitude. I spot several more species in bloom that I had not seen earlier. While I am looking at a plant, a lady and man I met at the falls arrives and she asks about the spinney fruit things she’s been seeing along the trail. I introduce them to wild cucumber. We walk down the trail together and they seem to be eager learners as I point out various plants. We’re startled to encounter a large snake crossing the trail in front of us. It’s a beautiful goffer snake. We watch in fascination as he slithers up the steep bank and disappears into a hole. Goffer snake on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest What a treat!

1:38 - Arrive at the bridge. I say good-by to Steven and Nyra as I linger here longer. I pick up a phone message and learn of a family emergency. My pace is quick now as I make my way through quarry.

2:03 - End hike. The parking lot is still quite full. My wife pulls up in the car and off we go.

Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) on Fish Canyon Trail Large milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus) on Indian milkweed (Asclepias eriocarpa), Fish Canyon Trail
Heartleaf penstemon (Keckiella cordifolia) on Fish Canyon Trail Creek monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus) on Fish Canyon Trail
Epilog - What a thoroughly enjoyable hike! Perfect weather, post-rain freshness, beautiful canyon, lovely wildflowers, snakes and birds, flowing creek, majestic waterfall, pleasant conversations, some solitude, great exercise. What a blessing to live so close to such a marvelous natural resource. I dedicate this hike to the memory of my father-in-law, Ed Straub, who passed away the next day. icon

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See Fish Canyon Falls Hike Description at Dan's Hiking Pages (including a link list for my other blog posts for Fish Canyon)

Plants See Plants in Fish Canyon at Dan's Hiking Pages
(including links to various plant resources)

icon  See Waterfalls of The San Gabriels at Dan's Hiking Pages

NEXT > Fish Canyon Falls Anniversary Hike - June 21, 2015
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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Colby Trail Hike - May 3, 2015

View south from the upper reaches of Colby Trail in Glendora
After nearly 16 months of closure, Colby Trail in Glendora is finally open. The trail was closed due to damage from the January 16, 2014 Colby Fire. An illegal campfire irrupted into a wildfire and destroyed more than 1,700 hundred acres of mountainside above Glendora and Azusa. Over the past year I periodically contacted the Glendora Community Conservancy to see when the trail would be reopened, and various issues have kept it closed. The county has been a main cause for the closure due to issues with the nearby flood control area.

Colby Trail trailhead in Glendora
So on this late Sunday afternoon I decide I need to do a little walking and end up driving over to nearby Glendora to take a stroll on Colby Trail. When I last checked, two weeks ago, it was still closed. But I’ve been given permission to walk the trail as part of the Trail Watch Program, which provides eyes and ears to help monitor and report on trial conditions, such as safety issues, needed repairs, misuse, abuse, etc. When I arrive at the trailhead I am pleasantly surprised to find the closure signs gone.

Walking north in the lower section of Colby Trail in Glendora
5:10 PM - Begin hike. The lower portion of this riparian (streamside) setting was spared from the fire and I enjoy the mature oaks and woodsy beauty. My pace is strong for workout value. There is not a lot in bloom: mustard, thistle, morning glory, phacelia, sunflower, elderberry, a lone stalk of lupine. Poison oak is abundant and some of its leaves are already starting to turn red.

View northeast from the brodiaea reserve on Colby Trail in Glendora
At the junction I take a side jaunt to the brodiaea reserve and am pleased to find at least some of rare thread-leaved brodiaea (Brodiaea filifolia) in bloom. The rare thread-leaved brodiaea (Brodiaea filifolia) in bloom in the brodiaea reserve on Colby Trail, Glendora The smattering of small purple flowers is lost in a sea of amber grass. Back on the main trail I continue to climb. The fire damage has been softened over the year. Our drought makes the surrounding hillsides with its dead grass feel more like mid-summer than mid-spring. The temperature is quite pleasant and the warm sun feels good. Views open up over Glendora and haze mutes the horizon. I’m disappointed to see graffiti on rocks and signs. I encounter only one party en route, a group of several young men.

5:37 - Glendora Mountain Road (0.71 mile from the start). I walk over to the berm to get the money shot of the southern panorama.

View southeast from Glendora Mountain Road at the top Colby Trail in Glendora

Leave GMR at 5:40. One minute down the trail delivers me to the junction and I head east on Colby-Dalton Trail.

The woodsy charm of Colby-Dalton Trail, Little Dalton Canyon, Glendora
This section was not burned and majestic oaks provide a thick canopy, and lush plants provide a green understory. This is such a contrast from the barren slopes on my ascent. Add to the blooming plant list bush monkeyflower and heart-leaved penstemon. My pace is guarded as some sections of the trail are pretty steep with slippery surface posing a risk of butt injury. I enjoy the woodsy setting as I negotiate the 14 switchbacks.

View north from Children’s Forest near Colby Trail in Glendora
Near the bottom of Little Dalton Canyon the trail curves south and soon I’m climbing the paved service road west. It’s nice to reemerge into the sun. Glendora sprawls to the south. I transition onto the berm trail and a couple minutes later arrive at the junction to the Children’s Forest. When I was here a year ago March, this place was buzzing with activity as numerous volunteers planted trees. I stroll south into the fledgling forest and am delighted to see so many of the young trees still alive and thriving. With the continued stewardship of the Glendora Conservancy and environmentally conscientious trial users, this foothills plateau promises to be a splendid oak forest for future generations.

Back on the trail, I leave the late afternoon sun and descend into the riparian sanctuary. I greet familiar plants by name as I think about the times I’ve led nature walks here.

Matilija poppy in bloom at the trailhead for Colby Trail on Loraine Avenue in Glendora
6:35 - End hike. I stop to admire the healthy stand of blooming matilija poppies adorning the trailhead landscape.

Epilog - A very pleasant outing. I’m so glad the trail is finally open. It really does provide a nice walking venue for local folks. And it’s always special to experience blooming Brodiaea filifolia. icon

See Colby Trail hike description at Dan's Hiking Pages

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