Saturday, July 18, 2015

Fish Canyon Falls Hike - July 18, 2015

Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest, July 18, 2015
July is not the season to be hiking to Fish Canyon Falls. But my plan is to hike to Fish Canyon each month for a year to experience the seasons and document the blooming plants and environmental transitions. A month ago, the vegetation was beginning to wither, there was not much in bloom, the weedy plants and grasses were dead, and the water flow was meager. So I don’t have high expectations for today’s outing.

The weather is forecast for a summer storm over the weekend, but I don’t think it will affect my hike. As usual, I arrive at the trailhead at opening time to get an early start.

On Fish Canyon access trail in Vulcan Materials’ Azusa Rock quarry
7:07 - Begin hike. It’s cloudy and a little humid, but the temperature is pleasant. I get a few light sprinkles but I dismiss them as nothing. I walk through the quite quarry and I reflect on the history of the mining operation and the journey which resulted in this fine access trail, which has now been open for one year and one month. Vulcan is making good progress grinding down the Mayan benches to restore the mountainside. As I suspected, there is not much in bloom aside from a lot of California buckwheat. The giant blazing star is gone. I transition to the riparian section, and aside from buckwheat and one loan sticky monkeyflower, there is nothing blooming...quite a contrast to one month ago.

Traveling north on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
7:26 - Cross the bridge into the national forest. The creek is dry and weedy grasses and plants are yellow and dead. The difference is amazing between the verdant springtime and parched summer. My pace is casual as I meander along photographing plants and appreciating the rich fabric of nature. The Indian milkweed is past its bloom but I stop and photograph a large milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus). Others pass me en route to the falls as I saunter along.

Holly-leaf cheery on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest Hollyleaf redberry on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
Wild cucumber on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest Micro photograph on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
Blooming plants include scarlet monkey, common sunflower, dudleya, chicory-leaved stephanomeria, tree tobacco, oleander, yucca, cape ivy, feltleaf everlasting, agave, heartleaf penstemon, western thistle, and scarlet larkspur. This might seem like there is a lot in bloom, but most of these are single or limited occurrences. Flowers are very sparse today. The holly-leaf cherry and hollyleaf redberry are sporting their red fruit. Some poison oak is turning red adding a splash of color.

On Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
As I linger at Old Cheezer Mine (the location of the matilija/dudleya interpretive sign), a group of five hikers arrive and begin to read the sign. I tell them about the matilija poppy and that it’s not likely any are in bloom today, and I explain where they will be able to find the rare Dudleya densiflora. One gal asks if I am Dan. Guilty as charged. I find out that they are fans of Dan’s Hiking Pages. It’s always a treat to meet fans and to know my efforts are appreciated. Summer is the time to drive to the high country and hike Cooper Canyon Falls or Lewis Falls (see Seasons of the San Gabriels at Dan's Hiking Pages).

Dudleya densiflora on Fish Canyon Trail
When I arrive at the site of the rare Dudleya densiflora, I find that it is past its blooming and the only thing left is the dried inflorescence (the dense cluster of flowers, thus the name densiflora). Adjacent to the dudleya is a large clearing where someone has recently chopped away the vegetation. This is puzzling to me. I’ve contact the forest service to see who is responsible for this destruction, but they are silent. On Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest

I start to feel some light sprinkles so I pick up my pace. Elderberry (tree), phacelia, chemise, California fuchsia, and Leafy daisy are added to our blooming list. As I approach the falls, the only sound is the voices of the crowd.

Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest, July 18, 2015
9:43 - Fish Canyon Falls. As I arrive, Mother Nature decides to join the fun with lightning and loud claps of thunder. And the downpour begins. I take refuge under the bay tree but it doesn’t help much. I rummage through my pack and I’m puzzled that my emergency poncho isn’t there. Meanwhile the large group scurries around and quickly leaves. Wow, that’s nice…now there are only four of us here. The rain lasts only seven or eight minutes and leaves me pretty wet. But it’s not cold and my synthetic clothing dries quickly.

The falls are merely a trickle wetting the rock face. The pool is mostly dry with only a few inches of water in the deeper section. Dan Simpson at Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest, July 18, 2015 Tadpoles swim around the pool and tiny frogs jump around the rocks. The criminal vandalism blights the setting.

Gooseberry at Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest
Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest Dan Simpson at Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest
Others arrive. Patches of blue sky peer through the clouds. I love the aromas after a rain. I watch a little black bird perched on the rocks in the pool and skimming the water for insects. I later learn it is a black phoebe (Sayornis nigricans). I am sad that the stately white alder that has stood to right of the falls has died this year. It really added a touch of beauty to the setting.

11:25 - Leave falls. My pace is causal as I continue to enjoy the plants and scenery. Occasionally I am passed by other hikers coming and going. The cloud cover keeps the temperature down but it’s quite humid. But I’ll take humidity that comes with the fresh aromas following a rain (later I learned that there is a word for that smell: petrichor. Here is a link that describes the fascinating science behind it). I eat a lone ripe blackberry. I love Fish Canyon. Summer is not an ideal time to be here, but there is still a beauty, and the clouds and rain have made it pleasant today.

1:30 - End hike. There are lots of cars in the parking lot.

Himalayan blackberry on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
Epilog - Another thoroughly enjoyable hike in my beloved Fish Canyon. Beautiful scenery, wildlife, a splendid trail, rain, healthy exercise, and good company. I’m enjoying my monthly hikes as I watch the canyon progress through the seasons. Many of the hikers I talked to today said this was their first hiking in Fish Canyon. I encouraged them to come back in the spring when the canyon is absolutely at its best. 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 Hike - August 23, 2015
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1 comment:

  1. Its nice to read a hiking blog that is focused on the small wonders along the way with detailed descriptions. Its good to read and see these plants in their natural habitat. I think that enhances the significance. thanks. FYI has a weather app that allow for input of several different parameters and alerts you when it is forecast.