I arrive at the trailhead at about 7:25. It’s cloudy and 55 degrees. The sun struggles to peek through the clouds to the east. There are only about 11 cars in the lot, which is sparse for a weekend in spring. I chat with a couple guys who are waiting for their hiking group scheduled to meet at 8. Tom pulls up and we’re ready to go.
Today, the only section of that trail still usable is from here to the ridge...a challenging but rewarding climb of 1.1 miles with 1,100 feet gain (be sure to wear long pants and shirt, and maybe trekking poles, gloves and a pair of clippers would be good. And watch out for rattlesnakes). See my Van Tassel Ridge trail guide. See my hike from one year ago for narrative of my last adventure: Van Tassel Ridge Hike - March 15, 2015.
The tree of heaven jungle has returned from its winter hiatus. At the old cabin site, oleander, jade, cape ivy, and periwinkle (Vinca), are reminders that early cabin dwellers preferred alien plants over native habit.
Perhaps nature’s cycle of life. Or perhaps it is destruction from invasive plants that man introduced such as the tree of heaven and/or the nearby cape ivy. But this pine in not native here either, so maybe the whole drama is just a battle of the weeds. We’ll see if the native pipestems hold their ground.
A humming bird evades being photographed. I’m pleased to see an abundance of matilija poppy in bloom. More flowers include California everlasting, western thistle, common yarrow, phacelia, golden stars, and heartleaf penstemon (the first I’ve seen these latter two in bloom this season). I’m delighted to find a tiny purple flower I don’t recall encountering before. Later I found it to be peninsular onion (Allium peninsulare var. peninsulare). I’m bummed that my nice iPhone6 often leaves me with out-of-focus flower pics. Thankfully, Michael Charter has a nice picture of peninsular onion on his Flowering Plants of Fish Canyon gallery. Attempts to photograph common eucrypta and fairy lantern also produced blurry pics. Tom and I stop to admire the colors and variety of moss and lichen. Toyon is starting to bloom and lemonade berry is hosting new fruit.
We meet several guys who tell us that they witnessed a huge rock fall from the wall next to the falls. One hiker said it fell about 50 feet and was the size of a VW bug. It sounded like thunder and created a huge splash drenching the surrounding rocks. They say it turned the water murky brown. Unfortunately we found no one who got it on video. We are eager to see what happened.
We’ll have to wait until the pool is empty in the summer to see what new rocks are below the waterline. The surrounding rocks are mostly dry now. And we can’t really tell for sure where the rock fell from.
We sit and snack, chat, and soak in the beauty of this special place. Hikers come and go. The clouds provide great lighting for photographing the falls.
We leave the falls at 11:56 and meander down the well-beaten path. I love the springtime beauty of this canyon. Hiking it monthly since February 2015 and experiencing the later summer months—with stifling heat, dead weeds, parched vegetation, dry creek and falls—has given me a renewed appreciation for how truly wonderful the spring is in Fish Canyon.
We cross the bridge at 1:16 onto Vulcan’s access trail and continue to enjoy natural bouquets of wildflowers. Our conversation winds down as we stroll through the massive quarry to our waiting cars.
1:34 - End hike. The lot is pretty full with about 41 cars (including mine and Tom’s). It’s a pleasant 69 degrees under cloudy skies and we didn’t have to don raingear. My Fitbit recorded 13,820 steps for the hike.
And it’s always a treat to discover new plants I’ve never met before. And having a good buddy to share the experience with is a gift. I am so thankful for this natural treasure in my backyard.
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(including links to various plant resources)
See Waterfalls of The San Gabriels at Dan's Hiking Pages
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