Tuesday, March 18, 2008

WHITNEY CANYON, NEWHALL


Whitney Canyon and its small spring-fed stream meanders through some lovely oak forest. Right now, due to plentiful winter rains, the ground is covered with lush green grass and wildflowers.


Of course all that rain caused some damage, too. Here is one of many oak casualties that we saw along the trail. There must have been some mighty raging torrents that flowed through here.


Here you can see the stream--it's not very deep but is wide enough in most places to require boulder hopping to get across.


The stream coming down-canyon from its source. The sound of it rushing and gurgling seranaded us the whole way.


Some deadfall makes a small waterfall.


About mid-way along the hike I turned around and took this shot down-canyon. I could not believe how far we'd climbed in a very short while.


We finally came to this little waterfall--about 10' - 12' high. At first we thought this was it, but I noted the dirt scramble ont he left and knew there had to be more.


In the shallows of the pool below the falls was this curious mass of eggs inside an even curiouser egg sac. An online search came up with nothing similar. It was a LARGE mass, so whatever it was was either big or it was the work of several amphibians. [Update: a naturalist at Placerita Canyon Nature Center told me that these were the eggs of tree frogs (the small chains), Calif. Toad, and a third toad or frog that I can't remember. He said that they lay the eggs somewhere upstream and they come traveling down to some quiet pool, where they hatch into tadpoles. Interesting that three different species ended up in a pile!]

Another view...notice the smaller chain going off to the right...

...and here's a view of the smaller chains. (Tree frog eggs]


One of the many lizards we saw in the canyon.

The REAL waterfall. And it's a lot higher than it looks in this photo.
The water was coming down here at a pretty good clip...

...and going off down stream.

Me at the base of the falls. Happy as can be!

Low angle shot--in parting. We hated to leave.


View of the canyon walls. There were a couple spots when the canoyn narrowed that these cliffs looked ominous.


A lone cloud made an appearance, then was gone within moments in the wind.


The willows are quite lovely along the stream. We saw hummingbirds picking the fluff off of them for nest building.


A nice little Hobbit-like arch on the hike out.



Unknown but interesting species of plant growing along the trail.



A nice grassy hillside in one oak forest. The week before we heard quail in this area.

Holding pond not far from the trailhead. There was a pair of Mallards feeding here--'butts up."

Almost back to the trailhead. The 14 freeway in the background. When you are back in the canyon it is hard to remember that you're this close to civilization.
Paula and I decided to go back to Whitney Canyon this past weekend after being there just last week. We were told that there was a waterfall way back in the canyon and we were determined to find it.

The day was sunny but cool with a stiff breeze blowing that meant wearing a few layers early on. Once farther back in the canyon we were more sheltered and able to peal off the shell and fleece. The weather was downright perfect for a hike like this.

The falls are spring fed and located about 1.9 miles back in a deep canyon. On one side is a steep cliff of various layers of rock; the other side has more vegetation on it, including some oaks and Manzanita. A lot of the tree bark looked scorched, which means a fire went through here one year.

There were a few birds, but many are hard to spot among the tight oak leaves. We saw Spotted Towhee, Scrub Jay, Oak Titmouse, and Acorn Woodpecker. The hummingbirds were numerous, and some were pulling fluff off the willows for nest making. We have yet to confirm it, but we may have seen a Clark's Nutcracker also, which is rare in this area. Lizards are common though, and we saw plenty; many large ones but also a great number of smaller ones.

Both of us carried small, light tripod sling chairs for ‘geezer breaks,’ which really made it nice. There aren’t a lot of places to park along the trail. We like to take it slow and easy--no 'forced marches' for us!

The trail went up and down a few hills and there were numerous stream crossings the farther up canyon we went. The elevation gain is around 850’. At one point the trail petered out due to some recent flooding, but we found it again and continued on. The canyon narrowed and soon we were at what we thought was the waterfall.

We congratulated ourselves for getting back that far, but as I studied the falls while we took a lunch and water break, I realized that this could not be all of it. There was an area to the left of the falls that looked like a bit of a scramble, so I left my pack to do a recon.

The rocks were tricky footing, covered with sand and gravel—and there weren't many hand holds--the rock climbing classes I took years ago sure came in handy. Soon I made it up and continued upstream for about 50 yards and found the REAL falls. They weren’t huge, but it sure were lovely. I went back to get Paula and my pack; I told here to get ready for some bouldering.

We both made it to the falls and were really glad we found them. We thought about climbing up farther, but it was slippery going so we thought better of it. We may come back during warmer weather & with a second par of shoes in case we get soaked climbing up all the rocks to the top of the falls.

It was a great hike and somewhere I could go again—as long as the cooler weather holds. It would be a miserably hot hike in the summer.
And not a hike for little kids or anyone with serious knee problems.
[Written while listening to Pete Namlook & Klaus Schultze "The Dark Side of the Moog." Terrific synth!]

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

THOUGHT FOR TODAY

In the woods, is perpetual youth.
In the woods, we return to reason and faith.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

I've always loved the woods. Probably because I love being surrounded by trees. In many places around Los Angeles we have a pitiful lack of good trees in most neighborhoods. The upscale neighborhoods always seem to have plenty of nice big old tree-lines streets. But most of us have to make do with what happens to be planted around us.

When I was kid growing up in Torrance, CA during the 50s and early 60s, the area was still under developement. There were fields and marshes where Del Amo shopping center now stands. But before it did, my dad used to take my brother and I there to play. My dad appreciated how important it was for kids to get out in nature and he took us out a lot. He grew up in Michigan and he spent a great deal of time out in the woods and along the rivers there.

Many was the vacation spent at Idyllwild or Lake Tahoe where we could run around in the shade of the trees all day. It was heaven for a little pagan like me! I recognized right away that this was where I felt the best; the most secure and complete. Among the birds and animals I felt at home. The songs of birds and the bubbling streams were my hymns and the canopy of trees my cathedral.

Whenever I come home from visiting my folks in Washington State, I always feel exposed; up there you are surround almost everywhere by trees. It is a very comforting feeling and one that I truly miss living in L.A. Thankfully I work on the UCLA campus, which is full of big trees--and it often gets me through the week until I can get out on another adventure in the outdoors.

I still go to the woods--or something close to it--as much as I can now. It is where I feel the best and am at my happiest. In today's world it is important to leave behind the travails and trivialities of life and enter Nature's heart. It is where I am indeed a perpetual youth, and where I find my faith and reason restored.