Friday, September 11, 2009
A FIRST-HAND LOOK AT THE AFTERMATH
Observations from trip into the Angeles National Forest
By Dan Abendschein on September 9, 2009 12:01 PM Pasadena-Star News
Yesterday, I got my first chance to get deep into the Angeles Forest after the fire. Like most people who hike in the area, I'd been feeling a lot of anxiety about what might have been destroyed up there.
The news is not good. The lower end of the forest, up to the intersection with Big Tujunga Canyon Road, is absolutely devastated. There are stretches where there is almost no foliage left anywhere in sight. Guard rails are laying on the side of the road, the wooden posts that held them up burned to ashes. Without any trees left for wind break, yesterday's slight breeze felt very strong, sending up little dust devils whirling around the charred landscape.
There are few bright spots left for outdoors enthusiasts. Hiking trails off Big Tujunga Canyon Road will be useless. The trail up to Strawberry Peak that starts near Mt. Wilson is burned.
The backside of Mt. Wilson is one of the few exceptions in the area. Firefighters did an amazing job protecting the area, and hiking trails down in the canyon next to it could still be intact. Another bright spot is Switzer Falls, an extremely popular picnic area low in the park. Though the fire burned hillsides on either side of the canyon it sits in, the canyon itself is still mostly intact, especially right in the picnic area. The hiking trails in the area may not be open for a while, though, as trees and boulders have rolled down the hills into the canyon.
Further up in the forest is a different story. Firefighters are still battling the blazes up there. One side of Mt. Waterman is burning, but the fire does not appear to be out of control. Higher peaks are still outside of the burn area.
The area below Waterman is a mixed bag. In the Devil's Canyon area, where there are several popular campgrounds, there are some trees left standing, and some burn areas. It looks different around every curve up on Highway 2. There are still smoky hotspots in the area, and it is hard to tell exactly what has been preserved and what hasn't.
It's hard to say exactly what the future of the forest holds for recreational users: some areas will be reopened, some may not be, at least in the near future. But even in the best-case scenario the loss of great wilderness areas is very staggering, and a little hard to take once you see it with your own eyes.