What a fun adventure it’s been endeavoring to hike to Fish Canyon Falls every month for a year to experience the changing seasons. I started in March so my hike today represents the tenth month in a row. And it’s the first time I’ve hiked Fish Canyon in December. In fact, it’s the first time I’ve ever hiked on Christmas Eve day (that I have record of). I had planned my hike for two days ago but it got rained out. So thankfully I had this morning free before heading out of town for Christmas. I arrive at the trailhead and there are five cars in the lot. It’s 48 degrees and windy. Gosh it’s cold! Do I need to put on my third layer? Do I really want to hike?! Well, I’m here, so gotta go for it.
7:45 – Begin hike. Soon I warm up as my body generates heat and the canyon blocks the wind. The sun feels good, but within minutes I’ll be in the shade of the canyon. The quarry equipment sits quite; I guess Vulcan is on Christmas break. Parts of the access trial through the quarry are quite muddy from recent rain. I transition to the riparian section and am greeted by a lone occurrence of golden yarrow in bloom. It has been dependably blooming here for months. The only thing else in bloom in this section is California buckwheat. As I approach the bridge I’m delighted to hear the sound of running water.
8:03 – Cross the bridge into the national forest. The water flows briskly. I’m now in the shade of the canyon. Everything is fresh from recent rain, which has also washed debris onto the trail in places. The air is brisk and the aromas of nature are wonderful. Deciduous trees and plants, like alder, sycamore, maple, tree of heaven, and poison oak are mostly leafless now. Birds are chirping. It’s peaceful here as I saunter along and relish the beauty of my beloved canyon. Invasive cape ivy (Delairea odorata) blankets sections of the creek. Its bright green leaves and golden yellow flowers are beautiful, but the insidious plant destroys native habitat. I wonder if the dead alders surrounded by the cape ivy were killed by this alien species (the destructive weed covers 500,000 acres in California).
Just past the tree of heaven jungle, another tree has fallen across the trail since my hike on November 22. The leaves of this white alder indicate that it was alive when it fell. A little further, the tree that had fallen across the trail previously has been moved off the trail…no small feat. Golden autumn leaves of willow add a colorful splash to the winter scenery. Toyon sports its bright red berries for Christmastime. An occasional sunflower greets me with its happy countenance. Spike moss (resurrection plant) has returned to life. Fluffy white clouds grace the blue sky. I am so enjoying the delightful beauty that surrounds me. It’s so peaceful. A gentleman with a bag of trash passes me heading down; I’m always thankful for those who care for our wild places. A pile of orange peels is a reminder that there are those who either don’t care or are simply ignorant that peels are garbage and should be carried out. I step into the full sun at 8:45. I take a side jaunt to Darlin’ Donna Falls and it is flowing nicely.
9:08 – Main creak crossing. It’s flowing! (It hasn’t been flowing since May.) I enjoy the rugged scenery as I climb the canyon’s east wall. There’s been virtually nothing in bloom today. The native plants blooming in season with multiple occurrences are California buckwheat (many), common sunflower, and wild cucumber (tiny white flowers). Most of the other blooms are the introduced landscape plants like jade and oleander near cabin sites, and non-native weeds like mustard, sow thistle, and redstem filaree. This is quite a contrast to the spring and summer where there will be dozens of species in bloom with thousands of flowers.
A group of six young men pass me coming from the falls. Some other male voices are behind me so I keep a pace to stay ahead. I’m always am eager as I approach the falls. The sound of tumbling water is music to my ears.
9:18 – Fish Canyon Falls. What a splendid sight! With so many months of it being dry or merely a trickle, it’s so nice to be greeted by a showy waterfall. Both the lower and upper pools are full. And the golden yellow leaves of the black willow add a wonderful splash of color to the scene. There is no one here, but four young men are seconds behind me. It’s Chris! We hiked here together with some others in March 2014 as a last time to experience Fish Canyon before the access trail opened in June. Chris is with his friends John, Joel, and Stephen. Soon a couple with two dogs arrive. We chat some. I look around and just enjoy the beautiful setting. The sun makes its way down the falls. I’d like to stay to photograph the falls in full light, but I need to head home to head off to a family gathering.
10:00 – Leave falls. I retrace my steps down the trail. I love this canyon. It’s become such a familiar friend. My pace is earnest. Occasionally others pass me heading to the falls. Past the junction to Darlin’ Donna I finally step into the sun; it feels good. I continue to take pictures in a different light as I stroll down the trail. I cross the bridge at 10:57 and walk through quarry. Others come up the trail.
11:15 – End hike. There are nine cars in the lot (aside from mine). The wind has died down and it is 58 degrees. My Fitbit recorded 13,050 steps for the hike (for 5.4 miles plus walking around at the falls).
Epilog – What a thoroughly enjoyable hike. It’s been so rewarding to experience the canyon through the seasons. It’s good to be back to in the recommended hiking season range for Fish Canyon (November through May). I’m delighted that the falls have returned and rain has brought back some vibrancy to the vegetation. Leafless trees create a different texture to the scenery while lingering autumn leaves splash their warm colors. I’m eager to see how the forecasted El Niño rains will affect the falls as winter unfolds.
See Fish Canyon Falls Hike Description at Dan’s Hiking Pages (including a link list for my other blog posts for Fish Canyon)
See Plants in Fish Canyon at Dan’s Hiking Pages
(including links to various plant resources)