My goal this year is to hike to nearby Fish Canyon Falls at least once a month to experience the full cycle of the seasons. A strong rain on Thursday and Friday provided a strong incentive for hiking to Fish Canyon Falls this weekend for my May visit. I love hiking after a good rain. Everything is fresh and the aromas are wonderful. When I hiked it on April 19, the canyon was showing the effects of a drought year. Now I’m eager to see what the rain was has done.
I decide to walk to the trailhead from my home in Azusa to add a couple extra miles of steps toward the Walking Challenge at work. After meandering through quiet Sunday morning neighborhoods, I enjoy picking a route across the wide San Gabriel River wash. I arrive at Fish Canyon Road near the junction of the stables. I turn right a walk the final quarter mile to the trailhead. A host of others also have in mind to hike Fish Canyon as the parking lot is nearly full.
8:55 AM – Begin hike. It’s cool and cloudy. The heavy equipment of the Vulcan quarry sits silent. My pace is earnest. I immediately begin to take pictures of flowers. My goal is to photograph a sample of every blooming species I encounter today. As I transition from the fenced corridor to the riparian section, I’m delighted to hear the creek running briskly.
9:12 – Cross the bridge into the national forest. I continue at a moderate pace and shoot flowers as I go. I’m a happy to see several occurrence of Plummer’s mariposa lily in bloom, which I did not see in April. The recent rains have freshened up things nicely. There is a fair amount of foot traffic coming and going, including a large hiking group. The temperature under cloudy skies is quite pleasant but it’s humid.
A family passes me heading down and the lady has two fits full of picked flowers, including an entire dudleya plant. I explain to her that removing material from a national forest is against the law, but she behaves as though she does not understand English. As they walk away the man turns and says to me that she needs the plants for medicine. Oh, ok, it’s perfectly fine to violate federal regulations as long as the actions have medicinal benefits. Makes sense to me. Perhaps a name change is in order: Angeles National Pharmacy. And some dog owners also think that the federal, state, county, and city regulations requiring dogs to be on a leash don’t apply to them.
10:32 – Cross the main creek and am happy to see it flowing. In April it was dry. I am delighted find buds on the rare Dudleya densiflora starting to form. As I get near the falls, happy voices are amplified by the sheer canyon walls.
10:50 – Fish Canyon Falls. Wow, the rains really did give it a kick. It’s flowing better than it was on April 19. About 18 people are here enjoying the setting. I relax, take pictures, and chat with various ones. Hikers come and go. I love this place. So many great memories here. The overcast sky makes for great lighting to photograph the falls (full sun causes harsh shadows). The increase in graffiti is sickening. A couple mallard ducks land in the pool. That’s cool! I’ve never seen ducks here. They soon fly away as a young man decides to take a swim in the frigid water.
11:55 – Leave falls. The sun is now peeking through the clouds. I enjoy the beauty of the rugged canyon. After the creek crossing my eye catches some movement on a rock near the creek. It’s a massive bird sitting there. He is still now. I want to see it move more but I don’t want to throw anything at it. As I walk back and forth along the trail, I can see his head rotating to follow me. It has to be an owl. Amazing! I don’t recall ever seeing one in all my years hiking in the San Gabriels. Continue along, I look down and see a small snake slithering across the trail! Cool! I should catch it and offer it to the owl. Oh, I’ll let nature handle itself.
I continue along just relishing this amazing canyon. The weather is perfect. I chat with various ones I meet. There are lots of people on the trail today yet I enjoy spans of solitude. I spot several more species in bloom that I had not seen earlier. While I am looking at a plant, a lady and man I met at the falls arrives and she asks about the spinney fruit things she’s been seeing along the trail. I introduce them to wild cucumber. We walk down the trail together and they seem to be eager learners as I point out various plants. We’re startled to encounter a large snake crossing the trail in front of us. It’s a beautiful goffer snake. We watch in fascination as he slithers up the steep bank and disappears into a hole. What a treat!
1:38 – Arrive at the bridge. I say good-by to Steven and Nyra as I linger here longer. I pick up a phone message and learn of a family emergency. My pace is quick now as I make my way through quarry.
2:03 – End hike. The parking lot is still quite full. My wife pulls up in the car and off we go.
Epilog – What a thoroughly enjoyable hike! Perfect weather, post-rain freshness, beautiful canyon, lovely wildflowers, snakes and birds, flowing creek, majestic waterfall, pleasant conversations, some solitude, great exercise. What a blessing to live so close to such a marvelous natural resource. I dedicate this hike to the memory of my father-in-law, Ed Straub, who passed away the next day.
Like Fish Canyon Falls Facebook Page
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)