November is the Month to See Autumn Splendor While Hiking at Chantry Flats

Posted on November 23, 2013 – Written by Chris Kasten

 

This picture was taken while crossing Big Santa Anita’s creek in the Fern Lodge area, about a mile and a half in from Chantry Flats.  It was dusk when I looked down and saw this partially submerged collage of maple and alder leaves which seemed to radiate their own light back up to me.  While very little rain has fallen in the last two years in Southern California, the streams in the front country of the San Gabriels continue to display an annual phenomenon that is often not perceived upon first glance.  The water level actually begins to come back up a little bit as the deciduous trees drop their leaves.  Sturtevant Falls seems to be flowing with a little more gusto the last couple of weeks.  Hundreds of stream-side trees have began to use less water for metabolic processes as they go into their season of dormancy.  Once the leaves have fallen, transpiration (leaf respiration) becomes just about nonexistent, leaving more surface water in the streams.  No rain is required to bring the stream level up a bit,  just the advance of autumn!

The deciduous trees in the Big Santa Anita Canyon are primarily Big Leaf Canyon Maples and White Alders, which can be seen all along the streams, gracing the canyon with their intermingling shades of green and coolness.  By late November, early December, most of the leaves have fallen.  The dark to light gray maple trunks still gently reach out and up with their bare limbs, surrounded by open light, while the alders’ straight and narrow trunks reach way up for what little light they’ll receive during these shortening days of early winter.  In fact, late in the day as you’re hiking along streams, the light colored alder trunks seem to linger the longest before finally fading into the darkening background of the canyon bottom.

Soon the much awaited rains and snows will make their arrival, fixing all the fallen leaves onto the damp ground in an earthy mosaic.  The scent of decomposing organics making new soil will be sweet and clean, somehow waking and energizing  something  deep in all of us.  Just maybe Mt. Wilson isn’t so far to go after all …