Three years in a row of sub-normal precipitation has taken its’ toll on the Big Santa Anita Creek throughout the canyon as well as the entire Angeles National Forest. Plants and animals throughout the San Gabriels are feeling the impact. Big Santa Anita Canyon’s stream is now running underground in many places where in years past you might have seen and heard water flowing in even the hottest months. Sturtevant Falls is just a trickle. It’s magnificent plunge pool reduced to just a stagnant little puddle in the glaring mid-day sunlight. What little water that makes its’ tumbling way down the 55′ high rock face sounds little better than a half-flowing garden hose placed up at the top followed by a slap, slap, slapping broken chorus of wet. Once tumultuous, cool pools are now fringed with dead mosses and algae.
Vast stretches of white sands are mixed with the black pieces of muddy organic deposits that settled in like the bottom of a still and quiet lake. You can see this as you make your way down along the Big Santa Anita Creek on the Hermit Falls trail between Roberts’ Camp and First Water. Check out these dry, flat and pungent stream bed crossings that once had swimming fish and the flotsam of countless water striders on peaceful waters. The mexican quick weed, seemingly immune to these endless hot days of dryness, fringe these once wet spaces and in places are glade-like, blocking your view of the ground. Suddenly, the air lifts the pungent scent of dried out plant and animal life, filling your senses in a way that leave the words out of your thoughts. Our common organic connection, constant and everlasting. I’m reminded of an ancient past that was never handed down to me through the pastels of words. Haunted and somehow led back toward home – in a good and kind sort of way.
Yet, like everything we and this old earth go through, it will come to pass away. Drought is a familiar visitor in these steep, deep canyons. A new winter will come with its’ fulfilled promises of rain and life. The sound of tumbling waters and the staccato call of canyon wrens will bounce back off the ancient rocky walls of the canyons, again. Once, again, if you miss that jump across the creek, your boots and socks will be soaked. The glance between you and the hidden trout will happen once more. It will happen to you. The seasons go round and round.