This is a great time for your Sturtevant Falls hike! The recent storms to visit Southern California have brought abundant rain and snow to the drought parched San Gabriel Mountains. 26.60″ of rain has fallen at Chantry Flats as of this writing. Measuring of the rain season begins on October 1st and concludes on September 30th of the following year, so we’re off to a good start for our winter season. All the trails radiating out of Chantry Flats lead to canyons filled with stream song. Bright green thickets of Bracken ferns grow profusely among the ledges of rocky cliffs.
Looking down from the road that drops down from Chantry into the canyon, you can make out the gray, smokey canopy of the leafless alders hugging the boisterous mountain creek. Looking straight out (east) from San Olene Canyon, about half way down to Roberts’ Camp, the Pagoda Tree welcomes you back to the canyon. This big cone spruce stretches out its’ shaggy arms from high atop Clamshell Ridge, with a backdrop of open sky.
Right now the Big Santa Anita Canyon and Winter Creek carry, too, the scent of winter. Last autumn’s leaves mulch down into the myriad of sand and soil along the stream beds. This earthy, organic loam creates an invigorating damp scent that helps to bookmark your memories of the canyon trails and where you were all those years ago. So, when you return to Chantry for your next hike, that good wintery scent brings you back to your old haunts and all those thoughts that went along for the ride.
When on the green footbridge at Roberts’ Camp, you cross the boisterous tumbling Winter Creek and its’ trout pools that were created by Lynn Roberts back around 1912 during the Great Hiking Era. This little creek flows down from Mt. Wilson, twisting and turning for miles, dropping approx. 4,000′ to the confluence of the Big Santa Anita’s main canyon. After leaving Roberts’ Camp, head up the main canyon, passing by the Lincoln Log style check dams. Big Santa Anita Canyon, like the Winter Creek, also begins at Mt. Wilson’s summit. Little cabins, many built over a century ago, are perched on small flats along your hike. The canopy of alder, canyon live oak and bay shade much of your way. Along with stream song, listen for the descending fluid notes of the canyon wren, a year-round resident of this watery place. In less than a couple of miles you arrive at the base of 55′ high Sturtevant Falls. The canyon big-leaf maples grace the open bowl around the plunge pool at the bottom of the falls. Leafless, their silent, bare branches seem to reach out over you, stretching and awaiting Spring.