Next time you’re considering spending a little time in the front-country of the Angeles National Forest, the Sturtevant Falls trail hike is a good one, especially since our recent rains earlier this month. Over 6 1/2″ of rain fell throughout the first week of the new year in Big Santa Anita Canyon. Ferns and mosses have sprung back to life, creating varied depths and textures of green across cliffy faces and hillsides. The song of the stream has come back, too. As you begin your descent down into the canyon, the gentle rush of the stream can be made out if it’s still and quiet, such as in the early evening. Owls and stream song mix with the cool, soft canyon breezes that make their way amongst the thickets of white alders and overarching oaks. The mild and sweet fragrance of flowering laurel bay is just around the next bend, most likely in just the next couple of weeks.
When you get up next to the stream, say somewhere between Roberts’ Camp and Fern Lodge, take a moment to notice how for the first time in several years, the stream finally received enough “push” to clean out some of that dark black organic mat that’s been concealing the light colored gravel and rocks. Such a great, hopeful thing. If we get into a pattern of storms with this forecasted El Nino, then watch more and more of the dark mat wash away, exposing ever more bright sand and banded rocks. Fallen limbs and tree trunks will be washed out of the way. Pools will deepen and the sounds will once, again, change; reverberating between the rocks and cliffs of not only the Big Santa Anita, but the Winter Creek, too. The canyon wrens have already begun their bright chirping songs, mixing amongst the watery spray of our tumbling mountain brook. California newts are making their eternal slow crawl up and away from the stream, often to be found along the Gabrielino and Lower Winter Creek trails. Seems like a good time for me, too, to make my slow crawl up along the streams of our beautiful canyons.