Bobcat Fire Aftermath – Big Santa Anita Canyon

This photo was taken just a couple of days ago by an unnamed fire fighter and posted on Instagram. Photo was taken near Chantry Flat and is looking north up toward Sturtevant Falls. The arrow tip is in the Fern Lodge area of the main canyon, where the Upper Falls Trail and Gabrielino Trail leave the canyon bottom, continuing up and past Sturtevant Falls toward Cascade Picnic Area and Spruce Grove trail camp. It appears that much of the canyon bottom tree canopy is still intact after the Bobcat Fire !

Attached are two photos taken of Big Santa Anita Canyon in the aftermath of the Bobcat Fire.   There’s a third photo here, too.  It is of the flames dropping into the upper Big Santa Anita Canyon during the fire’s early stages of development.  The first photo was taken a couple of days ago.  Here you’re looking up the canyon from a point near the trailhead at Chantry Flats.  The second photo was taken by Larry Webster of Mt. Wilson just a day ago.  The view is from the east end of the summit looking down toward Sturtevant Camp.  Note the smoke still curling up from either the camp or adjacent to it.  It’s still too early to know what the damage actually was to the camp or the nearly eighty private cabins up and down the Big Santa Anita Canyon and Winter Creek.   Updates to follow as they come in.

This photo was taken after the fire passed through,  by Larry Webster of Mt. Wilson, CA. That’s Monrovia Peak, highest point in center horizon of photo. At the tip of arrow is Sturtevant Camp. As of this writing, it’s unknown how the camp fared in the Bobcat Fire.

This photo was taken before the Bobcat Fire reached Mt. Wilson.  Sturtevant Camp’s heliport is marked by the small red arrow.  Coincidentally, the camp itself, is located at the bottom, or start,  of the arrow’s shaft.

The Bobcat Fire dropping down into upper Big Santa Anita Canyon. At the end of the little red arrow is the heliport at Sturtevant Camp. Photo taken from Mt. Wilson by Larry Webster.

Douglas Wallflowers in Blossom

Here’s a Douglas Wallflower alongside the Upper Falls Trail as seen this last Monday while hiking up the Big Santa Anita Canyon under cloudy skies.   Our series of much-needed rain storms have brought back thick green grasses and the start to what’ll most likely be a colorful Spring of other wildflowers as well.  Joanie and I hiked the two mile Falling Sign Loop that originates out of Fern Lodge.

These Douglas Wallflowers (Erysimum capitatum) popped out at us just downstream from the double slot pools on the Upper Falls Trail. There’s also a nice grouping of wallflowers near the second bench up the road from Roberts’ Camp in San Olene Canyon.

Sturtevant Falls was tumbling down nicely.  The scent of white sage peppered the cool air and the background surf-like sound of the stream followed us the whole way.  We brought along an old shovel, cleaning off small slides here and there.   Wild lilacs (buck brush) are still sending their mild lavender scent into the canyon breezes while the bright red orange of Indian paintbrush pokes up from the damp earth near Hoegee’s Drop-Off.  And overarching along most of the route, the Laurel bay blossoms still cling to the dark green canopies.  Look for the tender dark reddish purple leaves of the canyon big-leaf maples as their foliage begins to fill back in for a new season.  Even the white alders are pushing out a myriad of their bright green leaflets, replacing that smokey look of dormancy with new life.

View looking east up into the East Fork of Big Santa Anita Canyon from Gabrielino Trail. Note the Toyon in the foreground, still hanging onto some of its’ red berries. That’s Rankin and Monrovia peaks in the most distant background. Clamshell Peak is barely captured on the right hand side of photo.

Hike Chantry’s Gabrielino for Wildflowers

Joanie hiking up the Gabrielino just prior to Hoegee’s Drop Off. That’s Indian paintbrush popping through the green. This spot is between Fern Lodge Junction and Falling Sign Junction.

Hike Chantry’s Gabrielino for wildflowers when you get a chance.   Try to do this sooner than later!  This well trod trail is also known by many Boy Scouts as the Silver Moccasin up until you arrive at Shortcut Canyon in the West Fork of the San Gabriel River, where the two trails go their separate ways.

Detail of Gabrielino Trail section, Chantry Flat – Mt. Wilson Trails map.

Look at hiking this trail section these last days of April and the next couple of weeks in May.  Recently my wife and I did the Falling Sign Loop, starting out from Fern Lodge Junction, heading up the Gabrielino (aka Stock Trail) to Falling Sign Junction.  We returned back down the Upper Falls Trail to Fern Lodge.  The loop’s only a couple of miles in length,  yet that one mile section of the Gabrielino between Fern Lodge and Falling Sign Junction will offer you not only wildflowers, but vibrant green fern beds, lush green grasses and the ever-present views over the Big Santa Anita and its’ countless little side canyons.

Springtime in the front country of the San Gabriel mountains wouldn’t be complete without Baby Blue Eyes. These delicate, low-lying beauties can be found during the Spring Easter season.
Close up of Bracken Fern taken along the Gabrielino Trail. Shady slopes and cliff faces are covered with the fresh, deep green fern beds.
Edible Miner’s lettuce grows in clumps along the moister sections of the front country canyons.


Polypody Fern Beds Are Prevalent & Lush In The Front Country Canyons of Mount Wilson

Posted on February 7, 2014 – Written by Chris Kasten

Despite the lack of rain and snow as of early February, the shady north-facing  canyon slopes of the Mt. Wilson area still appear damp and green.  Regardless of the steepness of the mountainsides, if there’s enough shade and crevices in the rocks to set roots, then it’s likely you’ll happen upon some fern beds. These nearly vertical meadows of ferny green are native to the southern california coastal and inland mountains.   By summer when the rains are long over and the temperatures climb, California polypody  (Polypodium californicum) withers to dry, light brown stalks that would give little clue to their winter time fullness.

Polypody fern bed on damp slope in East Fork of Big Santa Anita Canyon. It just takes a little rain to bring these ferns back!
A wooden footbridge graces the tumbling waters of the Big Santa Anita Creek at Fern Lodge junction. This photo, taken during the Great Hiking Era, quite likely dates back to the teens or early 1920’s.

So, watch for this beautiful, native perennial on your next hike out of Chantry Flats or any of the front country trailheads.  Both of these photos were taken in the Fern Lodge area of Big Santa Anita Canyon, about 1 1/2 miles in from the Chantry Flats trailhead.  Fern Lodge was once a thriving mountain resort during the “Great Hiking Era.”  True to its’ name, ferns of several varieties still abound.  Today, there is still a beautiful little community of private cabins here, set among the wooded stream side ledges.  Many hikers know this area also as the place where the Upper Falls and Gabrielino trails meet at Fern Lodge Junction.

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 …

Merry Christmas from the Big Santa Anita Canyon!

Posted on December 21, 2012 – Written by Chris Kasten
Cabin #64, Big Santa Anita Tract. This photo dates back to sometime prior to the great 1938 flood.

It’s Winter Solstice, today, December 21st.  Joanie & I are hiking into the cabin today.  The sun will go over the south ridge by 2:45 p.m. or so.  Then the flat and diminishing twilight until the first twinkling stars appear.  Sound of tumbling stream and chirping canyon wrens abound.  The leaves have mostly fallen from the alders that huddle along the Big Santa Anita.  Look up and see the fine, lacy branchlets that radiate out from the white-gray trunks.

As we approach Christmas and the day light is brief, I find this poem written long ago.  Consider this:

“Old friends, dear friends,

As years go on and heads get gray

How fast the guests will go

Touch hands with those who stay.

Strong hands to weak, old hands to young

Around the Christmas board

Touch hands, touch hands.

The false, forget.  The foe, forgive.

For every guest will go and every fire burn low

And cabins, empty, stand.

Forget. Forgive.

For who may say that Christmas Day

May ever come to host our guests again.

Touch hands.  Touch hands.”

— W. H. H. Murray, December 25, 1897

Joanie and Chris Kasten at cabin #63. Christmas 2012.

Take some peaceful time this Advent Season for yourself or with a close friend and hike up the Winter Creek, the Big Santa Anita, Manzanita Ridge, the Rim Trail to Mount Wilson, or out into the West Fork.  It’s all good.

Rain Caresses the Big Santa Anita Canyon

Posted on December 6, 2012 – Written by Chris Kasten

“Rather the flying bird, leaving no trace, than the going beast marking the earth.”

– Fernando Pessoa

Early winter grass in the late afternoon sunlight. East Fork of Big Santa Anita Canyon.
Concentric circles from rain drops. Fern Lodge, Big Santa Anita Canyon.

I am only hiking through these Santa Anita Canyon Trails.  Watery, green and dusky in slowly fading light.  My energy is concentric and light, gently touching all that is around.  Yours is also reaching all around that place known as here and now.  Bounce, yeah’ that’s it!  Your circle touches mine and then they vanish.  Maybe, just maybe…. it’s all circle energy bumping up against other circles… endlessly.  Let our circles gently merge this day, this day which will never quite be the same ever, again.
The circle of the sun sends it’s warmth and visible light to our roundish earth, turning and turning in the circles of days.  Our time in the canyons, that sacred time, albeit brief – comes back to us in circles of memories that connect us to this earth – our only home.  Today I’ll feel this place, this place within and this place without.  The two merge and are no longer two.  The illusion of the you and I, that and this, then and now blending to one whole.  The daylight grows shorter, just a bit, each day as we approach winter solstice.  May the light and darkness help me to find my way home.