A beautiful fence lizard basks in the gentle warmth of early Spring at Tin Can Point. See inset of the Chantry Flat – Mt. Wilson Trails map, below, to see where this point is. As of this writing, a cold wet pacific storm is dropping nearly six days of chilly rain and snow in much of the San Gabriel mountains. Big Santa Anita Canyon dam has received over 5 1/2″ of rain in the last week. Something I just learned recently about these Western Fence lizards is that their populations have the effect of reducing the incidence of Lyme’s disease in the ticks that live in the chaparral, such as found covering much of the slopes of the Big Santa Anita Canyon! Apparently, a protein in the lizard’s blood kills the bacterium in the tick’s gut, which is good news for hikers and even their dogs during the spring and autumn months.
Like most reptiles, Western Fence lizards hibernate, at least for a little while each winter throughout their habitats which are wide-spread throughout California. As for food, these lizards eat spiders and various insects such as mosquitos, beetles and grasshoppers. The females lay several small clutches of eggs (3-17) in the spring, the young emerging in the summer.
On your next hike out from Chantry Flats, watch for for lizards flitting about on the trails and sunning themselves on the myriad stretches of rock. As for the various types of reptiles to be found in the Big Santa Anita, Western Fence lizards are abundant and deserve a place in the sun!
Whichever canyon you choose, getting out on our local trails is a great way to get a good start on the new year. I’m especially fond of the trails that make their way up to Mt. Wilson. One route that I’ll be doing in the next couple of weeks will be to head on up the Gabrielino Trail from Chantry Flat to Newcomb Pass. From there, take the Rim Trail to Wilson’s summit. Return by way of the Sturtevant Trail.
This is a great trip to get some good winter sun while climbing up and through the warm chaparral before getting under the oaks and pines on the north side of the Rim Trail’s watershed divide. The stream’s flowing really nicely right now, especially with the good start to winter storms that we’ve had from Thanksgiving through Christmas. Wrightwood, alone, has received nearly an average year’s worth of snow accumulation within about a month at the end of 2019. So, get out and enjoy the flowing streams, the bright green fern beds and the scent of damp soils and leaves. A word of caution, though…
Make sure to be cautious of ice in the some of the higher elevations as you approach Mt. Wilson from Newcomb Pass. Also, while traveling back down the Sturtevant Trail, watch for an ice chute within a half mile of the summit. This time of year, it’s a good idea to at least carry a pair of MicroSpikes or a similar traction device that you can add to your shoes. Take your time and savor the front country of the San Gabriels in the winter.
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.
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.