14 February 2009

tour of the Waterfalls of Altadena

Angeles National Forest accessible from Altadena and Altadena front country

The rains had been fairly steady over the week before including the previous weekend.  The weekend before that was well rained on by an earlier storm.  It was high time to get out for a hike and the rains suggested going to see the waterfalls.  Altadena has at least three waterfalls that can be hiked to in less than a mile.  I've been to two of them, but only looked down the canyon toward the third before.  I decided to try to see all three starting somewhat late in the morning.  I started with the one I had not seen before because it should have the best light in the morning.

Eaton Canyon

Locate the trailhead.

Eaton Canyon has a large parking lot somewhere for everyone to park in so long as they don't want to be there before sunrise or after sunset.  In two tries, I couldn't manage to make the correct turn so I went along Altadena Drive to the smaller parking area at a second entrance into the area.  There were a few spots around, so no need to go for a third try at the turn for the big lot.  Hiking down into the wash below, I found that this time there was actually water to cross to get to the main trail, a rather good sign.  Great crowds of people were going up and down the trail on this day.

Trail and green hills and a few returning clouds.
Green hills in California.  The trail narrows from a highway to merely a wide footpath after the toll road bridge.


The trail criss-crosses the creek, which was often quite wide but not all that deep.  Crossings were easy to find so it didn't seem like it was running very high.  Of course, I'd never actually been up to this particular falls, so who am I to judge?  The falls are a simple affair with a small boulder lodged at the top.  An iron plaque of some sort was bolted to the side, but its content has long been erased by time.

The falls at the end of Eaton Canyon trail.
Eaton Canyon falls pouring down.

So one must take a few moments to enjoy the waterfall.  I sketched a little picture while tuning out the milling crowds.  I think someone may have commented, but it's hard to tell over the roar of the water and while trying to tune them all out.  It usually becomes the "Are you an artist?", "No, a chemist." conversation anyway.

Closeup of the top of the falls.
The boulder at the top of the falls would seem to tell a tale of higher water at times.  It looks very smooth and has quite a notch cut in it to the left side.

A branch smoothed and poised upon some rocks at the far end of the waterfall's pool.
Some of nature's art in the form of a smoothed log at the edge of the waterfall's pool.

Waterfall and illegible plaque.
That well rusted plaque is in the upper left.

The edge of the falls just visible from down the left side of the creek.
Waterfalls can be cute from a variety of angles.  This is the left side of the creek where the water is just seen splashing out from behind the cliff side.

Then there's nothing more left for this trail than to navigate the route back down.  I actually took pictures going down.

Looking downstream, getting some trail on the right.
A downstream look at the creek and canyon and trail.  A fair bit of green showing up, a wide-ish bit of water as the trail crosses yet again, and a few of the many many turns the canyon takes.

Flood control measures along the trail.
The canyon opens out into a large flat wash with no buildings trying to be in silly places, so this flood control seems fairly useless.  Maybe it's to protect the bridge, which does bear signs that it once spanned a slightly smaller space closer to the creek and a few feet into the canyon.

Flood control closeup.
Water go splash!  A closeup, edge on, of that flood control pour.  Pretty water droplets.  Me like new camera.

Mt. Wilson toll road bridge, from below.
There's that bridge.  That leaves navigation of the wide wash to go.

Hiking back, I found a different spot to cross the wash over to the parking spot.  The second route wasn't as good as the first one, but there's so many trails across, it's hard to figure out which is the right one, especially since most of their wear comes when it doesn't matter much.  But I did make it back without incident so I could go on to ...

Rubio Canyon

Locate the trailhead.

Rubio faces in a rather southward direction, so it is a natural pick for the middle hike as the light would be best in the middle of the day.  Driving along Altadena quickly finds one at Lake, and a block up finds one ready to turn back the other way and find Rubio by its circuitous route.  I didn't just turn up a few blocks before because I knew I'd not recognize the right road if I didn't go all the way to Lake.  I managed to get there without first reviewing the directions this time.  Rubio is a little uncertain, a few places are as likely to be washed out as there after a good rain.  I only saw five people on the trail in three well spaced out groups.  The fact that the second half of the trail goes right up the creek bed didn't turn out to be a problem.  The water really wasn't very much higher than when I last saw it.

Ribbon Rock Falls and Moss Grotto Falls in Rubio Canyon.
The lowest falls in Rubio Canyon.  There are plenty more, and most of them (still) taller, but this is the only one for today along here.

I climbed up to the ledge between the falls, as usual, and took that for a sketching location.  So here are some photos of the falls.

Just the lower falls, Ribbon Rock.
The lower falls, Ribbon Rock, halved in size by debris to a mere 20 feet.

Just the upper falls, Moss Grotto.
The upper falls, Moss Grotto.  Once fell into a deep pool popular for a dip on a hot day but didn't offer much swimming as it's only about 5 feet across.

The upper falls from the central split.
More of Moss Grotto, the upper falls, sitting up between the two.

A Zen moment.
The lovely shower of the falls.  A bit cold for actually enjoying it today, though.  (Is it better fast?)

Looking down over the edge of Ribbon Rock falls.
That first step's a doozy!  Looking over the edge of Ribbon Rock falls into the rock pile below.

Ribbon Rock from up on the debree to the left side.
One last look at Ribbon Rock falls.

And with that last look at Ribbon Rock, it's back down the trail.  Again, I was a little better with getting the camera out for the downhill trek.

Pool in Rubio Canyon.
A pool along the way while the trail is the creek bed.  This is the hardest part to get through without getting the feet wet, which is to say it was easy not to get the feet wet.

A 4 inch pipe spewing water back into the canyon it should be in anyway.
A pretty bit of canyon and the pipes whose repair ended in sorrow for the canyon's waterfalls.  They want the pipes because if they get the water from the top they don't have to purify it.  Sound dubious?  It is!  The new PVC pipes don't take the beating the century old iron pipes used to.

And so quickly back to civilization.

Blue skies, sunshine, a few scattered clouds, green grass, looking out toward LA on a beautiful day.
Did I mention it was a beautiful day?  Well, it was.  And see how clean the air is, it's actually bluish instead of brownish.

A variety of greens sprouting out of the hillside.
And the hillside really are green.  All sorts of greens just jutting out of it, growing and thriving, at least for now.

The easy grassy bit of trail winds it's way along flatly as the canyon bottom drops away and finds its way back to the Altadena neighborhood from which it starts.  So it's back into the car and off to ...

Millard Canyon

Locate the trailhead.

Winding back to Lake, heading up to the top, and turning left passing the thickly parked Echo Mountain trailhead, and finally right at the blinking yellow light heads past a nursery full of roses and right into the forest proper.  At the top of the hill, a fire road heads up Sunset Ridge or down the little trail into the canyon for a slightly longer route to the falls.  At the bottom is a parking lot for easier access to the waterfall.  This one faces westward, so is a natural pick for the last one.  Also, I remembered to take pictures along the way.

Small bit of metal serving as flood control.
Flood control to protect the campground at the start of the trail, presumably.  Here the flood control is just a bit of iron instead of the giant concrete usually seen.

This area has a history of which I'm not entirely sure.  I came upon this odd space in the rocks that once had a door over it.  Somewhere there's a gold mine, but this might just be a spring someone dug out a bit.  Water was flowing from it.

Inside the hole in the rocks.Outside the hole in the rocks.
No idea why, but someone's dug a hole out of the rocks where water leaks out.

A lovely little canyon with cute little trees.
It's really a lovely little canyon.

Quickly the trail finds its way to the most interesting waterfall of the bunch.  Many small groups of people were making their way up to this one.  While I sat sketching, a couple behind me sat watching and listening to the deafening roar.  They were still there as I left although they had retreated some from the roar.

The waterfall, a couple huge boulders lodged in the top causing the water to flow into two somewhat equal streams that pour across each other.
The waterfall has been split into two by the boulders crammed in the top leaving the water to flow out across itself as it comes down over the rocks.  Rather neat.

So here come the excessive waterfall pictures one more time!

Boulders at the top of the falls.
The boulders at the top of the falls and some of the water falling deep in the back of the hole there before careening far out into the air.

The curtain of spray arching left from the right in front of another more direct bit of water.
That lovely arched curtain of spray.

But eventually it's time to go back home.

More lovely canyon scene.
Some more of the lovely little canyon.

Cute little cascades along the trail.
Darling little cascades to brighten your day.

Which brings us right back to the start.  A lovely day, but it can't last.

Grey clouds gathering for another go at raining.
Dark clouds gathering in the sky.  There might be some more rain coming.  (And there was, but not until tomorrow.)




©2009 Valerie Norton
Posted 2 March 2009
Updated 3 March 2009

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