07 March 2009

Fish Creek Canyon and Falls

Angeles National Forest

Locate the trailhead.

Fish Creek was once very accessible but now has a quarry operating at the end of the canyon. Now it can be got at by way of a much longer trail that climbs the ridge and drops into the canyon surrounded by a truly amazing amount of poison oak. This trail seems to be the domain of stringy old hikers who can manage to make it to the trail by 7AM. However, on cerain Saturdays, the quarry runs a shuttle through their operations so that if you can start by noon and be out by 3PM, the average 5-year-old can make it up to the falls. The vans were running today, and I saw a lot of young kids, some of them even walking it themselves.

The trail heads out over a bridge and into the canyon, turning a few sharp corners quickly hiding the quarry from view. The canyon itself is rather narrow and steep with water leaking out the left side here and there. The trail stays fairly high up on the left side most of the way until that side becomes a sheer cliff. Then it crosses over and soon after the creek can be found tumbling down that cliff.

Looking over the wooded canyon.
The canyon as the trail starts off high on the side. It gets quite a bit narrower.

(Directions: Get off 210 at Olive Avenue and turn right on Huntington then left on Encanto Parkway. It looks suspiciously like a private road and the sign is on a rock in the center. It's directly before a large bridge. The quarry is at the end of the road, if they're closed go back past the horses and park in the dirt lot for the longer trail.)

Someone's put up a few signs in the first part of the canyon to tell a little about the history. One of these points out that this is the only place in the San Gabriel Mountains to find a particular variety of Matilija poppies. Most say things about the cabins that are now just a few ruins and their former residents now all gone elsewhere.

Steps marking the location of an old cabin.
Steps seem to be the only thing left of this cabin, although there may be more to see in among the thick growth of young trees.

Past the cabins and the Matilija poppies, the trail passes a tight spot and climbs up again, but not so high. It is shaded by trees, some high above reaching far out.

A tree arcing above the trail.
Tree arcing over the trail to give shade or to grab sun.

Butterfly with wings flat to the ground.
Butterfly, side on.
A butterfly along the trail.

A turn in the creek seen past some bay trees.
Bay trees at the trail and a corner in the creek below.

The trail comes down off the left side of the canyon as that side turns far too steep. There is even a bit of a bridge to cross on as the trail moves to the right.

Upstream from the bridge.
Looking upstream from the "bridge". The left wall of the canyon becomes very like a wall. A small tributary drains from a large U in the side of it.

After edging along the right wall, the trail quickly comes upon the large triple waterfall with a second falls below the pool.

The falls seen just edging out from behind a corner.
The very first sighting of the falls at the end of the canyon.

And eventually as the roar becomes louder, the whole of the falls is finally upon the hiker.

Upper and more upper and upperest and lower falls.
Three levels of falls above and one more falls below which hadn't been seen until closer to it, hidden as it is by the rock to the left.

Lower falls and lovely pool.
The lower falls and lovely pool below it.

The topmost sectoion of the upper falls.
The very top section of the falls.

The sections below the last one.
The sections below it. Get closer?

All of the upper falls from as good an angle as I could find.
Trying to take it all in at once. Well, the upper falls, anyway.

As sketching has been happening, so it was here too.

Sketch of Fish Creek falls.
My sketch of the falls, including the little bit of leaking water on the side.

Then it's back along the edge of the canyon.

A bit of creek below the trail.
A bit of creek along the way with a delicately placed natural bridge and a very odd small red pool.

As no one else had come with me this day, I could sit down and sketch again if I so felt like it. I felt I had enough time to get down and out before 3PM so I went for it with the odd tributary in the deep U.

Tributary flowing into Fish creek.
My sketch of the flow of water forming a huge notch in the side of the canyon wall on the other side of the creek. The brush pen was misbehaving some in the light dry breeze.

Then it's back across the bridge. (And back for the camera upon discovering it had been left at the last sketch spot, not so far down the trail.)

A bridge, of sorts.
It works as a bridge, but only for an amount of water that isn't very bridge-worthy.

On the way back as I crossed over a bit of water from another tributary, I heard a small splashing that was a bit more than you'd expect of water dribbling down a creek bed. Still having at least 15 minutes to spare and no one to annoy, I decided to walk a little way up it to see what might be there and found another little fall just around a corner.

A tributary waterfall just off the trail.
Just around a corner and well shaded, especially as it became late afternoon, a small waterfall (about 8 feet) from a tributary.

The trail was getting fairly crowded with people leaving by this time since we all had the same deadline and were almost to it. As I turned around, I found I had been followed by a person with a baby on his back wondering what I might be up to.

Then it's back past the cabins with their forests of century plants...

Century plants with towering slalks.
One plot had become a mass of century plants and they all had giant stalks jutting out high above my head to make a century forest.

and their well overgrown walls...

Hard to find wall in the growth.
A wall, becoming well hidden by the growth of small trees.

and their broken beds.

A cot folded by some force of nature and buried.
A cot, broken and folded in half before partial burial by humans or the forces of nature that brought it out of its place inside one of the long gone cabins. Such luxury, it's just like the ones at camp.

And then it's back out the narrow bit at the start of the trail, over the metal bridge (a proper one), and into the scar on the earth... I mean quarry. A waiting van took me and a couple other groups. Another set just missed the van, but they weren't waiting long as the second was almost there. Made it back in plenty of time.

©2009 Valerie Norton
Started 8 March 2009
Posted 25 May 2009

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