09 January 2010

Manzanita Mountain and Placerita Canyon

Placerita Canyon State Park

Locate the trailhead.

Placerita Canyon State Park is on the edge of the Angeles National Forest in Newhall. Getting there just involves getting off the 14 just after the 5/14 split on Placerita Canyon Road and turning off a few miles down at the park entrance. There is also parking near Walker Ranch for a much shorter walk up to the waterfalls. It's good it's so easy to find since I managed to take off without directions, camera, or house key.

I went to go hiking to the falls. This is a rather tame trail gradually gaining some minor elevation over 2.5 miles. It turns out the park actually has a few other trails wandering about the place. Before going up to the falls, I turned up a trail that claimed to be to a peak in less than a mile. Manzanita mountain isn't much of a peak and has a great big fire break going up the ridges next to it that many people have trekked up. It quickly leaves the "mountain" behind. I climbed up to a somewhat better peak and realized that the trail, such as it was, would just keep on going and eventually take me up to the road far above the park and likely further. Rather than do that, I headed back.

On the way back, I stopped down in the side of a steep, tiny canyon the trail was going up and sketched the oaks there. Steep and tiny seems to be the general theme of the side canyons in the park. These oaks don't look like they're doing very well. Years ago there was a fire and most of them were killed, at least at the top. The trees still stand along the valley with some growth around the bottom and generally light branches due to losing the bark above.

Oaks on the hillside trying to survive a long past fire that did them much harm.
Oaks growing in the dense brush along the steep side of a small canyon. Some fire long ago seems to have killed off the tops which have now lost most their bark, but below there is still bark and living leaves about the tree until the bark ends.

Once back to the canyon trail, I followed it up. It is wide and easy and had many many people coming down it. Some of them were quite heavy and in need of a bit of walking like that. The first trail also had quite a few people, but this trail had a fairly constant flow. It passes a tiny spring with gas bubbling out of it and a number next to it so likely you can find out what it is with an audio tour. The spring looks quite dirty. The trail keeps meandering about two miles until Walker Ranch. The falls trail then turns up into another tiny canyon. It is no longer so easy going. Around one corner there was a strong sulfur odor and white deposits on rocks and even leaves in the stream. The stream itself kept coming and going all along the way up. There would probably be a little water, but not much. It was better than the promise held by the stream at the Nature Center where it was quite dry.

Then there's suddenly a little waterfall. A trail going up the left showed a route up to the top of it and the rocks themselves look highly climbable on the right, maybe even easier than the trail. Once up there, there's another little waterfall which also has a trail to the top on the right. Above that is a giant log and the trail doesn't seem to get any smaller so maybe there's more. People didn't go much further when I was there, though. I decided to turn back and draw first the top waterfall.

Twenty foot water fall over a very straight stone with giant log behind.
The second waterfall along the trail. This one is very straight and conventional.

While I was there, a family came up the falls trails with the destination of the giant log above the second fall. Mom, dad, and three kids the youngest looked about 4 and had a bit of help from dad getting up, all walked up and down the log. The boy must have been told they were going to find a big stick because he kept pointing at things saying, "Is that a stick?" He and his sisters seemed to have quite a good time once they found the stick they were looking for.

Once my muscles were a bit cooled, I made my way back down to draw the first waterfall. Looking from the top, the straight up route still looks easier than the last bit of across of the otherwise easy trail but because it's not supposed to be I went by trail. Which was even scarier on the way down.

Very curvy waterfall.
The first waterfall along the trail is more of a cascade with this amount of water. It has a lot more spots to make the water splash and give the whole thing texture.

A fellow by with his three grandkids who had himself been coming up this for some 40 years, rather liked this one. Me too. The top waterfall is a sheet of water coming over a flat, straight rock and this one is a dribble of water cascading more than falling over two routes, the left one the main one, to find the pool at the bottom.

I then turned back to head toward the car. It started to get suspiciously dark with more than a mile to walk still, which was my first indication it was getting late since I had forgotten my watch too. Sunset was coming on and would be ever faster with all the sky increasingly overcast. It was cold up by the waterfalls and I put on my fleece before settling in to draw. I kept it on to move to the lower one and zipped it up before starting the second drawing. It didn't come off, or even fully unzipped, all the way down. Kindly, they hadn't closed the sunset to sunrise gate by the time I got there, still with quite a bit of light. There were actually still a lot of people using the park even if they were all wrapping it up. This is a very popular park.

©2010 Valerie Norton
Posted 10 January 2010

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