28 May 2011

Fish Creek Canyon

Azusa Front Country

Locate the trailhead.

I haven't gone up Fish Creek yet this year and the water around various places is clearly on the high side. The access days seem to be getting on the sparse side. I got up there right around 9 AM. It was particularly busy this time. People could have parked more tightly, but it was getting to be a bit ridiculous to find a space when I got there. A crowd was waiting for the shuttle vans. Once up there, it seemed the brush had encroached a bit more than usual and it was quite a crowd going both up and down to make the trail seem even smaller. I started poking around the old cabin spots, finding more behind the first set. The cabins were really packed in at one time. Although now all that is left is stone and metal and not much of that even.

a bed frame and fallen stove in the brush
A bed frame sitting in the dead grass and a stove tucked away on its side in the brush.

From the first cabin site, an even smaller use trail went up to a second. Here there was one wall and a metal plate. I noticed a stream running. This was odd since the only water across the trail is quite a bit further up. Up it there was a tank, but it quickly narrowed.

a burried and large and well rusted tank
The tank, rusted and buried in the small stream coming down by the cabins.

brush choked trickle of water
A small, sharp cut for a tiny little stream.

the wall and a bit of metal of the second cabin
Just a flat area, a low rock wall, and a few scraps of iron to mark where a cabin once stood. This is the second one back going to the stream.

I walked back to the trail and found the stream was quite dry although it did look like stream bed. Just a few tens of feet before that it must vanish underground. Two more cabin sites are easily found on the other side of the stream. I poked around them too, and found again that they were next to water. I decided not to investigate the vanishing act too closely as that area was quite well covered in poison oak.

stone wall holding up the hillside
The second cabin back on the north side of the stream, marked by a stone wall in the hillside and a flat area in front of it.

Soon the trail comes to the site of a cabin or two that were very close to the water of Fish Creek. These are only marked with the old stone walls. They zigged a little instead of just being flat against the creek and the corners closest to the creek had gone. I sat here for a sketch.

a pool along Fish Creek and a wall that no longer serves a purpose
A little cascade into a popular pool along the trail along Fish Creek. Some of the wall is visible to the left.

From there, the trail climbs up the canyon a little. Matilija poppies cover the hillside blooming at the moment, as are the cactuses.

cactus and poppies on the hillside
Matilija poppies standing tall all down the hillside below the trail. The cactuses are just started to bloom, too.

matilija poppies up close
Some of the flowers of the Matilija poppies.

just now blooming cactus
Most the cactus blooms are still quite tight, but this one is almost opened up.

hanging white flowers and a pod
These are cool flowers, hanging like lanterns and with pods like peas, if pea pods had three sides instead of two.

The trail eventually comes down close to the stream again, only to rise a little. A stream crosses the trail and I just have to go up it a little ways to see its darling little waterfall. There's getting to be a good trail up this now. I sketched a bit here too. Only one group came up while I was there, plenty of people just walk right by.

little and cute waterfall
The little waterfall, just about 50 feet up a side trail and around a bend.

cascade above the falls
There's a little more water features above the waterfall, too.

California newt, most likely
I noticed a red thing along the edge of the pool, probably a California newt. He crawled around a bit, eventually falling into the water and climbing out again and generally being slow moving.

underwater California newt
The newt, or perhaps salamander, stayed under the water for a long time. It's hard to notice there if you don't already know it is there.

Then comes the one stream crossing. My Azusa quadrangle map shows trails leaving the main trail on either side of the crossing. The one before the crossing seems to go up to the top of the falls and was added after the latest one that may be downloaded, which notes it is a forest service update. I was interested in this for today's trip, but I couldn't see any sign of a trail anywhere along there on the way up. On the other side of the crossing, another trail does a couple switchbacks up the slope to stay high from the stream until a flat area quite a ways up the from the falls which is its destination. I looked for this trail for possible future use, but wasn't sure which bit of slope it might go up. A ridge of rock divided a thickly overgrown area from a slope that would be easy to navigate except that the ridge would eventually be an obstacle, but may be passable at the far north edge. A use trail seemed to go along the ridge as it climbed, but would not be the trail I was looking for as use trails rarely remember to do switch backs.

a little bit of water in the waterfall on the side of the canyon
On the other side of the canyon from where there should be a trail, the trickle of waterfall on the edge of the canyon is almost completely obscured by the growth of trees.

It's just a short way further to get to the waterfall. The crowd was amazing. It was like a zoo up there. A massive group of kids of the 20ish sort had come up to jump off the side of the lower falls. The area in front of the main falls was stacked almost to capacity. There was a little space in the campsite area on the other side where the falls are somewhat obscured. Someone had left a rope going up to above the second tier and a few of the kids, apparently a climbing group usually, were playing on it. Just hanging and climbing to points less than 10 feet up, no life threatening actions on the visibly frayed rope. One guy had brought snorkeling gear, which was lucky because another left his glasses in his pocket while he played under the falls and didn't have them when he finished until located by the snorkeler.

the press of humanity
A taste of the number of people crowding into the main falls area.

water falling down
The waterfall from up on the trail with all three tiers.

young ones lined up to jump
So there's the recipe for jumping here. Off the big rock to the left and into the pool it overhangs. Then out a bit more to the left and there's a place to climb back up and huddle shivering while waiting for the next go.

another view of the falls
From down in front of the falls, looking up at the tiers of cascade.

people people everywhere!
Did I mention it was a zoo? This is some of the people in front of the falls, behind them the line on the rock.

It was getting to be time to leave to catch the shuttles, so the people were clearing off well by the time I left. I looked more closely for the trail up to the top of the falls on the way back and was only able to find where I might put such a thing if I was building it. On the way back, I poked around the cabin sites the trail actually passes through that I hadn't really paid attention to yet on this trip.

lower falls clear of people
The lower falls without any one jumping.

light purple flowers like small poppies
Some flowers along the trail.

large daisy or tiny sunflower
There's a few daisies like tiny sunflowers along the way, too.

someone's porch
Here the porch and stairs are about all that is left of the cabin.

little purple things like balls in a bunch
Another flower along the side of the trail.

And as the scar on the earth comes into view, the trail comes to an end and a shuttle is not waiting, but will be here soonish. The bypass trail looks smaller than before. The company was able to swap a lease on land to the east for land to the west, so maybe the trail no longer bypasses the quarry. Or it's just not popular, which it isn't.

that scar on the earth I was talking about
This just isn't pretty.

©2011 Valerie Norton
Posted 4 June 2011

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