13 August 2011

Switzer Falls and Bear Canyon

Angeles National Forest

Map the trailhead.

I can't say that I miss Switzer in between going there. It is crowded and has a section of trail that is a ledge some 100 feet up a cliff and the stream crossings can get to be a bit much in the wetter times of the year and you can never have the waterfall to yourself. But it does have a bit of variation and is really quite pretty most of the way. I also keep seeing claims that it is even prettier further down the Bear Canyon trail, which goes down Arroyo Seco a little before heading up Bear Canyon to connect Switzer with Lowe. All the times I've been up Switzer, I have not headed up this way. The trail that comes up from the bottom near JPL that I have hiked is the one that joins the trail to Switzer up on the canyon wall. Abbie was saying it was about time to go to Switzer again, so I waited for her to be able to come to go.

We looked for a spot at the bottom, but had to settle for a spot halfway down. It turned out we were really just a few minutes off, because about 3 opened up at the bottom as we got out of the car. We hung up the Adventure Pass and said "howdy" to the ranger adding a ticket to the car beside our spot. We walked down the steep and twisty road. It seemed to have been redone and was fresh and black and absurdly hot to walk over. The shade of the picnic area was welcome. The amenities at the picnic area seem to be new too even though it did not burn. Strips of the hillsides above did, but not down in the canyon. It was nice to see all those big trees standing tall and green since it had certainly sounded like the place went up in a puff of smoke.

We headed down the canyon. The crossings were quite easy since the summer has been on for some time now. We quickly found ourselves down to Switzer's old camp. We turned off the trail to visit the big rose, which has no flowers on it at the moment, and Abbie had a nibble while I walked the trail ("Danger! Go back!") a little further on that side of the stream. It gets to an overlook of the falls and a lesser trail continues on to a built overlook from a previous era, but probably very little else. Some folks were rolling rocks down the very top falls to build up the pool below while a father and son were preparing to rapel down the much larger falls below.

plump raspberries in red and black
There's always raspberries, or blackberries but it's really a gradation, along the trail. They're getting ripe.

butterfly alight on a flower
The butterflies were out, of course. They like the poodle-dog bush, which is apparently a thing that stays dormant until some fire wakes it and then there's all kinds of it. Also, poisonous like poison oak.

another butterfly on safe, introduced plant
Another of the many butterflies. This one chose something quite safe (ignoring the cobwebs), but not at all native, to alight upon.

just the top of the falls can be seen easily from here
Perhaps the high lookout built many years ago affords a better view of these falls, which are taller than the ones below but tucked inside the steep canyon. It's clear from this why the trail climbs high on the cliff rather than continuing along the bed. Also hints why one would take the effort to climb down it instead of over.

little falls above the previous
The first waterfall, only 5 or 6 feet, is difficult to pass, but has a nice swimming hole below it. Of course, with a tall enough to be deadly fall just after that.

king snake in the shade
A king snake was near the path as I came back to the main trail.

We picked up and continued along the main trail. Abbie harassed some poor spiders clustered on a trunk along the way. The trail climbed briefly and suddenly we were high up and feeling a slight need to hold tight to the rocky side of the trail avoiding the airy side. With elevation comes more expansive views. The hills were green but burned and some spots along the trail may have seen some fire too. The trail split and a post was hammered into the center of the route south announcing the closure of that area reminding us that we are at the very line of what is still protected due to the fire 2 years ago. We dropped back into the canyon quickly and turned north at the second split to reach the waterfall.

a cluster of spiders looking like some odd fuzzy growth on a tree
Oh, look, what a funny, fuzzy growth on that tree. But here comes the disturber of spiders and ho!
no more funny, fuzzy growth
It has suddenly gone!

some spiders
A few of those spiders after they've started to dissipate around the tree trunk.

the brown hills
The hills that burned two years ago and the almost visible cut of canyon the trail skirts. It doesn't look too much different from just being late summer in SoCal.

platform with short walls for viewing from
Something built many many years ago, probably for better viewing of the falls below. It may have had stairs up to it once, but they've likely gone long before.

more of the far hills
The hills out in the closed area with the closed trail through it.

an old jalapy
The old car is still in the stream bed. The firing order can still be read on the little 6 cylinder engine.

lower end of the falls in the canyon too steep to traverse
We had a small crowd at the falls, some of them quite scantly clad. We both waded in for a bit ourselves.

the first 1/3 of a rat snake
On the way back to the main trail, we heard a cry of "snake!" so had to investigate. Indeed, there was.

Coming back to the main trail, we turned downstream to see a new section. The canyon opens up just a little bit and the first section is full of plants and flowers and butterflies. Then it closes in a little and there's deep swimming holes. Abbie was feeling a headache, so sat to rest saying I could go on as far as I liked. Soon there was a small tributary to the left and then a larger one as the trail climbed up on the left side wall a little. This trail continued up the tributary hinting that this was bear canyon. Use trails continued down Arroyo Seco. Eventually there was even a sign to assure me that I was on the correct trail.

ragged butterfly on its last wings
Another butterfly, this one ragged from age or close encounter with a predator.

swimming hole, one of many
One of the many swimming holes, with water slide for extra fun. (Such slides may tear shorts.)

Bear Canyon joining Arroyo Seco
Looking down on the confluence of the Bear Canyon waters with the Arroyo Seco waters. Missing the trail up means missing the turn into the new canyon.

a little waterfall along the way
Hiking up the canyon, crossing the creak a fair bit and looking at the water features.

a floppy sign designating the trail
Finally! Confirmation I'm on the right trail. Also, no mountain bikes allowed.

Heading further up the canyon, there was often a bit of trail going higher on the right side. Crossings got to be fewer as I got further into the canyon. For some reason the polliwogs were more mature, too, so there were lots of apparent fish with legs hanging out in the waters, especially near thick clumps of moss that would sometimes be long, straight, green threads floating just under the surface.

rocks and tree pressed up against other trees from flood waters
The aftermath of a moment of high water some time ago.

more of a frog with tail than a pollywog with legs now
This polliwog is almost a frog now. The moss mats looked like good eating for the right sort of bird.

a little flow of water over a cliff
A big waterfall along the way. Somehow not as impressive with only enough water to make a ribbon of wet rock.

One bit of trail along the right hand side seemed to have a lot of slides at the bottom and I wondered if I really wanted to go up it. I did, and it continued on getting higher and higher above the canyon floor. A few spots were washed a little, but there was trail throughout. Trees crossed the trail here and there for a little bit of climbing. The trail eventually met with the stream bottom again making travel again a little bit harder than on the dirt trail. After a few turns, I came to a spot with no apparent common route. I realized I was actually getting a bit tired and thought it might be getting late. It wasn't looking like the campground was a reasonable distance up the canyon for a short jaunt, so I finally turned around. I decided to do a quick sketch before following the trail back up the canyon side, then retraced my path.

many more rocks and things
Okay, time to turn around.

lump on a log
One rock erupted with hopping showing some of the frogs were quite mature indeed. This one was twice the size of the rest.

lumps on a rock
Most of the frogs huddled into little cracks in the rock becoming one with the hardness. They do not wish to become food.

long toed lizard
This lizard has some of the longest toes and jumped rather well.

another butterfly
There's still more butterflies.

a bumble bee
There were a few of these big, black bumblebees, too. Or probably not a bee, since it isn't very fuzzy.

a little pool in Bear Canyon
One last pool in Bear Canyon before reaching Arroyo Seco again.

I didn't see anyone else the entire time I was in Bear Canyon. Once back down to Arroyo Seco, there were people again. The same group was still playing in a now shady pool. Most had moved along. I found Abbie and we hiked back up. All sorts of people were coming from the falls. Quite a number of backpackers were on their way down to camp somewhere.

A now abandonded swimming hole
One more swimming hole in Arroyo Seco. It was occupied before, but now has been abandoned.

©2011 Valerie Norton
Posted 19 August 2011

No comments: