Here is what I did instead.
I’ve been fairly sedentary for the last three months. We’ve finally had a rainy winter. I’ve been working part-time and somehow the cold and rain always managed to come when I’m off work. The foul weather has also managed to keep my knees sore and swollen. I understand that’s a result of the low air pressure usually associated with storm systems.
Then in January, I got really ill with some kind of respiratory virus. I was out of commission for three weeks, all drugged out with codeine. The remnants of that cough are still with me.
Rice Canyon, one of several nearby city and county trails.
I’d been doing really short walks on the trails around the city. Santa Clarita is a wonderful place to walk in. If you just want to do a mile or two on easy terrain, between the city and the county there are a dozen designated open spaces around town to do it in. Winter is an especially good time for it as everything greens up and water flows in the creeks. Some of the open spaces are big enough an inexperienced person could get lost if they strayed off trail.
Monday was a great day. Warm and sunny in the morning. Joints didn’t ache too much. About ten miles from here is an area with many hiking opportunities. Templin Highway is not really a “highway”, just a very short stub in one direction and a couple of miles of stub in the other. (Long ago someone wanted a highway thru the area but it got scotched by Jerry Brown.) Instead, today it gets you to a lot of wild country with barely used trails. (Yes, in my case “barely” is a double entendre.)
A couple miles east of the freeway, Templin dead ends at a k-rail and a locked gate. To the right is the driveway to the Castaic lake power station. Electricity is used to drive the pumps that lift the water over the mountains. Much of that power is recovered by generators at the bottom. Compared to the water from the aqueduct, the total annual contribution from Castaic Creek is minuscule. During the very brief floods, however, the creek adds far more water.
Today I have the trailhead to myself. From here it is a quarter mile to a bridge which is the end of the pavement and a trail going left into Red Rock Canyon. The road is not in very good shape. The only people who use it are forest service personnel, water agency people maintaining the water level gauge, hikers and the occasional illegal dirt bike.
If I were going to hike to Fish Canyon Narrows, I’d continue straight after crossing the bridge but today I’m hanging a left and going up Castaic Creek thru Red Rock Canyon. (I swear that has to be the most common name for a canyon. There’s a dozen of them just in the SW.)
I’ve hiked this way before but not this time of year. (My WordPress avatar is from a hike out here.) This trail rarely sees use. I do my ecdysiast routine and walk a couple miles upstream.
A long time ago there was a road that went this way, past the flood gauge, past another old check dam and several miles thru Red Rock Canyon to an old mine. You can even see where old phone lines were buried and erosion is starting to show the cable. The mine is abandoned. The check dams are no longer maintained and flood control is now performed by Castaic Lake downstream. The road is now a foot trail that is heavily overgrown and often washed out.
The rains have taken their toll on the trail. In a few places, it is almost washed out. A rock slide blocks it completely and I have to go around. In two places, casualties of the drought and the bark beetle have fallen across the trail from the high winds we experienced.
I am hiking with the creek to my left. I see a 40 ft. vertical embankment of dirt where the creek goes around a bend. Slowly the creek will erode until a sudden collapse will fill the channel. This will create a very temporary pond that the creek will fill. Once it over-tops the dam, the soft material will wash away quickly leaving an even higher embankment to collapse the next time.
Suddenly the trail, which had been but a quiet suggestion, opens up to an abandoned concrete creek crossing.
You can see three yellow posts on the far side of the stream Those are water depth indicators. In times past the water has gotten deep enough that the front two posts are submerged and you must use the rear post. In the old days before remotely monitored flood gauges, someone would have driven out here during a rainstorm and noted the height of the water A long since clogged up culvert once allowed the creek to flow under the road. Now it flows over.
The picture is deceiving. Those posts are 7 ft. tall. The water is deeper than my boots and
the rocks are very slick. I don’t feel like hiking in soggy boots and socks and don’t want to risk slipping and falling. My body doesn’t heal like it used to. Just in case you were wondering, I had my SPoT satellite communicator just in case something did happen.
For a reality check, compare it to a picture I took 3 years ago.
That is an oak tree, probably a hundred years old. It is completely gone. A flood came through here and flushed all the low lying foliage away. Flash floods are something I take very seriously out here.
Rather than try to cross, I hang a right and follow alongside the creek. No trail here but much of the flora has been scoured away by previous floods for a walkable surface. One reason I came out here was to hear what the wildflowers had to say for themselves. It is much too early for a major bloom at this elevation but if you keep your eyes open you’ll see them.
The pussy willows are blooming, The ceonathus are in bloom. Sometimes an entire hillside can be white with them. Sage is about in flower and we have Indian paintbrush for brilliant scarlet accents. Yerba Santa is not yet in bloom but walking through it puts one in a mint-scented cloud and the scent lingers on your body. Native Americans would burn them in a small shelter for a “smoke bath” that left them smelling minty clean.
Then a cold wind picked up. The sky to the north grew cloudy and dark. Even though there was still plenty of light to the south, it was time to get dressed and return home. I’ll have to head out here again in May to see how the flowers have developed and if the mountains got any greener.