If hiking is your game, Santa Clarita is a great town to do it in. The land was buffered from the growth in the San Fernando Valley by the Santa Susanna Mountain Range. There is one only quick route up here from LA and that is through the Newhall Pass. A second route several miles to the west was scotched by Gov. Brown, back in 1980.
Residents of Valencia, Canyon Country, Saugus and Newhall realized that it was only time before urban sprawl came over the mountains and into the Santa Clara Valley, just as it had spread from the LA Basin over the mountains to the San Fernando Valley. Those original activists incorporated the entire valley into the City of Santa Clarita before LA
had a chance to annex it. By doing so we get to keep our city tax dollars local and institute land-use policies that preserve a small amount of small townishness, lower population density and a lot of wild areas.
At one time the Santa Susannas were all privately owned. Most of it was active ranch land with several radio relay sites, a Nike missile radar site, and some oil wells. Over time, the county of LA acquired most of it and declared it open and natural space. Dirt tracks crisscrossed the mountains and were available to anyone who wanted a spectacular view of the SFV but as the properties were turned over to the County Parks and Rec division they were gated and either taken completely offline or reserved for hikers, bikers, and official and emergency vehicles.
This area is part of the Michael D Antonovich Open Area, a part of the county park system and preserved from the clutches of developers. I wrote about another hike I took nearby in East Canyon, part of an extensive green belt all around Santa Clarita.
These oaks look dead but many are sprouting new growth, little bits of green emerging from charcoal branches and trunks.
There are a few oaks that look like they were covered with charcoal and even the larger twigs were burned off but small green sprouts are showing up on the trunk and larger branches. Oaks have very thick bark which protects the core of the tree from all but the hottest of fires. Even if the trunk itself is killed off, new sprouts can come up from the root crown just underground. Coast Live Oaks can handle a lot of fire.
California in the rainy season sometimes reminds me of Ireland because of all the green.
Weldon Trail is the old Weldon Motorway. Nowadays motorized access is limited to “official” vehicles only. Mostly it is just hikers and mountain bikes. It was a good day for seeing deer and ravens. There was lots of deer sign and I saw a very fat squirrel with a big tail that I didn’t manage to photograph.
This hike was about 5 miles out and back with about an 800 ft elevation gain. Most of that gain is near the trailhead.
That’s a Toyon in the lower left. Upper left, I’m not sure what it is but it is insanely green. The pattern of the lower leaves being cooked but the higher leaves surviving continues.
We had a nasty fire through here last summer but most of the oaks are recovering nicely. Some of the ground is carpeted with acorns. The grass is intensely green along with other new vegetation I can’t identify. It is all new growth as the existing growth was burned off. There is not as much competition and ash of the previous growth serves as fertilizer.
A mountain biker had just zoomed past me, taking the curve as fast as he could without losing control. Seconds later one deer crossed the road and then a second. I guess they’d decided it was safe to cross the road after he was gone. I’d been seeing deer tracks and scat the entire length of my hike but it was still a surprise to have them walk out right in front of me, maybe 20 yards away. A pair of does matched the hoof prints I’d been seeing.
I just froze in the middle of the road. Very slowly got the camera up for a few photos and then put it away and just watched. The dark one was the bolder of the two. While the other kept watch almost continually, the dark one browsed and grazed and finally its
curiosity got the better of it. I believe it might be an older fawn.
It approached a few yards closer than the other, sniffed the air and kept looking at me with its head at different angles. I didn’t move, so it went back to feeding. Most of the time the lighter deer was gazing across the road.
This is along the Santa Susanna mountain ridge that separates Santa Clarita from LA. The Oak Tree Gun Range is in the direction the deer were gazing. The Sunshine Landfill is in the opposite direction. Along the way, you get glimpses of it to the southeast.
Those oaks aren’t natural. I first noticed that every oak was the same species of oak, the Califonia live oak. There would be an assortment of different oaks and non-oak trees in a natural setting even if live oak was the dominant species. Another clue was that the oaks nearest the road seemed all the same age and all had the same setback from the road. And while the spacing wasn’t exact it was still more regular than I would expect.
When I went to investigate more closely, I saw the remains of little wire cages of the type you put around seedlings for protection and the burnt remains of a very old irrigation system. I suspect they were planted there by the landfill as a beautification project. Just beyond them to the south, the hillside was barren.
The ravens were out in force. I could see pair-bonded raven couples everywhere. I could see pairs of pairs dancing and twirling in flight as if two friendly couples were on a double date. They weren’t coming from the landfill, they were coming from the deep and green valley to the west. First, one couple climbed up, then another, then more until dozens of ravens were diving and circling and performing an aerobatics display overhead.
I think they were just having a party. Ah, to be young again!