Winter is a cool, grey season in southern California. If you want cold and snow you have to head up to the mountains. In March, we are starting to green up a bit. The deciduous trees are starting to bud.

Piru Creek clothesIt’s a warm but cloudy Tuesday. Nobody in the parking area guarantees I won’t meet anyone on the trail. The clothes come off the instant I’m out of sight from the road. If there were cars parked or a tent in the campground I’d have to hike a good mile down and cross the river to be sure to avoid contact. Not that I mind the contact but I can’t be sure the next person down the trail would be as tolerant as my blogging community. 🙂

Black sage, left. White sage, right.

Piru Creek sage brush
California sage brush

Piru Creek yerba santa
Yerba Santa

Along the way, we have the traditional SoCal chaparral. Much of it has a lovely minty scent. There’s Yerba Santa, so named because breathing the steam from an infusion of it in boiling water is used for lung ailments.  California sagebrush (which is not a sage but a sunflower relative) got the nickname “cowboy cologne” because rubbing it all over oneself was a substitute for a bath.  Black sage and white sage, both used in native American ceremonies.

The willows are blooming with catkins. There are California tree frogs and signs of deer. Water striders skate about the calmer parts. Sugarbush is almost in bloom.

The first water crossing is a series of stones to hop across. I’ve got a walking staff from a yucca stave so balance won’t be a problem.

Piru Creek rock hopping

A year ago we had significant flooding. The trail through here is still gone. Where there was once sand with rocks is just rocky now. The brush is piled up here and there where trees created strainers. Some of the brush dams are taller than me. A new trail is barely starting to be established.

Poison oak is also just starting to bud out. The ants go marching. The bright red berries of the toyon are about the only bright color around.

I arrive at a place. It is a favorite skinny dipping hole of mine. The water is so clear this time of year you can see the bottom perfectly. It is deep and cold and inviting. But it leaves me shivering.

Piru Creek swimming hole

This is a place where young people go in the summer to have wild parties. The kind of parties you can’t have in a campground. There are multiple illegal fire rings. But it is neither summer nor a weekend. I might have had to make the next river crossing – or two – for privacy if it were.

Soon it starts to cool off. Evening comes early in the deep canyon. On my way back, I notice the water has risen. Apparently, the dam operators have decided to release more water The tops of my stepping stones are covered. Now I have to wade thru the torrent to go home. At least my clothes won’t get wet.