Thursday, August 12, 2010

At the Falls

At the Falls
Originally uploaded by The Marmot
Eaton Falls

“Hither come the San Gabriel lads and lassies, to gather ferns and dabble away the their hot holidays in the cool water, glad to escape their commonplace gardens and orange-groves.”

- The Mountains of California by John Muir

About the beginning of August 1877, the naturalist John Muir made a trip into the San Gabriel Mountains to the northeast of Los Angeles. The world has changed quite a bit since then as the range no longer overlooks the vineyards and groves he describes. Today, there are “seventy-two suburbs in search of a city” as some other author has famously written. However, somethings do remain the same as my daughter, granddaughter, and I discovered this past weekend.

Muir’s ramble, as described in The Mountains of California (in a chapter called The Bee-Pastures), took him through Pasadena and up the boulder strewn bed of Eaton Creek into Eaton Canyon. The three of us, starting off at the Nature Center, probably did not exactly follow in his footsteps as flood, fire, and human intervention over the intervening years have altered the landscape. Our path began as a fairly easy, sun-baked, 1.1 mile amble along a fire road through the Eaton Canyon Wash, which has some commendable live oaks, to the Mt. Wilson Toll Road bridge. After that it got a little more interesting.

Passing under the bridge the path narrows, enters the mouth of the V-shaped gorge that is the proper canyon, and follows the creek bed for the most part. The going is not too rough, although there is some boulder-hopping and/or wading involved in several stream crossings. The less agile, such as myself, may have to scramble in a couple of steep places. Afoot & Afield Los Angeles County by Jerry Schad calls this a "Moderate" hike,i.e., suitable for all physically fit people. Becca, collegiate athlete that she is, bounded right along and got only one foot wet the entire hike. I was in the water so often that I was very glad to have worn my “canyoneering” shoes and shorts. I have little doubt that I was the oldest hiker out there that afternoon and people of all ages, shapes, and sizes make the trip. And, about a half mile past the bridge, we all see what Muir saw.

The cascade of Eaton Falls still plunges through a notch in a ledge and falls some thirty-five or forty feet into a pool. The face of the cliff still has ferns and mosses. Even though there are no more orange groves to escape from, people still come to seek relief from the summer heat and enjoy the sound of the crashing water.

While it was more than a little crowded, we enjoyed sitting around watching people and dogs splash and frolic in the roundish pool which seems to be about three feet in depth at its deepest. I took a few photos and we returned the way we came arriving at the parking lot some two and a quarter hours from our original starting time.

I highly recommend this hike to anyone who wishes to see what might be the finest waterfall in the San Gabriels. Just Google map your way to the Eaton Canyon Nature Center at 1750 North Altadena Drive, Pasadena, CA and take the Eaton Canyon Falls Trail.