Monday, December 10, 2012

Hike 2012.077 -- Eaton Canyon Falls

Hiked Saturday, December 1, 2012. Wow, I just saw that this hike was taken 9 days after the previous one! Too many working weekends, I guess. This month, I've given myself Saturdays off. Fewer hours of working so less money, but hopefully time for at least one hike a week. Should make 80 hikes for the year, anyway.

Recent rains meant the water would be running slightly higher than earlier in the year. And, again, I had just a little bit of time, so a short hike made sense. It being a weekend, I parked on Altadena Drive, just in case the lot by the nature center was full. I walked the trail that passes behind the nature center. This probably adds 1/4 to 1/2 of a mile roundtrip to the trip to Eaton Canyon Falls. Figure about 4 miles roundtrip, or maybe 4.5 miles.

The walk-in from the "back door" gives a different perspec-tive: no parking lot and no row of cars at the start of the hike. Sure, you'll still have plenty of company once you rejoin the main trail. But it really does seem like a different hike when you don't have to walk through the large parking lot down there.

Just north of the developed nature center area, the trail drops down and crosses Eaton Canyon Wash. When the water is running high, even this crossing can be impassable. However, more likely that not, there will either be no water or very little water making it this far down the canyon. This day was no different: no water.

The trail then continues on the east bank of the wash, passing under a number of large oak trees, many of which were scarred by past fires. At least two signed side canyons will be passed on your right side before the trail reaches the bridge of the old Mt. Wilson Toll Road. To get to the waterfall, you pass under the bridge (about one mile from the parking lot) and continue an additional 1/2 mile up the now-narrow Eaton Canyon.

The trail stays on the canyon floor, crossing the water several times. Many unprepared hikers choose to climb out of the canyon each year, with frequent falls, injuries, deaths, and emergency evacuations resulting. I absolutely do not recommend trying to find an off-trail route to the top of the waterfall.

Instead, after several crossings (which require at least average balance and dexterity in times of low water, and above average grace and nerves when the water is roaring high), you arrive at a small alcove, into which Eaton Canyon Falls descends. The water can range from a trickle to a torrent, depending on season and recent falls of snow or rain.

This day, it was running above average for this time of year. It was a peaceful scene, and not all the crowded, despite it being a weekend morning. As with other recent hikes in the local foothills and canyons, there were some patches of yellow from sycamore leaves to give a hint of fall to the scene.

The canyon, meanwhile, was somewhat dark. The high cliffs of the canyon, in combination with the overcast skies, kept things at a sort of twilight brightness. Taking photos required either a high ISO or a slow shutter speed. Since I like the soft veil effect you get from longer exposures of falling water, I took many shots of the falls with my camera held snugly and carefully on top of my backpack, which was on top of a rock. With this makeshift tripod, I mostly shot in the 1/5 to 1/2 second range at ISO 200 and a moderate aperture, and was happy with the results.

Returned the way I came. It's an easy two hour hike, even with lots of time for pictures and relaxing.

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