Monday, June 29, 2009

Side canyon trails

A couple of weeks ago, I took a short hike with chaosmanor to find a geocache. That statement really shouldn't surprise anyone, because that's what geocaching started out to be, hiking to find something hidden in the woods. It's evolved over time and many caches today don't involve any kind of hiking whatsoever. The terms "Cache and Dash" and "Park and Grab" have bludgeoned their way into the geocaching lexicon.

This hike, I think, took us both back to the roots of geocaching. The cache spot was located along a trail off of Little Tujunga Canyon. As I look on the map, I can see it used to be an old Los Angeles City Road. That would explain the old foundation we found tucked back in there and the old rusted out car that was mostly buried near the foundation. Looking at the map explains the "How in the heck did that get back here" moment we both had. I'm planning on devoting a column to that in the near future.

But back to the hike. It was neither long or strenuous. For a middle aged man such as myself, sometimes that's a good thing. This one could have been strenuous and it wouldn't have been bad, because there was quite a bit of tree cover along the trail. Sometimes, tree cover becomes a rarity in Southern California. We are, after all, mostly a desert clime with occasional trees, but this particular trail followed a stream bed, that still had plenty of water flowing in it, so the environment was different that you'd expect to find in many areas of Southern California.

The typical landscape is called chaparral. Grassy hills, with an occasional black oak tree would be what you could expect. The grass would be dry and yellow with the exception of the months following the rainy season when it would be green and flowing. Also following the rainy season there is a profusion of wildflowers.

In this little side canyon along the stream, we found a lot of different fauna. One of the first things we tend to look for when we hike along streams is poison oak. The "leaves of three, let it be" plant can be found quite readily near stream beds. This particular hike proved to be no exception. In fact, the poison oak seemed to overwhelm everything else. I've been extremely lucky in that I've only gotten poison oak once. I've very careful around it. This particular hike tested my carefulness. The plant was everywhere, growing right up to the trail, on the trail, and in some cases, over the trail giving us a canopy to walk through.

Surprisingly, once we got to the cache site, the poison oak disappeared. Not entirely, but enough that we didn't have to expend all of our energy making sure we weren't probing into the wrong kind of plant while we were looking for the cache. Looking for the cache was tougher since we had a lot of tree cover. The oak tree canopy was thicker than what you'd find in open chaparral and that's due to the proximity of the water flowing in the stream. It made the hunt more challenging.

We eventually found the cache, signed the log and re-hid it. Then it was time to retrace our steps. Most times, I usually enjoy the return trip on a trail more. I'm familiar with the route, I know where the pitfalls are, so I can enjoy the scenery a little bit more. This trail proved to be no exception to that. We spotted some nice tiger lily flowers growing up on a
hillside on our way back.
We'd been so engrossed in watching for poison oak, that we'd missed them coming in. My picture isn't the best, because the tiger
lilies had decided to grow up within a large patch of poison oak.
I had no where to go to get any

The nice thing about this area, is there are side canyons like this all over the place. There is a park just a couple of miles behind my house that I have explored in depth. That park is pretty familiar to me and I've found all of the caches that are hidden there. Geocaching has gotten me to get out and check out other areas. This was the first time I'd ever explored the Little Tujunga Canyon. It probably won't be the last. Once again, geocaching got me out of my comfort zone and got me to explore a different part of my own back yard.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocache:
Who is Ed Lewis? - by SHot70

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