We recently drove up to Mount Waterman in the Angeles National Forest. It was great to see some snow, especially so near by, but it was shocking to see the destruction of the Station Fire first hand. The vastness of the burn area defies description. Mile after mile, ridge after ridge, the hills are bare, the erosion is evident, and, in some places, green (probably non-native) grass is growing under the blackened skeletons of trees, which is quite eerie. And this is only one corner of what was destroyed last year.
Angeles Crest Highway is closed, so we took Big Tujunga Canyon up. We passed the foundations and chimneys of destroyed houses, and there were a lot of fire-damaged road signs. There were a number of backhoes and bulldozers along the way, probably trying to buttress the road up and clear debris. Technically, the forest is closed, so you can drive through it and see it, but you can’t get out and hike. And who would WANT want to?
Unlike most before-and-afters here, I used Google Streetview after the fact to match up to some of the shots I took. Most of them were taken at Angeles Forest Highway and Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road where we had to stop and wait for the road to reopen after a motorcycle accident.
It’s only about a 1-hour drive to Waterman Mountain. The day we went, it was cold, foggy, windy, and rainy after 5000 feet, though it was oddly sunny on the other side of Cloudburst Summit. There was a point where one side of the road looked warm and sunny with no snow, and the other side of the road was cloudy and covered with snow, almost like a split-screen.
Here’s some video of our journey up the mountain:
On the way back down, we stopped at Newcomb’s Ranch for some coffee and chili. It’s finally only recently reopened, though the weather that day was keeping a lot of people off the roads up there.
The number of full-sized trees gone is staggering, and I hope there are no other fires that cause that sort of damage. The forest is a lot smaller now than it was a year ago. But it will come back some day, though not in our lifetime, and LA will have some of its backyard back again.
(Thanks to Mike Schnieder at Franklin Avenue for the idea).