23 June 2008

Hidden Treasures of Carbon Canyon, Part One

OK, now all of you prospectors of hidden gold by old time California bandits, or cash from Depression era bootleggers, or whatever might have been buried by hippies from the 60s, you can log out now!
I'm talking about two of the more interesting features of our area: Carbon Creek, which just happens to be the only natural flowing body of water in the canyon, or in Brea or in Chino Hills, or most anywhere else in much of our region, for that matter. This makes it one of the more notable and less recognized features of this area.
The creek appears to get its start at the west end of the S-curve about 1 1/2 miles east of Sleepy Hollow, passes through Western Hills Golf Course, into Sleepy Hollow, and then switchbacks a few times across Carbon Canyon Road (State Highway 142) until it meets up with a small creek coming out of Soquel Canyon, just south of Carbon Canyon, close to the mobile home park in Olinda Village. From there it continues into Carbon Canyon Regional Park where a dam was built to prevent flooding downstream. Technically, I suppose the creek continues on, but in flood control form (read: concrete) once it leaves the canyon and the dam.

Now, I am sure that most of the water that is there in non-rainy season periods is runoff, a lof of that probably coming from the substantial watering of the greens at Western Hills (presumably there are a fair number of pesticides there, too), but it is still pretty cool that there is water just about year round down here in Sleepy Hollow. When it rains (not so good in 2007, the driest year EVER RECORDED, better this year at a little less than average), there can be a nice flow that just adds to the rural, country feel that is so attractive about the canyon.
In the winter of 2004-05, our first here, we had that near-record rainfall, amounting to somewhere around 25-30 inches, and there were times when the creek's flow was nothing short of amazing. It rose to the point that, in addition to some pretty significant landslides requiring CalTrans work to clean up, sections of the road gave way, including a small portion next to a house on the Brea side, and, more notably, enough of a section between Canyon Hills Road and Canon Lane, on the Chino Hills side, that the road was closed for a couple of weeks for repairs.
Two remarkable consequences came of that closure: 1) traffic had to be rerouted through the "exclusive" community of Oak Tree Estates, which caused no small amount of consternation from some of the good folks there who objected to "outsiders" entering their little slice of paradise and 2) we, who had just moved into the area less than a year previously, were astounded at just how quiet it could be with motorcycles with ample pipeage (not a word, I guess), cars with equally ample enhanced muffler and exhaust systems, and assorted vehicles testing the road's curves and speed limits unable to completely pass through. In fact, we'd just, a few months before, added a second set of windows to the original windows in the bedrooms, so this was really something else--for as long as it lasted.

Anyway (focus, focus), back to the creek. That winter was really something special, in terms of seeing and hearing so much water rushing through. I often wonder if the native American Indians, either Tongva/Gabrieliño or more inland tribes, made good use of the creek and its eastern variations, including one that follows the northern side of Carbon Canyon Road in a natural form until it passes under Chino Hills Parkway and becomes the ubiquitous concrete flood control channel, in addition to having a narrow trail that wound its way through the canyon. I have to think that whatever trail was there is pretty much the route used by in the Spanish and Mexican eras and into the American period and now used by the highway and that the creek is mainly the same channel as it was for who knows how many thousands (or millions, sorry creationists and Bishop Usher--check your King James Version Bible history for that diversion) of years. I wonder, too, if that water was potable (drinkable) and when that would have stopped, thanks to "progress."
There actually is, in Sleepy Hollow, an old concrete stairway with a iron pipe rail that takes you down to the creek. I've only been a couple of times, mainly to pick up trash along the road and down below it there, and stood by the creek, but it sure is a cool thing to stand there and watch and hear the creek flow. Many of the homes that flank the creek were built as weekend cabins from 1915 onward and some of them have decks, paths, or other structures overlooking or adjacent to the creek. I'm the other side of the highway, so have to content myself with looking out a window, usually the one right next to the computer I'm typing this on, to get a glimpse of and sometimes to hear the flow.

Carbon Creek is officially under the auspices of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers and their flood control section. I've often thought about the fact that it would be good to see if the Corps would either send personnel or let volunteers go down and clear brush, remove trash, and otherwise improve the creek so that its beauty and picturesque character could be made to stand out even more. Someday, I'll make that call and find out.
Until then, the creek remains a hidden treasure, or perhaps more accurately for most, an oversight. Which is too bad, because how often in this megalopolis called the Los Angeles Region (or my favorite, the SMSA--Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area, I think is how it goes) do you find natural (or semi) water courses, much less ones that have water most of the year (even if it is runoff and, therefore, probably pretty nasty!)
So, there it is and, next time you drive through, try and locate the creek at some point between the S-curve near the Carriage Hills subdivision and then westward down to Carbon Canyon Regional Park. Maybe imagine the Tongva, or one of the rancheros ó vaqueros, stopping for a drink, or an early Sleepy Hollow cabin owner out for a weekend far from the madding crown of Los Angeles enjoying the trickling brook as a Model T or Packard rumbled by every few hours, or a hippie finding a spiritual awakening (or not) by its banks back in the Summer of Love. At least give it a thought because I'm not sure too many people do. And that is a shame.

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