22 June 2012

Chino Hills State Park, Lower Aliso Canyon Trail

Having lived for seven years within a quarter mile of the entrance of Chino Hills State Park and taking the opportunity (though not as often as preferred) to explore the many wonders of this 14,000-acre treasure, preserved through the diligence and hard work of environmental stewards like Hills for Everyone, it had been far too long since YHB had hiked there.

Lower Aliso Canyon looking south from the overlook near the horse staging area at Chino Hills State Park.

Today, though, on this first day of Summer, my wife and I took the opportunity to walk the 7-mile round trip on the Lower Aliso Canyon Trail, stretching from the horse staging area near park headquarters down to the southeastern edge of the park in Corona and then back.

It had been, in fact, the first trip there since the devastation wrought by the November 2008 Triangle Complex fires, the major of which started along the 91 Freeway not far from where the Corona entry point is and then consumed almost the entirety of the park.

Naturally, evidence of the fire is everywhere, mainly in the burned trunks of trees, particularly sycamores and oaks that are prominent throughout.  Yet, there are also the indicators of regrowth, especially with those oaks old enough to have developed trunks resistant to the worst effects of the burning.

Sunlight pouring through the widespreading branches of an old and enormous oak tree along the Lower Aliso Canyon Trail.

The weather has been excellent--cool and cloudy with the proverbial "June gloom" in the mornings, giving way to clear skies, sun, and breezes the rest of the day.  While the temperature reached the mid-80s, the winds were refreshing enough to make the walk a pleasant and invigorating one.

It was also nice to largely escape the noises of "civilization," excepting the occasional aircraft and, approaching that southeastern limit, the constant, but muted, hum of traffic from the 91, and partake of the chirping of birds, the swish of the wind blowing through the trees and grasses, and the occasional movement of ground squirrels and other small animals.  For the few hours out there, only three mountain bikers were seen and these at the very beginning and end of the trek.  Otherwise, the experience was that which embodies the very reason for the existence of this jewel within a heavily-urbanized setting.

And, of course, much of Chino Hills State Park sits just a short distance from Carbon Canyon, separated only by the equally peaceful Soquel Canyon.  Also on few occasions that wished for, YHB has made the steep ascents and descents needed to get from Sleepy Hollow to the State Park, but each time has been a reminder that living in Carbon Canyon has many great benefits, this access being near the top of the list.

A pool of water formed at a crossing of a creek in Lower Aliso Canyon.

Carbon Canyon has long been prized by many of those who live there as an oasis amidst a megalopolis.  Relatively large expanses of open space, green trees, hawks, the occasional deer and other aspects make it a place appreciated by those who reside there.

Yet, the recent news that a developer is preparing an application for another large housing project on the Chino Hills side of the Canyon, discussed in a recent post here, follows a litany of other projects, in process or on the horizon, involving housing, commercial development, and "improvements" like traffic signals.  All of these herald changes that, rather than enhance the unique aspects of the Canyon, actually serve to demean and denigrate them.  If most or all of what is proposed, approved, or in process come to be, this Canyon will not be recognizable for what has been generally viewed as its attractive attributes.

Instead, the Canyon will be (further) compromised.  

Another nice spot with water in a creek down in Lower Aliso Canyon.

As refreshing and reviving as the walk on the Lower Aliso Canyon Trail in Chino Hills State Park was today, it was also a reminder of the looming threats to Carbon Canyon.  This isn't NIMBYism, it is a reflection that the "back yard" just won't be a yard anymore, unless hardscape is that much more prized than the softscape that has defined the Canyon experience for most of its residents over the years.

At some point, enough is too much.  When the tipping point comes, it will be too late to look back and wonder how it got there. 

The husk of a burned-out sycamore tree from the November 2008 fires at Lower Aliso Canyon.

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