22 July 2014

A Ramble in the Hills Above Carbon Canyon

Taken from the hills behind the southern section of Sleepy Hollow, this view looks northeast toward the former Camp Kinder Ring/Ski Villa/Purple Haze property, now a cattle and horse ranch, and the Oak Tree Estates/Downs community and beyond.  The photo was taken on Sunday morning, as were the others shown here.  Click on this or any photo to see them in an enlarged view in a separate window.
Opportunities to get out and about in the hills around Sleepy Hollow have been too far and between in recent years.  So, the chance to take a decent walk in the area south of the community last weekend with a neighbor was more than welcome.

Fortunately, we had a period of cooler, if slightly more humid than usual, weather, so the mid-morning hike was pretty comfortable, even accounting for the steep climb up the dirt road from the top of the neighborhood to the ridge separating Carbon Canyon from Soquel Canyon.  Grazing cattle were everywhere on the ridgetop areas and vehicles were parked to the west--these being used by the lessees of the land for supervising the movement of the animals.

This photo looks northwest towards Sleepy Hollow and the Brea portion of Carbon Canyon.  On the ridgelines of the hills in the distance is where the Madrona project, consisting of 152 houses, which was approved in early June by the Brea City Council would go, if built.
From there, the jaunt headed east through some of the table lands earmarked for the 102-unit Hidden Oaks development that will soon be processed by the City of Chino Hills and, because it has a long-standing recorded tract map and is, therefore, entitled, then approved. 

The name Hidden Oaks is more than ironic, because a predecessor project years ago involved the removal of some two thousand (yep, 2000) oak trees before the developer went belly-up (leading to a too-obvious question, as my neighbor asked, concerning why a developer can remove anything from a building site before a building permit is issued.)  Some of the photos here show the cleared landscape where those trees, now protected, once stood.

If the project is constructed, hopefully there will be trail access from Sleepy Hollow to Chino Hills State Park, which is beyond Soquel Canyon to the south, as well as protection for important drainages such as Rock Creek and Rock Canyon at the east end of the Hidden Oaks project site, these having three spectacular sandstone waterfalls that are targeted for project runoff access.

This is the drainage cut almost completely clear by FEMA grant-funded work crews who were supposed to limit their work to 100' wide firebreaks, one of which is visible just in front of the houses at the center of the photo.  If any heavy rainfall were to come this winter, it could pose problems for the folks in the houses below.
Another strange and more recent issue has to do with the FEMA grant-funded work to create a 100' wide fire break on the Chino Hills side of the canyon--an important project to provide some extra protection for local communities against wildfires. 

Yet, it was pointed out by my neighbor that there were areas that were cleared by work crews that were beyond the designated break locations.  One of these was, as shown in another photo here, in a drainage in which almost all plant material was leveled.

This is one section of the area earmarked for the 102-unit Hidden Oaks housing project, which has an entitled tract map from years ago and is likely to get quick approval from the City of Chino Hills.  If the project is built, this area will be filled with houses, streets and so forth.  In the distance beyond Soquel Canyon is the North Ridge Trail in Chino Hills State Park.
So, provided there is any decent rainfall this winter (and the latest NOAA estimates suggest another below-average year, which, if true, has all kinds of consequences for water availability and restrictions in 2015), runoff could race down the desiccated drainage and straight into Sleepy Hollow's southern sections and cause some significant problems.  Again, this assumes meaningful precipitation occurs in coming months.

Another question:  why was this landscape removal, clearly beyond the scope of the project, done and who was tasked with inspecting the work?

Another view of open table lands, stripped of their oak trees years ago, that will be covered with streets, houses and other elements of the Hidden Oaks development, if approved and built.
On the positive side, as noted above, it was a nice morning and gradually clearing by the end of the ramble, so the views were great and another reminder of why the canyon, threatened as it is by over-development, drought, fire and so on, is such a special place.

Before the canyon changes too much and homes take over the ridgetop areas that provide oak and walnut woodland habitat, such spectacular vistas and a sense of openness, more hikes like this will, hopefully, happen, so that a fuller appreciation of the beauty of the canyon can be had before the transformations, whenever they happen, do occur.

This was a surprise located toward the end of the walk, an approximately 25' high dry waterfall following a gully that runs northward from the hills above Sleepy Hollow and empties through the eastern edge of the community, under Carbon Canyon Road, and into Carbon [Canyon] Creek.  This must have been spectacular in the recent wet winters of 2004-05 and 2007-08.


Anonymous said...

As always, thank you for the enjoyable time reading about and seeing pics of parts of the Canyon I have yet to see!

prs said...

Thanks anonymous, happy to share what I can and I'm looking forward to seeing more of the canyon which I haven't seen yet, too.

brockevan said...

Too bad about the impending development though.

prs said...

Hi Brockevan, unfortunately, an entitled tract map from fifteen years ago is basically a green light for this project, even with all of the changing conditions that have taken place over that span. And, there are the other 100 houses approved on the Chino Hills side and, unless a lawsuit proves successful, 152 on the Brea side.

prs said...

Hi Brockevan, I was told tonight that my description of the "green light" for Hidden Oaks is wrong and that, in fact, the project will require a new environmental impact report before a new tentative tract map is issued, the old one having expired. So, we'll see what happens when the Chino Hills planning staff has reviewed the application.