Monday, August 24, 2009

A Wonderful August in the Arroyo Seco Watershed

It's been nothing but happy news this month in Southern California's Arroyo Seco Watershed for those of us who care about the ecosystem of this important Los Angeles area bioregion.

First, the Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy (formerly Altadena Foothills Conservancy) is finalizing the acquisition of 20 pristine and historically significant acres in Rubio Canyon. A portion of the historic Pacific Electric Railway bed, part of the Mt. Lowe Railway, lies on the property. This key parcel will secure trail access and ensure that the creek and surrounding chaparral and oak woodland right up to the Angeles National Forest boundary is preserved for all time. (Unabashed financial plug ~ they urgently still need donations for their land acquisition & stewardship fund:

Secondly, a follow-up study of the Central Arroyo Steam Restoration Project (CASRP)( confirms that the native Arroyo Chub, reintroduced last summer into the stream adjacent to Brookside Park, are still alive and reproducing! This success is due, in part, both to the City of Pasadena's installation of stormwater drain capture basins and the good work of the City's Environmental Service Manager, Gabriel Silva and his team, who collect tons of trash to recycle after UCLA Football Games and other special events at the Rose Bowl:

Thirdly, the historic Mt. Wilson Toll Road is re-opening! This 100 year old 'trail' is 3.75 miles long on a steep incline that rewards walkers and hikers with a spectacular view of the San Gabriel Valley. Originally built as a road to haul the 100 inch Mt. Wilson telescope to the Observatory, the Toll Road's restoration required $1.48 million and 5 years to complete:

Finally, how about the great weather we've had this month? It's the most pleasant August I recall enjoying during my almost 30 years in Southern California, making it a wonderful month for outdoor fun.

Now, with Labor Day Weekend fast approaching, there is no better time to get out in nature with your family and celebrate both the great restoration efforts in the Arroyo Seco Watershed and Smokey Bear's 65th Birthday!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Gold Line Adventures Along The Arroyo Seco

One of my favorite ways of seeing the Arroyo Seco is through the window of the Gold Line light rail, which connects Pasadena with Downtown Los Angeles and runs parallel to the Arroyo for most of its distance.

Even though it's a short 20 minute ride from the Del Mar Station to Union Station, I find myself always seeing something new as I gaze out the window. One day, it's the purple lupin wildflowers at Los Angeles Historic Park. Another day, it's a falcon, dive bombing at its prey. Sometimes I even daydream that the beautiful hillsides with their 'stacked' homes are part of Tuscany, not Northeast Los Angeles.

The people watching on the train is fun, too. In the early mornings, commuters can be found reading the paper, covertly sipping coffee (open containers are not permitted on the train), napping, listening to an iPod or talking on their cellphone.

The Gold Line attracts a lot of 'tourists,' too. On my excursions, I've met British Airway employees on a quick getaway to Pasadena before their next international flight schedule ~ German students making films about Los Angeles architecture ~ Big Ten fans seeing the 'big city' after absorbing their alma mater's loss in the Rose Bowl Game.

Some of my favorite fellow travellers are the bicyclists. It's always fascinating engaging these urban street bipeds. Sometimes, they are just using their bicycle as a commuting connection between the train and work, but more often, they are off to an adventure: beach bicycling in Long Beach; street exploring in search of the new taco truck find; hooking up with friends in Hollywood. More often than not, they are students on their way to a charter or local university campus.
It's always interesting to note the people 'energy' on the train too ~ commuters going to and fro work catching 20 minutes of peace in contrast to bicyclists and tourists animated about their rail adventure.

And then, there is the special moment that strikes you unaware.

Such a moment happened last Friday when I was returning home from downtown. It was late afternoon and the train was filling up fast. An older couple boarded the train with seats still available, but not side-by-side. The gentleman took the aisle seat in front of me and the woman sat down next to me. All was quiet for a few minutes as we left the station until the gentleman turned to the young woman next to him and excitedly proclaimed in an accent that sounded Eastern European: 'My wife just became an American citizen!'

The woman in front of me turned around and the very happy, yet shy new American showed us her 'certificate.' It was a joyous but quiet moment ~ the train car did not break out in applause, because only the woman in front of me and myself could hear the old man's comments above the afternoon rider din.

We congratulated her, smiled and then each returned to watching the scenery fly by as the train headed northeast to our destination.

It was all I could do to hold back tears of happiness for her.