Shortly after Angeles Crest Highway re-opened about 18 months after the Station Fire of 2009, I went on my first hike of the Silver Moccasin Trail through Shortcut Canyon. At the time, some regrowth was already visible largely due to the presence of water through the canyon. On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, I hiked this trail for the fifth time and found the changes so impressive that I continually felt hopeful that the burn areas would significantly recover much sooner than I had previously thought possible.
I was so surprised by the degree of change that I began looking through photos I’d taken on past hikes. For example, in some spots where there was no vegetation above ankle height, there are now trees at least eight feet tall. Fortunately, I’d unintentionally taken some photos from similar spots which allowed me to make comparisons tangible. There are three areas that I think are good enough to be worth sharing 1.
First, is a vista looking down Shortcut Canyon toward Mt. Wilson. In June of 2011, the mostly dry stream bed was visible with patches of regrowth intermixed throughout the wetter parts of the rocky bed.
In April of 2012, passing by the same area I was interested in the Oak trees beginning to show signs of regrowth taking place. While nice to see, this didn’t feel to me to be a major change yet.
Now, there are fairly tall trees displaying some nice fall color and blocking any view of the stream bed. I look forward to returning after this coming year’s El Nino season to see what it feels like to walk through here with water flowing through at a level comparable to or hopefully higher than I experienced in 2011.
The second set is from an area next to a rock wall along the stream. In 2011, there’s no evidence of trees next to the water with vegetation being ankle high at best.
Now, trees are typically over eight feet tall and block the view across the stream bed. In many places, with essentially a wall of trees dividing Shortcut Canyon, the canyon feels much narrower with newly constrained views.
It isn’t just the change from 2011 to now that I find so impressive. I hiked through here at the end of March in 2014. I almost wrote a similar post back then, but just didn’t have the time. The change is more dramatic now as illustrated by the photo above and below. While they are from somewhat different angles, there are a couple of trees (indicated by orange arrows on the photos) that provide a helpful yardstick to the growth between then and now. In 2011, one could easily look over the tops of the trees, now one cannot.
There are numerous other changes. Particularly noteworthy is the almost complete elimination of poodle dog bush. Pretty much everywhere one travels once making it down to the stream is dramatically denser with vegetation. I wouldn’t characterize it as overgrown (a group of four mountain bikers made it through when I was there), it could easily become overgrown soon without maintenance. The Station Fire’s impact is still keenly felt. There are currently a few fallen trees to negotiate around, over, or under to make it through. If you haven’t been in a while, it’s worth another trip to experience the changes. If you’ve never been, be sure to bring extra water for the trek back up to Angeles Crest Highway 2
- For more photos showing similar transformations, see my photo page for this segment of trail. I’ve now organized the photos into separate galleries by year. ↩
- For step by step instructions for this hike, see my Silver Moccasin Trail from Angeles Crest Highway to West Fork Trail Camp page. For a map of the hike, scroll down to hike #46 on my 2015 hikes page. ↩