California Native Plant Society
San Gabriel Mountains Chapter

Angeles Crest after the Station Fire

The Station Fire began on August 26, 2009, and burned for several weeks, consuming a massive 160,000 acres of the Angeles National Forest. Following an intensive restoration effort, major roads across the forest were reopened on November 30, 2009. Some roads were again closed from December 6th because of an impending winter storm; but before that, on December 2nd, a few of us travelled across the San Gabriel Mountains to see what the forest looks like after the fire. This gallery page is the result.

Although the fire was extensive, there is an island of unburned country around Chilao Visitor Center. Another favorite location, Buckhorn, is untouched. All of the areas along the northern section of Angeles Crest Highway from Cloudburst Summit to Big Pines did not burn, and remain as they were.

Not only did we see the burn areas, but we were rewarded by the beauty of the first winter snow in the higher elevations. Those areas did not burn, and the drive served as a reminder of the significant role played by snowfall in this dry climate. Approximately 3 inches of snow fell on the Sunday prior to our Wednesday drive. This is just a fraction of the approximately 100 inches of snow that fall in a typical winter in the San Gabriels.

Our drive took us from La Cañada Flintridge north across the Angeles Crest Highway to Big Pines, then back south and westward across Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road, and all the way down Big Tujunga Canyon, returning to civilization at Sunland.

Below are two panels of photos:
A. After the fire
B. The beauty of fresh snow

Click on the thumbnails to see higher-resolution images, 720 x 480 pixels.

A. AFTER THE FIRE

Before ClearCreek Windy Gap Burned hillside Devil's Canyon

Areas adjacent to the Angeles Crest Highway south of Clear Creek look generally like this, completely burned

At Windy Gap

Along the highway

The steepness of Devils Canyon made fire fighting difficult

Trees near Three Points

Burn areas near the highway, Twin Peaks (unburned) in the background

Reconstruction of the Caltrans depot at Chilao

Just south of Chilao

Looking through burned trees towards Mt. Baldy in the distance

Burned slope on west side of Angeles Crest Highway

Driving west on Upper Big Tujunga Road

Near where Upper Big Tujunga Rd meets Angeles Forest Hwy. Both views include the unburned summit of Mt. Gleason

One of the few power lines not yet restored

   

Much of western Angeles National Forest previously looked like this. Photos show spring bloom at Lightning Point in May 2009

 

 

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B. THE BEAUTY OF FRESH SNOW

All of the following photos, except the last one, were taken north of Dawson Saddle on the Angeles Crest Highway. South of that point, few places with good snow were convenient for stopping to take a photo because the road had not been cleared there, presumably because the concentration in that section of the highway was on restoration after the fire, not on promoting recreational driving.

Snow along the Angeles Crest Highway

Animal footprint in the snow

Rabbit brush maintains its stance against the wintry elements

The new bridge opened in May 2009 (built after storms of 2004-2005)

Snow chute along higher elevations of Angeles Crest Highway

The meadow at Big Pines, adjacent to Mountain High Resort

Valley of East Fork of San Gabriel River

Snow brings out grand patterns in the rocks along the road cuttings normally unnoticed

Snow along the highway

Bear Canyon from near Williamson tunnels

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ACKNOWLEDGMENT

Images copyright © 2009 Graham Bothwell.