Years ago, my parents had the good fortune and foresight to buy a second home in the town of Mammoth Lakes in California’s rugged Eastern Sierra Nevada. To say that our frequent escapes to this outdoorsman’s paradise over the years have resulted in countless treasured family memories would be a massive understatement.
One of the things we enjoy the most while visiting this high altitude hamlet 300 miles North of Los Angeles is seeing the amazing variety of wildlife so close at hand. While there we are often blessed to see a wild and wooly assortment of bears, eagles, hawks, deer, fox, chipmunks, marmots — and of great joy to my son, the fishing fanatic — creels-full of Rainbow, Brown, Brookie and Alpers trout. It’s hard to adequately describe the thrill of watching a Mammoth “local” sporting a full rack of antlers as it meanders past the living room window of your log cabin. The experience is simply — to borrow from those wonderful credit card commercials — priceless.
What does this have to do with life in the considerably more tame and much lower elevation of Crescenta Valley? After all, we’re not exactly well-known for our abundant wildlife other than a rather large population of high school students — two of which I confess are mine. Nevertheless, I’ve been thinking about our local variety of critters for several mornings now, having repeatedly had the pleasure of seeing flocks of Canada geese fly past overhead.
So, how do I know these high-flying honkers are Canadian? Easy: by their lumberjack caps and six packs of Molson Golden under their wings.
I assume the big, boisterous birds are of the Canadian persuasion because, frankly, I don’t know any other types of geese. If I’m wrong, and ornithologists out there are throwing feathered fits reading this, please don’t write to me. I’d be depressed to learn that there is such a thing as a Pacoima Goose. Doesn’t quite have the romance, y’know?
When I hear the oddly comic honking approach in the early morning hours, I run outside, look up in the sky, and can’t help but marvel at the precise “V” formation the flock assumes as it heads across the foothills on their way from who-knows-where to their next unknown destination. I like to imagine what life might be like on the wing. Did they spend the night at Hansen Dam and are moving en masse to visit ducky relatives at Descanso Gardens, or perhaps the water hazards on the back nine at Brookside? I wonder what it would be like to migrate to more hospitable regions for the winter or summer seasons. And what’s with all that noise in flight? Does the lead goose have a bumper sticker under his tail feathers that says, “Honk if you like the view”?
Our fair valley already seems to be nearing the end of a too-short winter (don’t get me started), and these recent goosey guests aren’t flying south or north, but rather, are migrating east-to-west from the San Fernando Valley toward the San Gabriel Valley. Go figure.
Whatever their ultimate destination, I’m grateful their flight plan included our neighborhood. It’s another reminder to me that we are not all about houses and cars and new developments and local politics and higher water rates. No, living in these beautiful Foothills is also about living with nature.
True, at times it feels like we live much too close to the congestion and commerce of L.A. But every time I drive eastbound on the Foothill (210) Freeway, where the highway crests the hill at La Tuna Canyon, I’m pleasantly surprised as the view opens up to the green forested, sweeping slope of the Crescenta Valley laid out before me. It’s an amazing place to live. So close to a mega-metropolis, yet so far away. And as the traveling geese have reminded me these past few mornings, we too are blessed with an abundance of wildlife. Yes, including those multitudes of high school students.
JIM CHASE is a freelance writer and lifelong Crescenta-Cañada resident. He can be contacted at email@example.com.