Commentary: Mother Nature brings a white-ish Christmas

San Gabriel Mountains above La Cañada
Even in temperate Southern California, conditions in the San Gabriel Mountains above La Cañada can change rapidly. Snow-covered one day and less so the next. “It’s what those of us who love them keep comping back for,” writes Reg Green.
(Reg Green)

La Cañada Flintridge gets about 22 inches of rain, on average, per year. The U.S. average is 38 inches of rain per year. Our city averages 0 inches of snow per year. The U.S. average is 28 inches of snow per year.

So says the meteorologist in official officialese and wouldn’t he have been surprised by the ring of mountains around La Cañada — sorry, La Cañada Flintridge — looking more like the Rocky Mountains on Boxing Day than the sun-baked San Gabriels.

His findings were not falsified, of course — Foothill Boulevard did not have a snowfall — but there were patches of snow on the front ridge and enough on Angeles Crest Highway to have blocked the road.

Luckily, I managed to start hiking early enough to get to the trailhead before the police arrived to block off the road to Palmdale and had that heady feeling of having an entire mountain to myself. Almost. The owl that lives in the clump of trees next to the fire road to Mt. Lukens moaned softly as I approached, his bedtime disturbed again — and in the rain this time.


The birds were out too, celebrating a break from the hungry days of the six-year drought by eating greedily the worms and insects that had suddenly appeared. What rotten luck. If anyone ever asks you “Why me?” tell them of the little creatures who starved through six years of drought and came out of the safety of their lairs to celebrate only to be immediately eaten alive.

The surroundings, as always when clouds float gently in and blot out all the detail, were wonderfully mysterious. Yet when I got back to the trailhead, the chart at the national forest fire station still rated the fire danger “high,” just below “extreme” and “critical,” another reminder that conditions in these mountains change dramatically and without warning. It’s what those of us who love them keep coming back for.

In fact the photo on the right shows how they looked the very next day!

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