Commentary: Blow, blow, thou winter wind

Vegetation in the Angeles National Forest has to be tenacious to survive the severe conditions. This seemingly delicate flower, growing next to a retaining wall erected to prevent the hillside collapsing on it in the next storm, has made it through hot days and cold nights, pounding rain, drought and gale-force winds. That’s delicate?
(Reg Green)

In the past week on one of those mornings in Southern California that broke all the rules for early February in the Northern Hemisphere — temperature in the 70s, deep blue sky, the gentlest of breezes — three of us hiked to a high point on the Mt. Lukens fire road. It would have been difficult to find a more spacious view in more beguiling weather.

La Cañada residents largely weathered the wind storm, which saw gusts reach up to 60 mph, though by Monday morning several downed trees and limbs had been reported to the city’s Public Works Department.

As we walked back down, the only sign that suggested this might not last was a dark band of cloud far out to sea. But nothing else marred the outlook and we ate breakfast outdoors in the sort of conditions described by one of Robert Browning’s characters:

“God’s in His Heaven,


All’s right with the world.”

By late afternoon, however, the temperature had dropped noticeably, and the ridge where we had walked in bright sunshine was covered in a gray cloud. As evening came on it thickened and came lower.

I went to bed and was wakened a few hours later by a wind shrieking through the trees, patio chairs blowing over and a flap somewhere on the outside of the house that I’d forgotten existed, banging as if it was about to be torn off with every gust. With every gust too a handful of leaves was torn off our trees and added a brown covering to the pool.

Morning came, and as I pulled on my hiking boots empty trash bins were overturning in the street.


Walking in a gale is not everyone’s idea of fun, but dedicated hikers revel in it. I know every bend in that road, but in the next hour or so I was reminded in the most memorable way possible that it goes through every point of the compass in the mile and a half to the turnaround point. Going one way I could scarcely move forward, going the other I was whisked along like one of those brown leaves. What fun!

But that day I had an another reason for being grateful that ours is a forest largely without trees. I’ve always loved it because the low bushes that cover it don’t impede the long, exciting views. Now it had the added feature that I didn’t have to “watch for falling trees” as the forest service advises during high winds in more conventional forests. “Watch for falling grass” doesn’t carry anything like the same menace.

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