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Angeles Forest - part 2 (Smith mountain)

It has been two weeks since our last visit to San Gabriel mountains in Angeles National Forest. There has been several good rains in Southern California so we were hoping to finally see a decent waterfall.

This time we came from the Azusa side and headed directly towards the Lewis falls. The temperature dropped from 68 to 62 degrees Fahrenheit as the elevation increased. It was quite a big drop compared to our previous trip to Switzer falls, when the temperature reached 90 degrees during the day.

There was no dedicated parking so we just left our car on the curbside of a very curvy road. That particular turn was also used for motorcycle races, which made parking a bit more challenging.

The hike to the Lewis falls was not long and quite enjoyable. We followed a narrow trail along the small river, which was formed by the waterfall upstream. It was significantly more humid and cool this day. When we reached the falls, there were already several groups of hikers, some with kids that were enjoying the place and the sounds of nature. We joined them in this meditation for almost an hour until the sun finally got high enough to highlight the entire waterfall.

Our next stop was at the Upper Bear Creek trailhead which is just a few miles away from the Lewis Falls. It met us with a map that describes the entire 11 miles trail. We got there at around 2pm so it was clear for us that we won’t be able to complete it by sunset. Our goal was to get to a good lookout spot, but we didn’t really know how far we would need to go into the trail to find it.

After an hour of incline hiking we were still nowhere near the place we’ve been looking for. We met a couple of people on our way who said we were about a mile and a half away from the lookout by the Smith mountain. It meant that we had to hurry to be able to take a few photos and get back to our car before the sunset.

The winding trail was presenting with better views with every turn as we got higher and Mt. Smith got closer. But the view by the mountain itself was the prize that fully justified our efforts. The lookout had almost a 360 view. It also revealed another valley that was hidden from our view for the whole time. And it was quite different. It had taller trees and not just bushes and yuccas. But what amazed us the most was that most of the trees were burnt. It looked like an epic landscape from a fantasy world like Lord of the Rings. From the second look I noticed bright green leaves that were growing out of the burned stem. This phenomenon is called “secondary succession”. It’s amazing how nature can recover and continue to strive after an ecological disaster.

It seemed that the clouds were magnetized by the mountains as well. They gathered around peaks and were creating distinct sun beams to make the landscape even more epic.

Unfortunately we didn’t have time to reach the top of the Smith mountain. The remaining trail was quite challenging and we didn’t have much time. But we’ll definitely come back again!