First time in thirty years there was a blizzard warning in Los Angeles the day before — it means there is plenty of snow everywhere above 3000ft in Southern California. So I could get to see snow even in Orange County’s Santa Ana mountains.
At first we tried to come from the southern side of Santiago mountain, but the Trabuco Canyon road was closed after the rains. The parking at Modjeska Canyon was full, so we drove further to Silverado Canyon, which is only 40 minutes away from my home.
We started the hike quite late in the day at 2pm. At the entrance to the Maple Springs trail, where we parked, the weather was sunny and quite warm 49F (10C). The only visible snow was only at the furthest peaks from us. It was very unlikely to get there by sunset.
Quite soon we ran into an unexpected impediment — a river revived by the recent rains was crossing the road. It was only less than knee deep and not more than 15 feet (5 meters) wide. But the stream was quite strong. Some other people were taking off their shoes and socks to cross it barefoot, but we found a fallen tree, that someone threw over it not far away from the trail. Although it wasn’t hard to keep the balance on the log, the thought of falling into the stream with all my photo equipment added some adrenaline.
Happy with out little victory, we continued the hike. Little did we know, it was only the first river crossing on our way and there were seven more ahead. May be we wouldn’t go out on the trail that day if we knew it upfront.
After two miles, at about 2000ft (610m) elevation, we started seeing some snow on the sides of the road. At 2600ft (800m) someone even made a snowman. When we got to 3280ft (1km), after 4 miles of hike, there was plenty of snow around already. But we were less than half way towards the Santiago peak and the sunset was less than an hour away.
Luckily there was a nice lookout point on the road with an amazing view over the Santiago canyon. I set my camera on a tripod with ND400 and gradient filter and got ready for a 45 minute time-lapse shooting.
When I started, it was very cloudy, but few minutes into the recording, the sun started to show up: first it highlighted some distant hills, but then lightened up the entire canyon. It was a true gift for us, as we didn’t get to record any other significant material that day.
“Fortune favours the brave”
After the sunset, the temperature has fallen to 34F (1C). Happy and tired we started descending. It was exciting to cross the river 8 more times under the moonlight.