Buckhorn and Cooper Canyon, Angeles National Forest, July 7 and 8 2010 - wheeeeeeeew!!!!
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For many years, I lived in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, hiking with my dog 2-3 times a week there.  It was my home, my friend.  I regularly went to Trail Canyon Trail, sometimes to Buckhorn.  I had gone backpacking at Buckhorn with Paul and other friends.  And it was close enough that I sometimes would hike there after work, resting at the waterfall, then eating a burger at Newcomb's Ranch Restaurant.  I brought friends there to share this special place with them. I adored Buckhorn and Trail Canyon Trail.

But last year, on August 26, 2009, an arson fire grew worse, eventually burning 1/4 of the Angeles Forest, destroying 91 homes, many near where I had lived, and killed untold wildlife and two firefighters.  The fire burned for two months, and was the worst fire in LA County history.

When I heard that Buckhorn was reopened, I left the next day to see how it was, camera in hand. 

Photo:  blackened trees swathed in early morning fog, 5:30am, along Big Tujunga Canyon.

Part of the Angeles Forest Highway from La Canada Flintridge is still closed, so I went through Tujunga, going up the wash on Big Tujunga Road.  My heart fell as I saw the devastation.  Homes were destroyed, and most of the landscape, the brush, the trees, even the rock, were charred coal black.

Trail Canyon Trail, where I used to hike 2-3 times per week, was closed.  A big sign barred the dirt road, saying that it was closed due to danger from the fire.  This was one of the hardest hit areas in the Station Fire, and sadly, I realized that Trail Canyon Trail would look the same way.

The devastation continued as I drove up, going higher in elevation.  It's one thing when you read that over 250 square miles (161,000 acres) were burned.  That's a statistic.  It's quite another when you see even a small part of that. 

The damage from the fire continued...4000 ft., 5000. ft., up to 6000 ft. in elevation...

But miraculously, when I got around Chilao on Angeles Crest Highway, I could no longer see signs of the devastating fire.  The trees, the ferns, the structures were all there.  Newcomb's Ranch was still there. 

And further on, past Mt. Waterman, so was Buckhorn.

I  was so relieved.  It looked beautiful.  Really beautiful.  I began my hike down to the waterfall I had come to so many times before, starting at the trailhead to the Burkhart Trail, which leads down to a waterfall near the junction of the Burkhart Trail, the Cooper Canyon Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail.  I knew this trail well, seeing familiar rocks, trees, streams, canyons, and features of the forest.  I felt happy, feeling like an old friend had survived a catastrophe.


An old familiar tree along the Burkhart Trail, its trailhead beginning at Buckhorn and leading to the waterfall.

Buckhorn is okay!

Buckhorn is okay!

Near Buckhorn in Angeles Forest, as the Burkhart Trail continues down to the Cooper Canyon waterfall.

I hung out at the waterfall for a couple of hours, so happy to be here.  By the time I had arrived at the waterfall, it was noon, and the light shone brightly on the waterfall, not conducive for photography.  As I have been meaning to properly photograph this most special waterfall to me for eons, I decided that I would return early the next morning and photograph it well.

Here are several more photos of this waterfall on this super special Buckhorn Waterfall Page!

I woke up at 3:20am the next morning, leaving the house by 4:45am.  Buckhorn is now much further from my home, a 60 mile drive, so I had decided to leave early.  I finally arrived at the waterfall at 7am.  I brought a little portable tripod called the Joby Gorillapod with me, and I set up on one of the rocks facing the waterfall and began shooting, laying on the cold rock. The morning light was perfect.  I shot for 45 minutes, then just sat quietly, transfixed by the beauty of the waterfall, then shot some more, staying there for hours.

Since I always get emails about the gear I use, the waterfall shots were taken with a Nikon D90 using a shutter release.  Exposures were around 2-3 seconds with an f-stop of 22.  Here are several more photos of this waterfall on this super special Buckhorn Waterfall Page!

I frequently sat on this log to watch the waterfall and play fetch with my dog, who loved running through the water.

Here are several more photos of the waterfall on this super special Buckhorn Waterfall Page!

An old tree trunk of a dead tree, which, like all the logs and dead tree trunks, have been there ever since I first came to Buckhorn over 25 years ago.

The Burkhart Trail crosses a stream not far from the waterfall.  I've run into friends, such as Rae before, sitting at this peaceful location.  We've also set up our tents not far from this location before when we were backpacking.

Along the Burkhart Trail on the way back to Buckhorn Campgrounds in the Angeles Forest.

A bee in a flower along the Burkhart Trail on the way back to Buckhorn Campgrounds in the Angeles Forest.  Nature will always try and regrow its forests, but in this case, I was grateful to see the place that I love still alive and flourishing and intact.

See more waterfall photos on this page!

Geek stuff: all shots from July 7 and 8 with a Nikon D90 and 18-200mm VR ED lens. I used a small Joby Gorillapod tripod for the creek and waterfall photographs.

Buckhorn, Angeles National Forest, San Gabriel Mountains, July 2010
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