by Harry Parmenter
Rents and real estate are sky high. Development is everywhere. The 14 freeway is a parking lot as endless throngs cross the Antelope Valley to commute to work in Los Angeles County. Yet still, we have refuge — we have Placerita Canyon.
Placerita Canyon is still a place you can drive or bike and pull off at a number of spots to get away from it all. Donning a wide-brimmed hat and ample sunscreen I parked at Golden Valley Trail and began walking, veering off onto an unfamiliar trail. Unfed sunflowers, brush and overgrowth flanked the well-worn dirt path as the trail led further into the thick of it, with blackened trees scarred by fire, branches hanging like giant spider legs and burnt off stunted trunks rising jaggedly towards the sky. Inside one a swarm of bees buzzed around what was surely a busy nest. I didn’t stop to make sure.
The sun beat down from a deep blue sky splashed by occasional cloud breaths. I kept my head down much of the time, eyeing the gopher holes along the way, hoping they WERE gopher holes. Ever alert for the “ssss” of a rattler, having come across them before in these parts, I heard only the buzz of irksome flies and the winged messengers of nature zipping through the air. A tiny gecko scuttled in front of me, no doubt fearful of this giant thing invading his personal space. The jackrabbit racing across the road in front of a speeding car seemed the wrong analogy; geckos don’t do it for the adrenaline rush, they just want to get out of the way of the looming shadow of man.
Time passed. Equipped with a water bottle and a pair of bad knees, I found myself wondering where this trail led. I didn’t want to wimp out and turn around, hoping that eventually the path would return counterclockwise to my starting point. Deeper into the brush I went, down a series of steep dirt hills, up a few long rises, twisting, turning, losing total sight of anything familiar.
This was the whole point, I reminded myself, plunging into the maw of the canyon to get far away from humanity, the cell phone, the stress, the demands, the boredom of it all. Escape. Solitude. Silence.
I pushed on as a lone red hawk swooped high in the air above me. The tiny pink flags dotting the path assured me I was still on the right track and then I spied a red flag literally emblazoned with the unmistakable Home Depot logo. Product placement in Placerita! Comedy was everywhere; you just had to pay attention.
Eventually the path brought me to a vista overlooking the entire Santa Clarita Valley, a breathtaking view stretching for miles, the faint hum of the freeway and a distant roar overhead from a passing airplane. It reminded me why, despite our problems, the SCV is still a great place to live, far from the crumbling metropolis of L.A. We still have trees, ravines, canyons, wildlife and a reasonably safe place to dig in and stake roots.
I marched on and finally saw the trail winding in a long, circuitous route towards my car, and eventually I made it after a good 90 minute hike traversing four to five miles. I never saw another person, never spoke a word. Mine was not to wonder why, but simply to find refuge in our very own sanctuary, Placerita Canyon.