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Guest Column: A forest without trees still beckons

July 09, 2013|By Reg Green

Have you noticed that in La Cañada the trees stop where the national forest begins? Look down sometime from the Cherry Canyon trail. Although there is not an empty lot to be seen, trees dominate the entire view.

Their variety is equally astonishing even for someone who has never hugged a tree in his life. (Well, hardly ever.) To name a few: the groves of deodars that always put me in mind of the phantom wood in Disney's “Snow White” and, at the other end of the cultural scale, the orderly rows of cedar more suited to classical Rome; the startling splotches of gold and red among the evergreens in the fall and the delicate purple jacaranda in the spring that would be more at home in the tropics than in Granola Park— sorry, Glenola.

Highways in some favored parts of the world advertise themselves as Palm to Pine and in an hour or two you make that dramatic transition. We have one like that here. At the foot of Angeles Crest Highway a sign says Palmdale 40 miles, Big Pines 56.

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But in the yard of my own house, just a few feet from each other, there are towering pines and cactus, sycamore and olive and a palm tree so ugly I can't bear to look at it. That's multicultural for you.

But I forgot, you are still in Cherry Canyon. So raise your eyes a little higher than the unnatural green of the country club's golf course, please, and what do you see? Shrubs, grass, bare slopes and a handful of trees. Welcome to the Angeles National Forest.

If you told Robin Hood this was a forest he would have fetched you a blow with his quarterstaff for being cheeky. Invited to have a picnic in the woods, you would be more likely to open a hamper under the tunnel of trees in the middle of Commonwealth Avenue than up here.

But for many of us this is just what we want: impenetrable low-lying vegetation that allows views to the horizon but deters tidying up nature, mountain slopes too steep for a developer and water that, unlike the careful irrigation lower down, more often comes in dramatic “Singin' in the Rain” downpours and then disappears as quickly as it started.

If you haven't done it already, I urge you to take a drive someday and stroll alongside the California aqueduct and marvel that this swift-flowing stream, narrow enough for a child to throw a rock across, is one of the feats of engineering that have transformed our near-desert into one of the most dynamic regions on earth. Amazing — isn't it? — that the line between dearth and abundance is that flimsy.

REG GREEN lives in La Cañada. His website is www.nicholasgreen.org.

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