Devils Canyon Trail

On this past Sunday, my friend Peter and I went on a hike up Devils Canyon in Chatsworth, CA. I read about the trail on a hiking website, which called the area “the last of the wild west” in the San Fernando Valley. Now that I’ve hiked it, I’d have to agree.

We spent five hours exploring the long and circuitous canyon, stopping quite a bit to take photos. We traveled 5.1 miles (according to my GPS) along varying types of paths: a narrow 4-foot wide trail, a stream gully, the old Devils Canyon Mountainway, which was once a paved road used many decades ago and still shows up as a road on Google Maps, and even trailblazed in areas the path simply disappeared.

Nature abounds in this little canyon. We saw a dozen different species of birds, including two red-tail hawks. We heard a chorus of treefrogs, who became shy and quiet on our approach. The Sesnon Fire of October 2008 made its way into parts of this canyon, but nature has started to recover nicely and we saw a healthy diversity of plants throughout the canyon.  The one thing the trail lacks?  People!  We only saw one other person – an equestrian and her horse – during the five hour hike!

The most memorable nature sighting was a gray fox. Peter and I were both excited to see it – this was my first wild fox sighting – but the moment quickly turned to sadness when we realized that it was sick. When we stumbled upon the fox, it was laying down in the thick grass by the stream behind a few boulders off of the path. We had been making a lot of noise before spotting it, so the fox had to have known we were there. We snuck up and took photos of it from about 15 feet away, behind the cover of the rocks. After a minute or so, it turned to see Peter, got up and awkwardly ran up the side of the canyon about 20 feet away. Without warning, it stopped, fell over, and slid down a few feet, coming to rest on the side of a flat boulder. It was very saddening to watch. Another five minutes passed and it got up again as if nothing had happened, scurried up through brush, and laid down about 30 feet up the canyon wall. I climbed up to take some photos, careful to keep my distance. It sat motionless as I took a few more shots. Finally, it got up, bounced up the canyon like a healthy animal, and that was the last we saw of it.

When I got home, I did some research. My guess is that the fox has paralytic rabies, a virus that effects the neurological system and eventually leads to death. I also noticed in my photos that the animal was injured with a large gash on its back above its hind leg. (See gallery below)

We continued up the canyon for another hour or so before turning around in Blind Canyon and coming back down the way we came.

Here’s a few videos Peter took:

California Gray Fox (1/2) from Kolby Kirk on Vimeo.

Warning to parents: I drop the s-bomb in the following video.

California Gray Fox (2/2) from Kolby Kirk on Vimeo.

Chorus of Treefrogs from Kolby Kirk on Vimeo.

Here is a gallery of photos from the outing:

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