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Breathing Room for LA: San Gabriel Mountains National Monument in Pictures

Children exult in nature at the Switzer Falls Picnic Area, San Gabriel Mountains National Monument | Photo: Neon Tommy, some rights reserved
Children exult in nature at the Switzer Falls Picnic Area, San Gabriel Mountains National Monument | Photo: Neon Tommy, some rights reserved

Los Angeles is well known for its open space, from the beaches to the Santa Monica Mountains and Verdugo Hills. But much of the L.A. Basin's urban landscape is park-poor. 

That's why there was such widespread support for the the 346,117-acre San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, established by President Barack Obama in October 2014. Four fifths of Los Angeles County residents expressed strong support for the Monument in polls taken before designation, as near to unanimous public support as Southern Californians ever get.

It only makes sense. Where else in Los Angeles can you see scenes like the one picture above, with enough room (and water) for kids to get in touch with their wild sides, just a couple hours away from the furthest reaches of the city — with expanding public transit access? The San Gabriel Mountains National Monument is a release valve for urban tensions: a place where Angelenos can relax and enjoy the outdoors in whatever way seems best to them.

And it also makes sense that this crucial public park has been called up for review by Donald Trump's recent Executive Order threatening 27 National Monuments.

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For those of you who haven't been able to fully explore the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, we've put together some images of what we stand to lose if review goes the wrong way. (Special thanks to local photographer Michael E. Gordon, who took time from his schedule to assemble some of his best images of the Monument just for this piece.)

The Monument is a place where Los Angeles youth can connect with the big world outside as they grow up too quickly, and that seems appropriate: The San Gabriels are one of the youngest, and fastest-growing, mountain ranges on Earth.  

But it's not all juvenile up there. Some of the Monument's denizens are very old indeed.

The 1,500-year-old Wally Waldron tree | Photo: Chetan Kolluri, some rights reserved
The Wally Waldron tree, a 1,500-year-old limber pine in the Monuement | Photo: Chetan Kolluri, some rights reserved
Mount Baldy from the "Wally Waldron" tree, a 1,500-year-old limber pine | Photo: Steve Boland, some rights reserved
If you're going to live for 1,500 years in one spot, a good view is essential. Mount Baldy from the Waldron tree | Photo: Steve Boland, some rights reserved

The 1,500-year-old 'Wally Waldron' tree is accessible to hikers, situated on a windswept ridge just below the 9,399-foot summit of Mount Baden-Powell. But you don't have to be a hiker to enjoy the Monument. Due to a century of proximity to a growing metropolis, there's plenty of pavement in the San Gabriels suitable for bicycling:

Cycling past the Cogswell Dam road closure | Photo: Milestone Rides, some rights reserved
Cycling past the Cogswell Dam road closure | Photo: Milestone Rides, some rights reserved

And then there's just finding a good place and sitting. We can't say enough about the importance of sitting, even if you can't spend 1,500 years in that one spot.

A beam of light in late afternoon illuminates the West Fork of the San Gabriel River, San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. | Photo: Michael E. Gordon
A beam of light in late afternoon illuminates the West Fork of the San Gabriel River, San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. | Photo: Michael E. Gordon
Cascades on San Antonio Creek, San Gabriel Mountains NAtional Monument | Photo: Michael E. Gordon
Cascades on San Antonio Creek, San Gabriel Mountains National Monument | Photo: Michael E. Gordon

But if hiking's your thing, the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument offers a wealth of opportunities, with hundreds of miles of trails through landscapes ranging from marine-layer-watered slopes...

Hiker contemplates the foggy abyss in the San Gabriels | Photo: Mason Cummings/The Wilderness Society
Hiker contemplates the foggy abyss in the San Gabriels | Photo: Mason Cummings/The Wilderness Society

... to alpine spots that wouldn't be out of place in the High Sierra...

Mount Baden-Powell at sunrise | Photo: Michael E. Gordon
Mount Baden-Powell at sunrise | Photo: Michael E. Gordon

... to places that betray the Monument's close proximity to both the Mojave Desert and coastal chaparral biomes. 

Spanish Bayonet (Chaparral Yucca; Hesperoyucca whipplei) in full flower before the steep and rugged forested slopes of the Cucamonga Wilderness. | Photo: Michael E. Gordon
Spanish bayonet (Hesperoyucca whipplei) in full flower before the steep and rugged forested slopes of the Cucamonga Wilderness. | Photo: Michael E. Gordon

And oh, the views. 

Flowering rabbitbrush (Ericamerica nauseosa) and East Fork canyon of the San Gabriel River. | Photo: Michael E. Gordon
Flowering rabbitbrush (Ericamerica nauseosa) and East Fork canyon of the San Gabriel River. | Photo: Michael E. Gordon
Morning light and atmospheric haze over the Sheep Mountain Wilderness | Photo: Michael E. Gordon
Morning light and atmospheric haze over the Sheep Mountain Wilderness | Photo: Michael E. Gordon

 

Morning light and atmospheric haze over Cattle Canyon and proposed additions to the Sheep Mountain Wilderness | Photo: Michael E. Gordon
Cattle Canyon and proposed additions to the Sheep Mountain Wilderness | Photo: Michael E. Gordon

Another California National Monument that is well worth your time to visit, and even more worth your time to write and submit a comment to the Interior Department asking them to leave San Gabriel Mountains National Monument as it is.

The Department of the Interior is seeking public comment on the benefits any or all of the national monuments on the chopping block. You can submit comments through http://www.regulations.gov by entering “DOI-2017-0002” in the Search bar and clicking “Search,” or send them by mail to the following address:

Monument Review, MS-1530
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20240

The deadline for comments is June 11 for all monuments other than Bears Ears: those comments are due by May 25.

Banner: Distant ridgeline in the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. Photo: Michael E. Gordon

 

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