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Hopping into Spring

Hopping into Spring 

Cover: A symphony of vibrant spring wildflowers is blooming not only on the mountain sides but along the roads and in gardens throughout the Santa Monica Mountains. Top row, from left to right: black sage, bush sunflower, blue dicks, sticky monkey flowers. Second row, left to right: rabbit’s tobacco, blue-eyed grass, bush sunflower, purple nightshade, bush lupine, scarlet bugler. Third row, left to right, arroyo lupine, green bark ceanothus, California everlasting, and coast morning glory. Photograph and cover design by Urs Baur.

For many, this is the most sacred time of the year. Passover began on Wednesday at sunset. Easter is this Sunday. Both holidays are tied to the astronomical calendar. Passover occurs on the first full moon of Nisan, the month that follows the spring equinox. Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring. These are moveable feasts that do not occur on a fixed date. This year, they arrived early. In many places, there is still snow on the ground. In the Santa Monica Mountains, we are experiencing perfect spring weather, resplendent with wildflowers and bird song. This is a time of renewal, a time of rebirth.

Families and students are once again taking advantage of spring break to travel, now that things are returning to normal. For those of us who don’t have a spring break or who are spending it at home, the mountains in our backyard offer miles of hiking trails through vivid green fields, past waterfalls and through running creeks and fields of spring flowers. This is a spring of a kind we haven’t seen for years. Something to be savored and enjoyed before the inevitable heat of summer turns everything back to the way it was before.

Every spring, the California gray whales make the perilous journey from the warm lagoons in the Sea of Cortez, where mothers give birth to their young, and adult whales gather for the winter, to their summer feeding grounds in the arctic. This is the time to watch for them along the coast. This whale was spotted diving after coming up for a breath. Its massive flukes—each lobe of the tail can grow to be 15-feet across—sliding effortlessly into the water, leaving a footprint, or a tail-print on the surface of the water—the only sign, a second later, that a giant had passed this way. Photo by Suzanne Guldimann

Wildflowers aren’t the only harbinger of spring. The gray whale migration is underway at the coast. Point Dume and Westward Beach offer an ideal place to watch for northbound whales, but we saw one from PCH at Topanga Beach just the other day.

Warmer, dryer weather is finally on its way, making the beach a popular destination after a cold, wet winter. Is the rain over? It’s too soon to tell, but residents of the part of Topanga that has received an astonishing 48 inches of rain so far this season are glad for a chance to dry out.

The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area grew a little bit bigger in March. The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority announced that it has acquired the long-sought upper falls in Escondido Canyon in Malibu. The 150-foot-high upper waterfall remains off limits to hikers—there is no trail at the moment and climbing up the cliff face is verboten—and extremely dangerous—but this acquisition ensures that the waterfall and the riparian habitat that surrounds it will be protected. The 88-acre acquisition cost $4.8 million. Saving the falls was a lifelong goal of the late actor and environmental activist Edward Albert, whose name is on the trail to the lower falls.

The board of the MRCA is expected to approve another small but important acquisition this week in the Topanga and Pacific Palisades area. The three parcels, totaling just under 130 acres, are located on the edge of the Pacific Palisades Highlands development, and include a large section of Trailer Canyon, where the first Santa Monica Mountains National Park was proposed more than a century ago. The acquisition includes two trailheads, one is the Trailer Canyon fire road and the other a short spur connection from the Split Rock Trailhead to the Temescal Ridge Trail. Little by little, some of the missing pieces of the patchwork of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area are being filled in. That’s a gift not just for the people and wildlife who make this area their home, but for the entire Los Angeles community and the worldwide effort to preserve nature wherever and whenever possible.

Los Angeles County passed a major coronavirus milestone last week, finally lifting the COVID-19 emergency declaration, a month after the state’s emergency declaration was repealed. It’s a mostly symbolic gesture and for now little will change. The Department of Public Health will continue to provide free COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, as well as tests and therapeutic drugs. Vulnerable people and those who care for them are still encouraged to wear masks in public places and should be free to do so without censure, but the move takes us one step further into a post-covid world. Something that was almost unimaginable three years ago when this strange chapter of life began for us all.

We are celebrating the spring holidays here at TNT with a feature on our native wild rabbits, and a look at California’s poppies—not just the California poppy, but some of the other members of this beautiful and often spectacular family of plants that are native to our Santa Monica Mountains.

We also have some rock and roll history from Lost Canyons LA rock star Emmeline Summerton, a strange and compelling look at a forgotten chapter of Cold War history, and chapter six of our WWII-era original serial The Coastwatchers. 

We wish all of our readers a blessed and beautiful Passover and Easter, and all the joys of the renewal that springtime brings.

Stay safe, be well!

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