The Meaning of Hahamongna

The original settlers of the region were sometimes called the Hahamongna Indians. The word means "Flowing Waters, Fruitful Valley" in the native Tongva language.

Hahamongna News

Title:

Mountains can care for themselves

Subtitle:

Date:

2009-09-02

Author:

Larry Wilson

Publication:

Pasadena Star-News

Content:

"MY citrus tree made it!" Christopher Nyerges said with glee Tuesday morning half an hour into our hike into the fire's moonwalk zone.

"Well - it sort of made it. Still has some fruit. Not really my tree. Looks pretty impacted, actually."

We were about a mile up the floor of the Upper Arroyo Seco, boot-deep in ash, where the Station Fire had swept through over the weekend. It was eerily quiet - just the occasional rock rolling down from the canyon walls. But the stream that flows into Hahamongna even in the hot late summer from its source up near Red Box had a steady flow. Quail ran ahead of us in their little packs. The tall alders lining the water were mostly untouched by the fire, though occasionally we would come by one that was burning from within. From time to time we'd look up to see a small bonfire ahead of us, a log in full flame, and we'd douse it with dirt and puny drops from a canteen.

Not exactly the Martin Mars waterbomber with its 7,200-gallon tank that later that afternoon would unload on Mount Wilson, trying to save the observatories that gave the world the Big Bang.

But you fight fire with what you've got.

It looked as if we were the first people up the canyon since the fire moved on. Christopher was the perfect companion for such a trek into the unknown. We've been friends since our first backpacking class at Muir High. Now, almost 40 years on, he knows the front range of the San Gabriels as well as anyone alive,

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whereas I'm just an occasional ambler and angler. He even makes his living from the wild, as L.A.'s leading expert on edible wild plants, and as editor of the magazine Wilderness Way.
Saturday he'd been forced into evacuation from The Meadows neighborhood in Altadena, and as we started down the trail from his front yard, we didn't know what we'd find. Along with the small blazes, devastated hillsides and the relatively intact hiking trail that goes straight back from JPL to the Angeles Crest, the weirdest thing we found could not have been guessed at: The fire revealed a human history of the Arroyo unseen for decades.

Dozens of cabin foundations from the Great Hiking Era, long covered in ivy and other vines, are now apparent. An old clubhouse wall and ornate monument from the days when the Valley Hunt Club had a lodge upstream from its more urbane Orange Grove digs has reappeared. (See my blog for a photo.) I'd never even seen that formerly hidden imported tangerine tree, with its bitter fruit - "Good for marmalade," says Christopher - and though it is scorched, it may survive.

While the USFS campground at Gould Mesa is intact, the bridge between it and Switzer's needs a replanking not likely to be in any budget anytime soon.

I was oddly buoyed to enter the forest again. The sick feeling I'd had for a week staring up at the flames is gone. I've seen the worst they had to give.

The firefighters have saved La Canada, The Meadows, La Vina. But it seems the mountains can save themselves.


Public Editor Larry Wilson's blog is http://insidesocal.com/publiceye.