Arrastre Creek Aspen Grove


“Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.”

– Robert Frost

If you’ve been reading my previous posts you’ll know that I’ve expressed interest in photography and have since taken many photos. With the autumn season already upon us I thought way better way to practice photography than to shoot autumn colors!

Unfortunately Southern California more so synonymous with brown and crispy than it is with red, orange, and gold. Finding a reliable autumn display wouldn’t be easy and require a good bit of leg work.

After a bit of research I was ecstatic to discover that Southern California had an aspen grove. Quite literally called “Aspen Grove” by the USFS it was a popular location for autumn hikers and photographers. While I was planning my trip I read a notice and my heart sank. The grove was burned down in 2015 from the Lake Fire and was not yet reopened for public access.

My plans were scrapped–or so I thought. I started from square one went to a page for a local wilderness association. I expressed my interests in finding a good autumn display and soon found out that a second aspen stand existed in Southern California. It was off trail though and its location, kept discrete by locals and other hikers.

Some rigorous searching on the interwebs yielded that it was near Arrastre Creek with an old forest service document describing it 200 yards up a canyon.

Here’s an interesting bit of information from the same document. The Pleistocene age was over 10,000 years ago mind you:

“These two groves, separated from the
nearest populations by more than 200 miles (322 km), are believed to be relics
from the late Pleistocene when the climate was much cooler and wetter.”

I had narrowed it’s approximate range but it still would be a challenging search. I was fortunate a few days prior to my trip, I was able to receive specific directions to the grove. Had I not had them, with my limited information I may never have found it. A big thanks to Joseph Esparza whose blog you can find here.

With good information, I set out on a long drive followed by a longer hike and had success reaching the grove. It wasn’t without difficulty though. I discovered the limitations of my 21 year old car (I’ll keep this one as an inside joke), slipped down 5 to 6 feet of gravel, got cut by dead cottonwood branches, had a branch break and fall on my head, got flipped off for over 20 minutes by a driver who could not see the cars backed up in front of me, and lost my tripod.

Despite these difficulties they pale in comparison to having a good time with friends, exploring the mountains, and experiencing fall at it’s best.

I thought I’d share the best pictures I took and hope you find them enjoyable:





arrastre quaking aspens


I also thought it may be interesting to mention that Andy Smith has had success collecting aspens in recent years. I think they have the potential to be excellent native bonsai material and hope to see more in the future. If not for my hot climate I’d grow some too.

Lastly if you’re worrying that the content of my blog is straying, fear not! Next week I will be attending the GSBF convention held here in Riverside, CA. I’ll be covering the show on Saturday so expect a good review, pictures, and maybe some videos. Hope to meet many of you there and watch some of the best in bonsai.

Until next time, Julian.

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