Riding After Rains

November 4, 2008 § 1 Comment

The Mighty Los Angeles

The Mighty Los Angeles

Los Angeles finally got a good big rain last night. It’s maybe the fourth or fifth rain of the season, but it seems to have been the first good prolonged downpour. This morning, I got up and was glad to see how happy my garden looked after the rain. Inspired by Brad Lancaster, I’ve been reworking the way water moves through the garden. I’ve built stepped contour terraces that harvest rainwater. I just finished two terraces this past weekend. The artichoke, mizuna, parsley and yarrow that I just planted are doing well. I will blog about rainwater harvesting in my garden soon. I keep wanting the plants to fill out a little more, so I can dazzle you all with great looking photos.

I waited in line and I voted.

The Los Angeles River in the Area near Griffith Park

The Los Angeles River in the Area near Griffith Park

Then I bicycled off to meet a film crew from KABC who requested an interview with me. They’re doing a piece on the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition‘s annual River Ride. I rode over to the river. It’s a great day to be out on a bike – after rains in Los Angeles. The air is clear and tastes good. The clouds splay dramatically against the San Gabriel Mountains. At Fletcher Drive, I entered the bike path heading upstream . The rain-swollen waters were a few feet higher than usual. The river looked a little blown-out. Just after rains, the water is a little less clear, is moving a little faster, and is carrying more floating trash.

(A brief public service announcement warning: when it’s raining, the river can be very dangerous, even deadly. The once-natural river was straightened, making it steeper and more deadly. Natural rivers have central areas where the current is strongest and peripheral areas where waters move more slowly. The Los Angeles River moves with very even flow at very high speeds. The flow carries lots of debris, which can be sharp and abrasive. Though the river can be dramatic, I recommend not going there when it’s raining. The concrete can be slippery. The water can rise very quickly. Falling in can kill you.)

After the higher waters, the first thing that caught my eye was a turkey vulture, flying low in the area just upstream of the Fletcher Drive Bridge. I was thinking that it might be searching out dead drowned animals (perhaps rodents) that may have washed up in the vegetation on the sandbar islands there. A little farther on, just past the I saw a dozen or so pigeons that seemed to heckling a raptor that was about their size. I am pretty sure it was a kestrel. Riding further, now around the Sunnynook Footbridge, a friend of mine, Chris Grybauskas, rode up to me. We chatted as we biked. I’m sure Chris took it easy on me, but I did pick up my pace a little to keep up with him. As we crossed the Alex Baum Bridge at Los Feliz, I spotted an osprey circling. I felt lucky to have encountered all these uncommon predators in such a short stretch of river (and I don’t mean to imply that Chris is a uncommon predator!)

Chris and I parted ways (amicably) below the 134 Freeway. I continued a little further, scouting the river for good photogenic spots located suitably near good holes in fences near parking spots for TV vans. From the end of the bike path at Riverside/Victory, I crossed the river and checked out the beginning of the Glendale Narrows along Bette Davis Picnic Area. More than two dozen egrets and a couple of herons were standing around at the lowest dry point of the sloped concrete walls.

I popped back to the Autry Museum where I met up with the 3-person KABC camera crew. We went to the bikeway entrance by the 134 Freeway where there are good views of the downtown skyline, but unfortunately it was too back-lit for their tastes. They shot a bit of “B-roll” and we headed a quarter mile upstream to a soft bottom stretch by the dog park at Ferraro Fields. We entered the river bikeway through a convenient hole in the fence. They shot an interview in which I was probably much too wordy on most subjects. The interviewer seemed genuinely interested in the river, and in the alternative transportation possibilities provided by bike path. He was disappointed that there are only about 30 miles of bikeway completed on the about-50-mile river and that the bikeways don’t all connect yet. The sound man spotted fish swimming upstream. More than a dozen, probably carp, splashed their tails as they pushed over a small raised ridge in mid-channel. The cameraman shot black-necked stilts and egrets.

Line of Polystyrene and Debris Showing Recent High-Water Mark

Line of Polystyrene and Debris Showing Recent High-Water Mark

I bicycled back downstream, deciding to ride down closer to the river – below the levee-top bike path. The waters were already receding, nearly at their usual level. The high-water mark was visible from a small line of debris, mostly the polystyrene flotsam that’s washed into urban waterways, heaviest during that first big storm. I was thinking that as bad as it looked in Los Feliz, it’s probably much worse below Willow Street in Long Beach.

As I pedaled home, I thought about the possibilities for local and national renewal that they day had brought.

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