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Discover Our Local Wilderness

Local Commentary

Posted: February 12, 2008 10:00 p.m.
Updated: April 11, 2008 2:02 a.m.

The Wilderness Act of 1964 defined wilderness as “An area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” The act goes on to describe wilderness as “an area of undeveloped federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation.” Wilderness areas usually measure at least 5,000 acres, provide opportunities for backcountry recreation and may contain outstanding social or ecological values.

The Santa Clarita Valley is the hub to many areas of wilderness and proposed wilderness. Many of these pristine areas are in our own backyard — such as Magic Mountain and Pleasant View Ridge — while others, such as the glorious Eastern Sierra, are within a few hours’ drive of our valley.

I grew up hiking and horseback riding in Santa Clarita and the Eastern Sierra. Lucky enough to have family living in the resort town of June Lake, I spent my summers and every possible free moment fishing, horseback riding, fishing, climbing and hiking the shear peaks found in the Eastern Sierra. Nothing can quite compare to the fresh air, lakes, streams and vistas of this amazing place.

Our local wilderness has a lot to offer residents, as well. Hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and trout fishing are just some of the recreational activities that can be found within minutes of downtown Santa Clarita.

And if you love photography, there is an endless stream of natural opportunities just waiting for you. Just recently I was standing on a ridge above Santa Clarita where I took a photo of Catalina Island peering above the clouds. The views are breathtaking — you just have to take a look!

Take a short drive south on Sand Canyon and you’ll enter the beautiful Angeles National Forest. At Bear Divide you will be able to see views of the San Fernando Valley on one side of the ridge, and the Santa Clarita Valley on the other side of the road. The forest is blanketed with manzanita, ceanothus (mountain lilac), coast live oak and sycamore. If you’re lucky, you may even see deer, bobcat, a mountain lion, or condors.

Just a glance in any direction will tell you why this area was made a part of the National Forest, and why it’s now proposed wilderness. In a word, it’s gorgeous. This is the rim of the Santa Clarita Valley, the southern and eastern boundary of our city, and it is nothing short of fabulous.

Now more than ever, as we face greater environmental challenges, it is so critical that we begin to protect our beautiful federal wild lands. Two hundred rare, threatened, and endangered plant species and 54 threatened animal species need our help.

Kudos go to Congressman Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., for working together on a wonderful new wilderness bill, covering much of the proposed wilderness in McKeon’s district. They are committed to moving this bill through Congress this session. We are so lucky to have these great people, a Democrat and a Republican, working together on our behalf. Wilderness maintains our quality of life, brings business to our community, and guarantees that these irreplaceable, treasured places will be here for generations to come.

If you would like to help keep the Eastern Sierra and your local wild places pristine, untrammeled and wild, contact the Community Hiking Club to see how you can help. Come with us to visit some of these locations, and see if you don’t agree that each and every one of them has outstanding recreational values and exceptional beauty.

Write Congressman McKeon and Sen. Boxer to tell them about your personal experiences there, and thank them for their leadership in protecting wilderness, for their concern about the environment, and for the work they are doing to keep California beautiful and protected. Every one of us has the potential to make a difference.

You’re invited to come out with the Community Hiking Club and see some of these spectacular places for yourself. The hiking club leads free hikes every Saturday, some Sundays and a few days during the week. Hikes include local trails, local proposed wilderness, wilderness trails, senior hikes, KIDS KAMP, eco-hikes, group back-packing trips to the Eastern Sierra and a special spring weekend trip to the beautiful proposed Wild and Scenic Amargosa River, near Death Valley.

The club also arranges special hikes for corporations, churches, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and other groups. The Community Hiking Club will be offering an opportunity this spring to go on a slow-paced plant walk. Your guide will point out wildflowers along the trail, identify them and stop so you can take photos. If you’re interested in any of these recreational opportunities, or would like more information, please visit, or e-mail me at


Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel is a Santa Clarita Valley resident, volunteer, and leader of the SCV Community Hiking Club. Her column represents her own opinions, not necessarily those of The Signal.

Copyright: The Signal


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