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A Last Canyoneering Adventure in California’s Eaton Canyon?

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Photograph by Eric Liefer

The San Gabriel Mountains tower far above their surroundings, dwarfing even one of our  most expansive creations. The massive metropolis of Los Angeles sprawls just to the West, reaching high for the sky but nowhere near the height of those peaks. Push a little further and the truly infinite expanse of the Pacific Ocean quietly waits, such an immeasurable and mystical thing, shifting and surging with the slightest swing of the moon.

Even in what is considered one of the world’s greatest cities, the humbling reality of its insignificance is all too prevalent. And for many people who are confined within the concrete, salvation lies within the sea and amongst those beautiful mountains. In the city, the trees are all planted in perfect rows, the bushes cut into unnatural shapes, and the creeks forced to flow between straight and predictable walls. They beg to wander.

High above the city, water crashes from the snow capped San Gabriel Mountains through a vast array of steep creeks and deep gorges. One such gorge, the chasm of Eaton Canyon, carves a deep and narrow passageway into the western flank of Mount Wilson, creating one of the most beautiful locations in southern California. For those experienced in technical canyoneering, the chasm can be explored with some difficulty. It was here, ten years ago down to the very day that my career as an adventurer began. Roots are planted, whether you like it or not, in the region in which you are raised. You have no choice in the matter. Some, however, run far deeper than others.

When I first heard of the pending closure of Eaton Canyon, which came just one hasty week ago and is set for July 1, I knew I had to pay my respects. We gathered at the trailhead for a final farewell, a bittersweet feeling to know we may never meet again. As we descended into Eaton’s depths flashbacks of some of my fondest memories quickly flood in, the water as clear and cold as I remember. The walls narrow as the water flows over a series of falls, each one more beautiful than the last. I took only a handful of photographs for the sake of enjoying her company one final time. Sometimes things are best left unsaid really.

On July 1, the U.S. Forest Service will be closing Eaton Canyon permanently above the lower falls. I care about Eaton. I care about the canyon. I care about keeping places like Eaton open to the public, so that more of us can witness the wonders of the natural world and bring our souls closer to such a spectacle. It is a necessity of the human spirit which is far too often neglected. We need places like this to keep us sane; we need them open so that others can see them for their own eyes, and leave humbled like so many before. In a world and society where places like this are fading fast, the loss of Eaton Canyon will be one of the greatest unsung tragedies. It is the prohibition of paradise.

Please help us save Eaton Canyon by letting the local branch of the U.S. Forest Service know how valuable these places are to remain open to the public by sending them a short comment below:

California Congresswoman Judy Chu is also a good contact to share your opinion about this imminent closure and the request for public input: