On the Road and In Your Backyard

Good Morning All,

On The Road and In Your Backyard is a weekday feature spotlighting reader submissions. From the exotic to the familiar, please share your part of the world, whether you’re traveling or just in your locality. Share some photos and a narrative, let us see through your pictures and words. We’re so lucky each and every day to see and appreciate the world around us!

Submissions from commenters are welcome at tools.balloon-juice.com


Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the pictures!


Today, pictures from valued commenter 🐾BillinGlendaleCA.

In search of…Crystal Lake.

One of the members of the local photo group that I’m a member of posted a picture of a bald eagle flying and said it was in the San Gabriels. I know they have bald eagles in Catalina(and I think the San Bernardino’s) but I’d never heard of there being any in the San Gabriels. The leader of our group asked me if I was interested in going up and photographing the birds, I jumped at the offer. It turns out that their nest is right by highway 39 north of Azusa in the San Gabriel Valley.

A little background on highway 39…there was quite a bit demand in the post war years for a highway to link the San Gabriel Valley with Angeles Crest Highway(the traverses the San Gabriels from La Canada Flintridge in the west to Wrightwood in the east. There were ski areas up there(Mt. Waterman, Kratka Ridge and near Wrightwood) and it would also be useful for residents that might need to evacuate in case of fire(we don’t rake enough, I guess). So the state built this highway that goes up the San Gabriel Canyon past two reservoirs, on up past the Crystal Lake area and on to Angeles Crest. This highway was completed in 1961. In 1978, there was a rock slide that took out a portion of the road just prior to it’s intersection with Angeles Crest and it’s never been repaired, so the road now ends at Crystal Lake. Crystal Lake is the only year round natural lake in the San Gabriels, it’s feed by springs at the bottom of the lake and is surrounded by tall mountain peaks in a horseshoe placement to it’s east, west and north.

So a few days after heading up with our group leader(we just got pics of one of the eagles sitting in the nest), I decided that I’d head up again and go all the way to Crystal Lake. It’s been a very wet year here in Southern California(we’ve had over 17″ of rain since the beginning of the year), I figured that the lake would be full of fresh water and would be a nice subject for some IR shots with the snow capped mountains in the background. As I got closer to the turnoff for Crystal Lake, I noticed a bit of snow on the side of the road. After I turned off the highway to the main road that goes to the campground and cafe up there, I noticed more snow on the side of the road. Once I arrived at the access road to the lake, it was blocked by a locked gate and the road was covered in snow. So the lake visit wasn’t going to happen(I wasn’t dressed for walking though snow), so I ended up stopping by the cafe/store and took a few pictures.

Taken on 2019-02-26 00:00:00

Crystal Lake, CA

This is as far as you can go on highway 39, the gate that closes off the road is behind me. The mountains in the picture are the peaks to the east of Crystal Lake, South Mt. Hawkins is in the center and Mt. Baden-Powell is at the far left. Hidden from view are Thoop Peak(named after the school that is now Cal Tech) and Mt. Islip.

Taken on 2019-02-26 00:00:00

Crystal Lake, CA

This is a little store/cafe that’s about 1/2 a mile from the lake. There’s quite a few campsites in the basin as well as some cabins.

Taken on 2019-02-26 00:00:00

Crystal Lake, CA

This is the small visitor center at Crystal Lake( it’s right across from the cafe). I thought it would make a good subject for an IR shot. This is the first time I’ve shot IR in a snowy environment and I wasn’t sure if it would work. I was pretty happy with the results.

Taken on 2019-02-26 00:00:00

San Gabriel Canyon, CA

This is one of the eagles in the nest, there are two eaglets and the adult(I believe it’s the female) is feeding them.

Taken on 2019-02-26 00:00:00

San Gabriel Canyon, CA

While I was initially focused on the eagle in the nest, I glanced over to find another eagle in a neighboring tree(this is the male, it’s smaller).


Thank you so much 🐾BillinGlendaleCA, do send us more when you can.


Travel safely everybody, and do share some stories in the comments, even if you’re joining the conversation late. Many folks confide that they go back and read old threads, one reason these are available on the Quick Links menu.


One again, to submit pictures: Use the Form or Send an Email

24 replies
  1. 1
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    This is the first time I’ve shot IR in a snowy environment and I wasn’t sure if it would work

    It did.

  2. 2
    Mary G says:

    I had never heard of bald eagles in the San Gabriels. That is really cool and your pictures are great.

  3. 3
    Baud says:


  4. 4

    @OzarkHillbilly: Yes it did. Since IR makes the trees white(at least the way I typically process the shots), I wasn’t sure that the contrast with the snow would work.

    @Mary G:

    I had never heard of bald eagles in the San Gabriels.

    Me either and they’re right by the road. I went up again last Sunday but didn’t get any good shots. Our group leader went back up later Sunday afternoon and got some good shots of the eagles flying.

    @Baud: Thanks.

  5. 5
    JPL says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: Brrr! It appears that you had the park to yourself.

  6. 6
    raven says:

    When I was a kid in Whittier we’d drive up through Pomona to get to Mt Baldy. It was almost all farms and ranches then.

  7. 7
    HinTN says:

    Congrats on the gorgeous eagle pictures. It’s hard to believe that store survives way up there. Back in the 90s, disbelieving the paper map that was telling me the road was closed, I drove up there. Seems like it took a day’s worth to get up and back.

  8. 8
    Immanentize says:

    Beautiful photos, Billing. We have a juvenile Bald Eagle (male) hanging out by the lake near my house. Those guys are BIG!

    I really like the pic of the Diner — looks like the 60’s not today, somehow.

  9. 9

    @JPL: There were a few hearty campers up there, it was in the mid 40’s in the late afternoon.

    @raven: This is about 10-15 miles west of there, quite a few houses where the farms used to be. It’s still a bit more rural towards the east.

    @HinTN: Thanks, I’ll have to try again and get one flying. I think the store relies on summer visitors, it was a pretty quick trip up there, about 1 hour from Glendale.

  10. 10

    @Immanentize: They’re by the road, but still a bit of a distance. The cafe really looks like it’s not just 20 miles from the LA basin, but it’s pretty much in the center of the San Gabriel mountains.

  11. 11
    Alternative Fax, a hip hop artist from Idaho says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Damn, didn’t it!

    Thank you BillinG. I love the eagles, also, too.

  12. 12
    waratah says:

    Great photos Bill. I love the whole story. Was the lake just closed because of the snow?
    I hope you can go back when it reopens.

  13. 13

    @Alternative Fax, a hip hop artist from Idaho: I also took a IR pic of the cafe, but it didn’t turn out as well.

    @waratah: The access road was closed since it hadn’t been plowed and I wasn’t dressed(footwear) for a trek across the snow. I will return when it clears up, we’re getting rain with a rather rare light show(thunderstorms) last night.

  14. 14
    Gin & Tonic says:

    My sort-of periodic request: Alain, if you’re listening, the photo submission form doesn’t accept the ampersand in my nym. I have photos from various trips that I’d like to post…

  15. 15
    Alain the site fixer says:

    @Gin & Tonic: I’m at the mercy of Major Major Major Major; he coded it. We discussed the issue and possible fixes but I think he’s been focused on other things. I’ll see if I can do something. In the meantime, send them to picstopost@balloon-juice.com

  16. 16
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Alain the site fixer: Thanks for responding. M^4 is traveling, so I doubt he’ll work on it much in the near future.

  17. 17
  18. 18
    stinger says:

    A shame that you couldn’t reach your destination, but great pics anyway! Love the birdies!

  19. 19
    J R in WV says:

    There are reports of a Bald Eagle right here in SW WVA, our home county, in fact. There are a lot of small streams, which do have fish in the summertime, but not so much in the winter. On the other hand, there are tons of carrion from Thanksgiving through the end of the year, from deer hunters in the woods.

    Bald Eagles aren’t proud, they don’t need to kill their food, they will run the buzzards off a dead deer or even road kill. Anyway, there are a ton of nesting pairs in the New River Gorge National Park, where there are a ton of fish in that great river. So glad these wonderful birds are making a huge comeback!

    Thanks for the photo shoot, Bill !!

  20. 20
    opiejeanne says:

    Great photos, Bill! I saw some of the ones with eagles on Flickr when I was trying to find a photo for our realtor. She was stunned when I explained where you saw them; none of us knew they were in the San Gabriels, but Lake Arrowhead (and the surrounding mountain area) has an annual bald eagle count in the winter. I think they used to do it on New Year’s Day but this year there’s another one in February.

    In digging around I discovered that Riverside County has an eagle count too. I knew there were some in the Badlands more than 30 years ago because some felon who was leading illegal bighorn sheep hunts was also killing bald eagles. They put him away for a few years.

  21. 21
    Kelly says:

    I remember as a child eagles and many other raptors were in decline due to DDT and other man made problems. I expected they’d be extinct or only in zoos. Their recovery is such a bright spot. We’ve had a resident pair along the river near here for 15+ years. Well maybe not the same pair the whole time. We saw a younger pair carrying nest material around last summer. Still a mix of adult and juvenile plumage. Hope to see them again this year although the ospreys may have run them off.

  22. 22
    Cheryl from Maryland says:

    In other bird news, the three bluebirds are at my feeder once again. I know I am fangirling over them, but I haven’t seen any in my yard before, and I have been at this house since 1990. My mother cultivated bluebirds with special feeders and houses — I took one of her feeders when she passed in 2008, so over 10 years late bluebirds finally come to me. PS, inspiring images, Bill in Glendale, thanks so much.

  23. 23

    @stinger: Thanks, I’m glad it worked out, I’ll probably head up there in the next week or two. They’re getting snow on the hill around Crystal Lake today, but it’s raining by the lake.

    @J R in WV:

    So glad these wonderful birds are making a huge comeback!

    Amazing what a little less DDT in the diet will do for you. Thanks.

    @opiejeanne: I think I noted in my reply over at Flickr that I was surprised too.

    ETA: Happy belated b-day to Mr. opiejeanne.

  24. 24

    @Cheryl from Maryland: Thanks.

    @Kelly: You’re welcome, the folk who are there more often and more knowledgeable that I am said there are two eaglets in the nest.

Comments are closed.