"See balloons at the fenced entrance," the invite instructed.
I was invited to a "happy hour" community event to view a new parcel of land in Pasadena that is to be saved by the Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy, who have also worked to conserve other open spaces in the San Gabriel Valley, like Millard Canyon and Rubio Canyon.
So I grabbed a complimentary Craftsman Lager, and I headed in.
There is no public trail or even Native American trail through here.
After all, these 11 acres have been privately owned by the same family for the last 120 years.
At best, there are existing deer trails, but the Conservancy has put in a loose access trail so we can view it.
It's not altogether undeveloped: there are retaining walls that can't be explained (other than to keep the loose dirt along the steep hillside in place)...
...and, somewhere, the remnants of a bottling plant.
I don't think any of us were prepared for a real hike, teetering on a ledge, each step destroying the trail as we tried not to spill our beers.
During the acquisition process, Cottonwood Canyon has been scouted out by local naturalists and biologists...
...who have identified there all four major plant communities of the area (Southern Oak Woodland, Coastal Sage Scrub, Chaparral and Streamside Riparian), as well as biodiversity in bird species (both year-round and migratory).
More importantly, this is a canyon with water, and a year-round supply of water, as originally channeled by the Cottonwood Water Company, incorporated there in 1892.
The natural springs have fostered lots of plant life, including some palms (which will have to be removed)...
...and a thick overgrowth.
The water from the natural spring continues to flow through the canyon, thanks to a horizontal well that was built to access it.
Although public awareness is important to the success of preserving this land, public access isn't, necessarily. The Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy want to maintain the unimpeded wildlife corridor along the Arroyo Seco in the San Rafael Hills.
Keeping it uninterrupted means keeping humans (and their developments) out.
But for a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon, we got to see the gulch...
...and celebrate its precious resource.
For more on Cottonwood Canyon's history, click here.
Photo Essay: Millard Canyon
Photo Essay: Rubio Canyon, In the Wild