With this winter shaping up to be the wettest in years, we are already seeing the return of ephemeral water features — the ponds, pools, creeks and waterfalls that vanish in the dry season or during dry years, and then spring back to life with the arrival of rain and snow.
Local creeks like Chanac Creek, which runs from Brite Valley into Cummings Valley, or Oak Creek, which originates in the mountains southeast of Tehachapi and flows onto the Mojave Desert, or Surprise Lake, the temporary body of water on the floor of Bear Valley, have all been reborn with this year's wet storms.
The precipitation has also revived some of the small waterfalls that are scattered throughout the Tehachapi Mountains. Long silenced by drought, these tumbling cascades of water are again making their liquid music, rejoicing in the arrival of enough moisture to live again.
Because of their temporary nature, most of these small waterfalls have no name. They are a kind of reward for the hiker, or horseback rider, willing to follow along a creek until a sudden drop in the streambed produces the pleasing splashing sounds of falling water.
For me, one of the pleasures of these small waterfalls is the combination of the ancient and the brand new: the rock through which some of these waterfalls plummet is millions of years old, of course, and the deep grooves which the water has carved over hundreds and thousands of years of past wet winters are evidence of the waterfalls' age. Yet the water flowing there now is temporary, having just arrived in the past few months, and it will be gone again in another few months. It makes me think of a young child happily playing an ancient musical instrument.
And waterfalls can certainly be musical. Sometimes the sound is more riffling and trilling, the frothy flowing sounds of water on the move. But if a pool has formed at the base of the fall, then the sound is deeper, a chuckling bubbling chorus of stormwater diving into the still water below. Sitting beside a small waterfall on sunny day, listening to its timeless melody, is a peaceful and calming experience — a gift of serenity from a world that too often delivers strife and anxiety.
We live in the mountains, so sooner or later pretty much all of our local creeks have a waterfall or two. I have already started visiting the ones that I have discovered over the years, and they are all awake and flowing now. So if you can, check out Tehachapi Creek, or Sycamore Creek, or Caliente Creek or any of the others, and you are likely to discover a brimming waterfall announcing a year with plentiful rain.
Just don't wait until too late in the spring, or like other beautiful temporary sights in the natural world — rainbows, a beautiful white blanket of snow, a glowing sunset — the waterfalls will be gone.
Have a good week.
Jon Hammond has written for Tehachapi News for more than 30 years. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.