Off-Ramp | Off-Ramp host John Rabe and contributors share thoughts on arts, culture, and life in L.A.

The Gerbils of Eaton Canyon

(Family on a walk in Eaton Canyon. Image: Carolyn Kozo Cole.)

A guest entry from KPCC engineer Gordon Henderson:

On Labor Day I went with family and friends to Eaton Canyon for a nature walk. Initially I had some reservations because the last time I went there my walk was cut short by a rattle snake (who shook its groove thing at me and my dogs). The small things that sting and bite also bring up the skin-crawl factor. You can see at the Nature Center that some of those small things are not that small.

Despite my reservations we went and we were not the only ones. It was crowded. It was crowded like the subway is crowded. It wasn't just populated with people; there were all variety of dogs. There were also Gerbils

(A Gerbil. Image: Carol Burbridge)

Some people had inexplicably brought live Gerbils in a cage and they were carrying them through the creek and over dry dusty terrain, in the hot sun. When we asked about them they said, “Want to buy one?” We politely declined.

As we walked up to the waterfall (1.5 miles from the parking lot) I managed to get separated from my party. It became an epic journey over rugged unrelenting terrain. I was on a quest. I would not see my loved ones again until just before I reached the waterfall and then they all appeared. I’m sure the falls were beautiful but it wasn’t easy to see them, it was so crowded.

(A less crowded day at the falls. Image: John Rabe)

My nine year old daughter, who is currently obsessed with the Harry Potter series, found a satisfactory rock and sat down to read. The reading was interrupted when she was hit in the arm by a rock from a man-made rock slide. We decided it was time to head back.

It was on the way back that I finally saw the beauty of the experience. I was sharing my Labor Day with a cross section of the people who populate Southern California; groups of teenagers, families of all persuasions, octogenarians, and people with Gerbils, all peacefully enjoying the out of doors together.

I would suggest if you’ve never been to Eaton Canyon, or haven’t been there for a while you make a quest, with or without your Gerbils.

-- Gordon Henderson

John Rabe adds: Looking for photos to illustrate Gordon's note, I came across this one in the LA Public Library photo archive. The caption reads: "A Pacific Electric car is shown in a wash in the Arcadia district at Huntington Dr. and Eaton Canyon wash on March 4, 1943, after it slid off from tracks weakened by flood waters. The streetcar smashed into an automobile as it plunged into the wash."