How shall I describe the Verdugo Mountains. As mountain chains go, the Verdugos aren't all that impressive. They only rise to an altitude of around 3,000 feet; there are no imposing forests; in fact most of the vegetation is chaparral, the scrub that once covered all of Los Angeles. And there it is. What makes the Verdugos so interesting is that they rise up from the second largest metro area in the United States. Surrounded by Burbank, Glendale, and Los Angeles, a dirt road along the crest, and radio antennas. Also hawks, deer, coyotes, and the occasional mountain lion. It's also the perfect place for southern California hikers and mountain bikers who don't have the time, or money, to go further afield than the city itself.
I was in the Verdugo Mountains this afternoon. I started from the northern side of the mountains, off La Tuna Canyon Road, walking one of the few true trails. As I neared the crest, and the dirt access road used by people who service the antennas, fire fighters, and mountain bikers, I came across a small death. A snake had struck at a lizard. But the snake had made an error in it's search for food. The lizard's lower jaw was in the snake's mouth, but the upper jaw had a firm grip on the snake's head. I got down on my hands and knees to get a closer view. There was a very small drop of blood where the snake's left eye had been. The snake, for the most part, was absolutely still, while the lizard kept turning itself over, trying to free itself from his predator's grip. I thought how easy it would be for me to save the lizard's life. All I had to do was reach behind the snake's jaws and apply enough pressure to force his mouth open, releasing the lizard. But then I thought that, perhaps, without this meal, the snake might not have enough strength to save itself when another creature tried to eat the snake. After about ten minutes, the snake lifted the front third of it's body off the ground, with the lizard still in it's mouth, and slithered off into the brush. And that was it. Game over, and another small death.