Sunday, January 15, 2017

Hike 2017.003A -- Millard Canyon Waterfall, Angeles National Forest

Hiked Friday, January 13. 1.2 miles. On my previous hike to this recently-reopened trail, the water flow was almost non-existent. However, a series of storms, including one that was probably still dropping some water higher up in the watershed, had changed things, dramatically. Once at the waterfall, there was no doubt that the trip had been worth it. In the waterfall's alcove, the water roared.

The two large boulders at the top of the falls makes the view from below unique--quite different from any of the other San Gabriel Mountain waterfalls I've visited.
Getting there was a bit tricky. With the water high, you have two choices: Get wet early and often, and just walk through the water where the river is wide and slow, or pick a route that keeps your feet dry, but with the need for more careful route selection, and the exercise of balance and discretion. I chose the latter route.
With my hiking boots, I have about five inches of leeway--I can stand in water that deep and my socks stay dry. Much higher, and the water flows into my boots, and the way becomes less pleasant. This did require some walking among the weeds, so my pants got pretty dirty. Also, because of one miscalculation, one of my socks got wet.

Three hikers were returning while I went out. I passed about the same number coming back. Relatively light visitation, probably because a lot of people don't know the trail's been reopened, yet. Or it may be people are too cheap to pay for a day pass. It's five dollars for a one day Adventure Pass, $30 for a one year pass, or $80 for an all-federal fee area annual pass to park here (at the end of Chaney Trail Road, in Altadena).

Just over one mile, roundtrip. After this, I headed over to Rubio Canyon, for part II of my day's hiking.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Hike 2017.002 -- Griffith Park, Observatory to Mount Hollywood

Hiked Sunday, January 8. Although the second hike of the year, I thought doing this write-up would be quicker and easier. Yet, it has actually come to be quite long!

Mostly overcast day, and relatively cool. Because this place gets crazy busy in the evening, especially around holidays, I headed up to the Observatory to arrive before 5pm for my 6:30pm shift. That left me time to do a little hike before work.

The early sunset meant I could get some nice city lights/skyline shots. I figured they would complement the DTLA shots I took from Kenneth Hahn State Park (at the end of this post).
The Charlie Turner Trail starts at the north end of the parking lot in front of the Observatory. For most, hoping to park there on a weekend night is an exercise in futility. So, alternatively, you can either park down near the Greek Theater (if there's no concert) and walk up, or take the Observatory shuttle up, for fifty cents (35 cents, with a TAP card, and currently free if you have a Metro weekly or monthly pass loaded on your card). For the same price, shuttles also run between the Sunset and Vermont Red Line Station and the Observatory.
Charlie Turner's a wide dirt road, easily 30-45 feet wide, with a modest grade. It's smooth enough that, with only illumination from the city, you can safely navigate the route after twilight, even without a flashlight. A little under halfway up is a hairpin turn, where I usually stop for the view of the Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) skyline, behind the Observatory. It's also where I set up for the Endeavour flyover.
So the second shot is from the hairpin turn, while the first was from the top of Mount Hollywood. By comparison, these other DTLA were taken from Kenny Hahn State Recreation Area. Those shots aren't really related to this particular hike, other than that I took them recently and wanted to post them.
Kenneth Hahn SRA is in the Baldwin Hills, about 12 miles southwest of Griffith Park. I've been here before, to hike. That first time was part of a County healthy activity thing. I then returned a few years later, both to hike and scout, then to take pictures on post-snow day.

Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area is the best place to get a shot of the DTLA skyline with a snowy mountain backdrop. A moderate telephoto lens (about 300mm in full frame, or 200mm in CMOS) frames both nicely.
My latest returns were after work. I had no time to take an actual hike, and just came to try to take some pictures. The clouds were too heavy to give me any soft lighting, but the post-sunset nightscape of DTLA looked nice.

3 miles plus for Griffith Park. Only about 1/2 mile on the Kenneth Hahn trips, so I didn't count them as hikes.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Hike 2016.050 -- Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area: Lost Canyon, Icebox Canyon, and First Creek Waterfalls


Hiked Saturday, December 31. Yes, last hike of the year. ;D And only half as many as last year. But I had a good excuse!

The last "hike" was actually three separate hikes: Lost Canyon waterfall (2/3 of a mile, roundtrip), Icebox Canyon waterfalls (2.2 miles, roundtrip), and First Creek waterfall (2.2 miles roundtrip).

Lost Canyon trailhead is off of Rocky Gap Road. You have to take the big, looping scenic drive just about halfway around. Rocky Gap is the second road after you've passed the scenic view at the top of the loop. Once on Rocky Gap Road, the first parking area on the left is the one for Lost Canyon (and the Children's Discovery trail). For Lost Canyon, take the trail that heads from the middle of the ends of the parking area.

You'll soon be treated to the view of the first photo in this post (looking to your right. There's a (usually) dry wash crossing, then a slight incline, then some boardwalk as you walk among the spring.
After that, you continue your climb, and soon reach the end of the canyon, with the waterfall, above. It's a fairly large drop, as you can see, and the often-slight waterflow sometimes seems to dissipate as it descends. Walk under the falls, and it will look something like the third photo in this shot.

No idea who the hikers in the photos are, by the way. But, on this day, the trail was busy enough that waiting for a chance at an un-modeled shot would take too long. Also, the other hikers give a sense of scale to this waterfall.

I'd been to Lost Canyon twice before in recent years, once when it was mostly dry, and once, during active rain, when it was flowing.
Next on my agenda was Icebox Canyon. I had also hiked here at least twice before in recent years, and also, once when it was mostly dry, and once when it was actively raining. Pictures from both times are in this post, from 2013.
Icebox Canyon is the next parking area along the scenic drive down from Rocky Gap. Fun thing about this hike was my parking spot: I literally got the first spot, right at the trailhead. Yes, little things can feel like wins, especially when you're visiting Las Vegas.

The first part of this hike is largely level. Yes, there's an incline. But it's easy going. You soon cross a connector trail (last time here, I walked that connector, down from Lost Canyon. But I had the goal of multiple waterfalls, and didn't want to tire myself out with the extra two miles roundtrip from Lost Canyon.

As the trail proceeds and the canyon narrows, you soon find yourself overlooking the sound and sight of running water, down on your left. You should resist the urge to drop down into that canyon until the last possible moment, since the trail (and the going) is a lot easier up top than it is down below.
Nonetheless, you will soon find yourself with no choice but to descend, then boulder hop, and find your way among the boulders and undergrowth of Icebox Canyon. On this part, the thing to remember is that there are almost always multiple ways past each obstacle. If you find your way appearing too daunting, step back and look for an alternate route. Yes, if the water is high, you may have your choices limited. But, usually, there's an easily manageable way around each barrier.

This includes the "final" barrier, to the base of the lower waterfall. In this case, head to the left, and climb up behind the tree that shields you from a possible fall as you climb the few feet up to the next level.

Getting up to the next level is a little scarier, if only because it's unprotected. I've climbed there before, but chickened out, this time. There's also a middle fall (invisible from the photo, above). Then, getting beyond that fall to the next pool is even more daunting, and I did not attempt that, last time.

Returned to my car, and completed the scenic loop. Then I turned right, towards First Canyon. I had never been here, before. It appeared to be about the third trail access point west from the loop. It also had a bit sign that said, "First Creek," at the wide area on the side of the highway. The other two spots I had stopped did not have signs on my eastbound approach. I think the Oak Creek trailhead, at least, should normally be signed, but it appears stupid people make a habit of vandalizing signs out here.
For this hike, I followed the directions of the "bird and hike" website (you can find it, with an easy search). The general idea is to stay on the main and obvious trail until you reach some pine trees. As you approach the first of these pine trees (on your right side), that's where you need to leave the main trail for an unsigned use trail that drops to the base of this small (10-12 feet, at most) falls. On the day I hiked, there was weird graffiti and an arrow on a rock (second from last photo) that pointed along the main trail. A very clear but also "incorrect" trail went straight where the main trail turned right. I went on the "wrong" trail, and found myself at the top of the falls. Backtracking, a bit, I found a conglomerate rock (third picture from the last). Sticking hard to the left as I descended, I found a narrow but easy way to the base of the falls.
Three falls (four, if you count two at Icebox Canyon) and about five miles for the day. Not a bad end to my year.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Hike 2016.029 -- Cape Final, North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

Hiked Saturday, June 4. I made a somewhat last minute decision to come to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for the annual star party. I didn't take any days off, although, checking my calendar, I see that I had a regular day off on Friday, the 3rd. Can't remember if I drove up to Las Vegas on the third, but it would make sense if I did. I do definitely know I had to drive all the way from the North Rim back to the LA area on Sunday, though, and that was one heck of a long drive.
I'm pretty sure this trip would have been a little bit after my computer updated itself to Windows 10, because that's when the way my picture editing software changed. It's just Windows Office Picture Manager, which came with Windows 7 or Windows 8 or what ever this computer came with. The point was that it acted a little different after Windows 10 came on board. So I started on this post months ago, but, surprisingly, never finished it. So here it is, now.
In any event, the approach from the north was new to my memory (although my father tells me I visited it before as a child). There's a large meadow -like area you pass on the way in. Unknown to me at the time, bison graze this area. That's some of them, in the first picture of this post.

After checking in with the coordinator for the star party, I headed off on the longest hike I figured I could safely finish and still get back in time to set up for the party. So I picked Cape Final.
Cape Final is given by the NPS on their "Pocket Map North Rim Services Guide" handout as 2.1 miles each way, although it's given by other sources as two miles. The drive to the trailhead appeared to be about 21 miles each way. So my rough calculation said two hours to walk, and 90 minutes to drive there and back. I had enough time for that, with a margin for error.

The trailhead was within a pine forest. It's a rather small parking area with vault toilets, but no running water. The bulk of the walk is also within this mixture of forest and and small meadows. Lots of wildflowers when I was there, in early June.
Lupine were the most common, and it formed several "carpeted" areas along the way. Smaller flowers than the ones that bloom in southern California. Another common flower I saw was this one, which, from the front, looked unfamiliar. But, from the side, it was clearly a larkspur. I'm going to go with Parish's Larkspur. Not sure about the yellow flower I've got pictured.

The whitish one is some sort of fleabane. Both the yellow and white ones looked like what I would see in Cedar Breaks, when I went there later in the summer.

After running through the forest and meadow for about a mile and a half, you finally find a peek at the canyon . . . to your north! It's just funny to have to label pictures of the canyon as "looking north, from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon."

There are a couple of points where the trail approaches that north or east facing drops, and use trails usually swing out to those points. Then, as you approach the end, there's actually a "Cape Final" sign, right near the edge.

Turns out there's also a primitive campsite, also right near the rim. As has been noted elsewhere, this would not be a good place for sleep walkers, or for those who wake up disoriented.
This butte was actually at one of those earlier cutoffs. The lizard and the juniper skeleton, however, were right there near the rim, at the end of the trail.

There's a pretty expansive view, described as 270 degrees. There are some foreground buttes that cut off some of that view, however.

After enjoying the view, I returned the way I came. Definitely less than two hours roundtrip. The route is pretty flat, so the going is fast.
It's a fairly long drive, with a slow speed limit, so the drive probably was about 90 minutes total. Still, got back to the North Rim with plenty of time to spare. So I shuttled my telescope to the rim, set up, and still had time to take a walk along the 1/2 mile trail, to another lookout.
The last two pictures of this post were from the area near the lodge. The third to the last was from the Cape Final overlook.
Shots from the area around the North Rim (including versions of the shots here) were posted way back over here.
My post-star party drive out of the Park, and at nearby Pipe Springs National Monument, is linked here.
Cropped version of my favorite shot from the trip. I just loved the way the lighting worked out.

Planning to return to the Grand Canyon Star Party in 2017. That one starts over Father's Day weekend. Mark your calendars if you're planning to go!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Hike 2016.048 -- Rubio Canyon

Hiked Saturday, December 17. 4 miles.

Possibly my first outdoor hike since going on chemo. I'm supposed to avoid staying on my feet too long, and avoid too much sun exposure, so I have mostly been just walking in malls and in Los Angeles County Arboretum and Huntington Library and Gardens, which have lots of trees for shade.

This hike is in a canyon. Plus, I went in the afternoon, so the sun wasn't very strong.
I was pretty sure the waterfall would be essentially dry, despite the rain of just two days before. And I was right. But, as noted above, I was here mainly for the shade!

Shortly after staring out (after starting from the trailhead near Pleasant Ridge and Rubio Vista Roads), in Altadena), I noticed a new set of swtichbacks, carved into the slope on the other side of the canyon (first shot, above). So after discovering the falls to be mostly dry, I headed back down the canyon. At the Pavilion, I stayed on the canyon floor, and made my way, in search of a trail to access the new switchbacks. Obviously, it's only about 1/2 mile down before I found the trail, on my left.

Shortly after heading up that trail, I came across what looked like a large water retention area (third picture of this post).

I continued switchbacking and gaining altitude, as far as the trail had been developed. I thought I would eventually reach those other trails, that come up from behind the newer water storage tanks, closer to the mouth of the Canyon. Unfortunately, my developed trail petered out before reaching that. There were some orange strips, fluttering on the ends of tree branches and wooden stakes, indicating this was where the trail work had ended.
I could have continued on my own, since I knew the other trail was near. But I didn't want to cause undue erosion where the trial bed had not been hardened. So I returned the way I came, and upon reaching the canyon bottom, continued downhill, until I reached the access point that drops down from the main trail, and took that short but steep route back up to the trail, then to my car.
Figured about four miles for the day. Broke 100 stories on my fitbit for the day. Lots of climbing, but a relatively short day. Still, nice to be outdoors.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Hike 2016.047 -- Huntington Library and Gardens

Well, as mentioned previously, I've been highly limited in my hiking opportunities, and this limitation will continue through mid-May. I'm supposed to limit my time on my feet, and stay out of the sun. Despite that, I've been pretty fortunate. I've been hitting my fitbit goal of 16,000 steps most of the time, the last few weeks. Most of that is either on a treadmill, or in a mall. More on that, later. I've also been heading out some evenings, and on overcast days.
I took these shots on Sunday, November 27. But I've made some pretty frequent trips recently, both to the Huntington and to the nearby Los Angeles County Arboretum. I may post some pictures from those trips at a later date, but possibly not. It's a "been there, done that" sort of situation.
This particular trip worked well -- overcast, and a little rain in the morning. Also, I had recently purchased a Sigma 105mm macro lens for my Nikon D3200. On this trip, they're all dslr shots, although I do tend to resize and reduce the size of those files, usually down to a third or less of their original size.
The shots that weren't taken with the macro were taken with an 18-140mm Nikon lens, which I also purchased recently. Those were my, "Hey, you're still alive, and it's sort of Christmas and your birthday, so you should buy yourself something to celebrate" things.
It was still a little early for peak Ginkgo color, but the leaves still looked nice. But, mainly, as you probably already noticed, I amused myself with the drops of water on the roses. I shot drops of water on other plants, but the roses presented the prettiest. Meanwhile, with the 18-140mm, the Ginkgo were the stars. That, and the barrel cactus, of course. They were like nature's little lens sharpness test. ;D
Anyway, in addition to getting this post up today, I also worked some on my Cape Final post, from back in June. That one never got posted because I was having some issues with editing my pictures, right after Windows 10 got installed. Although I'm only using Windows Office Picture Manager (which came with my student/teacher Office Suite, I assume), the shift from Windows 7 to Windows 10 changed the way the pictures behaved when you resized and rotated them.
So now, I just have to get used to editing them "sideways" if I shot the picture vertical. I suppose I could also rotate and edit them "right side up," then rotate them back when I save them, to get them to display properly on the blog.
In addition to working on the Cape Final post, I also took a short hike yesterday in Rubio Canyon. Not a lot of interesting things to see or tell, but I'll get that one posted within a few days I think too. I was also thinking of hiking before my evening shift at the Observatory, but my feet are feeling a little tingly, at the moment. It's a side effect of the oral chemo drugs I'm taking, which is why I am supposed to watch my time on my feet (and, as additional side effects, stay out of the sun because of increased sensitivity to the sun. Also, it turns out, it can, at times, affect your coordination, which also limits where I'm willing to hike!).
Still, I'll have some time to able to make a few more updates to this blog over the next week, which, because of recent events, has been pretty dead, recently.

Oh, yes, the other change that may make catching up on the posting easier is that I finally got wi-fi. Up until last week, I was using AT&T regular dsl and a landline, but was getting annoyed by the nearly eight dollars a month that was costing (yeah, I know!). Now, I'm on AT&T's "Uverse" (fiber optic cable) and digital phone, which, for the next twelve months, is supposed to cost me $50/month. So, in addition to saving $26 or $27 a month, I also get "free" wi-fi with the provided modem/router. Annoyingly, they won't let you just buy your own modem/router, so I need to pay $10/month for that. But they're discounting me $10/month for the first year because of my "bundle."

After a year, there's a pretty good chance I'll finally feel comfortable completely leaving the landline business, and just port my number to a mobile phone that'll I'll almost never check, just to keep the number. We'll see.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Hike 2016.004 -- Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden


Hiked Saturday, January 17. 5 miles. Rapidly coming up on one year since the actual hike. But I find myself sitting in a waiting area with a computer, and this is the only draft post I can work on that has pictures already uploaded. Probably won't get very far before I need to go, though.

This was a few months after I joined the Los Angeles County Arboretum (through a Groupon offer). The one year membership includes reciprocal admission to various other arboretum and botanical gardens, including Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens.
(The parks also have the option to "block" reciprocal privileges to parks within 90 miles. Unfortunately, Descanso Gardens, which is somewhat near to me, does block privileges, so I am not able to take advantage of the benefit there. But I did make a free visit there once last year during Museum Free for All day. The next one is coming up in January, so take look over there and make some plans. And, if you go, go early, because the crowds last year were pretty crazy.
Apparently, I was still experi-menting with my camera, as I see I too a few black and white shots. ;D

The park is in Claremont, which is a bit of a drive for me. Probably would not otherwise make a visit, were it not free. So, in that respect, their choosing not to block reciprocal privileges is probably a good idea: they gained a visitor they would otherwise not have gotten.
Rancho Santa Ana is quite different from the Los Angeles County Arboretum. There's a much smaller "developed" area, and a much larger area which almost looks like an abandoned lot. I mean that literally, as it looks like parts of the park have chunks of concrete only partially buried. It's an interesting effect, and not a rare one for many of the larger open spaces in semi-suburban areas of southern California.
Given my choice of visiting date, I was not surprised to find relatively few plants in bloom, and not much in the way of fall color. Still, there were a few, and it was definitely a pleasant place to walk. Relatively large, too. Easy to put together a three mile-plus walk.
Obviously, the San Gabriel Mountains are not that far away. At the start of the year, they were snow-capped. And the Joshua tree made a nice foreground.

Some birds used the bayonet-like leaves as a place of refuge.

It's been long enough ago that I don't remember a lot else about this visit. I do recall that I planned to return to this park during the spring bloom, but that did not occur. I've probably also missed the "fall" color, again.

On the other hand, I recently renewed my Arboretum member-ship, so I can still come back here any time I want. So, perhaps, this spring.

I also plan to visit the South Coast Botanic Garden sometime, soon. They also have reciprocal admission privileges with the Los Angeles County Arboretum, and I have never been to that park, either.
Since the Los Angeles County Arboretum is by far the nearest botanic garden to me, I'll probably keep my membership, there. Particularly given my current health status, having something so nearby that I can walk, among relatively flat paths, and with good shade, is very helpful. I'm also keeping my membership at the Huntington Library.

On the other hand, I should also visit he Whittier Narrows Recreation Area more often.
(As I flip through some old posts about Legg Lake and the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area, it's also looking pretty interesting!)

(By the way, the trees here are Torrey Pine. Kind of nice that they have a number of locally-oriented plants here. The first shot on this post, for example, is of Channel Island Bush Poppy. I got introduced to them during our visit to Santa Cruz Island, earlier in the year).
OK, that's in, for now. Since my last blogged hike, I've only managed walks in malls and at the Arboretum and the Huntington. Perhaps on some overcast winter morning, I'll be able to go elsewhere.