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.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Hike 2016.044 -- Mt Wilson and Mt Lowe

Hiked Saturday, September 24. This was my second-to-last hike before my extended hiatus. The night before, one of my facebook feeds (for the Cosmic Cafe, I think, but it might have been for Mount Wilson Observatory) announced that the 60" telescope would be open for some daytime viewing of Venus.

Well, I've seen Venus plenty of times through a telescope, and I've looked through the 60" telescope a few times, as well. But I hadn't seen Venus in daylight through the 60", and definitely not for free.

So I drove on up there, figuring to take a peek or two, then do a short hike at nearby Mount Lowe.

No problem driving up. Parked, and passed by the 150' solar telescope on the way to the 60" dome. Shot a few photos with the sun "eclipsed" behind the tower, just to get the halo effect. Later, I got a shot of the moon, adjacent to the solar telescope's dome. But, in the meantime, I just continued on my way to the 60" telescope.
As it turned out, seeing on Mt. Wilson was terrible. That meant it wasn't even possible to get the "disc" of Venus in focus. It was just a featureless blob that, on occasion, you could make out the fact that the disc was not circular, but in a gibbous phase (more than half, less than full). That's a function of the geometry between earth, sun, and Venus. At the time, Venus was more distant from us than the sun, but at enough of an angle that part of the night side of the planet was also visible to us.
Incidentally, Venus is extremely bright as seen from earth. That's a function of the highly reflective clouds that surround the planet. What that brightness means is that, often, at night, the planet is so bright that it's hard to see even see that phase. That's why daytime viewing held so much promise. The planet is easily bright enough to see during the daytime, while the brighter sky makes it easier to discern the planet's rim, and to make out its phase.
After my short view, I headed back down to the Mt. Lowe Trailhead. It's a dirt road, 2N50, which starts basically where Red Box Road reaches the crest so that you can see back into the LA Basin, and the road (if you're driving up) begins heading mostly due east, towards Mt Wilson's summit.
It's really a nice view, with steep canyons before you and the Basin stretching out in the distance. The road's wide, and historic. It was part of that whole Mt Lowe / Echo Mountain development from the early years of the 20th Century. Apparently, in 1942, the U.S. Forest Service built a tunnel through some of these mountains for the access road.
Shortly after poking back out of the tunnel, you have a choice. Going straight on the wide road is the long way around Mt. Lowe, and could eventually (after a long detour) take you to Inspiration Point. Right would take you up to San Gabriel Peak, and, not far past that, Mount Disappointment.

Left, however, takes you up to Mt. Lowe. That was my goal for the day.
Nice views down the Arroyo Seco on this trail, which parallels the dirt road for a while, before looping back towards Mt. Lowe. It reaches a saddle that could also be used to access Mt. Markham, though I have never tried what looks like a pretty steep route there. I have been to Mt. Lowe by this way several times, however.b
Nice views pretty much all around from this summit. It's a relatively barren summit, which contributes to the clear views.

Returned the way I came, then returned to Mt. Wilson for another try at Venus. It was higher in the sky, now, which meant looking through less atmosphere, which could potentially lead to better views. in practice, unfortunately, the view remained terrible Oh, well. It was still something that got me out of the house for some hiking and astronomy, and that's hard to beat!

Maybe 3-4 miles for the day. Sure helped with achieving my fitbit goal!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Hike 2016.045 -- Millard Canyon

Hiked Sunday, October 2. Obviously, this hike was a long time ago. I began blogging it a while ago, but did not manage to finish. Then I managed to delete the post. It's the stupid touch pad, which often manages to highlight text as I type, then delete the text when my palm moves on the touchpad. I just adjusted the settings, so hopefully that won't happen any more.

But the real reason for this long hiatus is that I had a bit of a health issue the past sex weeks. Serious diagnosis, followed by major surgery.

I'm mostly recovered, and now doing a lot of mall and park walking, but I have not tried anything seriously strenuous, or even anything taking me more than a mile or so from pavement. I may be trying slightly longer hikes, but I also know my recovery is not complete, and I may soon be taking some medications that will further sap my endurance.
Nonetheless, I'm still alive, and, at least for now, feeling mostly okay. Can't be sure if I'm "cured," or if this is just a calm before the storm. I'm hoping the former, obviously.

In the meantime, this was the last hike I took before my surgery. I read the trail write-up in Modern Hiker, and, quite frankly, I was surprised. This trail was closed the winter after the 2009 Station Fire, which was right about when I was starting my first 100 hike years, so I never managed to see the falls before winter mud flows lead to a closure order for Millard Canyon falls.
The closure lasted for years, and I hadn't even realized the closure order had been lifted. But, upon reading the post, I searched the Internet and confirmed that the closure order had been lifted. So, even knowing there would be just a trickle of water coming down the "falls," I figured it would still be nice to hike some new trail and get a close up of the base of the falls.

The falls themselves are also visible from the Sunset Ridge Trail, which heads out of the canyon and takes you right near the top of the falls. The best view of the falls on that trail is from some distance away, however.
You can also get close to the top by taking the trail past the falls, then swinging back downstream (Hiked last year, but never blogged. Must do that, still!). But you can't really see the falls from the top very well, at all.

Modern hiker says it's 1.6 miles roundtrip, so that's a pretty short distance. Several stream crossings, which are not a problem when the water is so low. Quick walk, and the view was as expected, as was the low water flow.

Knowing ahead of time that this hike was going to be so short, I intended to then add the Sunset Ridge Trail. I intended to go all the way to Echo Mountain, but did not feel the strength or motivation to go the distance. I didn't even feel the motivation to head up from the canyon bottom. Instead, when I drove in, I noticed many parking spaces were right at the saddle, which would save me about 1.5 miles roundtrip, and a pretty significant climb.
So after my visit to the falls, I drove my car back up to the saddle. Yet, even with the head start, by the time I got to the picnic area (about 1.5 miles from the saddle), I was feeling pretty tired. So I sat, took some pictures, then returned to my car. A pretty short day, yet enough for what I could handle, that day.

I'll probably be heading back there if we get some significant rain this year.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Hike 2016.032B -- Rainbow Falls from Red's Meadow Resort

Hiked Saturday, July 2. 3 miles. After catching the shuttle bus from stop #7 (walk to your left after you reach the road to find the stop) to stop #10, I left my wife at the "Resort," then wandered on down to Rainbow Falls.

The given distance from the "Rainbow Falls Trailhead" to "Rainbow Falls" is given as 1.3 miles. I'd sure the distance from the trailhead to the "Resort" is over 1/5 of a mile each way, so it's about three miles, roundtrip.
This trail quickly brought me into an area that had clearly burned, not too long ago. There were standing snags and many downed logs. It wasn't quite as dramatic as Yellowstone after those great fires, but there were a LOT of dead trees.

Sadly, this is becoming a recurring theme across much of the West.
This being the Fourth of July weekend, I expect this trail was even more crowded than it normally is. It was an almost continuous flow of people, including many that were not dressed as you would expect even a casual hiker to be dressed. Many were also somewhat elderly and/or hobbled, yet, there they were, slogging their way to Rainbow Falls.
Given the modest distance and lack of significant altitude change, I suppose this should not be too surprising.

Also not surprising was the size of the crowd at the waterfall viewpoint.

But, what was just a little surprising was the number of selfie-obsessed hikers. Yes, that's becoming less surprising as time goes by. It used to be, you'd hike for the view, the experience, and, yes, to document what your experience.
What's changed is that the documentation now must include a picture of yourself, in front of the scene. And it can't just be a snapshot. There was one self-obsessed twit who literally spent 7-8 minutes, standing right were anyone would need to stand to take a shot of the falls, posing, snapping, reposing, snapping, reposing, snapping, etc., etc. Sadly, I do mean the 7-8 minutes, literally. That's just selfish.
Then again, I also saw selfishness on my recent hike to Angels Landing, where, at places where you would have to wait because you can only pass one at a time along narrow sections, rather than seeing people coming up, seeing I was waiting, and waiting for the oncoming group I was waiting for to clear. People would push pass me, get about ten feet, then realize they couldn't proceed.
Well, after 5, 10, or 12 people do this, now the folks coming up the opposite direction have no where to go, either. Increased gridlock.

Again, on that trail, I ended up having to back up on go well away from the chain and trail on several occasions, not because I was blocking the way initially, but because so many people had crowded on the other side of me that now the people coming up had no where to safely get away from the narrow point of the trail.

I suppose that's to be expected by some people, who clearly walk the way they drive. Doesn't mean all, or even most, hikers and drivers are idiots. But when you get enough at one spot, yeah, I can get grumpy.

Point being, I suppose, is that this is a better walk for a less crowded day. But it is definitely scenic, and I can not fault anyone who's on a limited schedule to want to take these walks while they're in the area. It's just a warning, if you don't like crowds, that you might want to schedule your hike here, accordingly.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Hike 2016.032A -- Devil's Postpile, Devil's Postpile National Monument, CA

Hiked Sunday, July 3. 1.2 miles. During most of the season, for most of the day, access over Minaret Pass, to Agnew Meadows, Devil's Postpile, and Rainbow Falls (etc) is by shuttle bus, only. The shuttle bus leaves from the Mammoth ski resort. Tickets were about $7, roundtrip, which permits on-off riding down in the area between Agnew Meadows and Red's Meadow Resort.

Depending on how early you get there, and/or if you're willing to pay a rather steep parking fee, you can either park right near the shuttle boarding area or park a mile or more down the hill. I don't recall if they had shuttle buses to take you from the ticket/boarding area down to the more remote lots on the Mammoth side of things.
Stop 6 puts you close to the actual Postpile. Stop 8 may be marginally closer, but not a big difference. Stop 6 is also near the ranger station, so most people get off, there. From there, you head downstream, with the San Joaquin River on your right. Only about 1/3 mile to the base of the Postpile, which are, you probably already know, columns of basalt.

From the bottom, it's a short, steep 1/8 mile or so to the top of the Postpile. Polished by glaciers, it looks a bit like tile. A small but oldish pine tree grows from out of it's surface. I photographed that same pine tree the last time I was here, about 20 years ago.
From the top, maps indicate it should be only another 1/8 of a mile or so to rejoin the trail that went below the Postpile, but it seemed much further than that. There are several nice extrusions of basalt, coming out at different angles, as you make your way around.

Once rejoined with the trail, it again seemed longer than it should to get to the trail split.
At the split 1.5 miles straight would take you to Rainbow Falls. But my wife was not having fun, so we turned left, to get to Stop 8. Once you reach the road, again, stop 8 is to your left. Unauthorized vandalism was the only way to know that [or, you know, looking at a map. ;D ]

We rode to Stop 10, where my wife could sit and relax, and I could use the restroom, then drop back down towards the trail to Rainbow Falls. But that's the subject of my next blog. ;D
The rest of these shots were actually from the night before. Stayed in Bishop on for a couple of nights. Super 8. Walked basically the length of Bishop after dinner, from my motel room to the Von's and back.
Passed the theater, which was showing (obviously) Independence Day II and Finding Dory. I just got a kick out of the Fourth of July bunting to match that marquee display.

Also passed their POW/Veterans Memorial, which are some flags and rocky plaques, near Von's.

Of course, by the time I got back to the motel room, it was getting dark. Still, I enjoyed the glow of those clouds I saw on the way back.
Here are those clouds, above the Shell Station that was across the street from my motel stay. There was a Jack in the Box immediately south of the motel. Nice for quicky bites, if you needed them.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Hike 2016.031 Burbank Peak, Griffith Park, CA

Hiked Tuesday, June 28. Still catching up. I'm pretty sure this was during the Cajon Pass fire, though the Santa Clarita or Ventura fires may have also been going. There have been many nights at the Observatory where plumes of smoke choked off the view. All those fires have simply blurred into a summer of fire and smoke.
This is by far my favorite hike in the park. It's long enough to fel like a workout, gives you some of the most dramatic scenery in the park to overlook, and hits several of the most iconic sights of the south-facing portions of Griffith Park.
I always start at the Observatory, which you can reach by taking either Hillhurst north from Los Feliz to Vermont, or just take Vermont north from Los Feliz, up past the Greek Theater, through the Vermont Tunnel, then left up to the parking lot.
Of course, since Iwork here, I can always find parking. For most, finding parking at the Observatory Lot can be a challenge, almost any time. If so, parking down near where the paved Mt. Hollywood Drive departs from Vermont Canyon or West Observatory Road would also work fine. Your path would be different, and perhaps less scenic, but still nice, and even a little shorter.
From the Observatory Parking Lot, head north. The Charlie Turner Trail starts at the end of the parking lot. There's now a display board with a map of the park, and a sign with some walking distances given. The tricky part is that there are multiple routes to several destinations, and I'm not sure which route they use to calculate the distances.
Continue north, passing the Berlin Children's Forest. Views of the Hollywood sign are visible through those trees, and along the way past here. You'll descend down a hill shortly after the forest. As you approach the "bridge" that passes over the Vermont Tunnel, a trail will come up from your left. That's one way you could join this hike if you parked down below and wanted to take the same route. More likely, you'd have just walked up Mt. Hollywood Drive, instead.

You cross over the tunnel and enjoy expansive views to your southeast and southwest.
Right on the other side of the bridge is a steep trail that runs up the spine towards Mt. Hollywood. It joins the trail that comes up from the "Bird Sanctuary" (top of Vermont Avenue/Vermont Canyon Road, where it makes the turn to the left and makes a short, steep climb to the Vermont Tunnel entrance). About 1/4 steep mile later, it joins the Charlie Turner Trail right where the trail splits to go either clockwise or counterclockwise around Mt Hollywood. I'm not sure which route is the official Charlie Turner Trail there, or if both are, or if neither is.

Personally, I prefer to stay on the Charlie Turner Trail all the way up to that split. It's a nice, easy climb, and I enjoy the longer, less strenuous climb.

Once at the split, I'm not sure which way is faster. For me, the deciding factor is usually based on which side is shaded, and whether I'm hot or cold.
Either way meets up at the northeast end, a bit below the peak. If you wanted to bag the peak, it's about 1/5 of a mile from that reunion of trails. Incidentally, if you went counterclockwise, you'll pass Dante's View, and a trail that would take you past Glendale Peak, and on to the southeast.
Once at the reunion, either after, or without having visited Mount Hollywood's Summit, you head north. Stay on the nice fire road that heads towards another peak. That's Mount Bell.
Personally, I follow that fire road to the exposed water pipes, then walk up that use trail. It takes me to the north end of Mount Bell, where it runs into another fire road. Follow that road around Mt. Bell. Continue heading west, and you'll run into Mt. Hollywood Drive, again. Continue just a bit further west,and Mt. Hollywood Drive dives down to the north.
Rather than going down that hill, look for the trail that's on your left. It may not be signed. Follow that a bit up the ridge, towards another hill, which is Mt. Chapel. Rather than trying to summit that hill, look for the use trail that contours along its southern flank. If you did this right, you'll soon be walking with a rather steep dropoff to your left, and the broad fire road that is the Mulholland "trail" further down below. After less than 1/2 mile of walking along this ridge, you look for the trail that bears down a bit to your left. Not a steep descent, mind you. It just departs from the trail that wold otherwise dead-end overlooking Mt. Lee Drive.
Again, if you did this right, you run right into Mt. Lee Drive (paved). Follow it to your right to get up above the Hollywood Sign, and/or get to Cahuenga Peak and Burbank Peak. Alternatively, if you go down and to your left, you could eventually get as close as legally possible to the bottom of the Hollywood Sign. That requires a little trick of passing through the gate to Mulholland Highway, the passing right (around the gate) to get on to the trail that goes below the sign. That trail, were you to follow it, ends near Innsdale and Canyon Lake Drives.
On the other hand, if you turned right, you follow the pavement up the hill. When it makes a hairpin turn to the left, staying on it would take you to the top of Mt. Lee. On the other hand, at that turn, there's a monument to he acquisition of the land that is Cahuenga Peak. And, more recently, a trail sign was added, giving the distance to Cahuenga Peak and Burbank Peak. Head up that narrow trail, and enjoy views overlooking Lake Hollywood, the Hollywood Sign, and much of southern California.
Then follow that trail (difficult, at times, with fair dropoffs near by) over Cahuenga Peak, then further west, to Burbank Peak. That's the one with the lone pine tree ("The Magic Tree"), and annoying stacks of rocks. Great views both north and south as you approach Burbank Peak. Great place to enjoy a sunset, too. But that'll mean getting back after dark.

Return the way you came. About eight miles, roundtrip.