Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Nighttime in Kolob Canyons, July 26, 2019

On Friday, July 26, I started off on a quick weekend trip up to southern Utah. Unfortunately, I worked the previous several nights (and days, of course), so I had to pack that morning. Packing and getting on the road took longer than I had hoped. I was already catching Las Vegas-bound traffic. But it turned out to be even worse after I passed north of Las Vegas.
There's a long-term construction project going on in the Virgin River Gorge. Several bridges were undercut in downpours last year, so they have not been safe for full traffic loads. Until at least early 2020, traffic through the gorge will be limited to less than 10 feet in width (not a factor for me obviously) and a single lane along varying sections. The result is some serious delays in both directions on many days. Not sure if the suggested detour would actually save time, though I might consider it if the alternative were peak-time travel on I-15.
By the time I got to my motel room in Hurricane, Utah, my original plan of doing some afternoon hiking in Cedar Breaks was not practical. Might have been able to try something short in Zion's main canyon, but that would also have had very little light.
Besides, part of my original plan was to end the day of hiking with some night photography in Kolob Canyons. I kind of wanted to do THAT on the way up to Arches and Capitol Reef, back at the end of April. But on that trip, it was cold and probably cloudy, and I knew I could always return in the summer for the same shots, but at a more reasonable hour, and warmer temperatures.
Hey, look, there's my car. :D

The first few shots in this post were as twilight began. You can even see a few stars in those first few shots. It was somewhat cloudy, and I was far from sure I'd be able to get any shots that night But it wound up clearing, and I did have fun I also got bitten by various bugs, unfortunately. But, still, a good trip.
These were all from the parking lot at the hairpint turn, about halfway up the five mile drive in the Kolob Canyons section of Zion. There's an unpopularized cross-country route for a short hike up a canyon there. I'll have to try that some time, when I'm here in the daylight.

The next day, I visited Cedar Breaks for the wildflowers, then headed back down to Las Vegas. The southbound drive was faster than the northbound drive, but this was Saturday. I suspect the Sunday traffic is worse, both ways.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Around Palm Desert, March 3 2019

I keep saying it, but my cats are making blogging a whole lot harder. I should upload some pictures so you can see the culprits. Got a pair of toddler-cats. They were somewhere around 3-5 months old when we got them back in November. Of course, all cats like to walk on keyboards, and that makes blogging impossible But these guys were also in the "chew everything" mode, so I've lost several USB plugs to them. They just chew right through the wire. At least two were for my Fitbit. Three or so were USB-C type plug, which would let me connect my phone to my computer to directly download photos from there. My phone has the shots I shoot with it, but also some from my dslr, when I choose to use either Nikon's Wireless Mobile Utility (WMU) or Nikon's Snapbridge. It turns out some Nikon cameras use one, and some the other, and the things you can do with each app varies. That makes it harder to post about those hikes, too.
They've also chewed through the USB cords for my portable hard drives, and almost (but, thankfully, no quite) through the power cord that powers one of my tv streaming devices. BTW, this makes me think that "stick" streaming device inventors must own kittens that chew, a lot!

Also, for some reason, the computer at the car dealer I get my oil changed stopped letting me properly logging on to my blogspot account. Anyway, many stupid barriers, and that's before personal time constraints get in the way.
At any rate, I started blogging this back in June, but, even then, the hike was old: From back in early March, even before the desert superbloom ran its course. I took advantage of the first full weekend of the month to visit The Living Desert Museum/Zoo, in Palm Desert. They have a non-summer trail that loops near Eisenhower Peak, a 1952 foot tall (get it?) mountain, adjacent to the developed zoo area. It's about a five mile hike, which I have done only twice.
I also hiked the 2.5 mile Randall Henderson loop trail, a the visitor center for Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. At this point, I have no good recollection of which shots were where, except that the chuckwalla was definitely on the Eisenhower trail. The notch-leafed phacelia was also on that trail.

I had hiked this trail before, and wrote it up, here. I would have wagered I'd hiked it more than once before but only one turns up in a quick google search.
It's an enjoyable hike, to be sure. Nice views. This time, however, the trail to examine the San Andreas Fault was closed, due to water damage from heavy rains the previous month.
Meanwhile, it was my first visit to Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. The trail they put me on had a fair number of wildflowers, but it was not superbloom-status. Pretty, but not outstanding. Still, it was a change of pace, for me. New trail, never walked, before. The variety of plants was different than what I had seen before. Glad I went, but not likely to take this trail, again.

During this time, there were some serious blooms down along I-10, but I did not know public trails in that area. Other areas suggested they were being overrun so I didn't go there. So I didn't manage the most complete sampling of this year's superbloom. Not nearly as much hiking as I had hoped for, either. Still trying to get back in my hiking groove, even as I type this.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Alpine Pond, Sunset, and Campground Trails, Cedar Breaks National Monument, UT, July 27, 2019

I swung by Cedar Breaks National Monument in late June, after a two-night visit to the North Rim of Grand Canyon. Haven't blogged that one yet, either. Because of the cold, snowy winter, there were still patches of snow around Cedar Breaks, and in areas of Dixie National Forest nearby. No wildflowers, except a few dandelions.
On this return trip, things were more typical of early summer rather than mid-summer. I walked the short trail from the Visitor Center to Sunset Point, and the trails from Sunset Point to the Campground, and from the Campground to the Visitor Center. Lots of wildflowers in those meadows. Indian paintbrush was common.
These are southern Lingusticum. Even more common, especially along forest edges.
Dandelion. I assumed they were exotic invasives, but I was told they're indigenous to the area, and important to bees, because they tend to be the earliest flowers to bloom in the spring. This was consistent with what I saw last month.
Little sunflowers, in a field, south of the trail between the Campground and Sunset Point.
They were also thick in the meadow adjacent to Highway 143, just east of the upper Alpine Pond trail, near Chessmen Ridge Overlook. From that parking lot, it's a short backtrack along the road to get this shot.
If you're an asshole who drives a Jeep, however, you can just illegally pull on to the meadow adjacent to the road, leave part of your car blocking part of the lane, walk across the road, and take your pictures.
See? Asshole.
Shrubby cinuefoil is the yellow one.
More Little Sunflower, overlooking the amphitheater.

Trip turned out okay. Didn't get as much hiking as I had hoped, because of a late departure from home. But I got some nice night sky shots late Friday night, then the short bit of hiking at high altitude, to get away from the heat.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Mt Pinos and Vicinity, Friday, July 12, 2019

The meadow near the snow play parking area and Chula Vista campground often fills with iris in early summer, depending on the winter, spring, and early summer weather.

This year, because of the cold and snowy winter and spring, the iris bloomed late. I had dropped by and taken a long hike here a few weeks before Fourth of July, and the iris had barely started growing. Got a good hike out of it (over to Mt. Abel), but didn't get the iris.
By contrast, on previous years, Fourth of July was already well past peak.

I had some ambitions of visiting the Sunday after Fourth of July (July 7), but couldn't manage that. I was pretty sure I had missed peak. But I was pleasantly surprised to find the iris in full bloom on July 12.

The iris were not as dense as in some previous visits, but definitely better than most.

I walked around for about fifteen minutes, then headed back to my car. I intended to drive back down to Lockwood Valley Road and look for Lily Meadow, a trail off of Boy Scout Road. But by the time I got my car back near Lockwood Valley Road, my car was telling me that my remaining range was less than fifty miles. Didn't want to make it too cut it too close, so I turned around before finding my road.

Probably should have put some gas in at the Pilot/Flying J by the off-ramp, but thought I had enough to make this trip and stop on the way back.

I also wanted to turn around because I came across a meadow with a nice blanket of sunflowers. So I stopped, walked into the field, and took some pictures. Then returned to Lebec, to put in some gas and buy some snacks.
Despite the limited hiking, it was definitely not a wasted trip. I chatted with the ranger in the visitor center near Chucutpate Campground. Learned about Lily Meadow there, and bought a book on local flora.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Diamond Valley Reservoir, July 21, 2019

Yes, same story: No time to blog!

This was my most recent hike, so I obviously have many that I'll need to finish. I even have photos uploaded for a few of them, but many more to go.

My brother's a bass fisherman, and my dad likes fishing, too I used to fish, have not, for, well, probably 12-15 years.
But my mom recently passed away, so I figured it's important to keep my dad busy, even if we do it in our own way. So my brother texted me on Saturday night (yeah), and asked if I wanted to go fishing with them, tomorrow. Or, alternatively, if I wanted to hike. Early start, but I said yes.
Diamond Valley Reservoir (Riverside County) is about 13 miles east of I-215. You'd probably exit at the same off-ramp as for Mount San Jacinto College, in Menifee. And, yes, like practically every other college or university in the area, I applied there, once. Even interviewed. But kind of bombed the second interview. Oh, well.

Back in March and April, the place was being overrun with people, wanting to partake of the "superbloom." But, of course, by now, that's ancient history. Very few flowers were blooming on his mid-July day. High was forecast to be in the lower 90s, which is actually pretty good for this time of year. Some wind, but not too much. Decent hiking weather, though it would still be easy to overdo it and get dehydrated.
I carried a quart of Gaterade Zero and a 1/2 liter of water. That was enough for the distance I planned.

There are basically three trails at Diamond Valley Reservoir (well, they call it "lake," but, since there's a dam involved, and the water is stored by the Metropolitan Water District, it's a reservoir, by definition). Trail 1 is a short "Wildflower trail," which was closed on the day I visited, although there weren't any wildflowers there. Trail 2 is the North Hills Trail, which starts down outside the park's gate, near Domenigoni Parkway. It's about six miles long, and runs the length of the hills, north of the reservoir. Trail 3 is the Lakeview Trail, and runs the circumference of the reservoir: 21.8 miles. It's open to foot and bike traffic. You'd have to walk a short portion of this trail to access the Wildflower trail.
I get the impression that most foot traffic heads in a counter-clockwise direction, west, from the marina. Going that way, there are four portapotties and several pop-up shade tents along the first four miles of trail. There are also convenient signposts that have the mileage each way to get back to the marina.

I started out not knowing how far I was going to go, but knowing there was no way I'd have time to do the whole trail. Indeed, I'd have preferred to walk among the more natural surroundings of the North Hills or Wildflower trails. But there's no access from the Lakeview trail to the North Hills Trail, and as I noted previously, the Wildflower trail was closed.
The lake was actually pretty empty. Or, more precisely, it's such a huge lake that even with dozens of boats out there, you'd typically only hear a handful at a time.
It being summer, the bloom was over, and the wildlife was mostly probably in the shade. I saw a very few lizards, a very few butterflies (just cabbage whites, I think, and some waterfowl. The terns were active, and I saw a few catching small fish out of the lake.

Big water, and pretty scenic, if otherwise dry. Mount San Jacinto, far off to the northeast. Rolling hills all around.
Not sure how I would have enjoyed the superbloom, had I come, then. I'm not a big fan of crowds, and watching people trampling flowers to get selfies can be annoying. Would have been pretty, though.
Also, even avoiding the Wildflower trail, there's probably more wildlife viewing opportunities when it's not as hot, and definitely more comfortable. I may try to join them if they come fishing next spring, if there's a bloom, on.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Palomar Mountain State Park, April 28, 2019

During the two weeks while Griffith Observatory was closed for major repairs, in addition to making my trip out to Utah (which still requires at least one more post), we also took a "field trip" to Palomar Observatory. Both Palomar Observatory and Palomar Mountain are in north San Diego County. From I-15, you'd typically exit at CA-76 and head east. Although it's a state highway, this road is pretty winding in its lower stretches, before passing Pala Casino, after roughly six miles. There's an accompanying gas station and small store/deli out. As far as I know, that's the last public restroom before you get to your destination, about 45 miles away. So I used the restroom, bought a large coffee and a prepared breakfast sandwich (egg, sausage and cheese). I ate in the car, because I was early for my Palomar Observatory tour, and had time to kill. Also, safer not to drive and eat at the same time!

There is signage for any turns along the way to either Palomar Observatory or Palomar Mountain State Park, though you do need to pay attention. The left for South Grade Road is easy, but easier if no one's on your tail if you have to stop for that turn. There's another sign at a somewhat complicated intersection of numerous roads, where you choose between the state park or the Observatory.

If you *don't* make the double left towards the state park, but only the single left, to the Observatory, there's a vegetarian-options restaurant that seems pretty popular. On Google Maps, it says, "Mother's Kitchen." I ate there, after our Observatory tour, and before I went to the state park. Vegan tacos. Tasted pretty good. Otherwise, the other protein options are eggs, which I already ate for breakfast. Great break, because it was sunny and kind of warm after the tour, but turned to overcast after lunch. Better hiking weather.
The Palomar Mountain State Park flyer is here.

I'd been to this park only once before, over four years ago. That was long enough ago that I couldn't recall all of the trails that I had taken, that time. I recalled taking the Weir trail, so did not want to repeat that one. And I recalled taking the Silvercrest trail, that runs along the ocean-facing ridge that starts near the entrance station. Did not remember the pond, so I drove down there, thinking a walk along what looked to be a (seasonal) stream might be interesting, and with some wildflowers. But when I got there, I did recognize the pond, and realized that I had walked from there down one side, then back up that broad valley below the pond Also, I did not see much in the way of wildflowers that way. So I decided to take a different trail. Actually, first I had to go back to the car and grab the map, so I could see what my options from down here were.
From the map, I saw that I could walk up the Cedar trail (lots of big "cedar" along this trail, hence, the name), then the Scott's Cabin trail, past the cabin, and to the historic orchard, where I had seen apple trees in bloom as I drove in to the park. So, yes, it's a pretty compact park, and you are never far from the road.

The Cedar trail begins quite steeply, but then levels off once you reach a ridge. Plenty of Mountain lilac were in bloom along the upper section of this trail, and along parts of the Scott's Cabin trail. Not much to see at the actual Cabin site; I'm pretty sure it's just some loosely arranged logs, where the cabin used to be, and not actually the remnants of the cabin.
Past the cabin, I headed for the apple orchard. Had to leave the trail to get close to the apple blossoms, unfortunately.

After enjoying the view of the apple blossoms, I backtracked to near the cabin site, then took the short Scott's Cabin Spur trail to the main park road. Crossed the road, used the restroom at Silvercrest picnic area, observed a deer or two, then returned to the park road and headed west, to where the Boucher trail began.
Short ascent. Passed a small pine, with a few Christmas ornaments still on it. Passed between many oak trunks, which I photographed on the way back. Eventually entered a small parking area, where people who didn't want to walk could just drive to this historic fire lookout site.
Along the trail, there are views to the north, with (at the time) snow-capped (I assume) San Bernardino Mountains in the far distance. Once at the fire lookout, you had expansive views to the south, and also along the ridge line. It was overcast, but transparency was not back. Couldn't really see the ocean, but the Pechanga Casino, down in Pauma Valley, was pretty hard to miss.
Apparently, when there's a volunteer on hand up there, you can go on up to the top of the lookout. I couldn't tell if anyone was there, but also I figured the view would be pretty much the same, except for maybe also being able to see from the lookout point what I had seen to the north, while still walking on the trail. So nothing new.

Returned the way I came. Enjoyed passing between all those oak.

Then, back along the road and past what I think was an employee housing unit, then back to Silvercrest picnic area. Three or four deer were now feeding on the slope adjacent to the parking lot. Took a number of shots of them.
Then, back across the road, down the spur trail, back along the Cabin trail, then down the Cedar trail, Doane Pond, and my car. Fair walk and nice to get in before the roughly 2 1/2 hour drive back home.

Nice walk. The visit to Palomar Observatory was also nice, as was lunch at the restaurant, where the road to Palomar Observatory and to Palomar Mountain State Park meet.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Cassidy Arch, Capitol Reef National Park, May 2, 2019

On my recent trip to Arches National Park, I took a detour along the way. Rather than just I-15 to I-70, then down US 191, I cut through the Blue Highways of interior Utah: UT-20, US-89, and UT-24, through Capitol Reef National Park. This added about one hour of driving time, not counting stops, of course. But, despite my numerous trips in Utah, I never made it to Capitol Reef. Well, other than along I-70, which cuts through the same Waterpocket Fold, but north of the park.

Capitol Reef National Park runs a long a good long strip of that fold, so it's a long, skinny national park. Driving west to east on UT-24 going to let me see very much of it, but at least I'd be able to get a taste. Might plan for another visit here, down the road.

By staying in Cedar City the previous night, and planning only an after-midnight hike in Arches, I knew I'd have plenty of time if I wanted to take a hike or two in Capitol Reef.
I was a little concerned that the scenic route to get here would leave me without any rest areas, but it turns out Utah has placed numerous porta-potty and vault toilets along the route. There are numerous public access points to public lands for fishing and what not along the way. Also, there was Butch Cassidy's Boyhood home. Unfortunately, the only shots I took of that were with my cell phone, and now I currently have no USB type-c plugs to download pictures from my phone on to my computer.

Yeah, it turns out my kittens (now probably 9-12 months old) like chewing on those thin, plastic-coated wires. They taken out numerous USB plugs, several fitbit chargers, and a few power cords. Most were not plugged in, and I guess those that were had low enough amperage that they didn't get a shock strong enough to learn not to do this.

There was also a visitor information stop, in a small, pre-fabricated building in Torrey, the gateway town, just west of Capitol Reef National Park. Convenient, as I was needing to pee around then. I had even earlier driven to a town park on the west side of town, thinking for sure there'd be a restroom there. Nope.

The Wayne County Travel Council building was out past the east side of town, just where UT-12 drops south from UT-24. The lady at the visitor center was friendly and helpful. She seemed to know the park pretty well, at least the part I could get to in my Prius. She did, for example, know that the dirt road to Cassidy Arch was Prius-accessible. :D

The only significant trail I took in the park was this one. It seemed symmetrical, since I had visited Cassidy's boyhood home, earlier that day (this arch is also named after Cassidy, though I don't know if he ever actually visited).

I also stopped at several road-side views, so I may later post some petroglyph and pictoglyph photos, later. I had initially planned to also hike Hickman Bridge, but decided after the petroglyphs I was getting hungry enough that I'd be starving by the time I got to Moab, even without the second hike. Yes, silly, but this was sort of a bonus destination. I didn't really research it as well as I should have. Didn't really research other Moab-area attractions, either. I may get into that in a later post, too.

From UT-24, head south on the scenic drive (narrow but paved road) past the park visitor center, about three miles. There's was an unmanned fee station a mile or so down the road. Since I already have the Public Lands Recreation Pass, I figured I didn't need to stop, though I kept the pass handy, if I ran across any rangers.

After about three miles, there's a signed dirt road on the left. Well, it's not immediately dirt, but it turns to dirt quickly. Just over a mile on this well-graded road (no problem, unless it's raining or flooding, I assume), there's a small parking area. This is also the starting point to Grand Wash trail, which has a narrows, about 1.5 miles down the way. Apparently, that's the more popular destination. I would estimate less than 1/4 of the hikers turned left when the arch trail headed that way, just 1/4 or so down the wash.
From the wash, the arch trail swiftly climbs the cliff, and, once you more or less level off, you parallel back, above the road, heading west. I could spot my car in the lot. In the cropped view of the shot, above, it's the ninth from the bottom, on the left.

Nice views, both along Grand Wash, and over the exposed, rolling hills of sandstone and gypsum. It looked a lot like the high country of Zion National Park. Even some checkerboard-ed areas.

After maybe 3/4 of a mile of mostly level, you get your first views of Cassidy Arch. It's set back, and does not burst upon you. Heading there, the approach seemed to take longer than expected Quite a lot was across exposed rock, with only the occasional duck of rocks to guide you. Still mostly a walk, though you should stop occasionally to make sure you're on the right path.
Finally, you're there, and, yeah, it's a pretty good way down.

The arch itself must be 10 or 15 yards wide, and walking over the arch is not scary. Hanging over it would be, though, as it's probably 100 feet or so down, to the base of the arch.

There's an anchor on the west side of the arch, where people occasional tie on to, then rappel down the chute. A website I came across says it's a 140 foot rappel from there to the first step, then another 140 foot rappel after that, before it becomes a walk-down.

That means if you're walking up from the dirt road, you'll not be able to get actually beneath the arch.
As is often the case, the return hike from the arch to the car seemed a lot shorter than the hike from the car to the arch. It was also easier to enjoy the rock tops with the sun at my back, and gravity on my side. Back to the car, then drove on out the park, stopping for the petroglyph/pictoglyph panel.