Saturday, April 3, 2010
Hike 39: Hacienda Hills Trailhead to Nike Base
7 miles. Hiked on Mar 29. Hike written up, April 5.
Last week, I read an article in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune about the "Trailwatchers" of the Puente Hills Landfill Native Habitat Preservation Authority. I had never heard of this group, but I did know where the Puente Hills were. With a specific name to search, I got on-line and found information the Habitat Authority's website, which included maps of several trailheads in the area.
A few days later, I got out in my car and searched for a few of those trailheads. I started looking for the one nearest Rose Hills, off Workman Mill Road. Couldn't find that one for sure. So I headed east on the Pomona (60) freeway, to Seventh Avenue. The map indicated a parking area just north of Orange Grove Avenue. And there IS a parking area off "Seventh," north of Orange Grove. But it's tiny--just three regular parking spaces and one handicapped-restricted parking space. Instead, I parked south of Orange Grove, along the wide shoulder of Seventh Avenue that faces a school athletic field. Other cars were there and I saw no sign indicating parking restrictions.
Crossing Orange Grove, I saw that the official trailhead parking area had several signs and a small pocket for maps of trails accessible from this trailhead (the pocket had several maps on the 29th, but was empty on April 3, when I returned). You'll also note a drinking fountain here, and a wooden fence that encloses a porta-potty. If you need to go, go here, because there aren't any other facilities along these trails. However, be warned that, as of late March/early April, the porta-potty did not have a door latch.
(Google maps will suggest that Seventh Avenue actually continues south, past Orange Grove. That may be the official name for this area, but a gate prevents cars from traveling past the small parking area).
I grabbed a map and headed south. About a quarter-mile up the road was another large wooden display/"bulletin board." It included a large map that was identical to the small one I just picked up. I chatted with another walker who was there, and asked about hiking choices. I suggested I wanted something about five miles in length, and she pointed out the large loop I wound up taking that day: Up the Coyote trail, a bit west on the Skyline/Schabarum Trail, then back down the Native Oak Trail. The map said it was 4.93 miles. She also told me that there was access from this trail into Whittier or Turnbull Canyon Drive.
From the signed area noted above, the Coyote Trail was a 90 degree left turn off the main trail. Narrow in parts but well-defined, it was easy to follow. In a few places, use trails diverged but did not mislead me away from the official trail.
I took plenty of pictures along the way. Canterbury Bells were pretty common on the north-facing slope of these hills. Mustard was also common, as well as patches of a weird-looking leafy plant that I later learned produces those scary purple-pointy flowers (I'll try to get a name later). I'll probably just stick the plant pictures in a later post.
Another plant also produces little towers of purple blossoms. These were common along the fence that the Coyote Trail eventually runs into. From there, the Skyline trail runs both left and right. I headed right. About ten minutes after that turn, I passed the sign that indicated the Native Oak trail, heading up a hill to the right. There were also standard signs indicating the rules of the Preserve and warning of the possible presence of mountain lions. I'm pretty sure the latter sign is just posted in all the larger county "wild" areas, because I'm unaware of any mountain lion sightings in the Puente/Hacienda Hills.
Since I wasn't tired, yet, I continued heading west, along the Skyline Trail. Soon, Rose Hills Memorial Park was visible to the left. A large Asian-looking pagoda stood above this area. I also saw the large memorial chapel, far below, and many mourners or other visitors and their cars.
As the trail runs along the Hacienda Hills ridge, you also get a not-so attractive view of the Puente Hills Landfill, to your right. Occasionally, huge flocks of seagulls and/or crows twirl into view.
On clearer days, you'd have a great clear view of the San Gabriel Mountains, far off to the north. The 605 freeway is to your west. Downtown LA is further to the west. If it were really clear, you could probably see the ocean, either to the west or to the south or both. On the days I hiked, no ocean was visible.
I was a little confused when I reached the landfill boundary as to whether the official trail ran on the left side of a fence or the right side of the fence. I think in practice it really doesn't matter. Not a lot of traffic up here, although I fear that at some point the manicured area of Rose Hills will move all the way up to the ridge.
After about ten minutes of walking along this ridge, and with the trail descending slightly along the way, the trail hits a paved road. Left of the road is a switchbacking trail, with a white "wooden" fences zig-zagging up a hill to the left.
Walking up either the road or the trail leads to the same point--at the top of the hill is the remains of guard shack where the gate guarding entry to an old Nike anti-aircraft missile battery used to reside. There's a plaque near the guard shack explaining this.
There are also picnic benches and a water trough for horses at the top, a large water tank, and lots of radio, microwave, and other towers at the top.
On the other side of the hill, the road continues down the hill, with a trail running along the shoulder. Since I didn't want to have to walk back up the hill, I didn't go to far over the other side.
I then returned along the ridge, back to where the Native Oak trail (Yes, there are native oaks along this trail, as well as along parts of the other trails mentioned) headed back towards Seventh Avenue. Before reaching Seventh Avenue, the Native Oak trail approaches "civilization" at least once before, as there is also trail access from the west end of Orange Grove. But if you are continuing back to Seventh Avenue, the trail then turns back to the south, up one of the many canyons, before looping back to the east, then back north.
The Native Oak trail ends when it hits the Ahwingna Trail, which runs back to the north. A quarter mile before you're back at the trailhead, you'll pass the sign and the junction with the Coyote Trail, which now heads off to your right. Along this last segment, you can either walk along the gravel road or along the hardened trail that parallel's the road. As of late March/early April, California poppies and bush daisies were blooming along this segment.
This hike is obviously not a wilderness hike. You're completely surrounded by the urban environment. In some ways, it may be more suited to mountain biking, since the incline is less severe than most San Gabriel Mountain trails. But it's a quick getaway and a place I hadn't hiked before. There are some areas where the urban environment is not overwhelming. The oak and sycamore in the canyons is kind of nice, too.