Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hike 95: Henninger Flats

Yeah, here again. I hiked this yesterday. I was kinda slow getting out of the house and decided I only had time for something short. My initial plan was to check out a couple of the dirt roads that run to the west of Henninger, but I ran into "No Trespassing" signs before I even got across the tree plantation. That left me with a short six mile hike.

On the plus sign, the clouds made the deer feel brave, so I got a number of shots of a total of three deer who were hanging around the north end of the plantation. The single deer here is a tight crop of a picture of two deer, but the other one's busy eating.

The two-deer shot below is a crop of the three-deer shot at the end of this post.

I know there are plenty of deer in the area because you can look at the hill to the west and see it crisscrossed with deer trails. Also, once before, when I was coming down after sunset, I ran across two separate deer pods, of about five each (normally you'd call a group of deer a herd, I guess, but it seems like "herd" implies a bigger group than five).

Also, last time I was coming down from Mt. Wilson, I saw a couple of deer just above Henninger (after hearing them busting through the trees). Couldn't get any shots of them, though.

I've got a shot here of that hill, reduced to 50%; click on the picture and it blows up. The deer trail or visible if you look closely at the grassy area of the hill.

Normally, I reduce my pictures down to about 17%. That's usually still big enough so you can see what I see, but small enough that they load quickly.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hike 94: Fish Canyon Falls, Long Way

Hiked Sunday, October 24. This was a repeat of one of my earlier hikes, which I blogged about here. When I last hiked the long way, it was back in February. Once it gets warmer, the long way is a very tough hike. There's about a 1,400 foot gain you need to attack both coming and going, as you climb high along Van Tassel Ridge to get around the Vulcan Mining development at the mouth of Fish Canyon.

There are still no signs for the parking area to access this long way around to Fish Canyon. Basically, if you don't know what you're looking for, you'd never know there's a long way around to Fish Canyon. To get here, you take the 605 north to Huntington Drive. Turn right at the light, head past two traffic lights and turn left on Encanto Drive (just before crossing the San Gabriel River). Drive about 1.5 miles north, past a park, past several residential streets, and past a sign for an equestrian center. Park in the unmarked flat area to your left.

The trail heads out of the northwest end of the parking lot. It starts out level, running behind a number of equestrian pens. Once you pass them all, the trail turns left and begins a long and steep climb up Van Tassel Ridge. It's about two miles to the top, with the aforementioned 1,400 foot gain. From that first ridge, look south and you'll overlook the San Gabriel Valley. You'll also overlook Van Tassel Ridge, which would be removed if the proposed Vulcan mining swap goes through.

Heading north, you walk through a "jungle," with thick growth that includes lots of poison oak. Fortunately, in the fall, the poison oak leaves are bright red and easy to spot (in the winter, the leaves fall and the going is a little easier).

Exiting the jungle, the trail parallels a chain link fence. Current Vulcan gravel mining goes on to the east of the fence.

When the fence ends, the trail tends to your left. A firebreak cut is the trail for a hundred yards or so. The trail then leaves the firebreak and heads to the left, looping around a summit. Alternatively, the firebreak continues to the right. The two routes merge, so your choice at the split depends on whether you want 300 yards of extremely steep climbing or 1000 yards of less steep switchbacks.

Once you finish a bit more climbing, you then have one mile of a very steep decline, giving back about 1,200 of the feet your fought so hard to gain on the way up. You then rejoin the "regular" Fish Canyon trail, which is a short, 2 mile trail that still has some ups and a few downs before you reach the multi-part Fish Canyon Falls. By contrast, the long way is more than twice as long, and with a ridiculous bit of ridge climbing both coming and going. That means after you enjoy your view of the falls, you've got a very tough return trip waiting for you.

That's unless you wait for one of the occasional hiking days when Vulcan runs a free shuttle van to the trailhead. The difference is that if you go on one of their hiking days, you'll be sharing the trail with several van loads of fellow hikers, and you have no chance of solitude at the falls. By contrast, on the day I hiked, I only ran into three other hikers. Two were eating lunch near the falls, while one I passed as I was making the descent into Fish Canyon and he was heading out.

The falls are in four parts: Three cascades that comprise the upper falls and one for the lower falls. Of the upper falls, the first and third segments look to be about 30 feet tall, while the middle segment is only about 12 feet tall. The third segment flows into a decent but shallow pool. The lower falls drops into a fair-sized and deeper pool.
One very sad thing about my hike today was seeing the area near where the "short" and "long" trails merge. The area was completely overgrown with "Tree of Heaven," and hard to kill and very invasive non-native plant.

I shot a video over looking the falls. However, after waiting several hours, it appears the video will not load to the site. I'll try again with that tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain

Seems like it's been a week of rain or threatening to rain. I ended up going to the mall to take a walk this morning because I haven't been able to go hiking in so long. Between that and walks around the block, it's all I can do to get out of the house any more.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Non-Hike to the Aspen Grove

I'm pretty sure my total walking today (Thursday, October 14) was less than my arbitrary 3-mile cutoff for qualifying as one of my 100 hikes, so I'm not counting it. Today was mostly driving.

I'm still thinking about maybe trying to go back to Great Basin National Park for the aspen, but that IS a long drive, so the odds are diminishing. Instead, I took a shorter drive (still a good two hours) into the San Bernardino National Forest. There's a small remnant aspen grove in there, the southernmost in the United States.

To get here, I took I-10 east to CA-38/Orange Street (the first off-ramp after passing the 210 junction). Follow the signs for CA-38, turning where directed. Most of the way through Redlands, the speed limit is 40 mph.

CA-38 changes street names several times as it passes through Redlands and Mentone. After (roughly) eight miles, CA-38 veers to the left, heading into a canyon. Bryant Street splits to the right. The Ranger Station (open Th-M) is located here.

I inquired, and was told I didn't need a wilderness permit to visit the aspen grove. Technically, part of the aspen grove is within the San Gorgonio Wilderness, but I guess they figure it's a fuzzy line. But that's getting ahead of the story.

At the mouth of what I assume is Mill Creek Canyon, you're at about 2,000 feet. Over the next 30 miles or so, you rise above 7,000 feet. About 7 miles after Barton Flats Campground, after passing Jenks Lake and South Fork campgrounds, be on the lookout (on your right) for a sign directing you to Heart Bar campground and equestrian area. This is Forest Road 1N02. The pavement ends after less than 1/2 mile. Continue on the washboarded road until a split. An arrow points to 1N02 as being to your left. You want to turn right, towards Fish Creek. This is Forest Service Road 1N05, but that designation does NOT appear on the sign at the fork. For now, just look for the sign above.

After turning on to 1N05, the quality of the road soon diminishes. Nonethe- less, with care and low speed, it is still navigable by two-wheel drive passenger car. However, I imagine when there's weekend traffic, this gets a little hairier.

The road first dips as it crosses a streambed (dry when I went), then bends towards due west and climbs into the hills. I didn't measure the distance from the split, but eyeballing it on Google Maps suggests it's only a mile or so from the there (the split) to the parking area for Aspen Grove.

The actual walk is very brief. After about five minutes, you can already get some peeks at the aspen. Another five or ten minutes and you're there. Actually, you're at a small (in October) creek crossing. On the other side of the creek is a sign announcing entrance into the San Gorgonio Wilderness.

Technically, you need a wilderness permit to cross that river. However, since I specifically asked the person at the USFS Mill Creek Station whether I needed a wilderness permit and was told I did not, I pushed on ahead.

You don't need to go too far past that creek, because the aspen grove is very small. It's probably no more than 2 or 3 acres where the aspen are found. Amazing, and wonderful that they somehow managed to hang on in just this little corner of the San Bernardino National Forest. Several large conifers tower over them in spots, so you sort of figure that if "nature" is left to her own devices, the conifers will crowd out the aspen within a few hundred years, at most.

Conversely, some of the tall conifers are scarred by fire. It's my understanding that frequent fires would kill the conifers, while the aspen would quickly recover. Depending on the frequency of fires in the area, the aspen may survive somewhat longer.

There's a trail that runs parallel to the stream on the other side. This is probably Fish Creek trail, but I'm not sure. It also looks like you could catch this trail from down on CA38, which would add a mile or two of walking but would obviate the need for driving on a narrow an bumpy road. It would also make you feel like you earned the right to see the aspen grove, if you're into that way of thinking.

However, I'm not too happy with the way the Forest Service publicizes (or does not publicize) trails in this area, so I'm not sure about accessing the aspen grove via an alternative route.

After getting back to my car, I returned the way I came. Mine was the only passenger car I saw on this road, but, as I said, it was doable. Wouldn't want to have been forced to backup if I ran into on-coming traffic, and I wouldn't have wanted to do this drive in twilight. But in good light, avoiding the occasional boulder or eroded section of road was not difficult.

After returning to CA38, I stopped a few times at some nature trails along the highway, and at an unsigned ravine. In most ravines, sycamore (I think) were also in full autumn color. There were also some nice views of the San Bernardino National Forest at the turnouts.

Once you get back to the Mill Creek ranger station, a sign indicates you're just eight miles from Oak Glen, one of my favorite weekend "getaways." Well, it's not so much a place to get away to as a place to get massive and tasty apple pies and fresh pressed cider. Well, and apples, too, if you want your fruit completely unprocessed!

I mention this because I love their apple pie and cider, but also because this "hike" alone is too short to make the long drive from the LA area worthwhile. You can combine it with a drive on into Big Bear, or back down towards Oak Glen, or even on over to San Manuel Indian Casino. What ever your taste in entertainment, there are choices available out this way.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hike 93: Eaton Canyon Nature Center to Sam Merrill Trailhead

I've done this hike several times. The first time was as Hike 31, in early March. I also did various portions of the Altadena Crest Trail several times before and after then.

From the nature center, I suspect it's about seven miles roundtrip. It took me at least 3 1/2 hours, and even my slow walk is easily 2 mph. Lots of ups and downs, too, so it can be a tiring hike, especially if it's hot. There's not much shade along this route.

When I left my house, around 8:30am, it was still foggy. But the fog thinned as I drove north and was completely gone by the time I got to Eaton Canyon. This is actually not too different from my last trip up here, when I planned to do this hike, but the fog had already burned off, so I decided to do a shorter, uncounted hike.

I might have been better off doing the same thing today, because I have been absolutely beat since getting back this afternoon. It was in the low 70s when I started, but the low 90s by the time I got back. Heck, even most of the joggers were already wrapping things up by the time I got started.

One nifty thing I saw today was a number of woodpeckers. Of course, I heard them before I saw them. Unfortunately, they didn't photograph very well, however. In real-life, their red crests really stood out in the morning sun.

While the fog layer at the foothills was gone early, the fog layer remained a bit longer at lower altitudes. While on my outbound leg, I was treated to a veiw of Downtown LA's Library Tower, just poking above the inversion. Library Tower is the tallest building west of the Mississippi. The rest of the downtown skyscrapers weren't tall enough to see over the fog.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hike 92: Teutonia Peak

Hiked Sunday, October 10. Fall means we're back to at least occasional days when desert hikes are doable, again. That's especially true of places like Teutonia Peak, which tops out at over 5,700 feet.

Teutonia Peak is located in the Mojave National Preserve. From I-15, the most direct route is via Cima Road, which is 26 miles "north" of Baker and 13 miles "south" of the Nipton Road exit. (The general direction of I-15 is north-south, but the section we're talking about here trends mostly east-west). About eight miles south of I-15 is the parking area for the Teutonia Peak Trail. The sign and NPS materials say it's a three mile roundtrip hike.

I started this hike at about 8:30am, when the temper- ature (according to my car thermo- meter) was in the upper 50s. It was sunny and windy, but felt very comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt. Because of the temperatures, I took only my camera with me. Because of the altitude gain, if the temperatures were summer-like, you'd definitely want to bring something to drink, and maybe some sun protection.

There's a couple of large signs at the start of the trail that look like they must have been designed and manufactured by the same company that did the signs in Joshua Tree National Park. The trail appears to be an old jeep trail, so most of it is double-tracked. If you're not careful, you could easily walk into Joshua Tree branches, cactus prickles, or Spanish bayonet.

After about a half mile, you realize that the mostly-Joshua Tree forest you started the hike in (the densest Joshua tree forest in the world, according to NPS materials) has slowly given way to juniper forest. Small Joshua tree continue sporadically all the way to the top of the trail, but they thin out considerably as you gain altitude.

I like the way cactus and grasses look in the early morning, especially when backlit. The desert light in midday is just too harsh and makes everything look flat.

The trail itself has occasional signs and is easy to follow. At the points where you cross old or current jeep trails, a sign points you the way forward (they assume you'll know how to make your back back down). Only the last 1/4 or so is seriously steep (it feels steeper because of the altitude). Reaching the actual peak would be difficult and would require some good rock climbing skills. But even without getting the last 20 feet or so, the views from the top are definitely worth it.

Got back to the car about 10am, meaning it took just about 90 minutes, and that's with taking LOTS of pictures along the way, but walking briskly on the level sections.

After Teutonia Peak, we made our way over to the Kelso Depot and the very nice visitor center there. There's a lunch counter inside, as well as a model of what Kelso Depot looked like back in the 1940s. Three stories of displays, too.

We also went to the Kelso Dune trailhead and walked about 1/4 mile out, to the edge of the actual dune. It was in the 80s by then and we didn't feel like exerting ourselves more seriously. We'll save that hike for a later day.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Hike 91: Mt. Baldy via Baldy Bowl Trail

Hiked Friday, October 8. Officially, it's 4.6 miles each way, or 9.2 miles round trip, with a net altitude gain of 3,904 feet. I made the hike just about ten miles roundtrip and over 4,000 feet of altitude gain by walking about 2/3 of the way to San Antonio Falls before remembering that I didn't hang my Adventure Pass on my rear view mirror before I left the first time, so I had to walk back down and do that.

This trailhead is the paved but gated road that heads west, off of Mt. Baldy Road and towards San Antonio Falls. From the 210 Freeway, I exit on Base Line, head briefly west, then turn right, up Padua Road. At the light, you turn right and continue on through Mt. Baldy Village. There's a sign that points left, as though you could just drive up to San Antonio Falls. But you can't, unless you live there or have a key for the gate. There's a porta-potty just outside the gate.

The road is paved on up to the overlook for San Antonio Falls. According to the USFS, it's .6 miles and 240 feet from the parking area.

After passing the overlook, the road makes a hairpin right turn, and the pavement ends. The dirt road hugs the side of the mountain. After about 1/4 mile, the road curves to the left, still hugging the side of the mountain. Just 100 yards or so after the left turn, the Baldy Bowl Trail peels off on your left. Although the trail is well-defined, it is unsigned and easy to miss if you're not looking for it.

After a few switchbacks, the Baldy Bowl Trail makes its way south, towards (surprise) the Baldy Bowl. It gives you a nice overview of the waterfall.

Looking up the canyon, you also see a green "house" that is the "ski hut." Although it looks very close, it's supposed to be 1.9 miles and 1,810 feet from the waterfall. I guess that puts it just 1 3/4 miles from when you first see it. But when you're walking, it sure seems farther.

In fact, this whole hike is pretty tough because, as noted previously, you're gaining nearly 1,000 vertical feet per horizontal mile. Yes, some parts are steeper than others. Also, there are several spots where you need to (well, *I* needed to) use my hands to left myself up a few short sections. It's not quite a walk-up.

In addition, there are several steep areas where there is no clear single trail. Most of the time, the two (or more) trails merge after a short distance. Other sections are worse. I know the hikers in front of me went "off trail" on the section just after the ski hut, because they were in front of me, then they were behind me. Somewhat later, I unintentionally went off trail. My only advice is that you need to be watching carefully for trail shifts. As noted, there are some sections where you'll need to use your hands. But those sections are short, so if you're finding yourself bushwacking or climbing more than a few feet, you're off the trail. Turn around before you get too far off track and look for a more reasonable route.

There are a few signs along the way to reassure you that you are still on the right track. There are also a lot of ducks (rock piles), but often they will be indicating two mutually exclusive routes. Just try to stay on the most heavily traveled route, and generally take the shallower route.

Generally, the trail crossing the bowl stays low until it reaches a "Baldy Bowl Trail" sign, at which point it climbs steeply. After the steep climb, the trail then works its way outside of the bowl, on the south side of the ridge. Shortly after passing another "Baldy Bowl Trail" sign, it again begins a steep climb towards Mt. Baldy.

The Baldy Bowl Trail sort of sneaks up on the summit of Mt. San Antonio/Mt. Baldy. Unlike the Devil's Backbone Trail, where you see several false summits before reaching the top, the Baldy Bowl Trail doesn't really present any obvious summit until you're actually there.

There are impressive views along the way. On the way up, you can look to the south and see the ridge that the Mt. Baldy Trail takes on its way up towards Baldy. You can also look to the north and see the Devil's Backbone trail coming from the other side.

I was kind of surprised to see a dusting of snow on the peaks to my east. This snow must have fallen on Wednesday and was still there on Friday evening. No snow on Baldy, however. Too flat, too windy, too much sun exposure.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hike 90: Mt. Wilson via Toll Road

Unstable weather over the past few days has made planning hikes a little tricky. But since it had been several days since my last hike, I was leaning towards doing a Mt. Wilson hike on Sunday. Part of it had to do with my craving for humus.

What? Well, a pine nut hummus, pita bread and cucumber dish was on the menu at the "Cosmic Cafe," up at the top of Mt. Wilson. I saw it on the menu last time I was there, and had a funny craving for it for weeks.

The other nice thing about the cafe was I could carry a little bit less stuff to drink on the way up, and replenish on the way down (Well, of course, even without the cafe, I could have refilled an empty container with water at the top, but that wouldn't have been as fun. Plus, I wouldn't be indirectly supporting the Mt. Wilson Institute with the proceeds of my purchases.

Parked on Crescent Drive (just off Altadena Drive, and adjacent to Pinecrest, which has access to the old toll road). This would be the same route as my second hike of my series, and one I've done a few times since then. Normally, I think of this as the easiest route up Mt. Wilson.

Checked my cell phone as I left the car: 9:30am.

For some reason, I started off walking at a very brisk pace. Had to slow down about halfway up. Also, that wore my legs out a little, and they felt pretty tired most of the way up. Arrived at Henninger Flats in one hour and ten minutes. Rested there about ten minutes, drinking fluids, munching on a Balance bar, and trying to cool off. Then up, up, UP.

There's a little bit of color in the forest, now. Sycamores are starting to turn yellow and/or brown. And the poison oak is turning red. Parts of the road were literally covered with red and dried up fallen poison oak leaves. I don't know if or for how long the irritating qualities of these leaves last, but I can imagine a dog walking over these leaves would probably be bad for the dog.

Not many flowers this late in the season, although I the red flowers that were blooming way up near the summit were still blooming, as were a few Spanish broom.

I was expecting the overcast to last longer than it did. Instead, the sun burned through the marine layer earlier. Fortunately, there are good sections of the toll road that are shaded by trees and mountain crests. It's definitely not as exposed as the Mazanita Ridge portions of the approaches from Chantry Flats or the Mt Wilson Trail. Still, I was dragging at a pretty slow pace before I even reached the Bailey Canyon fire break.

Also, although the forecast left open the possibility of thunderstorms, my whole hike was dry. There were plenty of thunderclouds out near Baldy, but it didn't look like it was raining out there, either.

Arrived at Mt. Wilson just about 2pm. Ordered my hummus, and two cans of lemonade. I also ordered a clearance t-shirt of the Mt. Wilson observatory, a coffee mug, the Huell Howser "California's Gold" episode about Mt. Wilson, and a 2010 calendar. Yeah, I know it's October. It's mainly to support the observatory, and maybe learn a little history.

Lunch was delicious. In addition to the two cans, the cafe lady also gave me a cup of ice. Cool refreshment! The first can went down in about 24 seconds. The second one lasted through lunch. Then I chipped the ice cubes down the throat of my remaining (mostly full) bottle of Powerade. Cool drinks just taste better than warm drinks.

Got back to the car about 5:45pm, or a little over 8 hours from when I started.

I think they have a docent-guided tour of the observatory grounds at 1pm on weekends, so I suppose that means I should leave before 8:30am if I want to make it in time for that.

By the way, I noticed that the Idelhour trail was no longer posted as close. This one starts from a mile or so past Henninger and would cut west, over towards Inspiration Point. However, I'm pretty sure it's in the Station Fire Recovery Order still applies to the section near Inspiration Point, so I suspect that, officially, this route is still off-limits. Probably someone just took the sign down, similarly to the closure signs that used to be posted up near Echo Mountain.

Friday, October 1, 2010


I took a short hike yesterday out of Eaton Canyon. I parked near the nature center, walked up the "shortcut" to the toll road, then back down the toll road, and back to the nature center. I also walked around the Fire Ecology nature trail. Not sure if it was three miles in total, so I'm not counting it as an official hike. I may post pictures later.

While coming back down, I saw and heard a bulldozer working on the Alta Dena Crest Trail. Actually, that was the hike I was originally planning to take, but it was already getting pretty hot. The clouds burned off pretty early yesterday.

The trail work is much needed, because even the first time I walked the Alta Dena Crest, I could not help but notice some huge erosion gullies along the trail.