Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hike 112: Little Dalton Canyon -- Lower Monroe Truck Trail

I was looking at my Tom Harrison trail map, "Angeles High Country," and I noticed there was what looked like a direct access to the Lower Monroe Truck Trail. I accessed this trail twice before: Once, from Big Dalton Canyon's Mystic Canyon trail, and once via the Poop Out Trail, which starts off of Glendora Mountain Road. I remembered having nice views from the top over towards Mt. Baldy, so I figured a return to that area, with all that fresh snow up on Baldy, would look cool.

To get directly to the Lower Monroe trail, I exited the 210 freeway at Grand and headed north. After a very slow two miles or so, I reached Sierra Madre Blvd. A right turn there, and two more miles, took me to Glendora Mountain Road (GRM). There's no stop sign there, but it is within 100 yards of the end of Sierra Madre Blvd, so when you see you're approaching a t-intersection with a stop sign just ahead, turn on the street just before that intersection.

I took GMR north, past Big Dalton Canyon Road (where I accessed the Mystic Canyon trail) and past the roadside parking area for the Poop Out trail. Almost immediately past the wooden "Entering Angeles National Forest" sign, there's a small parking area on the right. It's right where GMR makes a hairpin turn to the left. With room for just three cars there, I had to park just before the parking area.

From the parking area, I walked about 50 yards up GMR to the gated entry, which was signed as Lower Monroe TT. "Good," I thought to myself. "If it's designated a truck trail, this should be nice, wide, and easy to follow the whole way." It's exactly the kind of trail I wanted, since I was getting a very late start today. (I didn't get to the trailhead until around 12:30pm).

Well, surprise! Despite the gate and the name, this trail was wide and obvious for only a few hundred yards. Then it started crisscrossing the stream. Now, in the summer, I suspect there is no stream here. But with the recent rains, the water was running high. As far as rivers go, it wasn't very deep or very wide. But it did present a barrier. More importantly, it obscured portions of the trail.

Because the trail parallels and repeated crosses the stream, there were many areas where the trail became a stream. The path was completely under the rushing water. It wasn't terribly deep, but it was deep enough that you couldn't just walk through it, at least not without getting soaked.

As a result, I managed to lose the trail for quite a while. With no obvious path, I headed up the west wall of Little Dalton Canyon. That wasn't the way the trail led, but I thought it might allow me to completely bypass the flooded areas and join the trail further upstream.

I was completely wrong on that count. But I did, at least, get above the level of the trees in the canyon bottom. That let me pull out my map and get reoriented. I could also see where the trail broke into a clearing further upstream. And that clearing was on the EAST side of the stream. Also visible was what appeared to be a trail running along the side of the east side of the canyon. The map confirmed that's where I'd be heading.

By the time I finally got back on the main path and contouring along that east wall, I was feeling pretty stupid. My whole reason for starting on the trail I took was that the path was supposed to be less steep and easier than either the Poop Out or Mystic Canyon trails. Instead, the trail proved far harder to follow. It was also way longer, although I knew that part when I started.

Once the trail got out of the canyon, the going was much easier. As I climbed, I could look across to GMR. That road switchbacks to the south before climbing into the hills to the west of Lower Monroe TT. As my own path also swung to the south, I was treated to a view of Downtown LA, as well as the orange glow of the Pacific Ocean, with Santa Catalina Island easy to view in the clear, wind-swept skies of this late December afternoon.

Unfortunately, the combination of my late start and my snail-slow pace while criss-crossing Little Dalton Creek was costly. At 3:15pm, knowing I had less than two hours of sunlight remaining, and knowing the last part would be at the bottom of the canyon, with repeated stream crossings, I turned around at around 3:15pm. AT the turnaround point (about 1/2 mile before Peak 3397), I took a bunch of pictures, then headed back.

The last three pictures in this post are some of those last one. I've got a wide-angle shot of the whole bunch of mountains up San Antonio Canyon, plus close-ups of Mt San Antonio, one centered around what I think are Thunder and Telegraph Peaks, and
one centered on what I think is Big Horn and Ontario Peak, with the clouds trailing to the south.

Total distance covered was somewhere around 8 miles, with an elevation gain of about 1,200 feet.

If you hike this trail, keep an eye out for mountain bikes. Also, if you go when the water's high, stay close to the water. The trail is usually within sight of the stream. Just pay attention on the stream crossings and don't try to cut any corners, or you'll lose the trail and have a lot of bushwacking to do. If the water's high, bringing a walking stick and waterproof boots would make the stream crossings a lot easier.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


In addition to the recent "time-warp" posts of older hikes, I also made a few other changes on this blog. "The Hikes So Far" page has become "The Hikes of 2010." Also, on that page, I've added hyperlinks from the hike list to my write-ups of those hikes that have write-ups (all of them after mid-February, when I started this blog, plus some of the ones from January and early February that were written well after the fact). Adding hyperlinks is supposed to make it easier to find write-ups for specific hikes, particularly those earlier ones that were not posted in the order I hiked them.

Hike 20: Evey Canyon to Potato Mountain

No, it's a time warp. I've gone back and written up a couple of hikes from much earlier in my quest. I'm not going to write them all up, because a lot of the earlier ones I largely duplicated later in the year. However, there are a few hikes that I have good shots I'd like share, or that I never repeated. Hike 20 was one of them. I hiked this back on February 12, 2010.

This one came about when the ranger at Mt. Baldy suggested it wasn't a good day to be hiking any of the high country trails. She pointed me towards Evey Canyon, which isn't quite inside the Angeles National Forest. Since it's outside the National Forest, you don't need an Adventure Pass to park there.

To get to the trailhead, you'd take the 210 freeway to Baseline. Exit Baseline, then briefly head west. After about 100 yards, you'll hit the light at Padua Avenue. Take Padua Avenue north about two miles, until you hit the next traffic light. That'll be Mount Baldy Road. Make a right there.

Continue upcanyon about two miles. Be on the lookout for a gated road on your right. You'll reach it just before the intersection with a sign indicating a turn towards Upland. Yes, I know that doesn't seem to help. The point is that the parking area is just before you reach the national forest boundary, which is just after the intersection. The next time I'm in the area, I'll check on a mile marker. There's some shoulder parking available on either side of Mount Baldy Road, but don't block the gate.

The gate indicates that the road ahead is private property, owned by Pomona College, of the Claremont Colleges. It also says entry is by permit, only. This does not appear to be enforced. Also, I tried contacting the Biology Department at Pomona for a permit (as the sign directed). My e-mails and phone calls (909-607-2993) were not returned. In any event, proceeding beyond that sign is at your own discretion. Since they never sent me the permit I asked for, I never went back.

However, for that day last January, I did proceed. I figured if the ranger suggested it, I was probably pretty safe.

After crossing the gate, the trail continues to be a dirt road. Some portions had a nice oak canopy. Much of the way, a small stream paralleled the road. After at least a mile of what seemed pretty level travel (keep in mind it's been nearly a year since I hiked this), the road eventually started gaining some altitude. As it did, the view of snow-capped mountains, to the north, slowly improved.

At the top, there's a concrete water tank. At the time this was one of the first of the kind I'd seen. After nearly a year of hiking, I've discovered these things are tucked all over the place. I guess they're where water is pre-positioned, in the event of a forest fire.

From the water tank, you've got a pretty good panorama. You're well above Claremont, and can see both up into San Antonio Canyon to your north, and more distant mountains (probably San Gorgonio and San Bernardino) to the east and southeast.

Roundtrip mileage for this trail is given by Dan Simpson as 5 miles roundtrip, with a net 1,100 foot gain. In real-life, I think I cut that by a mile because I wasn't sure about the route. Since I hadn't seen Simpson's write-up at the time, all I had to go on is what someone I ran into on the hike said. I got the impression I was looking for a trail, so I took a trail that headed off from the road. Staying on the road is a wiser tact. There's only one turn you need to make, and it's pretty obvious (if your goal is to go up and not down). Simpson say's it's where a road marked as 1N04 starts back downhill (probably down towards Claremont Wilderness Park, although that's just speculation on my part).

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Hike 17: Duarte to Mt. Bliss and White Saddle

Hiked February 7. On my computer, I have a little thumbnail-sized slideshow that continually runs on the corner of my screen. When I'm on line, I can watch the little pictures go by and think about what ever it is I'm looking at. Earlier tonight, the picture at the top of this post popped up. I couldn't remember where I took it, so I had to call it up and figure out where I had filed it.

Fortunately, since February, I've been filing my hiking pictures in a very rational matter: There's a big folder called "Hiking 2010." Within the big folder are separate folders for each hike. This one was in "Mount Bliss and White Saddle, Feb 7." I used a picture of White Saddle in an earlier post, on Monrovia Falls. Also, I wrote up a later hike to Mt. Bliss as Hike 23 But I hadn't previously shared the picture at the top.

The trailhead I used is well-hidden, in a residential area of Duarte, just a bit west of Fish Canyon. A website description of the trailhead just said it was "at the end of Melcanyon (one word) Road" (where it intersects Brookridge), so that's where I parked. To get to Melcanyon Road, I took the 210 freeway to its end, turned right at Huntington Drive, then left on Encanto Parkway (the same road you'd take to get to Fish Canyon). From Encanto Parkway, I turned left on Fish Canyon Road, then right on Melcanyon to its end.

There was no obvious trail or trailhead there, so I just walked into the hills, then along a small concrete drainage ditch that paralleled the foothills. Eventually, it popped up near a gated driveway that led to a water storage tank. Behind the storage tank, an old but well-defined trail headed further into the hills.

Incidentally, I later discovered that this paved road or driveway ran right down to Brookridge, so bushwacking along the drainage ditch was unnecessary.

After about 1/8 of a mile, this trail leads to a large barren area. Several use trails lead out of the barren area, but one well-defined trail heads to the north. In about 1/4 mile, the trail hits Van Tassel Mountainway, a well-defined dirt road that is closed to public use, but available for SCE and other contractors to access the mountains. High tension wires are a ubiquitous feature of this hike.

I simply followed the dirt road. It eventually works its way behind a couple of larger hills, one of which is Mt. Bliss. From the back side, there's a short trail to the summit. The summit is marked by a thin but tall plastic marker. Good views from up there.

I continued all the way along the dirt road until I reached White Saddle. Signage there indicated I could have continued 4.8 miles down from there into Monrovia Canyon, and that it was 6 miles back to Fish Canyon Road. I also crossed path with a bobcat. This was the first of two memorable wildlife encounters on this day.

From White Saddle, I turned back around and returned the way I came. By the time I reached the ridge with the powerlines, the sun was already going down. With another 45 minutes or so on the hike, this was not good. Walking down the dirt road was easy. But finding the point where the trail intersected with the road (and then finding the point where the correct trail back to the water tank headed out from the barren area) was impossible. This forced me to continue all the way down on the dirt road, out to Encanto Parkway.

Getting from Encanto Parkway back to where I parked my car was a little tricky, because, at the time, I didn't know the name of the road that ran into Melcanyon Road. But I did know there was only one row of houses between my car and the mountains, so I stayed as close to the mountains as I could.

By now, it was fully dark. In fact, it was fully dark before I even reached Encanto Parkway. Walking west along Brookridge, as I approached a corner. From behind a shrub, a skunk was heading north on a sidestreet. We practically walked into each other. Fortunately, the skunk turned around without unloading on me.


I headed out towards Whitewater this morning, intending to hike to the San Gorgonio overlook. However, somewhere around Montclair, i realized I forgot my camera. So I turned around at the 210 freeway, with the intent of hiking Claremont Wilderness Park. I'd been to that trailhead before, but never hiked up it.

Turns out that park is closed. So I just did a lot of driving.

One interesting part was right after I got on the 210, where it heads north before curving to the west. The hills above Highland were a mixture of green hill tops and deeply carved, bare ravines. I could see where all the mud that hit Highland last week came from.

The hills above Highland burned recently. I don't know if it was 2008 or 2007. Apparently, in past years, the county and the San Manuel Indian tribe placed K-rails along the foothill streets. I think they did not do it as extensively this year, perhaps falsely thinking that, since the hills had survived the past few years, there was no need to deploy K-rails this year. That's just what I've heard on the news, anyway.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Hike 111: Shoemaker Canyon

Hiked Monday, December 27. Today was a repeat of my Hike 102 from last month. However, when I did that hike, it was overcast and I couldn't see very far. Today, I figured there'd be a nice view of Mt. Baldy, now covered with snow.

I was correct.

Repeating my hike to Heaton Saddle would have been even better.

Actually, my original plan for today was to walk the Rincon-Redbox road to Pine Mountain. That would have been nearly 18 miles and about 3,000 feet of elevation gain. However, even though it looks to me like this area is outside of the last map for the Station Fire Recovery order, the sign at the start of the trail said it was still closed.

So I drove back down CA39 to East Fork Road, headed east for about four miles, then took Shoemaker Canyon Road 'til the parking area at the end of the paved road.

I only walked to the first tunnel. I did explore a little on a few of the side canyons, but none seemed easy ways up and I wasn't feeling the desire for serious rock scrambling.

All told, it was an easy three miles roundtrip. Nice views, though.

The other good thing about this hike is that, now that I've walked the Heaton Flats trail, I could easily trace that route, from the parking area for Heaton Flats (far below), to the Heaton Flats campground, then up out of the East Fork canyon, through a pass that marks the Sheep Mountain Wilderness boundary, then north, along a ridgeline that provided frequent views back into the East Fork. I could also see Heaton Saddle, where I turned around on Hike 109.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Hike 110: Eureka Peak

Hiked Thursday, December 23.

At long-last, the rain stopped. I figured a desert hike would be perfect after all that rain. Desert soils usually dry out pretty fast. The water either sinks into the sand or runs off somewhere else. Well, during my drive to Joshua Tree, I saw that it must have done a lot of running off somewhere else, because there was mud all over CA-62.

The trailhead for the Eureka Peak hike is the same one as for Warren Peak: I-10 East, CA-62 east, into Yucca Valley, then a right turn on Joshua Lane. Take Joshua Lane to the end of the road and follow the signs into Black Canyon campground. I parked near the visitor center. A map of trails out of this area is available here. Another map, with fewer trails indicated but short descriptions and mileages is available in the visitor center, or in a metal "mailbox" at the backcountry registration board, located at the north end of Black Canyon campground.

Note that, although this hike is entirely within Joshua Tree National Park, you do not need to pay an entry fee or day use fee to park and hike out of Black Rock Canyon. If you choose to camp, however, there's a $15 fee. Because you would be literally camping on the edge of town, this might make a good first camping trip. If things go south, you can be in Yucca Valley, eating at a McDonald's inside of 15 minutes. :D

To start the hike, I headed south, past site #30, and out of the campground. The first sign simply says "Access to Warren Peak and Panorama Loop, and West Side Loop (West Side Loop is not indicated on the NPS handouts). When I approached the water tank, I bore to the left and followed the West Loop signs until I reached a sign directing me to the Panorama Loop. After about a mile on that trail, I reached thet urn for the Burnt Hills Loop.

The Burnt Hills Loop was not very distinct, but easy to follow. By this I mean that there were plenty of possible routes and no signs. I just kept heading up the most obvious route, usually along where the water had flowed the previous night. Whether I was on the official route or not, I knew I was heading the right direction. However, I saw no trail markers until I reached a saddle (I believe the one indicated as just past three miles from the trailhead, and at 4,850' elevation). There, there was a downed 6"x6" stake. It was illegible until I looked on the other side, where a "B" and an "H" were visible: Confirmation that I was still on the Burnt Hill trail.

For most of this walk, Joshua Tree were a continuous companion. Near the saddle, pinyon pine and juniper briefly predominated. As I gained altitude towards the saddle, I could look behind me and see snow on distant mountains. The clouds were also starting to build.

From the saddle, I could see what I was pretty sure to be Eureka Peak in front of me. A Joshua Tree with "Mickey Mouse ears" stood at the top.

From here, the trail made a disconcerting and relatively steep decent (disconcerting only because I knew I would need to regain all that altitude). I passed a few more downed "B H" markers."

Finally, I ran into a small metal sign that marked the Eureka Peak trail. A right turn sent me up a wash, which gradually became steeper. The same peak with the Joshua Tree remained visible for much of this route.

Within a steep section, on this north-facing hill, I saw a few remaining patches of icy snow. Apparently, the snow line had briefly dropped to about 5,200 feet.

Nearing the summit, the trail finally reaches over to where you can see to the north. By now, the clouds had really built up, and much of Mt. San Jacinto was shrouded in clouds. The clouds would continue to build, eventually filling nearly all of the sky.

Within about 200 yards of the summit, the Eureka Peak trail runs into the short trail that runs from a small parking lot of a dirt road that runs in from Covington Flats. Yes, if you have a high-clearance vehicle, Eureka Peak is virtually a drive-up route. But that would be cheating. :D

From Eureka peak, there's a clear view north, back towards Yucca Valley and 29 Palms. There's also a clear view in most other directions, or there would be if not for the clouds yesterday. I couldn't see the Salton Sea, however. It was obscured by a nearby ridge. I'm pretty sure a rocky outcropping to the southeast was Keyes View.

From the summit, I walked down to the dirt road and followed it a short while. But after 1/4 mile of rapid altitude loss, I decided I didn't want to have to walk back up that far, and turned around.

Just a few hundred yards down the road, however, was a clear trail that ran further to the south. This promised a better view down into the Coachella Valley, so I made that walk. From there, I could see the Salton Sea, although it was somewhat hazy down there and the photos did not show it very well.

I returned via the Eureka Peak Trail, the Fault Trail, the California Riding and Hiking Trail, and on down to the backcountry board. With the exception of the Fault Trail, most of the return was along the bottom of washes. Runoff from last night carved sinewy traces along the floor.

Both coming and going, I repeatedly flushed quail from brush along the way. None stayed around long enough to photograph.

Total distance was about 10.5 miles. Net altitude gain is just under 1,500 feet, although gross altitude gain was probably closer to 1,800 feet.

Despite the scenery, good photos were hard to come by. The contrast between the glare of clouds blocking the sun, shaded and unshaded landscapes was just too great. Also, my timing was off. This shot of a Joshua Tree would have been pretty spectacular if I could have gotten my shot off about eight seconds earlier. For a brief moment, the sun broke through the clouds and cast a warm, soft, yellow glow on this tree, with the dark clouds as a backdrop. But by the time I got my camera out and ready, the light was gone. Only a faint tinge of yellow remained.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tired of all the rain!

I am getting way restless!

So, while couped up in the house today, I spent some time digging through my boxes of photos, looking for my box of slides. I finally found them. Then I scanned a few.

I "bought" a scanner about two months ago. Since I don't have much spare money laying around, I used frequent flyer miles. I actually lucked out, in that it was "marked down," and cost about 10,000 fewer miles than I thought it would cost. It still cost nearly as much as a round trip coach ticket. But since I can't afford to rent a car or pay for a hotel room after I got where ever a ticket would take me, I have instead been converting my miles into things like restaurant gift cards and the scanner. (I did use a bunch of miles back in September to take me to a professional conference in Washington, DC).

Scanning slides is a surprisingly slow process. If I knew how slow it was, I might not have bought a scanner. It works out to about five minutes a slide or negative. No way I'll have the patience to work through the thousands of pictures I have on slides or negative, but I'll probably try to get at least a few of my favorites scanned.

The first thing I wanted to get scanned were my Halley's Comet pictures. I took these back in 1986. They're actually taken on print film (Kodak's VR1000), but I had them processed at a place called Seattle Film Works. They used to be a major mail order firm that was pretty cheap and could give you both prints, slides, and your negatives back. Somewhere in my house, I still have the negatives. In the meantime, I DO have the slides, so I was able to scan a few.

On longer exposures, VR1000 had a very distinctive reddish tint. Of course, back in the day, most film did something a little weird when you took long exposures. In the case of Comet Halley, I'm talking about 30-60 seconds, with either 35mm or 50mm lenses. The camera was sitting on a standard photographic tripod. With that setup, 45 seconds is about as long as you could take before the stars start to trail too noticeably.

The first picture would have been taken in March 1986. At the time, Halley was rising in the early morning hours, and located near the constellations Sagittarius. If you follow the comet's tail, you might notice it points to the "handle" of the Teapot of Sagittarius. Further off, to the right of the spout, you're looking to the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Halley was naked-eye visible (but far from striking). This was from Anza-Borrego State Park.

The second picture was taken a few moments later, with a slightly longer lens and slightly longer exposure. You can see the stars starting to trail a little bit more, but the longer exposure shows more tail length.

The third one was taken several weeks (or possibly months) later. I don't remember when, although if I wanted to, I could look up the data. At this time, Halley, was high in the sky later in the evening. I drove out to Joshua Tree with a bunch of friends. We stopped at a pavilion, and ate a midnight snack in the dark. I mounted my camera on my telescope tripod and took longer (several minute) unguided shots. Halley was much dimmer then, but still easy in binoculars or a small telescope.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

When the rain comes. . . .

Well, I was sure I'd be able to head out to Joshua Tree today for some hiking, but the rain appears to be falling all over southern California. Looks most of next week may be a wash out, too.

Kind of a shame, on several fronts. Besides the lost hiking days, there's a good chance the lunar eclipse on Monday night and Tuesday early morning will also be clouded out. Boooooooo!

Lunar eclipses aren't nearly as cool as solar eclipses, but it has been a while since I've seen even a lunar one. I thought I might even spend some time in the cold watching this one with my telescopes, maybe trying to learn a few crater names throughout the night. Instead, I'll just have to spend the week indoors, getting irritable and restless. Can't even head to a mall for some indoor walking this week, can I? Well, unless I went REALLY early? Hmmmm. . . ?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hike 109: Heaton Flats Trail to Heaton Saddle

Hiked Tuesday, December 14. Today's hike begins the same as my Hike 103 of November 22. Same trailhead and same first 1.7 miles. The differences were that it was clearer today than it was the last time I was here, and I went an additional 2.2 miles on the trail.

I got a very late start today because I was skeptical of the clouds even breaking. In fact, when I got on the freeway (around 10:45am), I was leaning towards driving all the way out to either Whitewater or Joshua Tree. i wasn't thrilled with the idea because of the late start, but I didn't want to rehike an area where the clouds would again block my view. Fortunately, by the time I approached the 605 freeway, the sun started breaking through the clouds. I didn't check the clock, but I probably got to the trialhead around 11:20am.

Over the previous three weeks, the sycamore leaves that had turned yellow were now brown. Nearly all of the snow on Baldy's south and west sides had melted. Only a thin cap on the crest was still visible.

Because it was clearer, it was a little bit easier to put everything into context. I discovered that, although the Heaton Flats trail heads largely to the east as it climbs, shortly after the Wilderness sign (which I am convinced must be placed well west of the boundary shown on the Harrison map), the trail bends towards the north. If not for the vegetation, the East Fork canyon would have been visible for most of this hike.

Regarding the Wilderness boundary, the sign at the Heaton Flats trailhead (.5 mile from the parking area) says it's 1.2 miles to the Wilderness boundary. My borrowed GPS concurred, and gave an altitude of 3184. Unless I am severely misreading the contour lines on my Harrison map, that would put the boundary sign right about where the trail stops heading east and starts heading north. By contrast, if the sign were where the Wilderness boundary is marked on the Harrison map, the altitude should be somewhere around 4,000 feet.

The GPS altitude I read as I crossed various high points as the trail ran northeast along the ridge started at about 4,100 feet and topped off at about 4,770, which is also consistent with my assumption about where the Wilderness sign was versus where the Wilderness is indicated on the map. Also, my turnaround point (near, but not on, a saddle) had a GPS altitude of 4603, which is quite close to the indicated altitude for Heaton Saddle of 4,585.

I'm starting to get a real kick out of using GPS altitudes to mark trail points and compare them to map altitudes. (The scale of the map I'm using makes using actual coordinates a little harder to line up).

Oddly enough, near the tallest of the peaks along the ridge, someone had cemented roadway pavement reflectors, in red, yellow, white, and blue. Not sure what that's all about.

From Heaton Saddle, the trail (which already got thinner shortly after the Wilderness boundary) becomes confusing. I spotted at least four separate traces heading away from the saddle. One heads along the southwest slope of Iron Mountain, and probably continues to the Allison Mine. One heads along the southeast slope of Iron Mountain, and may head towards Coldwater Saddle and Coldwater Canyon, and or may head to the Baldora mine. Two drop more sharply to the east and probably head to the Widman Ranch and Coldwater Canyon. The steeper trails were most overgrown and would require ducking under branches. The higher trails seemed more exposed to drop offs than anything I had covered on this trail before.

Just before I reached that last saddle, I could see an area of construction down below, which I assume to be a part of the Widman Ranch.

That means the Harrison map (which simply shows the trail ending at Heaton Saddle) seems a reasonable representa-tion of what you should expect. On the other hand, a large group of older (meaning older than me) Asian hikers I passed on the way in said they went all the way to Coldwater Canyon. Not sure which route they took, but apparently it is still doable.

Turned around some time around 3pm; the GPS said I had traveled 3.8 miles from the Heaton Flats trailhead, which is within .1 mile of the distance the Harrison map says it should be from the trailhead to Heaton Saddle. Got back to the Heaton Flats trailhead around 4:50pm, and got back to my car at 5:05pm. It was getting dark by then.

7.6 miles and a net 2,700 feet of altitude gain from Heaton Flats trailhead to Heaton Saddle. Add an additional 1.0 mile roundtrip from the parking area to the trailhead, and that's 8.6 miles total distance. Probably a gross gain of well over 3,100 feet, given the ups and downs.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Angeles Crest Highway Update

The San Gabriel Valley Tribune had a small story on the reconstruction of the Angeles Crest Highway. Caltrans is still saying the segment from La Canada to Red Box Junction will open "this month."

The reopening could be delayed if more rain comes. Also, after it reopens, rain (and mudslides) could quickly close it, again.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hike 108: PCT--Cottonwood TH to Whitewater Watershed

Hiked Thursday, December 9. Short hike today because I didn't want to aggravate the blister I picked up on Monday.

The Cottonwood Trailhead is accessed off of I-10. Exit at Haugen-Lehman Road (four miles east of Cabazon), head north, then turn left on Tamarask. Go two short blocks on Tamarask, then turn right on to Cottonwood Road. Follow Cottonwood Road (it bears left at the fork--If you get lost and hit a "T" intersection, just make a left then a quick right) until the pavement ends. You can park there, or continue on the dirt road about 1/2 mile further. There's a large parking area on the right. The Pacific Crest Trail runs just south of this parking area. It also crosses or parallels the dirt road that you've just driven to get here.

The altitude at the trailhead is approximately 1860 feet. Windmills are visible to the east and northeast. Mt. San Jacinto is to the south.

Great weather. Obviously, this is a place where the wind usually blows relentlessly (hence, the windmill farms). But today, the breeze was moderate. Temperatures were in the mid-60s when I started and the mid-70s when I finished. The clouds were finger-painted in the sky, and really stood out against a very blue sky.

From the parking lot, look for the little shields on the plastic pole markers, and follow them. They will first lead you to the east, across a wash. That gives you a slightly better view both north and south. Eventually, you find yourself mostly paralleling a dirt road that heads almost due east. You'll reach the gate for Mesa Wind Park in about 1/4 mile.

There's a no trespassing sign at the gate, but it only refers to cars on the road. Stay on the trail and you're perfectly legal.

At the gate, there's a small bulletin board, along with mileages to various places much farther along the trail than I had any intention of visiting today.

You continue mostly parallel to the road (crossing a few times from one side to the other). Powerlines also parallel the road, eventually leading to a pair of transmission stations and an office. Near the mobile home that serves as the Mesa Wind Park office, there was a sign inviting you to to drop in, cool off, and get some water. The sign said the office was open M-F, 6am - 2pm. However, I assumed they were mainly inviting thru hikers, not day hikers. So I ignored the invitation and continued on my way.

The hum of the windmills was louder than I expected. Dozens are in view and within a few hundred yards of you as you approach the transmission stations. Here, the trail also begins bending towards the north. In several spots, you even find yourself heading to the west or northwest.

It's not until the last mile or so that you can see the notch in the mountains you're heading for. From a distance, the crest looks incredibly low. And it is, compared to the hills on either side. However, the trail incline increases a bit as you approach the crest that separates you from the Whitewater drainage, and becomes downright steep for the last 1/2 mile or so.

At the crest, you're at about 3230 feet. The hills to your right and left are much higher than you, so your only longer view is back the way you came (at the crest, mainly to the southeast). You've got grass and brush-covered hills (all dried and yellow on this December day) that frame the windmills, with the Coachella Valley in the distance.

Looking forward, the hills really limit your view. I hoped to see the Whitewater River, so I continued over the crest another 1/4 mile, during which I lost about 250 feet of altitude. From there, I could see the Whitewater River was still several miles away, and would take about two miles of walking before I'd be able to see down into that canyon. Actually, when I thought about it, this made sense, since the point where the trail leaving the Whitewater towards Cottonwood Trailhead split was tucked hard against a cliff. You'd have to get to within about 1/2 or 1/4 of mile of the split (and only a mile or so from the Whitewater Preserve Trailhead) to see the Whitewater River and the Preserve visitor center.

Nonetheless, the extra 1/4 mile from the crest did give me a slightly better view to the north. I could see the hills that I'm pretty sure I reached on a previous hike, when I went from the Whitewater Preserve to overlook the Mission Creek drainage.

It would have been nice to go those few miles to get a better view over the Whitewater drainage, but the altitude loss would have made the hike more strenuous than I wanted this day. I was still trying to protect the blister hotspot I picked up on Monday. So I turned around after having walked about 3.8 miles. That makes the roundtrip a little over seven and a half miles, with 1400 feet of net elevation gain.

I returned the way I came.

I'd been wanting to make the hike from Whitewater Preserve to the Cottonwood Trailhead (eight miles one way) ever since my visit to Whitewater Preserve, in June. Of course, this requires a willing driver, and I hadn't been able to coordinate that with my wife, yet. Perhaps sometime soon?