Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hike 2012.005 -- Walnut Creek, San Dimas

Hiked Sunday, January 22. Came across this park somewhat accidentally, then tried to find some write-ups of the trail. One of my first hits was an old Los Angeles Times article by John McKinney. He used to have a semi-regular column on hiking in southern California.

A word of warning about trying to follow McKinney's directions to the trailhead: They won't work any more. Where he says "210 Freeway," he probably means the Orange Freeway (CA-57). This segment of freeway was renumbered after the 210 was extended to I-15 and beyond).

In any event, I ignored the directions. Coming from the west, I took I-10 east, exiting at Via Verde. I took Via Verde north, driving a pleasant and winding road through San Dimas, with a lot of white wooden fencing along the road indicating horse trails. At San Dimas, I made a left. Just before crossing under the 57 freeway, I saw the parking area on the left. However, as noted by nobodyhikesinla, the road here has a double-double yellow. You're not supposed to cross a double-double, so continued past a bit, making a right turn then a quick left and U-turn to get heading back in the correct direction.

There's a large trailhead sign here for the Michael D. Antonovich trail. For those who may not know, Antonovich is a long-time Los Angeles County Supervisor (just like Pete Scharbarum, who also has a lot of trail named after him--for some reason, my Supervisor, Gloria Molina, does not, as far as I know, have any trails named after her).

From the trailhead, the trail drops quickly into Walnut Creek Canyon. You've got a nice view to the northwest as you drop.

With the rain the day before I hiked, the water was running, though still as a trickle. All it really did was spur my urge to urinate. That's the power of suggestion.

I stayed on what felt like the "main" trail at each split, crossing the creek numerous times. I'm happy I was wearing my waterproof boots, because staying completely dry would have been impossible.

Twice, I came to large parking areas (gated) where horses could be unloaded (as they had been unloaded where I started--there were at least three horse trailers when I started). I also crossed a paved road, with a "Tzu Chi Buddhist" sign, on my left. Several places along the way, additional trail access points were also passed.

Based on McKinney's description, I'm pretty sure that the second horse circle I encountered is the "lower trailhead" mentioned in his article.

Shortly after passing McKinney's lower trailhead, I started getting hungry and decided it was time to figure on a good turnaround location. After two more crossings, I followed a spur that led me to a paved road. Upon reaching the pavement, I made a left turn, and walked (facing traffic) with the road on my right), up a hill. At the top of the hill was a street sign showing I had been walking on Reeder and that this was the corner of Reeder Ave (300 South) and Puente St (1700 East).

The trail would have continued further west at least a short distance. Since I did not walk that way, however, I can only speculate, but based on other trail reports, it can not go too much further.

The distance between the "upper" and "lower" trailheads was given by McKinney as two miles, so I'm calling it 5 miles for the day (roundtrip of 4 miles between the two trailheads, plus the distance I continued past that trailhead to Puente and Reeder and back, and the circle I walked that's just southeast of the lower trailhead, when I was trying to get back to the upper trailhead).

This trail is wetter and lacks the expansive views of the Schabarum trail. If I had to choose between Supervisor trails, I'd go with the Pete.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Free National Park Days in 2012 -- Plan ahead!

When I went hiking this last weekend, I was very slightly annoyed to discover that I missed out on a free national parks weekend. I coulda gone to Joshua Tree and saved $15. Yeah, that won't even cover the gasoline, but, still, it's fifteen to help pay for some of the gas!

FYI, the following dates are scheduled for fee-free entrance days in our national parks (and, typically, our other federal public lands):

April 21-29

June 9

September 29

November 10-12

The NPS website describing this information is here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hike 2012.004 -- Water Canyon -- Angeles National Forest, Near San Gabriel Canyon

Hiked Sunday, January 15. Today, I was stuck somewhere between my brain saying, "Go hiking" and my body saying, "I'd prefer to sleep."

Even as I was driving up San Gabriel Canyon, I was still debating about where I might hike. As I drove past Morris Dam, I saw a familiar sight. Turned around and parked, right adjacent to USFS Road #2N28.

I know I hiked here once before, but did not remember much in the way of specifics. It was only as I started writing up my hike that I searched my blog and found that it was over a year ago: Water Canyon was my last hike of 2010. This means it had been over a year since my last visit.

It's interesting to compare the difference in appear-ance: Last time, the reservoir was brimming full, and muddy from recent storm flows. Today, it was low and deep blue.

To get to the trailhead, take the Azusa Avenue offramp, north from I-210. After passing the "old town" and the new-ish Target, the road heads into San Gabriel Canyon. As you approach the mouth of the canyon, a bike path is on your left. A visitor center is also near the mouth of the canyon. You don't need a wilderness permit for this particular hike, but you do need an Adventure Pass. At least, normally, you would. This weekend was a free public lands weekend, although it does not seem to have been very effectively publicized.

Just after passing Morris Dam, there's a large overlook area on the right side of the road. On the left side of the road is the gate for Road 2N28.

As last time, I passed the gate, then turned right at the base of the hill. The path runs north, up-canyon, for quite some distance, before bending around a ridge and continuing to climb.

There's a use trail that goes straight up and around the metal detention dam near the gate. Haven't gone that way, but perhaps next time.

At this turn, there's a small patch of reeds. Doesn't look that wet around here, but I guess there might be standing water there during part of the season.

The actual trail climbs quickly, giving you a quick reward of a view to Morris Dam and Reservoir, and possibly your parked car. At one point, you approach quite close to the top of a power line pole. Right after rounding that bend, there's a use trail that heads up a ridge and provides a quick and steep alternate route.

I didn't go that way. Forgot all about that option, however, until I got back home and checked my write up of my last time up this way.

Instead, I stayed on the actual trail, which stays on the old road. There are several spots with severe earth slides, and the vegetation crowds your path. However, given the forecast of cooler weather, I was wearing long pants and long sleeves, so the way was pretty easy.

About 35 minutes up, there's a point where a use trail drops down from the main path and heads down into Water Canyon. I did not go that way, either. Instead, I stayed on the main path, which makes a hairpin turn as it passes through what seems like an intentionally (and relatively recently planted) forest of trees. Ducking and weaving through the trees, I made my way up, around, then down on the main path.

About ten minutes later, the path takes you to a prominent viewpoint. A ridge runs both up and down from where you stand. You've got a nice view over Morris Reservoir and the Glendora Mountain Road, far across the canyon. Normally, Mt. Baldy would also be visible, but, today, the peak was shrouded in clouds.

The last time I was here, I tried continuing along the old road path, but the growth got too thick. I then headed up the ridge and tromped atop the next ridge. However, today, I was only in for a short walk. So I headed back down the ridge until I met the trail, then followed the trail the last five minutes or so back to my car. Total walking time was about 1:15. I'm estimating about three miles for the day.

Not a lot of flowers in bloom. Some mustard and oxalis (both yellow and non-native), and some buckwheat. There was also the biggest purple nightshade I have ever seen, in addition to a few flowers I didn't recognize.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Hike 2012.003 -- Middle Fork Lytle Creek Waterfalls

Hiked Saturday, January 14.

Today's hike had more wrong turns than pretty much any hike I ever took before. I had trouble finding the right road, then I had trouble staying on the trail, then I had no idea where to find the waterfalls. This was a combination of less than obvious signage and me not paying enough attention when I was walking or when I printed out the trail descriptions I found on-line (then left the printouts in the car).

The trailhead is supposed to be at the end of Middle Fork Road. From the Foothill Freeway (I-210), take I-15 north to Sierra Ave., exit, then turn under the freeway. After passing a few gas stations, the road turns into Lytle Creek Road. About three miles later, the ranger station is on the right. You'll need to stop there for a wilderness permit. Also, if you don't have an Adventure Pass or equivalent, you'll probably need to buy one, here. It definitely seems required if you park in the first flat area after you start on Middle Lytle Creek Road, and may be needed if you park at the actual trailhead at the end of the road (haven't been to the trailhead in a while, so I don't know if it's signed as requiring an Adventure Pass as of February 2015 or not).

Didn't measure the mileage, but I think it's only about 2 miles past the ranger station that you reach Middle Fork Road. I think it's the first road after Sycamore Road, and there's a brown sign on the left side of the road pointing you the way. The sign says it's 3 miles to the Middle Fork trailhead.

Middle Fork Road is narrow and squeezes between numerous houses. It's paved here, and continues to be paved for about 1/2 mile, until it passes a church. Then it becomes dirt, and rough. About 1/2 mile after the pavement ends, there's a spur to the left that heads to a small parking lot. If you do not have a high clearance vehicle, or at least a short wheelbase, moderate-clearance vehicle, you might want to park there.

I pushed on about 1/2 mile further, but the going was slow.

When I drove back home, my odometer said it was 1.5 miles back to Lytle Creek Road, so I'm estimating I walked 1.5 miles each way (3 miles roundtrip) just to get to the trailhead.

At the trailhead were about ten cars. Most were high clearance pick-up trucks or SUVs. One was a Geo Metro. Two were VWs. My Saturn has a longer wheelbase and less clearance than any of those, so I figure I made the right choice by stopping when I did.

There's a pit toilet at the trailhead. There are also two trails, although only one appears on the Tom Harrison "Mt Baldy and Cucamonga Wilderness Trail Maps" and the map they had at the display near the start of the trail. Because the map and interpretive signs were near the higher of the two trails, I took the higher one. According to the sign there, it is .5 miles to Stonehouse and 2.3 miles to Third Stream Crossing.

I recalled that the waterfalls were supposed to be near Third Stream Crossing, though I did not recall the specifics, and I forgot to bring the printouts with me. D'oh!

May or may not have seen Stonehouse, if that's just the name of the walk-in campground on the lower trail. Of course, I shouldn't have, had I managed to stay on the high road.

Unfortunately, after .6 miles, I moved off the high trail and on to the low trail. It's a 4-way, "X" intersection where the trails split. I just kept walking straight, because I didn't even notice the full split. A bright orange tie was along that route, so I boobishly walked forward.

I should have made a right turn here to stay on the high trail. A left turn would have put me at the nearby overlook.

Going down led me closer to the creek. Unfortunately, there are a lot of downed trees this way, due to a recent fire. That meant lots of places to lose the trail, and I did lose it a few times on this lower route. This resulted in a fair amount of bushwacking and backtracking before I managed to find a use-trail that took me back to the high trail.

Progress sped up considerably once I was back on this trail. Still, I didn't know exactly where I was supposed to go. I eventually crossed the stream and climbed steeply, reaching a few switchbacks. A check of the map indicated I was clearly past Third Stream Crossing, so I turned back around, and checked out the two canyons ahead of where the trail had turned, thinking perhaps this might be the way to the falls. However, after several hundred yards of travel, it became clear that the waterfalls (which were supposed to be quite close to Third Crossing) were not this way.

Next, from Third Stream Crossing, I headed "downstream," eventually, finding another stream coming in from the right. I headed up that way, encountering many cascades along the way. The steep walls of this canyon convinced me I was on the right track, and, sure enough, I soon saw a waterfall in the distance.

Getting there required crossing the stream several times, stepping in a few inches of water and on some extremely slippery rocks. If the water were flowing higher, this would be a much harder waterfall to get to.

The lowest of the two falls I could see was comparable in height to Eaton Canyon Falls, so I estimate it is about 30 feet in height. The second falls were too far away to get a good estimate, though it seemed shorter.

I have read that there is a third falls above that one, but could not easily and safely get to a position of seeing it.

All told, according to my map and estimates, I walked 3 miles on Middle Fork Road to get to the trailhead and back, 1.2 miles roundtrip to get to the trail split, about 1.5 miles to get both ways between the split and remerger, 1.6 miles roundtrip to get from there to Third Stream Crossing, and about one mile total on my excursions up and down the various canyons (including the one with the falls) leading into Lytle Canyon. That's about 8.3 miles total walking for the day.

Were I to do the hike again, I would be careful to stay on the high trail. Shortly after passing a little circle of oak trees (eleven trees, growing in a tight circle), the trail climbs steeply through manzanita, reaching a nice view spot. A massive but fractured granite structure forms the opposite canyon wall.

You would then descend the trail, and either look for a faint use trail that heads into the canyon immediately east of the granite structure, or continue to where the high trail finally crosses the main portion of Lytle Creek (Third Stream Crossing, not signed). Once on the south side of Lytle Creek, head east, keeping the stream on your left. When you run into another stream coming in from the right, turn up along that creek. Follow it up a few hundred yards until it dead ends at the base of the first waterfall.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Hike 2012.002 -- Monrovia Canyon Falls

Hiked Sunday, January 8. Yesterday's hike felt good, and I was still feeling a little tired from it. But I ate a huge breakfast today and needed to do something to combat those calories. The solution was a short hike in Monrovia Canyon.

From Foothill Blvd (between Mountain and Myrtle), take Canyon Blvd north. There's a sign on westbound Foothill (sometimes obscured by tree branches) indicating this is the way to Monrovia Canyon Park, but I did not see any sign heading towards the east).

After about 1.5 miles, Canyon bears to the right (There's a sign pointing the way to Canyon Park there). There's no stop sign heading up, but there is one coming down. Gotta take some care at that intersection. About 1/2 mile later, just before you reach the corner of Canyon and Oakglade (there's a painted relief concrete sign pointing you towards Canyon Park here, too), you can park on the street (check the alternate-side no parking signs, and avoid the no parking area right at the intersection).

I parked there and walked up the paved road that heads into Monrovia Canyon Park. Walking from the street rather than parking at the entry station adds about 3/4 of a mile each way and saves you $5. There is about a 1/10th of a mile section where you are walking on a shoulderless road, whereas for the rest of the way there's an off-shoulder walking area. Many locals appear to prefer walking on the pavement, nonetheless.

My estimate for the walking distance is based on a "1 1/2 mile" sign for the "Fountain to Falls" walk that was near where I parked, and a "2 1/4 mile" sign for the same walk where the off-road portion of the hike to Monrovia Falls begins. There's also a sign indicating it is 1 3/4 miles from there to the waterfall. Simple addition of 1.75 + 1.75 + .75 + .75 means it's 5 miles roundtrip for the whole hike.

There were a lot of cars parked on the street, and lots of foot traffic heading up and down the Canyon drive.

At the entry station, there's a parking lot and a flush toilet. The Bill Cull trail to the waterfall starts from just past the entry station, on the left side of the road. As earlier noted, the sign says it's 1 3/4 miles to the falls from there.

This trail begins with a brisk climb through several switchbacks. Before long, you are above the road, and can see the notch-faced Sawpit Canyon dam.

The trail here is somewhat narrow, which can be an issue during times of heavy travel. It's plenty wide for one person to walk, but not wide enough for two people to pass comfortably.

Once the trail returns to river level (about 3/5 of a mile later), the trail becomes wider.

There's a water crossing just before you meet the main canyon trail (which runs north to the waterfall and south to an historic cabin). Live oak, sycamore, and California Walnut were common. The walnut, in particular, grew thick, with boughs hanging low over the trail.

As you walk the last 3/4 of a mile of the trail, there are several numbered signs that form a nature trail. However, in all the times I've been to this park, I've never found a copy of the flyer at the nature center or the brochure holder near the trail's head at the visitor center.

Hiker traffic was heavier here. When I got to the waterfall, there were about a half-dozen people near the falls, and another ten or so wandering a bit further off. Within five minutes, another fifteen or so people arrived. It definitely gets crowded here on weekends.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Hike 2012.001 -- Hacienda Hills -- Seventh Avenue to Rio Hondo College

Hiked Saturday, January 7.

First hike of the year. It's been a busy few weeks, what with the usual holiday stuff, plus getting settled back in at home and getting ready for a couple of new jobs. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure I've added an additional inch or so in belly circumference since Thanksgiving, which is definitely not something I wanted to do. So today's hike, while a late start, was a pleasantly long ten miles or so. First decent hike since El Malpais National Monument, on the drive home from Kentucky.

Today's trailhead was at the south end of Seventh Avenue. From the Pomona Freeway (CA60), take Seventh Avenue south until it dead ends at Orange Grove (only about 1.5 miles). There's a small parking lot (room for about six cars) just north of Orange Grove, and plenty of on-street parking on the west side of Seventh Avenue, just south of Orange Grove.

I've used this trailhead more than any other in the Hacienda Hills, simply because it's easy and quick to get to from my San Gabriel Valley home. On my first hike in the Hacienda Hills, I started here and walked to the old Nike missile site that overlooks Rose Hills. Hadn't been there since.

My initial goal for the day was just to do that hike again.

The trail starts out heading directly south, with a wide dirt road as the main path and a narrower, winding, ADA-accessible trail passing through a native plant corridor just to the west. This is the "Ahwingna Trail." Every time I hear that name, I think of "The Lion Sleeps at Night." Or I think to myself that maybe "Ahwingna" is the Gabrielino word for "landfill." ;D

The Ahwingna trail starts out heading due south, then curves to the right. After .3 miles, the Coyote Trail breaks off sharply up and to the left. I ignored that turn (which can easily be combined with other trails off of and including the Ahwingna to make a nice, 5-mile or so loop). After another 1/10th of a mile or so, the road turns to pavement and begins a steep climb. As the pavement nears the top of the crest, a dirt path splits off to the left. That is still the Ahwingna Trail.

Now dirt rather than pavement, the trail continues climbing steeply for another 1/2 mile before reaching a fork. Two hitching posts are to the right, partially shaded by oaks. A sign indicates that the Ahwingna Trail splits to the left, while the Native Oak Trail goes straight ahead. I went to the left.

One-half mile later, the Ahwingna trail runs into the Skyline/Schabarum/Juan Bautista de Anza Trail. Make a left turn there and go 12 miles, and you'd reach Schabarum Park. I've been that way before. No time or inclination for that long of a walk, though. Instead, I made a right.

After 1/2 mile, the Native Oak trail also intersects the Schabarum Trail, from the right. Almost immediately thereafter, there's a boundary sign, indicating you are leaving the Puente Hills Landfill Native Habitat Authority land. As you continue on the Schabarum trail, a fence remains on your left. When it's the right season, vetch bloom thickly in this area.

There's a graffiti-covered (empty) water tank in the distance to the southwest. I've hiked there before, too.

I continued heading west. Because of the haze, views were pretty limited.

After about 2/10ths of a mile, the trail passes around a gate. Rose Hills Memorial Park owns the land to your left. The Puente Hills Landfill is immediately to your right. A portion of the tipping fees paid by dumpers helps finance the Native Habitat Authority that owns some land and manages other easements for the trail system that cuts through the Hacienda and Puente Hills.

Another 3/10ths of a mile or so later, the trail somewhat splits, with a mulch-covered path going between a row of trees, and a paved road on the right. I'm pretty sure you're supposed to stay on the mulch path. The active landfill is now very close on your right. It has expanded much closer to the trail than it was the first (and last) time I walked this section of trail. Seemed a little surprising to me how much it has expanded, given that it is going to close in about 21 months.

In the area just before and during this section, I could here the low toots of what sounded like a tuba. To my left and ahead, a band was playing for a funeral in Rose Hills, but only the deep tuba noises traveled this far.

At the end of this passage, you're now potentially within a stone's throw of large earth movers on your right. A cluster of microwave towers are above and to your left. You've actually been able to see this cluster pretty much since you got on the Schabarum Trail, but now you're at the base of the final hill. A white fence zig-zags up the hill.

You can follow the zig-zag path all the way until it runs on to the pavement, or take it only part of the way, before dropping down and to the right on what is the actual Skyline trail. Either way, you're at the top soon enough.

If you came up the paved road, there's a painted brick guard shack (empty) on your left, with a commemorative plaque nearby.

There's also a trough for horses across the pavement from the guard shack. However, at the moment, the trough is signed with a warning to equestrians not to allow their horses to use the communal trough for fear of spreading some form of equine disease.

The Skyline trail continues over the hill, with Rose Hills still on your left and landfill property on your right. As you head down the steep paved road (or perhaps walk on the mulched shoulder), huge steel trellises support power lines overhead. This is part of the massive Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project.

As you make your way down the road, Rio Hondo College finally begins to come into view. They've got a little observatory dome to the east of the campus. Apparently, there's a 16" reflecting telescope (probably a SCT design) in there. I have poked around the Internet to see what I could learn, and I saw that it at least used to be open for free public viewing. However, the only current viewing opportunities seem to be linked to signing up for a $25 continuing education class at the college. I may need to investigate this further.

With a 16-inch aperture and likely Schmidt-Cassegrain, it's got 1/3 more light gathering power yet is much more compact that the main telescope at Griffith Park.

The descent from the Nike site to Workman Blvd (just north of Rio Hondo College) is a long one, longer than it appeared from the top. However, I was curious to see where it reached Workman, because I had previously tried to find the trail access there.

Following the pavement down from the Nike Station, it's probably a mile before you reach the energy generating plants (gas to energy). Steam and a slight odor were apparent from a distance.

Keep the first plant you see on your right as you continue on the main road (the trail actually drops off the road after about 1/2 mile, but it's slightly overgrown, so it's easier to stay on the pavement until after you pass the power plants). Eventually the road reaches the Puente Hills Landfill receiving point. Yellow stripes on the pavement represent a crosswalk, and the trail cuts down to the left here.

After a brief descent, the path again crosses the pavement before beginning another long and winding descent. Shortly after you pop out on a dirt road, the Rio Hondo (College) Police Academy facility is on your right. They've got a little obstacle course and a drinking fountain. The police academy has been closed for a while due to some sort of financial irregularity, so I don't know how long the water in the fountain has been sitting in those pipes.

Continue past the police academy course, opting for the lower of several dirt roads as you continue to the south. Federal Express has a large sorting facility to your right. Workman Mill is the street nearest you. Peck Road is the one that Workman Mill intersects, just to the south. When facing to the west, the San Gabriel River Freeway (I-605) runs left to right, and crosses the Pomona Freeway (CA-60) just a mile or so to your left.

When the trail reaches Workman Mill Road, a tunnel takes you under Workman, or you can (illegally) jaywalk across Workman. The Bookmart and a flower shop is immediately to the west of a public parking area for trail access. North Drive is immediately to the west of the start of the path. A shiny new building stands on the southeast corner of Workman Mill and North Drive. The last time I was here, there was major construction all around the Rio Hondo Campus, and I'm not sure if that building was there, and/or if the trailhead parking had been appropriated by construction vehicles. Either way, I saw neither the Skyline Trail that I just walked nor the public parking area across the street.

After crossing under Workman Mill, I explored a bit further. Another hiking/equestrian tunnel goes from the parking area west under Peck Road and towards the San Gabriel River. However, the path under Peck was wet, presumably with a mixture of water and horse urine, so I did not continue further. Had I done so, I presumably could have linked up with the San Gabriel River trail (paved) that heads from here south to Long Beach, or north to Azusa and the mouth of San Gabriel River Canyon.

I returned the way I came.

The sun was already getting ready to set as I headed back up towards the Nike Station. A nearly full moon was rising in the east.

I took relatively few pictures as I returned, and walked very quickly while the light remained. However, during the last 1.3 miles or so (along the Ahwingna Trail), I had to slow down on parts because it was too dark to easily see the trail and the trail itself is steep and eroded in parts. I didn't want to fall.

I did not get back to my car until about 5:45pm, which was about 1:45 after I began walking back.

After returning home, I googled "Seventh Avenue to Rio Hondo College" (no quotes) and found an old (25 year old) L.A. Times article by John McKinney about the trail I walked. It gives the roundtrip distance as 10 miles, with an altitude change along the way of 800 feet. I am sure is an approximation, since this was written long before the public use of GPS became a reality, but seems reasonable considering the time it took to return home.

McKinney used to have regular articles in the Times of hiking trails in the area.