Saturday, June 29, 2013

Hike 2013.037 -- Lake Avenue to Sunset Ridge, Angeles National Forest

Hiked Monday, June 22. About two weeks after the hike last hike I posted, (which is definitely not the last hike I did--still way behind on my posts), I returned to largely the same area to hike to Sunset Ridge.
What ever weird thing I or blogpsot did to change the way the posts appear is still going on, BTW. To see the pictures in the format they were taken, click on the pictures.

Nice thing about this last hike was that it was unseasonably cool. Lots of clouds, which made the scene look more like spring that summer.
As mentioned previously, the bloom of the scarlet larkspur had moved up a mile or so along the trail. There were still a few at lower altitudes, but the thicker blooms were higher up.

If you had patience, you could set up and wait for hummingbirds to come down and sip from the larkspur. I didn't have the patience.
As another post-work hike, I had barely enough time to finish. Started near 5pm and got back to the car about 8:30pm. So, yeah, I'm taking full advantage of the summer sun. And the clouds. Got some nice flower shots and some nice back-lit mountains.
Also played some with exposure length, which I often do but don't usually mention in my post. So this shot and the previous one are examples of what a shorter exposure can do: You can expose for the clouds or for the mountains, but not both.
This really makes a difference for any back-lit subject, or anything where you don't want your camera to expose for "average." Most of my stream views in recent hikes are one or even two full stops shorter exposures than the meter suggests. Of course, no stream shots on this hike, but you get the idea.
Because this was another late afternoon hike, I got some more soft lighting of the San Gabriel Mountains. I'm very pleased with my shots, even though they still don't capture the view I enjoyed. This was another one of those days when I was hiking and thinking to myself how lucky I was to be alive to see these things I was seeing
As the sun set and the land got darker, I got a last shot of some yucca stalks, lit by the setting sun. And, in the distance, transmission towers. Someone who looked at this picture commented, "Is it nature imitating man, or man, imitating nature?"

After that shot, it was too dark to shoot much, so I packed up the camera and headed on down.

The sign claims this is 5 miles roundtrip. But it also gives 5 miles for the Echo Mountain hike, and this one is undoubtedly longer and tougher than Echo Mountain. So I'm calling it 6 miles.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Hike 2013.031 -- Echo Mountain

Hiked Monday, June 3. Echo Mountain has been my "ole standby" hike, because it's so conveniently located to my house, and offers a nice trip back in time, once you get up to the old White City at the top. Trailhead directions are posted on previous blogs about this hike, and finding directions will be the least of your probems.

Something weird happened when I posted these pictures. They're coming out too large. But if you click on the picture, you get a properly-scaled view.
So I was surprised to discover that I hadn't been up there all year. Didn't find that out until I started writing the blog.
At the start of the hike, I was thinking of heading to Sunset Ridge, just because I thought I had been up to Echo Mountain so many times, and this would give it a little variety.,
However, with the many wildflowers I had to photograph, my progress was slow. I soon determined that getting to Echo Mountain was all I'd have time for this night.
During the first mile, scarlet larkspur seemed to be everywhere. I took picture after picture. It, along with the Indian Pink, and the California fuschia, gave me my fill of pretty red flowers.
The larkspur was densest in the first mile of trail. Two weeks later (five days before I wrote these words) I last hiked the area, again. By that time, the densest scarlet larkspur were in the last 1.5 miles or so of trail.
Somewhat ironically, since my Burbank Peak hike, when I saw those pretty mariposa lily, I've since seen mariposa lily on practically every hike I've taken since.
There was also a small patch of desert poppy. They look similar to their relatives, the California poppy. But the connection between the stem and the flower is slightly different, and the desert variety is slightly more yellow rather than orange in bloom.
This being another after-work hike, I was again coming down in late twilight. I love summer evenings for hiking, that's for sure.
I've now got about a half-dozen more hikes to finish blogging. The good news is, I've uploaded pictures for about four of them tonight. I'll probably wind up making much briefer than usual blog write-ups, just so I can get the hikes posted.
I also hope to get a few more hikes in this weekend. The stifling heat may prove problematic, however.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Hike 2013.033 -- Sawpit Wash to Monrovia Falls

Hiked Saturday, June 8. This is not the most recent unblogged hike, and it's not the oldest unblogged hike. But it is one I've already gone through the pictures for, so here it is.

It seems impossible to believe, but if my blog postings are correct, it's been 18 months since my last visit to Monrovia Falls.

The route I took today was actually a repeat of this hike, from March 2011 Again, it seems impossible that it's been this long since I hiked this trail.

One thing that's changed is that the rather large parking area for access to the Sawpit Wash "trailhead" is much reduced. There are now "No Parking" signs on the bridge that crosses the wash. That used to provide parking for between six and eight vehicles. With no parking there allowed, there's much less room on the space adjacent to the bridge. There are no "No Parking" signs there, even in front of the service access gates to either side of the wash. Does that mean parking is permitted in front of the gates? I don't know.

If you don't want to block the gates and be the guinea pig who can answer the question, then there's only room for about two cars at the parking area, which isn't enough. But since I was the second car there this morning (the other car is an immobile wreck that's been there for several months, at least. But it has a nice car cover!), I did have room to park.

Sawpit Wash is also accessible at several other points, including Wildrose (one block south of Foothill) and Lemon Avenue (two blocks south of Foothill). Both access points are just east of Mountain Avenue).

A shorter hike can be had if you access Sawpit Wash at either Greystone or Norumbega. Or, of course, you can just drive up North Canyon Road, pay the five bucks to park inside the actual Monrovia Canyon Park, and have a hike of between 1 and 3 miles, roundtrip.

Most other folks who write this hike up would suggest parking at the bottom on North Canyon, near Ridgeside Drive. But then you'd need to walk about 1/4 of a mile on the pavement of the road. As in, ON the road. Even though it's a short segment and lots of people walk there (so drivers should be aware), I don't like it. Coming up from Sawpit Wash, instead, you don't join North Canyon Road until it gets a little wider, and there's a dirt shoulder to walk on.

A few years ago, there was also a row of small boulders and large rocks to provide a visual separation between you and the cars. Presumably, stupid people have removed most of those rocks, so now there are about two of them on the lowest section. Then again, even with the dirt shoulders, some stupid people insist on walking on the pavement, anyway.

After about 1/2 mile walking along the road, you reach the entrance to Monrovia Canyon City Park. The parking area just outside of the entrance gate would still require a parking fee, and it's supposed to be 3 miles (or 3.5 miles, if you believe a different sign) from there to the waterfall.

Cross to the west side of the road at the crosswalk after the entrance station, and head on up the trail. You'll gain altitude quickly, and soon have a view of the very impressive Sawpit Canyon Dam. Despite it's imposing facade, it's now a "run of the river" dam, which means it impounds essentially no water.

The large earthen dam you passed where you joined North Canyon Road in the first place would actually hold back more water. But that one's not nearly as cool looking.

Almost as soon as you've completed your first little climb, there's an unopened trail that branches off to the left. A sign there says this trail is closed, pending a feasibility study. Annoyingly enough, that same sign's been there since my first hike to Monrovia Falls, almost 3 1/2 years ago.

As in other hikes in the area, many scarlet larkspur and Indian pink were growing along the trail. Much later along the way, after i got within the canyon, I passed a moderate-sized bush with a number of Matilja poppies in bloom.

I also passed some photogenic oak stands, and areas with cascades and alder to create nice, peaceful scenes.

Once the "long" (3-mile roundtrip trail) joins up with the other, shorter trails to the falls that originate within the park, the going gets more crowded. Still, it wasn't until reaching the waterfall that I saw more than a half-dozen people at a time. There, there must have been 30 or so people in the area. Those that were there took turns posing in front of the falls, so you almost had to accept a picture with strangers in it. Oh, well. At least they give some perspective on size.

About 6 miles round trip for the day. There are a few steep areas with large enough drop offs that very young children (under five) should probably not hike) Dogs are permitted, on a leash, and with their waste picked up by their owners.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Hike 2013.035 -- Switzer's Falls, Angeles National Forest

Hiked Monday, June 10. This was the last hike I took, and the last of a little splurge of hiking I managed to fit in: The third consecutive day of hiking, and the fifth in the preceding eight days. Obviously, I'm not posting my hikes in order of completion, and I still have a number of hikes to write-up for the year.

I've been to Switzer's only once before. Ironically, it was almost exactly two years before my last trip. Yet, despite the similar time of year, the dryness of this year has left Switzer's a shadow of what Is aw the last time I was here.

Getting to the trailhead is pretty straightforward. From the Foothill Freeway (I-210), exit north on the Angeles Crest Highway (CA-2). Less than a mile after Clear Creek Junction (where the Angeles Forest Highway comes in from Palmdale), there's a signed turnoff for the Switzer's day use area. It's a pretty little picnic area that undoubtedly gets hammered on the weekends. However, thanks to Adventure Pass, on weekday afternoons/evenings, the place is pretty empty. I doubt I passed more than a dozen hikers on the way to the falls (ignoring the less-than dozen non-hikers I saw within 1/4 or the parking lot, including a pretty large group of what I would assume to be film students doing a project.

The tricky part for this hike is that there's a sign pointing you to Switzer's Falls right near the parking lot. Yet it gives no distance, nor any further direction about how to get to the falls.

From the parking lot, you cross a service bridge, placing yourself on the south side of the water. Head downstream. Cross to the other side when you are forced to, then go back and forth as often as the trail demands it. There are two signs along the trail as it parallels the river. Each directs you (at different points) to cross to the right side of the river. Other than that, it's pretty straightforward.

After the second crossing to the right, your trail climbs steeply out of the canyon. You'll hear the water to your left, especially when you pass near one of several steep falls that you can not see much of because of vegetation and topography.

At a trail junction (that, because of a continuing Station Fire closure order is not really a junction, since the other way is closed), turn left, back down towards the creek. It's a short, steep descent of maybe 1/3 mile. Then, head back upstream another 1/2 mile or so.

The lower waterfall is, of course, had to miss.

Should you choose to go around that waterfall, there's a way to the right. It requires a modest amount of dexterity, and the ability not to let the (non-fatal) drop off psyche you out. Alternatively, if you get nervous around drop-offs, don't go past the lower falls; it's not worth it.

From there, you can make you way up about another 1/5 of a mile, to a second, taller waterfall. However, on this trip, the water was so low (and stinky) that I elected not to get my feet wet to try for a better angle.

I spent only a few minutes at the upper falls before turning around. Nonetheless, because of the late start, the sun was approaching the horizon on the return trip. As with all of my hikes this week, this meant a soft, warm light for some of my later pics. It really shows that on the mountain top, covered in yucca stalks picture at the top of this post.

I also got some soft light as I shot around a small cascade, when I was nearly back to the trailhead.

Roundtrip is supposed to be about four miles. It seems a lot tougher than either Eaton Canyon or Sturtevant Falls, however. Not sure why.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Hike 2013.030 -- Griffith Observatory to Burbank Peak

Hiked Saturday, June 1. I worked until 5pm last Saturday, and packed my shorts, a t-shirt, and hiking boots for an afterwork hike.

Figured I'd hike from the Griffith Observatory to Burbank Peak. It's my favorite hike in the area. Convenient, 'cause I don't have to drive anywhere, too.

From the far north side of the Observatory Parking lot, head north, past the gate, the water fountain, etc. Here's the view from the trailhead back to the Observatory.

Looking up the trail.

Maybe 50 yards up, looking to the west, at Mt. Lee.

Looking to the northeast, towards the San Gabriel Mountains.

After a brief climb, past the Berlin Children's Forest, you descend towards a "bridge" that crosses over the Vermont Canyon tunnel. You would have driven under the tunnel if you took your car to the Observatory. Also, Marty McFly stole back the sports almanac from Biff in one of the Back to the Future movies here, too.

After crossing the bridge there are several "shortcut," steep, ridge-routes on up towards Mt. Lee. I see no reason why they would be preferable to the Charlie Turner, but some silly people walk up or down them every day. There's also one spot further up where people can "cut" a switchback on the Charlie Turner Trail. However, for 99% of the people, the shortcut will turn out to be longer and harder than just staying on the actual trail. But there's no stopping stupidity.

This is also the trail I walked up to for my Endeavour flyover adventure.

You should walk the Charlie Turner as though you were going to the top of Mt. Hollywood. But DON'T take the last left turn, up to the summit. Instead, turn left, and you'll see this wide dirt road, heading north. Go that way.

Burbank is in front of you. Within 100 yards or so, you'll have a view down to the northeast, and Glendale. Bee Rock is down there, too.

Looking back towards Mt. Hollywood, I saw a group of horseriders, heading down towards Mulholland Highway.

California buckwheat was growing healthy and in full bloom.

When the dirt road reaches the first hill below (Mt. Bell), take the trail that runs along the pipes. It'll take you around the mountain without giving any altitude away. You'll pass around Mt. Bell, then in front of (on the south side of) Mt. Chapel. before descending to the south. When it hits the paved road, cross it.

Looking back from the other side of the road, here's the dirt road you just took.

In front of you is a narrow trail that heads up to what appears to be an unnamed trail. You'll be walking with a sometimes steep drop-off to your left.

In a few spots, you've got a nice view of Mulholland Motorway, below you. Horses and hikers walk that path, which will also eventually hit Mt. Lee Road. However, their way requires giving away a lot of altitude. This way does not.

Stick near the ridge line, and you're rewarded with nice views back.

When the ridge route becomes untenable, drop down to the right. That path will soon intersect with the paved Mt. Lee Drive. When you hit the pavement, make a right. This road will continue east, behind Mt. Lee.

When the pavement makes a hairpin turn to the left, that's the way to Mt. Lee. Meanwhile, in front of you is a stone monument to Cahuenga Peak. And just to the left of the monument is a narrow trail that will take you to Cahuenga Peak. Climb it. In about fifty yards, you'll be rewarded with a nice view. To your east-southeast is the Hollywood Sign.

Peeking between some foliage is Cahuenga Peak. You can see the sometimes-steep, always narrow trail that climbs to Cahuenga, and will continue from there to the east, to Burbank Peak.

Along pretty much this entire segment, "Lake" Hollywood (reservoir) is to your south.

As I made my way towards Burbank Peak, I saw a vintage DC-3, with United Airlines livery, making its through the Cahuenga Pass, and to Bob Hope Airport.

The evening sun gave a soft light to the dead tree, and a dove that was enjoyed the view (though, at this moment, it was staring right back at me).

One of only a handful of yucca stalks I saw on this hike was right near the dead tree.

Meanwhile, this mariposa lily appeared almost translucent, with its stamen and pistils casting their silhouette against its petals.

There'a lone tree at the top of Burbank Peak, which you can see at the top of this post.

After chatting with the guys there for a few moments, I headed back. It took me two hours (with lots of stops for picture taking) to get here. This meant it was going to be plenty dark by the time I got back.

With darkness falling, clouds rolled over Mt. Lee and Cahuenga Peak. I boosted my camera's ISO to get this last shot, before I packed the camera into my backpack, and walked down a very dark (but wide and easy) trail to my car. Got back there about 9pm. Four hours of blissful hiking on a perfect day for hiking in Griffith Park.

Figure about 8 miles roundtrip.