Thursday, November 28, 2013

Hike 2013.052 -- Chino Hills State Park -- Bane Road, Bane Ridge Trail, Longwayaround Trail, East Fence Line Trail

Hiked Sunday, November 17. The week before my rain-soaked Red Rock Canyon hikes (Ice Box Canyon and Calico Hills/Lost Canyon), I hiked in Chino Hills State Park. Chino Hills is no Red Rock Canyon.

This was my fourth visit to Chino Hills State Park, and the third trailhead. My first visit was from Rim Crest Trail, which I hiked to San Juan Hill and Gillman Peak. The second trailhead was from Carbon Canyon, where the new Discovery Center visitor center is near the start of the trail.

This day's hike was from 4721 Sapphire Road. From this address, Bane Road heads south, into the park. This used to be the only way for the public to drive into the park. However, the road is being reconstructed (I don't know if it is going to be paved, but I would think so), and is closed to motor vehicles. However, with the construction season over, the road is now open for hiking, biking, and equestrian users.

Getting to the trailhead, I took CA-71 (the Chino Valley Freeway), a mostly-limited access route from I-10 (the San Bernardino Freeway) past the Pomona Freeway (CA-60), and on to the Riverside Freeway (CA-91). From CA-71, take Soquel Canyon Parkway, west. As you pass Butterfield Ranch Road, you'll see a shopping area to your right. This is the last facilities you'll see, as there's no restrooms or other facilities at the trailhead.

After Butterfield Ranch Road, continue west on Soquel Canyon Road for about 3/5 of a mile. A sign will direct you to a left turn, at Elinvar Road. After about 1/4 mile, Elinvar ends, a you must a make a 90-degree left turn, where the street changes name to Sapphire Road.

Bane Canyon Road enters immediately, on your right. Park anywhere in this area, though check to make sure you are parking on a street sweeping day. If so, park on the other side of the road.

On the day I hiked, there was a small pocket for maps near the entrance gate. It's an old map, however (dated 2002), so it has no update on what's going on with this road.

Hike on up the road. Expect mountain bikers on this, and nearly any of the trails.

North is to your back. South is straight ahead. Hills rise on either side. If it's clear, you can look back and see the San Gabriel Mountains. In the winter, they may be blanketed in snow.

The actual Chino Hills, however, are far too low for snow. Visit in the spring, and it's green rolling hills, or rolling hills covered in growing weeds (meaning, non-native plants). In the late summer or fall, it's mostly brown. Today, a few live oak were still green. Willow were mostly green, with a touch of yellow moving in. The sycamore were drier, with fewer leaves. Tree tobacco was also still growing green.

There was also the occasional bit of growth closer to the ground. A few bushes of sunflower, a few areas covered by datura, and a very few other sort of flowering plants. But it was mostly just dead grass. Not very scenic, other than that there were rolling hills of almost nothing, which is kind of rare in southern California.

Because of the lack of color, photo-graphing here is almost like a throwback exercise in shadows and light. Patterns attract your attention, but the patterns are mostly just variations of brown, or, as I said, of shadow and light. There was also the blue sky and the puffy white clouds. But that's about it.

On my hike this day, once I cleared the first rise, I took a trail heading to my right. It was the Bane Ridge Trail. I figured the view would be nice from up there.

Probably earlier than I intended, I descended past a powerline tower and joined the Bane Canyon Trail. I followed it for what seemed like at least 1/2 mile, eventually reaching some benches. From there, I stopped and studied my map some. Then I backtracked a bit to catch the "Longwayaround" trail, which would take me to McLean Overlook.

As I approached the viewpoint, I noticed an impressive outcropping. After first continuing to the viewpoint and looking in all directions at the rolling hills, I returned back to the side trail that would take me over the outcropping. This was the East Fence Line Trail.

This trail winds its way SLOWLY, and with many ups and downs and much following of ravine contour lines, followed by climbs into the next watershed. Eventually, the East Fenceline trail rejoins the Bane Canyon Trail, just 1/2 mile from Sapphire Road, and pretty much directly across the trail from where the Bane Ridge Trail had separated from Bane Canyon Trail in the other direction.

Hard to estimate total mileage, because that East Fenceline Trail really made a lot of turns. Anywhere from 6 to 8 miles of walking would be possible. I'll call it 7 miles for the day.

Good exercise, new territory covered, but not exactly outstanding scenery, and not significantly different from the landscape you see from the other trailheads.

The only other place I haven't been to in this park is the area down to the southwest, in Aliso Canyon. I'll have to try to find a good trailhead for that portion.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hike 2013.053B -- Icebox Canyon Waterfalls, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, NV

Hiked Saturday, November 23.

When I left the L.A. area on Friday morning, a fresh, pretty coat of snow blanketed the high peaks near Mt. Baldy. When I left Las Vegas on Sunday morning, an even thicker blanket covered the Spring Mountains and on over to Mountain Pass. In between, at the altitude of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, rain fell. Lots of it.

On Saturday afternoon, I hiked briefly around the Calico Hills. Wrote that up here. On Saturday morning, I arrived at Red Rock Canyon around 9am, which is not early, but before most folks get to Red Rock. Got on the 13-mile loop, and drove past the Calico Hills as I began my drive.

While water ran down the hills like yesterday, the flows were not nearly as impressive as yesterday. The rain seemed comparable, but I guess lacked a heavy downpour that must have hit the area before I got there on Friday.

I drove on, to the Icebox Canyon trailhead. The rain continued, and, in fact, fell until I was nearly back to the car at the end of the hike.

Because of the larger drainage area for Icehouse Canyon versus the Calico Hills, I was confident I'd have something to see.

I had been in Ice Box Canyon last February. Then, the lower of the two waterfalls at the end of the hike was but a thin sluice of water, while the upper falls was but a seep. A few other seeps could be seen on the walls on the way in. And this was during the part of the season when the falls normally run.

This time, there were many falls entering the canyon from both sides. Most were not that large, but one near the entrance to the canyon thundered down several hundred feet off a cliff. It reminded me of Upper Yosemite Falls, albeit from a distance. No easy way to the base seemed apparent. I though of perhaps trying to approach it on the way back, but was way too beat when that happened.

So my hike began on a high note. Photography, however, was tough. With rain falling a second day in a row, I kept a microfiber cloth in my coat pocket, and regularly wiped the lens. Still, there were many photos that were ruined by drops on my lens filter.

The trail begins clearly enough, but numerous use trails make it really impossible to stick on the true trail. Also, there have been obvious improvements (large rocks embedded to provide stair steps up some inclines), often within sight of each other, but mutually exclusive. in other words, what trailbuilding they've done has not reduced off-trail use, but increased it, because it creates a crazy mish-mash of crisscrossing trails.

The general goal is to stay near the ridge as you make the first mile of walking. Eventually, you reach what is undoubtedly an illegal cross/memorial for something or someone. That's the end of the "improved" trail. After that, you descend to your left, towards the wash bottom, and head upstream.

In normal weather, that's a dry wash bed you walk your way up. However, on this hike, it was a roaring river. It would rarely be more than knee deep, but it was deep enough and wide enough that crossing the water at spots proved tricky. This is particularly true since the normal route is up the riverbed. So if you need to go around the river bed, the trail is not always defined, or even extant.

More than a few times, I crossed the water, went up a short segment of apparent trail, then either had to bushwhack through thick foliage or admit defeat and work my way back down to the water. When you bushwhack, rubbing your clothes against rain-covered leaves, you get wet. i got REALLY wet. By the end, I was completely saturated, both inside and outside my jacket.

Of course, I expected that, but figured the hike was short enough that I could get there and back to the car before heat loss became an actual issue.

It was tiring going with lots of scrambling up rocks and trying to ease my way down the other side, or hopping on rocks and trying to keep my boots dry. At one point, after several alternate routes failed, I finally had to take my boots off and wade across a short segment of water. This was just near the end.

Finally, I was there. And I was not disappointed. The lower falls curved a nice reversed "C" shape, looking a little bit like a mirror image of falls on the Middle Fork of Lytle Creek. By contrast, as the last photo here shows, last time, that bit was just a thin sluice of a trickle. You can also see a couple of hikers adjacent to those falls, to put the size of the falls in context.

Even more impressive was the upper falls, coming over the lip of an overhang, and free-falling 80 or 100 feet down into the alcove.

There is a middle falls that you can only see from the top of the lower falls, which I did not hike to). Instead, I took many pictures from near the lower falls, then made my way back. It was the most tired I ever felt after an allegedly less than 3 miles of walking.

When I got back "home," I took a warm shower and wrapped myself up in some blankets. Tired. But happy I was able to walk on such a beautiful day in Red Rock Canyon.

Today, as I write this, my arms are still tired from the climbing and descending of all those rocks.

About 2.5 miles of hiking on Saturday. Add in the mile or so from Friday, and this together is my 53 hike of the year. Extremely detailed descriptions of the Ice Box Canyon hike can be found here.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Hike 2013.053A -- Rain in Red Rock Canyon (Calico Hills and Lost Canyon Waterfalls)

Hiked Friday, November 22. Drove out from the L.A. area, leaving around 9am and arriving at Red Rock Canyon NCA around 2pm. It rained all the drive between the Cajon Pass and Red Rock Canyon--heavy at times, light at times, but constant rain.

Upon arriving at Red Rock, the temperatures were also lower than I expected. The forecast I checked yesterday said low 50s, but my car thermometer said low 40s. Still, in jeans, a sweater and a shell, I was plenty comfortable, though not entirely dry.
My plan for the day was to drive to Lost Canyon, for sure. However, as I passed the Calico II parking area, I looked to the east and saw amazing ribbons of white water, funneling through the low spots on the Calico Hills. I don't have my topo map to give the altitude range, but I'm figuring that's at least 500 feet of vertical, and several thousand feet (at least a 1/2 mile) of horizontal the waters were running down. It almost looked like Kauai from a helicopter, except the water was running over red rocks rather than green rain forest.

The next spot I could park at was Sandstone Quarry, where I started my Turtlehead Peak hike, back in January.

From Sandstone Quarry, I headed to the south side of the lot, where I saw a sign for the trail heading back down towards Calico II. This soon dropped me down to where I left the Calico Hills Trail, from my Calico Hills Hike, back in September. I suspect if I go through my pictures form that hike, I'll be able to find the dry ravines where the water was sluicing through today.

This was only about 1/2 from Sandstone Quarry, so it was a pretty short hike. And, unfortunately, with a lack of any good objects to present a sense of scale, the size of these transitory waterfalls is hard to grasp in the pictures. But, trust me: They were big!

You can sort of see in the third picture (which is a zoom on to part of the second picture) that the volume of water coming over the cliff is broad and white. It's probably a 30 or 40 foot drop. Yet it pales in size next to the entire ribbon of water in the second photo.

After returning to my car, I drove to Lost Canyon trailhead. Clouds edged around the mountain tops, which were covered in what seemed like a lot of snow. Later on the news, I heard 13 inches had fallen at Mt. Charleston ski resort by 5pm, with more coming down.

From Lost Canyon Trailhead, it's a short .7 of a mile each way. I hiked this area in February, which is still normally pretty early in the season. However, then, Lost Canyon Falls was just a seep.

Today, it was a sweet little falls. Still, the water broke apart on the way down, reduced to almost a mist by the time it reach the bottom of the drop.

These two hikes together are still well under my normal 3 mile distance to qualify as a hike. I'll have to add several miles tomorrow to make my accumulated number for the weekend count. Shouldn't be hard to do.

My plan is for an early start, so I can catch some snow (perhaps) on the red rocks. Of course, too early and the road may still be icy!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hike 2013.051 -- Stoddard Peak, Angeles National Forest, CA

Hiked Saturday, November 9.

I had hiked here once before, now over three-and-a-half years ago. Follow that link for details on the getting to the hiking trail. One difference from then is that, as far as I am aware, a USFS Adventure Pass is no longer required to park at the trailhead. Adventure Pass can only be required at "improved' day use areas, with picnic tables, toilets, and the like. Since this trailhead has no improvements, it is not subject to a fee.

More recently, I saw a write-up of a fall hike here, and was impressed by the fall foliage. So my plan was to try to get back to here some time before the end of fall foliage season.

Well, it turns out this weekend was pretty much the edge of the season. There are still many sycamore holding golden yellow foliage, but those trees are turning bare quite quickly.

It's been a dry year, so I would not expect the leaves to hold too long.

Also, to see the best foliage would, I think, require walking among the cabins, and a very loud dog was barking at me as I passed, so I decided to stay on the main trail.

Despite having been here only one time before, I did recollect my route to the trailhead. After making the tight turn off of Mount Baldy Road, I made the sharp right and parked under the trees near the powerplant.

If that small lot were full, there's another large parking area maybe 1/10th of a mile down the road, in the rocky wash.

Cars with high clearance could probably drive an additional mile or so, to near the gate on this road, which is right after the cabins. I'm not 100% sure about that, and I don't have a higher clearance vehicle, so it was a moot point for me.

I started my hike before 9am. The sun was still just making its way over the ridge, and most of the early portion of the hike was in shadow. I got some interesting raking light as it shined over that ridge, with shadows of tall trees stretching down the hill.

After crossing San Antonio Creek, the dirt road begins a mostly southerly climb, keeping the canyon to your right. It's a fair incline, but the altitude is low and the walk was pretty easy.

I could look to the north, up canyon, and see Mt. Baldy and its tall friends. I could look west, across the canyon, over look Mt. Baldy Road, and see the San Gabriel Mountains stretch off in the distance. Or I could look south, down canyon, towards Claremount. As last time I was here, the sky to the south was hazy, and the view was highly obstructed.

The main foliage area is just around the cabins. A small creek runs south off the high peaks and runs right through this little "village" of maybe a dozen cabins. Sycamore were thick here, as was the sound of running water. However, it being morning, the light did not yet reach this area, so I did not take many foliage shots here. What I did take I took on my return let, closer to noon.

After the cabins and the gate, the trail continues climbing, still mostly shaded and comfort-able on this day. It's probably a bit over a mile past the gate that the road crests at Stoddard Flats. From there, a thin trail peels off to the right, along the ridge. In this picture, you can see the trail, starting about midway top-to-bottom, and maybe 1/4 of the way from the right side of the picture.

There's usually a small pile of rocks where that trail heads into the foliage. The foliage is slightly prickly, and there's a fair amount of bayonet yucca near here, too. Still, in shorts today, I had no problem navigating my way along this short but steep segment to the ridge line.

From there, you just follow the ridge line. I stopped a little short of the actual peak today, because the hazy made it clear there would be no view payoff to be had by continuing further this way.

I enjoyed the view for maybe ten minutes, then turned around. I was also feeling pretty good about myself, thinking that, for the distance I had traveled, I was feeling strong.

On the other hand, I did have some stumbles and trips on my short decent back to Stoddard Flats. Also, I later determined (and confirmed when I got home) that this was a six mile roundtrip hike, not one way. Of course, that explained why I was feeling so strong on the way home. ;D

Still a couple of hikes from this year I haven't blogged, though they don't cover any new terrain. Not sure if I'll blog them or not.