Saturday, May 17, 2014

Hike 2014.022 -- Claremont Wilderness Park

Hiked March 30, 2014. One of my hikes from earlier in the year that I hadn't gotten around to blogging, yet. This one was new ground for me. I tried hiking here once before, but I think there was a fire closure order in effect at the time

The trailhead is at the north end of Mills Road. There's also another nearby parking area at the northeast corner of Mills and Mt. Baldy Road. I parked in that one because I didn't know any better. Parking there was $3 for most folks, but free if you are a Claremont resident with a resident sticker on your car. The upper lot is $3 for everyone. Seeing so many cars in the lower lot, I just assumed the upper lot was filled, so I parked there. I didn't figure out until later that the lower lot always has cars because that's where Claremont residents park.

Claremont Wilderness Park is a city park of 1640 acres, set just below the Angeles National Forest. The main hiking trail here is a five mile loop along Cobalt Canyon Motorway and Johnson Pasture Road. It also connects to other trails that could take you west, to Marshall Canyon, north, to Potato Mountain, or east, to Evey Canyon. It also links to a couple of other city trailheads.

My hike began with a bit of excite-ment, as I heard the screeches of raptors and saw a pair of red tailed hawks flying not too far away. They were flying back and forth towards each other, and occasionally linked talons during their dance in the sky. I attached my long telephoto lens and did the best I could. Unfortunately, this lens is manual focus, and the depth of field with this lens is very shallow. That makes it hard to get a really sharp focus even on things that aren't moving. With flying objects, it's darn near impossible. So I got a couple of decent but no really good shots.

Later, once on the actual trail, I came to a fork in the road. Either way was going to be a motorway type of trail: as wide as a two-lane road, and relatively shallowly graded. I'm not sure if I remember why, but I went to the right. The sign said, "Cobal Canyon." The other way said, "Burbank." That would be the trail or canyon; it does not lead to the city of Burbank!

Although I didn't know it at the time, there were mileage polls at one mile intervals. Going right gives you the advantage of a countdown, so you can tell how many miles remain in your hike. Going the other way would give a count-up, which is not helpful if you don't already know how long your trail might be. However, if you're reading this, you now know the trail is five miles long.

Based on the contour lines, going counter-clockwise (right at the first split) gives you a less steep climb overall, and ends with a steep decent at the end. That means, obviously, that if you go clockwise, your hike will start with the steep incline. Going either way leaves you with relatively little shade, especially once you climb out of the oak forest. So this is an early or late season or early day/late afternoon hike. If you're hiking in the heat, bring lots of water.

Being the first time on this trail, I had no good idea of what to expect. What I experienced was a surprisingly busy trail. Yeah, it was a weekend, of course. And it was never as busy as, say, going up Mt. Hollywood. It wasn't even as crowded as Azusa Peak used to be. But it's well-traveled by a mixture of hikers, walkers, joggers, and mountain bikers.

If it's clear, you'll have expansive views to the south. The Angeles is to your north, so you can't see very far that way. As noted, there is good access from these trails to several different destinations. On the other hand, parking permits (at the lower lot, at least) are for four hours. That might limit which destinations you would have time to reach and return.

On the day I hiked, there was a fair variety of small wild-flowers. The grass was also still green and the weather was perfect for hiking. Given the alternative destinations, I'll keep this trailhead in mind for future early or late season hikes.

At the time of this hike, I was still just getting some new use out of my 500mm Tamron catadiop-tric lens. It's what I used for the hawk pictures near the top of this post, and for most of the flower pictures (and the lizard picture) later in this post. It's really trick to use, but, if you do manage to get a good focus, the narrow depth of field makes for some decent quasi-macro shots. It also produces the "doughnut hole" boka (out-of-focus blur) if there are any point light sources in the background.

Got one decent shot of what I assume to be a western fence lizard. This one's got a bit of color mixed into his back, though.
The last two miles or so of this trail give you some nice, wide-open vistas. You're running with good clearance to the south, and nice foregrounds both north and south. The trail also backtracks under itself on occasion, so you can get shots like the one a few down.

There was also a fair stretch where you could see downtown Los Angeles. It was a little hazy on this day, and, of course, from way out here in Claremont, you're practically in San Bernardino County, so the look back towards downtown L.A. is a long one.

This being back at the end of March, the wildflowers peak here had probably not been reached. The little tiny purple flowers in the fifth and eleventh pictures were among the more common, and they were far from obvious to see. The morning glory were also visible, down near the start of the hike. Didn't see much else for most of the hike, though the fiddleneck became common on the switchbacks near the end.

The only other interesting surprise was the cassia. I knew that plant from (informally) studying the Sunset Western Gardens book, back when I was looking for low-water use plants. These guys are from Australia, so I was a little surprised to see them out here in a "wilderness" park. Of course, it was just off a dirt road, and not that far from the street. Likely, seeds hitched their way up here from someone's tires or shoes, and they had such a plant in their yard.

Ideally, people would only plant native or quasi-native plants (plants that either naturally occur where you are using them, or immediately-adjacent area) in their yard. Then, even if they "escape," at least they are plants that belong in the area, and are plants that local insects and animals can utilize for food.

After getting lots of shots of the cassia, I made my way down towards my car. Just about five miles for the loop. Not sure on the altitude gain, but my very rough guess would be about 500 feet. Not much shade, except in the lowest sections of the trail. No water. Porta-potties are available at the bottom of the trail, and at a couple of places along the way.

It's a nice hike if the weather is mild, though by no means is this "wilderness." Apparently, cities have determined that if there are no ball fields and picnic tables in a park, it's a "wilderness" park.

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