Monday, November 24, 2014

Hike 2014.059 -- Arroyo Seco - Archery Range to Rose Bowl

Hiked Saturday, November 22. 4 miles. The official distance between the archery range and the Rose Bowl is 1.5 miles, but I wandered a fair amount around the Rose Bowl parking area and returned via the west side of the Arroyo, which felt a little longer than the east side. Also, I walked on down about 1/4 mile from the bridge to see the sycamore tree I mention at the end of the post.
My main goal of this hike was to see the "Suicide Bridge" (Colorado Street Bridge) up close. It's a a pretty bridge, composed of several concrete arches. I had seen pictures of it for years, and driven by it on numerous occasions. But I'd never walked under it. However, a few weeks ago, I did drive over it (not on a specific trip to see the bridge, but on a drive looking for a particular home in the Pasadena and South Pasadena area). So I got to thinking about making a trip specifically to see the bridge up close, and that's how this hike came to be.
With this as my goal, I scanned the Internet and studied on-line maps of the area, looking for a good access point. I settled on the one off of Arroyo Road, a bit north of California Blvd. The logic was, I know for sure where California Blvd is, it "crashes" right into Arroyo Blvd, where you've got to turn either left or right, so I could turn right on Arroyo, then look for the little road that would provide parking for the archery range. Each turn was obvious and would not be easy to confuse.
California Blvd runs west from Rosemead Blvd (CA-19) to Arroyo Blvd, crossing several major north-south roads between east Pasadena and Pasadena (including San Gabriel Blvd, Sierra Madre Blvd, Allen Ave, Hill Ave, Lake Ave, Los Robles Ave, Arroyo Pkwy, Fair Oaks Ave, Pasadena Ave, and Orange Grove Ave.
That means anyone living along a slew of major north-south streets in the west San Gabriel Valley, or approaching from either the Foothill Freeway (I-210) or the Pasadena Freeway / Arroyo Seco Parkway / CA-110, or CA-134 (Ventura Freeway), you'll pass an exit for either California Blvd or for one of those North-South streets that intersect with California Blvd.
Again, you'd take California west until it intersects with Arroyo Blvd, turn right, then take the first turn on the left to get to the parking area for the archery range.I was going to be hiking pretty close to the Rose Bowl, and that the annual USC-UCLA game was going to be kicking off in the Arroyo Seco later that afternoon. It was still some four hours before kick-off, but the traffic was already building.
I continued along the actual path (that is right adjacent to the channel walls that contain the Arroyo Seco) until I was about equal to the Rose Bowl, then crossed over and into the tailgating area. It was colorful, dominated by blue and gold, but with a number of cardinal and gold pop-ups and apparel. These were the smart guys, who came early to beat the traffic and probably would stay late to miss the traffic leaving. I'm not even sure if they were going *into* the game, since it would be quite a production to break down some of these set-ups.
After much walking around, admiring the crowds, listing to the band, then walking my way back out, passing some rose bushes as I did, I returned the way I came.

When I got back to the Suicide Bridge, I passed over to the west side. There's a concrete slide beneath the bridge, by the way, and a service ladder that drops down to the slide. But it's quite a drop, and I had no interest in going down into what I was pretty sure would be very stinky water.

I did not manage any really good pictures of the bridge. Because of the growth inside the arroyo and other brides crossing the gorge, I got no really complete shots. But I will probably come back in the days to come and try some shots from spots at the top of the arroyo.

The trail on the west side of the arroyo has a steep incline (the rim of the edge of the arroyo) along much of the way. It feels more enclosed on this end than on the east side. Along the natural wall of the arroyo, the remains of trail steps (stakes and boards to hold back the soil) create the beginning of steps out of the arroyo. But I'm not sure if any of these steps actually made it all the way out. The one I walked up a bit surely did not. I was told that maybe some of these once went to properties that were taken when the roads here were built.
Once back at the north end of the archery range (the northern most target area is at a pedestrian bridge that crosses over the channel), I spotted a colorful sycamore tree, which I walked down to photograph. I also photographed some targets on the way back.

I'm guess about four miles for the day. Nice walk. Would have been a terrible drive. In fact, because of construction and lane closures at several spots on my drive back, the drive back was also slow, and very annoying. Still, at least I got a short walk in for the weekend.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hike 2014.001 -- Wall Street and Barker Dam Trails, Joshua Tree National Park

Hiked Saturday, January 25. I'm don't recall any more why it was that I wasn't able to blog my first hike of the year back in January, but it never happened. So, here we are, in mid-November, posting about my first hike of the year.

So I don't know for sure, but I was probably pretty optimistic at the start of the year that I'd manage my third 100 hike year. I was concerned about gaining weight, and wanted to reverse that trend.

Unfortunately, it's *still* very hard to manage 100 hiking days when you're working 50-60 hours a week. Also, it's unfortunate that I got out of my "hiking as default mode" attitude.

There's this idea that you need to do something regularly, then it becomes a habit, and easier to follow or harder to break. During my first two years, I not only had a lot of "free" time (because I was unemployed, and no matter how many jobs you're applying for, you still don't go on interviews every day, and you're mostly just waiting for the phone call). So I easily surpassed my 100-hike goal that first full year.

During the second full year, I became employed in July for a job starting in mid-August. But, complicating that was the need to plan for a temporary move half-way across the country. On the positive side, it also opened up some new hiking areas, both on the drive each way and at my new destination. So I just barely made my 100 hike goal that year.

Then, upon returning to the L.A. area, I soon managed to have both a full-time and a part-time job, and that kept me pretty busy.

About mid-way through that year, picked up a third part-time job. Much of my next few years was then working 5-6 days and 2-3 nights a week, with frequent weekend shifts. After a year of that, I decided this was wearing me out, and I cut back to working just three nights a week, in addition to my regular day job.

Finally, this year, I decided to cut my work load down to just 2-3 part-time shifts a week, in addition to the full time job. Yet, even that, with my hiking still happening, but it no longer being habit, it's been tough getting even decent-length hikes into my schedule. I keep trying to change that, but there are always other things coming up, now. Sometimes, it's a sick cat. Sometimes, it's family obligations. Sometimes, I've got a cold. Sometimes, it's the weather. Still, I want to keep hiking, because, when I finally do get out there, it makes me feel good.

In any event, somehow I managed to make it 26 days into 2014 before I got out on the trail. I did manage my second hike the next day, but it was definitely a weirdly late start.

It was also a late start that day, when I finally decided to go down to Joshua Tree, with my telescope, try to squeeze in a short hike, then set up the telescope for some reasonably dark-sky viewing.

Both the Wall Street and Barker Dam trails are down near the Hidden Valley area of Joshua Tree, sort of the middle-west of the park. I used to visit Hidden Valley frequently for star parties, so I have an affinity for the area. Yet, I never managed the Wall Street Hike (and only managed the Barker Dam hike once before).

From the West Entrance (Park Blvd), you reach the Hidden Valley area in about 9 1/2 miles. Just after that, but on the left (east) side of the road is the road to the Barker Dam and Wall Street trailheads. From what I think of as the "main" lot there, the two trails start out about 20 feet from each other, but head in different directions. The Barker Dam trail heads more due north, towards some large rock outcroppings. The Wall Street trail heads to the east, paralleling the paved and dirt road for a bit before eventually heading away from the road and into the desert.

One of the things you pass along the way is another parking lot and restroom, and a bike rack. Later, once you're out in the desert, you pass a windmill.

As you walk further from the parking area, you pass additional evidence of past habitation--wrecks of old motor vehicles, mining and mine processing structures, and the like.

After having my fill of the mining remnants, I'm pretty sure I went back the way I came. As I neared that starting point, there was a side trail that ran to an old home. Fractured walls remained, but no roof.

Once back to the main parking lot, I then headed right back out on the Barker Dam trail. This one is even shorter than the other one, and ends at Barker Dam. When I was there, virtually no water was impounded behind the dam. It also appeared the lower end of the dam was supposed to be off-limits. It wasn't obvious, but I think that's what they wanted. I wasn't sure at the time why, but, apparently, since early last year, there's been a serious graffiti problem at Barker Dam.

The trail to Barker Dam passes some impressive rock outcrop-pings, which, of course, people walk upon. Conveniently, they provide a nice scale by which to appreciate the size of these rocks.

On my previous visit to Barker Dam, I was lucky enough to see a desert bighorn walking in the area behind the dam. As one of the few reliable sources of water in the area, it's a magnet for wildlife.

After snapping pictures of the reservoir (such that it was) and the dam, I headed back to my car. I then drove to the Boy Scout Trail trailhead (about two miles north of the Barker Dam and Wall Street parking areas, also on Park Blvd) and set up my telescope. I did some observing there, sharing my telescope views with some hikers and rock climbers that were returning to their car as the sky darkened.

I also took a number of 30-second or so exposures of the sky with my dslr on a tripod. While not nearly as dark here as at other locations (because you're now not all that far south of the towns of Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree, and 29 Palms), it is still relatively dark, and the skies are quite impressive compared to what you can see from town.

I had posted these night sky photos a while ago, but never got around to posting on the hike. Until now. :D

About 3 1/2 miles for the day, plus a lot of telescope observing. It was a good day and a good night.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Hike 2014.058: Rubio Canyon to Echo Mountain via New Trail

Hiked Sunday, November 16. I had planned on a longer hike on Sunday, but got a late start. So I shifted my attention to something local, like my old standby, Lake Avenue to Echo Mountain. But the streets near that trailhead were packed when I arrived, at about 2pm. I was thus forced elsewhere. I settled on the "old" trailhead, at the "corner" of Pleasantridge Drive and Rubio Vista Drive, in Altadena. (There are newer Rubio Canyon trailheads, down on Loma Alta Drive).

I wasn't 100% of where I was going to go from there, but I was leaning towards taking the trail that heads up from the pavilion foundation. However, after just 1/5 mile, I came upon a rock. And on that rock, in magic marker, were arrows, pointing either up-canyon, towards the waterfalls, or uphill, towards Echo Mountain.

Well, this was a new twist. I'd actually hiked an earlier incarnation of this trail previously (see the link for the "newer Rubio Canyon" trailhead, above), but found it steep and crumbly, so I was leaning towards just going all the way to the Pavilion, and hiking up from there. That trail, while steep, is over ground that seems more resistant to erosion.

Meanwhile, I was very confident that the waterfalls of Rubio Canyon, while sometimes quite impressive, now would have little or no water falling. That meant I had little interest in going past the pavilion.

On the other hand, with the "invitation" on this rock, I decided to turn, here.

The Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy has been building trails all over Rubio Canyon. As noted above, some have been crazy-steep and narrow, and some have proven short-lived, with later bypasses constructed when either the old trail eroded away or when the trail builders determined a more durable route could be built nearby. Well, again, given the rock invitation, I assumed this meant the trail had been improved, once again.

It had been. It was still quite narrow and steep in parts, and still often just went straight up ridgelines rather than traversing slowly up inclines. Nonetheless, the trail was more durable than that earlier incarnation, and easy to follow. In several areas, anchors and boards had been engineered into the ground to help retain the trail from eroding away so quickly.

This "new" trail from Rubio Canyon meets up with the Sam Merrill trail just before the Sam Merrill goes under the powerline towers.

Unfortunately, just before you reach that point, you pass a place where (at least yesterday) several people have recently decided made a great bathroom. The smell of human excrement and the streamers of used toilet paper was an unwelcome sight and smell added to my little Sunday walk.

Once on the Sam Merrill, it's a wide and easy (though still altitude-gaining) route, up to Echo Mountain. I'd guess it's about 1.4 or 1.5 miles from the junction to Echo Mountain, so call it 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 miles total from the Rubio Canyon trailhead to Echo Mountain. That makes it 5 to 5.5 miles, roundtrip.

Along the way, at least one very large group was strung out along the trail, probably 30-35 hikers, altogether. That, plus the regular weekend crowds of Echo Mountain, were why I couldn't find parking on Lake. So lots of people on the trail, though it was not especially crowded when I reached the top.

The "top," of course, is Dr. Lowe's old White City. Foundations and the last bit of rail for the funicular that brought you up from Rubio Canyon are all that remain of what was once a very posh resort.

I rested here for about 20 minutes, trying to stretch my back out (it was giving me trouble yesterday). Then I headed back down the way I came. I got back to the car before sunset. Nice to be out again, even if my hike was shorter than I had originally hoped for a weekend day.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Hike 2014.057 -- Wildhorse Creek Trail, San Bernardino National Forest

Hiked Sunday, November 9. My first hike of any significant length (>5 miles) since August 15, it felt good to finally be putting some mileage under my feet. About 10 miles for the day.

The Wildhorse Creek trailhead is off of Highway 38, just a bit west of the turn for Heart Bar Ranch, where you'd go to reach the Aspen Grove trailhead. So, if you're coming up from the Mill Creek entrance to the San Bernardino National Forest, this trailhead will be on the left, during a brief section where there are two lanes heading east. There's a sign on the side of the road.

Actually, on this day, there were a couple of possible pull-out spots near the sign, so I probably did not pick the "official" one. But both are adjacent to themselves, and if you follow either trail up, they soon merge.

Indeed even from where I parked, I could see the dirt road continue a bit further up, with several possible paths. I went on up, reached a fence, then found and passed through a small opening in the fence where the trail began.
There's minimal signage on this trail, and what signs there were were often completely faded or painted over. Still, these indications proved helpful on my return walk, which turned out to be in complete night time conditions.

The beginning section of trail is over a sandy, wash-bottom surface. Most of the trail has a firm surface, however, and it turns out it's surprisingly easy to stay on the trail in limited light (not that I am recommending that).
The mountain crest to your north doesn't look terribly far, but Wildhorse Creek trail takes its time with long, sweeping traverses upward. As you climb, views of the mountains to the South improve. I'm guessing Mount San Gorgonio is the tall one
The trail also heads westward, making its way well above the drainage of Wildhorse Creek. I didn't see or hear any water until I got all the way to the campground, though this is November; not sure how the water flows in the spring.
As you complete your westerly travels, you see the shoulder and top of Sugarloaf Mountain. I was hoping to make that ridge, and, from there, see Big Bear Lake. However, as it turns out, it was a pretty long hike just to get to the junction for the trail to Sugarloaf (and I started late). Besides, after I got home, I learned that there are not very good views towards Big Bear from there, either. The tree cover to the north is too thick.

I reached Wildhorse Camp-ground around 3:45pm. Thinking I would have daylight (or at least twilight) until about 6:15pm, my plan was to try to get as far as I could by 4:15pm. That would have meant a total of just over three hours up, and then just about two hours back. Given the slope, this seemed reasonable.

By 4:15pm, I had barely reached the aforementioned fork in the trail. I did not want to get caught in the dark, so I turned around then. I made it back past Wildhorse Campground quite quickly, then had the slightly incline back to where the ridge opens up from Wildhorse Creek Canyon and begins its switchbacks.

As I did this, I was amazed by what I assumed to be the illusion of the sun setting. I had long lost it behind distant ridges, and now the sky to the west also looked like the sun had set. I figured it must just be be the distant mountains blocking the sun early, because I was sure sunset was still an hour away.

I continued, now heading east, and slowly making my way down. The sky and the ground was getting darker, which still struck me as odd. Even worse, I was wearing my prescription sunglasses; I left my regular glasses in the car, because I wasn't thinking I'd need them on my dayhike.
So now, as it got darker and darker, I had the choice of either a clear but dark view of the trail through my sunglasses, or a fuzzy but slightly brighter view without my sunglasses.

Eventually, it got dark enough that I had no choice; I had to walk without my corrected vision. Still, the trail proved surprisingly easy to follow as the light failed. These last pictures were taken with me still needing about an hour to get back to my car.

Sometime shortly after this, it finally dawned on me that last weekend was the last weekend before the switch to standard time, and I had therefore lost an hour of evening sun. Still, no need to panic; it was dark, but it wasn't going to get dangerously cold, so, if worse came to worst, I could spend the night in the woods. It would be a miserable and cold night, but I wasn't going to freeze to death. No cliffs at this point, either.
I continued on the trail, pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to stay on the trail, and not even tripping over rocks or roots along the way. With increasing frequency as the sky darkened to "true" night, I had to use my cell phone display to check, but still remained on the trail.

Soon enough, the sound of cars on Highway 38 became louder, and their headlights closer. I passed the useless, faded signs that still told me I was successfully retracing my steps.

I was now within 100 yards of the road. Unfortu-nately, here was where the multiple possible paths appeared. Given my proximity to where I knew my car was, but could not see in the dark of night, I reached into my pack, held my car remote in the air, and clicked (didn't care if it was "lock" or "unlock.") I saw a flashing of lights and a tooting of the horn, and tried to make it in that direction. Ran into a berm that seemed unnecessarily steep to try to climb int he dark, so I backed back out, went up-trail a bit, then tried again. The third time, I finally went back far enough to catch the "true" trail. I found the opening in the fence I had passed through at the start of my hike. Now only about 30 yards from my car, but still couldn't see it. One last click of the remote, and I was there. It was 6:15pm, about 80 minutes after sunset.

Admired the sky for a few seconds. Got my regular prescription glasses out of the car, looked up, and clearly made out the autumn Milky Way, from Cassiopeia, through Perseus, Pegasus, Cygnus, and on off into the west. Yeah, it was dark by the time I got back. Still felt great with the bit of exercise under my belt. May try to get an earlier start next week and go all the way to Sugarloaf Mountain.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Hike 2014.055 -- Oak Glen Preserve and Riley's Los Rios Rancho and Riley's Apple Farm

Hiked Sunday, October 27. 3 miles. More or less. The Wildlands Conservan-cy says their main loop is 2 miles. Before hiking that loop, I walked around Riley's Los Rios' U-pick area, which included cornfields, pumpkin fields, strawberry fields, and, of course, apple trees.
Additionally, during the loop, I took a short detour around their Red Wing Pond, and continued off the bottom of their map to the adjoining Riley's Apple Farm (not to be confused with Riley's Farm, or the aforementioned Riley's Los Rios Rancho. So I'm pretty sure I covered my minimum three miles, no problem. Might have made it four miles, but, if not, definitely over three.

The walk around the U-Pick areas was a search for more of the "scavenger hunt" pictures--one of the places I'm working at is trying to put together a "seasons" exhibit, but doesn't want to have to pay for stock or ordered photos, so they're asking the employees if they have anything appropriate.

Since I try to get some hiking in year-round, I did have a lot of possible pictures, and I keep gathering them as I go hiking. I won't get paid for any of this, and the credits will probably only be in an on-line acknowledgement page, but, still, it's fun to get something concrete out of your hobby.
Not part of the scavenger hunt are the changing oak leaves. It being fall, I was hoping for some color. And there was some, but not a lot. The extended drought is stressing the local trees, and a lot of them are dropping leaves before the leaves really even change color.
With some back-lighting, however, they still light up nicely. These were mostly on the westerly leg of the loop, as the trail drops down through a "Deciduous Forest" exhibit.
At the bottom of this loop is a small park area, with some benches. And among these benches are a mixture of various trees. One of them was a Giant Sequoia, which I thought was pretty photogenic.
The rest of the leaf pictures were from that earlier section of the loop, or on the short detour to "Red Wing Pond."

There's an additional pond a bit north of this one, but I was mainly looking for changing oak leaves.
Once at the bottom of the loop, I decided I wanted to cross Oak Glen Road and visit the next farm down the way (Riley's Apple Farm). I am really a creature of habit, and usually only visit Los Rios Rancho on my trips here, in part, because of the convenient nature trail. But, on this day, I was looking for more seasonal shots, so continued to this second farm.
Like many of the farms in Oak Glen, they had U-pick apples, as well as a large pumpkin patch, full of already-picked pumpkins.

There were also several residences on their land. Very picturesque.

The trails in this area were not clearly marked, and, in fact, the trail leading to the farm picture below was a dead-end; there was a fence between me and the farm, so I had to backtrack out of that area.
There were some silly kid diversions in this farm, as well. They had a panning (for gold and other valuables) section, a tomahawk throw, and a knife throw. There were also several stores, several food outlets, and a cider press area. That's in addition to the apple orchard and pumpkin patch I mentioned earlier.
After finishing my detour, I had to re-cross Oak Glen Road and get back to Los Rios Rancho. Funny thing about that, though. While a trail does lead out of the Los Rios area and to Oak Glen Road, there's a sign facing the road, prohibiting entry except "by permission" into Los Rios and the Wildlands Conservancy.
I assume that really means, "No Entry Unless We're Open," or perhaps entry only if you came out this way, and already passed the information booth as you entered the Conservancy lands.

Either way, having left the Conservancy lands via this trail, I definitely intended to return this way, too. Which I did.

From here, it was a pretty steep inline back to Los Rios. I also passed a different park, which I'm not sure if I've seen before. This one is on a flat area, with the ravine where the trails I had taken down from the farm off and below, to the west. It wasn't until I got almost back to the farm that I knew where I was. Funny how just a little change in persepctive made the place seem so different.
As noted previously, it's supposed to be a two mile loop, to which I added at least a mile of wandering, both on Conservancy lands, and on the neighboring Apple Farm. Great weather for wandering. Kind of crazy on what was the weekend before Halloween. I assume once you pass Halloween and the pumpkin pickers are gone, it'll get a little less crowded. Because I've been here many times before, but this trip seemed like the most crowded I had ever seen it. Still, it was a good visit. I bought some apples, but no pie. I bought a pie the last few times here, and figured I should give my waistline a break. :D

This was several hikes ago, so I'm still behind in my blogging. Several older ones still remain (including the first one of the year!). Catching up is proving difficult.