Saturday, January 3, 2015

Hike 2014.066 -- Switzer's Camp, Angeles National Forest

This is another left-over from my 2014 hikes that I have still not blogged. It was hiked on Sunday, December 21, so it would have been my first hike of the current winter season. A large part of the reason for this hike was that it's in a Forest Service fee area. And, having just bought my new Interagency Annual Pass the day before, I decided I needed to get maximal use out of the few remaining days in December, or having bought it in December rather than waiting until January would have seemed like a waste.
Well, it's not that this is a bad hike. And it fits with my recent theme of seeing how the recent rains had affected the many waterfalls of the Angeles National Forest. But the fact I had just bought my annual pass was what sealed my choosing this hike over many others I could have taken on this first day of winter.
The recent rains had most definitely had an effect on Switer's. I passed a tree that had literally been snapped like a match stick, and lay across the canyon bottom.

The creek, meanwhile, ran thick with sediments. Probably would have been a good day to try panning for gold, if I were so inclined to want to pan for gold on a mountain stream. I'm not, though. :D
The trail was not super-busy, but there were plenty of people there. A number were louder than the needed to be, which seems to be a recurring theme for my hikes of late. There's a lack of wilderness ethic among many mountain visitors.

Still, I enjoyed my time. Took lots of pictures of the colorful leaves that still clung to trees, and of the riffling water. No wildlife spotted to speak of, though.

Having been here many times before, I had no trouble finding my way. Days later, I would wonder how anyone alleged to be "avid hikers could managed to get lost here, and, especially, to have their boots stolen by a fox (!).

But that would be in the future. For today, I merely walked quickly, trying to put some space between me and the loud hikers I just passed.

I made it to the first water fall with no problem, then slowly worked my way up the right side of that fall, around a tree, and towards the next, more impressive fall.

From there, it was another 1/3 of a mile or so of creek criss-crossing to get there. But, as always, the reward was worth it.

As opposed to a deep pool I had found at the base of this falls on previous visits, a sandy bottom had been built up by the sediments i had seen being washed down from above.
A narrow channel had been bored though the sand, meaning most of this alcove was moist but solid ground, so I had no problem getting perspectives on the waterfall from all directions. The only interference was a bit of graffiti, which I smeared with some of the sandy sediments to make photographically invisible.

After taking a dozen or more pictures just at the waterfall, I then shot a few looking downstream. Didn't include any of those with this post, though.
I then returned the way I came, having had a good 15-20 minutes with nothing but the sound of falling water to keep me company. No screaming or whistling or other distractions. And no sight of other folks until I had pretty much gotten back to the top of the previous set of falls.

My trip back down was a little delayed there, however.

There's a short, maybe five-foot segment of the scurry along the rocks to get from one level down to the next. It's not really dangerous, in the sense that, even if you fall, it's probably just a slide of 6-8 feet, into a pool of water (assuming your foot doesn't get caught and send you tumbling down the longer fall of about 15 fee).
But it is a little tricky, and can be especially tricky if you let the fear of falling get into your head. And, it turns out, I'm one of those people who lets things get into his head. So, in the middle of this short traverse, I got "stuck."

Rather than push on when there was doubt in my mind, I briefly retreated, and let the moment pass. Then I completed my rather ungraceful traverse, and made it to the safety of the tree that overlooks the falls. From there, there's plenty to hold on to and little danger of a fall.

Obviously, everybody needs to deal with these situations in what ever way works best for them. But because of this, I usually don't take even take on relatively simple climbs if the consequences of a misstep would be serious.

This probably means it's a good time for me to reiterate, just because someone else does something, it's not necessarily a good idea for you to follow. The views aren't worth it.

I happen to think the risks on this particular trail are acceptable, but even the risk of small tumble can get into your head and cause problems. If you have even a little doubt heading a certain direction, stop and turn around before you get yourself stuck on some "point of no return."
Once past my brief crisis of confidence, I walked quickly, again. Got several opportunities for solitude, and some nice pictures along the way. This is a beautiful gorge, even minus the "upper" falls of Switzer's Canyon.

On this hike, I saw someone who literally spent hours taking pictures before even reaching the part where the trail splits and then drops you back into Switzer's. He got a little defensive when I made a comment about how many pictures he had taken, but I meant no insult by the observation. I mean, *I* take a LOT of pictures, but I took them all and still went on to the falls, took many there, then returned. That doesn't mean I had anything against someone able to immerse himself on the upper portions of this trail. It IS beautiful.

It's somewhere between 4 and 5 miles roundtrip, and with a pretty good climb on the return trip. Good workhout, yet short enough I could do this after work in the summer time, or during a few early afternoon hours on the shortest day of the year.

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