Sunday, February 22, 2015

Hike 2015.009 -- Colby Canyon Trail to Strawberry Meadow (Potrero), Angeles National Forest

Hiked Saturday, February 7. 11 miles. It's been two weeks since I hiked this. But, coincident-ally, it's likely weather tomorrow will be very similar to weather two weeks ago, so it will appear timely. :D

The trailhead is off the Angeles Crest Highway, just east of the turnout for Switzer's. In fact, if the parking area near the trailhead is full, your next best choice is the second Switzer's Parking lot. This first shot is from that second Switzer's lot, looking down to the trailhead.

I read about this trail as an alternate way to Josephine Peak on "Nobody Hikes in L.A.," so my initial plan for the morning was to head up the trail, but then maybe see if I could make it across to Strawberry Peak. Yet, even before I had reached the Angeles Crest Highway, I was having some minor reservations about this plan. While it was sunny when I left my San Gabriel Valley home, by the time I was on the Foothill Freeway (I-210) segment that passes through La Canada, the building clouds were impossible to ignore.

And, in fact, as I returned to my car after having stopped to ask the ranger at Clear Creek some questions, I noticed some raindrops. But the air was still pretty warm, and I figured even if it rained, it was going to be a relatively warm rain.

When I reached my parking area, it was full. So I drove back west on ACH, back to the aforemen-tioned second Switzer's parking area. This added between 1/5 and 1/4 of a mile each way to my hike.

I tossed my jacket in the backpack, put on my floppy hat (that normally shields me from the desert sun, but would need to shield me from falling rain, today), and headed out.

The trail starts on the west end of the parking area, by the way.

Many descriptions of this trail note a "seasonal waterfall" less than 1/4 mile into the hike. As i headed out, it was barely a seep.

The trail then goes up out of, then drops back down into the ravine that is Colby Canyon. Many skeletal trees from the Station Fire still stand.

It's a long and sweeping route to the top of Colby Canyon, where I then found myself at the saddle between Josephine and Strawberry Peaks. I then attempted to walk up the ridge to Strawberry Peak. But visibility was so poor I had no way to determine how close I was getting to the top. When I reached a difficult area, I bailed out on my attempt, and made my way back down to the saddle. Not willing to risk such a difficult climb if I might then find myself trapped between that pitch and a possibly more difficult pitch on the other side. That's how you get stranded!
Once back on the regular trail, I took it to the east. The trail runs behind Strawberry Peak, albeit in a broad arc, to the north, away from the peak. The ridge tops were still in the clouds, and I still could not tell how close I was to that summit when I was on the ridge.

Meanwhile, a LONG train of hikers headed back toward's me. I mean a LONG train--I'd estimate at least 30 hikers.

They were returning from a meadow that they described as "beautiful."
I filed that information away, although I had no idea where I would make my turn around.

After what felt like far too long a time and distance, my trail finally started heading back to the south. I had by now determined that, even upon reaching the other side of the ridge, I was no longer up for a hike to the top of Strawberry.

Breaks in the clouds below gave me some nice, broken views of the burn area I had seen the previous week, on the north side of Strawberry (and Josephine).

Then I saw it: A massive edifice of rock that soared into the clouds. I could not see the top. I could see a dark ribbon running down from the clouds, where I presumed water must frequently flow. It was amazing. Photos did not do it justice.

My trail descended into the trees, and what I deduced must be the meadow that was mentioned by the large group of hikers. I snapped dozens of pictures.

About this time, I discovered that the Cliff Bars and Power Bars that I thought were in my backpack were not there. I had plenty of water, but no fuel to reinvigorate me. So that definitely sealed it--I was going to head back just as soon as I got an acceptable view of this mountain.

Well, between the clouds and the rain, I never did get a very good view of the peak from the meadow. So this becomes a destination to which I must return, likely taking the trail from Red Box Junction, just to add some variety to my hikes.

This day's hike then took a turn for the wet. The misting turned to a steady rain. It wasn't a heavy rain, but it was more than a drizzle, and I was getting soaked. Well, my shorts were soaked, anyway. The outside of my jacket was also soaked, and I think probably sweat was soaking the sweater I wore beneath my jacket.

Still, as was the case earlier, the rain wasn't cold. As long as I kept moving, I knew I'd be fine. Stop for any length of time, however, and I'd probably start feeling a chill.

So I walked quickly, even though I knew I had a long way to go.

Unfortunately for me, I added more unnecessary distance to my hike. When I reached the saddle between Josephine and Strawberry, I missed my turn. I had convinced myself on the way up that the water storage tank I saw when I reached the saddle on this day was the same tank I saw on the fire road I took to Josephine the week before. So I blew by the tank that I thought I hadn't noticed before and continued to the fire road.

Upon reaching the fire road, obviously I found no trail heading down Colby Canyon. So I backtracked the 1/2 mile back to Colby Canyon, then headed down. Enjoyably, when I passed the seasonal waterfall that was largely dry on my way up, it was now flowing cutely over the rocks.

Once back in the car, I took off my jacket, took off my boots and wet socks (from the rain), turned on the heater, and started to drive home. On the way down, I saw a dramatic view of clouds that had settled along the base of parts of the upper Arroyo Seco. I stopped for those pictures on the way home.

Felt good to finally get a hike of decent length under my belt. In fact, I was pretty sore the next day. But it was still great to have gotten out there, to a place I hope to return to, again.

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