Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Hike 2016.044 -- Mt Wilson and Mt Lowe

Hiked Saturday, September 24. This was my second-to-last hike before my extended hiatus. The night before, one of my facebook feeds (for the Cosmic Cafe, I think, but it might have been for Mount Wilson Observatory) announced that the 60" telescope would be open for some daytime viewing of Venus.

Well, I've seen Venus plenty of times through a telescope, and I've looked through the 60" telescope a few times, as well. But I hadn't seen Venus in daylight through the 60", and definitely not for free.

So I drove on up there, figuring to take a peek or two, then do a short hike at nearby Mount Lowe.

No problem driving up. Parked, and passed by the 150' solar telescope on the way to the 60" dome. Shot a few photos with the sun "eclipsed" behind the tower, just to get the halo effect. Later, I got a shot of the moon, adjacent to the solar telescope's dome. But, in the meantime, I just continued on my way to the 60" telescope.
As it turned out, seeing on Mt. Wilson was terrible. That meant it wasn't even possible to get the "disc" of Venus in focus. It was just a featureless blob that, on occasion, you could make out the fact that the disc was not circular, but in a gibbous phase (more than half, less than full). That's a function of the geometry between earth, sun, and Venus. At the time, Venus was more distant from us than the sun, but at enough of an angle that part of the night side of the planet was also visible to us.
Incidentally, Venus is extremely bright as seen from earth. That's a function of the highly reflective clouds that surround the planet. What that brightness means is that, often, at night, the planet is so bright that it's hard to see even see that phase. That's why daytime viewing held so much promise. The planet is easily bright enough to see during the daytime, while the brighter sky makes it easier to discern the planet's rim, and to make out its phase.
After my short view, I headed back down to the Mt. Lowe Trailhead. It's a dirt road, 2N50, which starts basically where Red Box Road reaches the crest so that you can see back into the LA Basin, and the road (if you're driving up) begins heading mostly due east, towards Mt Wilson's summit.
It's really a nice view, with steep canyons before you and the Basin stretching out in the distance. The road's wide, and historic. It was part of that whole Mt Lowe / Echo Mountain development from the early years of the 20th Century. Apparently, in 1942, the U.S. Forest Service built a tunnel through some of these mountains for the access road.
Shortly after poking back out of the tunnel, you have a choice. Going straight on the wide road is the long way around Mt. Lowe, and could eventually (after a long detour) take you to Inspiration Point. Right would take you up to San Gabriel Peak, and, not far past that, Mount Disappointment.

Left, however, takes you up to Mt. Lowe. That was my goal for the day.
Nice views down the Arroyo Seco on this trail, which parallels the dirt road for a while, before looping back towards Mt. Lowe. It reaches a saddle that could also be used to access Mt. Markham, though I have never tried what looks like a pretty steep route there. I have been to Mt. Lowe by this way several times, however.b
Nice views pretty much all around from this summit. It's a relatively barren summit, which contributes to the clear views.

Returned the way I came, then returned to Mt. Wilson for another try at Venus. It was higher in the sky, now, which meant looking through less atmosphere, which could potentially lead to better views. in practice, unfortunately, the view remained terrible Oh, well. It was still something that got me out of the house for some hiking and astronomy, and that's hard to beat!

Maybe 3-4 miles for the day. Sure helped with achieving my fitbit goal!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Hike 2016.045 -- Millard Canyon

Hiked Sunday, October 2. Obviously, this hike was a long time ago. I began blogging it a while ago, but did not manage to finish. Then I managed to delete the post. It's the stupid touch pad, which often manages to highlight text as I type, then delete the text when my palm moves on the touchpad. I just adjusted the settings, so hopefully that won't happen any more.

But the real reason for this long hiatus is that I had a bit of a health issue the past sex weeks. Serious diagnosis, followed by major surgery.

I'm mostly recovered, and now doing a lot of mall and park walking, but I have not tried anything seriously strenuous, or even anything taking me more than a mile or so from pavement. I may be trying slightly longer hikes, but I also know my recovery is not complete, and I may soon be taking some medications that will further sap my endurance.
Nonetheless, I'm still alive, and, at least for now, feeling mostly okay. Can't be sure if I'm "cured," or if this is just a calm before the storm. I'm hoping the former, obviously.

In the meantime, this was the last hike I took before my surgery. I read the trail write-up in Modern Hiker, and, quite frankly, I was surprised. This trail was closed the winter after the 2009 Station Fire, which was right about when I was starting my first 100 hike years, so I never managed to see the falls before winter mud flows lead to a closure order for Millard Canyon falls.
The closure lasted for years, and I hadn't even realized the closure order had been lifted. But, upon reading the post, I searched the Internet and confirmed that the closure order had been lifted. So, even knowing there would be just a trickle of water coming down the "falls," I figured it would still be nice to hike some new trail and get a close up of the base of the falls.

The falls themselves are also visible from the Sunset Ridge Trail, which heads out of the canyon and takes you right near the top of the falls. The best view of the falls on that trail is from some distance away, however.
You can also get close to the top by taking the trail past the falls, then swinging back downstream (Hiked last year, but never blogged. Must do that, still!). But you can't really see the falls from the top very well, at all.

Modern hiker says it's 1.6 miles roundtrip, so that's a pretty short distance. Several stream crossings, which are not a problem when the water is so low. Quick walk, and the view was as expected, as was the low water flow.

Knowing ahead of time that this hike was going to be so short, I intended to then add the Sunset Ridge Trail. I intended to go all the way to Echo Mountain, but did not feel the strength or motivation to go the distance. I didn't even feel the motivation to head up from the canyon bottom. Instead, when I drove in, I noticed many parking spaces were right at the saddle, which would save me about 1.5 miles roundtrip, and a pretty significant climb.
So after my visit to the falls, I drove my car back up to the saddle. Yet, even with the head start, by the time I got to the picnic area (about 1.5 miles from the saddle), I was feeling pretty tired. So I sat, took some pictures, then returned to my car. A pretty short day, yet enough for what I could handle, that day.

I'll probably be heading back there if we get some significant rain this year.