Sunday, January 29, 2017

Hike 2016.005 -- Little Santa Anita Canyon, Angeles National Forest

Hiked Sunday, January 15. Short, three-mile roundtrip hike. Trailhead is at Mount Wilson Trail, which is adjacent to Mount Wilson Trail Park, on Mira Monte Drive, in Sierra Madre. From I-210 (the Foothill Freeway), exit at Baldwin and head north, through Old Town Sierra Madre, and to pretty much the end of the road. Turn right on Mira Monte and park near the Mount Wilson Park. Walk up the paved segment of Mount Wilson Trail, until the unpaved trail drops off on the left. Continue up a nice incline to First Water. Good short hike, because the climb will get your heart pumping, despite the short distance.

At First Water, a spur trail drops to the right from the main Mount Wilson trail. Anything from a trickle to a healthy flow will be coming down the canyon. As of this hike, it was an easily-hoppable, but still nice, babbling brook.

Were you to return to the main trail, you could either continue another 6.5 miles to the top of Mount Wilson, or, among other things, take a very steep trail up to near Jones Saddle. Meanwhile, on the main trail, Orchard Camp is the other major turnaround point. The trail, already steep, begins an even steep ascent up towards Mount Wilson after Orchard Camp.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Hike 2017.003B -- Rubio Canyon Waterfalls

Hiked Friday, December 13. 2 miles. After getting back to my car at the trailhead for Millard Canyon falls, I drove back down Chaney Trail, headed east on Loma Alta Drive, then south on Lake, to Mount Curve. Left on Mount Curve Avenue, Left on Maiden Lane, then left on Rubio Canyon Road, left Rubio Crest Drive, and right on Rubio Vista Drive. I parked at the curve where Rubio Vista Drive turns into Pleasant Ridge Drive. The trailhead for this Rubio Canyon hike is at the corner. Google Maps labels this trail as Mount Lowe Railroad trail.

Not shown on Google Maps is that, at the site of where the pavilion for the incline trains would take up to Echo Mountain, a trail also continues upstream (and downstream) along the canyon floor. Most of the time, this canyon floor is dry. But on occasion, the sound of running water can be heard in this canyon.
Such was the case on Friday the 13th, when the sound was unusually loud. Heavy and extended rainfall had occurred several times during the month already. So, even though I had just headed up this canyon a few weeks previously, I was eager to check out this canyon, again (especially after having seen how high the water was in Millard Canyon).

So, happily, as I made my way upstream, I had to take some care on my many stream crossings. The water wasn't objectively high, but it was higher than it had been in years (at least not this high when rain was not actively falling).
The first waterfalls you hit are Ribbon Rock and Moss Grotto Falls. Moss Grotto is originally above Ribbon Rock. On most trips over the past few years, the falls were a dribble, at best. On this day, both were flowing, nicely. They were't roaring, by any means, but they were actually flowing, and describing both as "waterfalls" required no qualification. They looked great.

Both falls are somewhat overgrown from what they looked like when I first visited these falls (nor on my second visit), particularly Ribbon Rock.
Heading up the ravine to the east of these falls, I stayed to the right of the willow tree that grew a 150 or so yards up, then looped around it to take the easiest route up towards the overlook for Thalehaha Falls. It was not running quite as high as the first time I saw it, but it still left a nice bridal veil, falling towards the canyon bottom.

Thalehaha is a startlingly high waterfall. It's a really unexpected site, particularly when the water is flowing nicely. But its dimensions do not always translate well in photos. It's only when people are rappelling down the face of the falls that you really get a human dimension to the place.

BTW, my last link below also mentions Fish Canyon Falls. Sadly, Fish Canyon Falls is currently under a closure order, due to the Fish Complex fires of early last year.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Hike 2017.003A -- Millard Canyon Waterfall, Angeles National Forest

Hiked Friday, January 13. 1.2 miles. On my previous hike to this recently-reopened trail, the water flow was almost non-existent. However, a series of storms, including one that was probably still dropping some water higher up in the watershed, had changed things, dramatically. Once at the waterfall, there was no doubt that the trip had been worth it. In the waterfall's alcove, the water roared.

The two large boulders at the top of the falls makes the view from below unique--quite different from any of the other San Gabriel Mountain waterfalls I've visited.
Getting there was a bit tricky. With the water high, you have two choices: Get wet early and often, and just walk through the water where the river is wide and slow, or pick a route that keeps your feet dry, but with the need for more careful route selection, and the exercise of balance and discretion. I chose the latter route.
With my hiking boots, I have about five inches of leeway--I can stand in water that deep and my socks stay dry. Much higher, and the water flows into my boots, and the way becomes less pleasant. This did require some walking among the weeds, so my pants got pretty dirty. Also, because of one miscalculation, one of my socks got wet.

Three hikers were returning while I went out. I passed about the same number coming back. Relatively light visitation, probably because a lot of people don't know the trail's been reopened, yet. Or it may be people are too cheap to pay for a day pass. It's five dollars for a one day Adventure Pass, $30 for a one year pass, or $80 for an all-federal fee area annual pass to park here (at the end of Chaney Trail Road, in Altadena).

Just over one mile, roundtrip. After this, I headed over to Rubio Canyon, for part II of my day's hiking.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Hike 2017.002 -- Griffith Park, Observatory to Mount Hollywood

Hiked Sunday, January 8. Although the second hike of the year, I thought doing this write-up would be quicker and easier. Yet, it has actually come to be quite long!

Mostly overcast day, and relatively cool. Because this place gets crazy busy in the evening, especially around holidays, I headed up to the Observatory to arrive before 5pm for my 6:30pm shift. That left me time to do a little hike before work.

The early sunset meant I could get some nice city lights/skyline shots. I figured they would complement the DTLA shots I took from Kenneth Hahn State Park (at the end of this post).
The Charlie Turner Trail starts at the north end of the parking lot in front of the Observatory. For most, hoping to park there on a weekend night is an exercise in futility. So, alternatively, you can either park down near the Greek Theater (if there's no concert) and walk up, or take the Observatory shuttle up, for fifty cents (35 cents, with a TAP card, and currently free if you have a Metro weekly or monthly pass loaded on your card). For the same price, shuttles also run between the Sunset and Vermont Red Line Station and the Observatory.
Charlie Turner's a wide dirt road, easily 30-45 feet wide, with a modest grade. It's smooth enough that, with only illumination from the city, you can safely navigate the route after twilight, even without a flashlight. A little under halfway up is a hairpin turn, where I usually stop for the view of the Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) skyline, behind the Observatory. It's also where I set up for the Endeavour flyover.
So the second shot is from the hairpin turn, while the first was from the top of Mount Hollywood. By comparison, these other DTLA were taken from Kenny Hahn State Recreation Area. Those shots aren't really related to this particular hike, other than that I took them recently and wanted to post them.
Kenneth Hahn SRA is in the Baldwin Hills, about 12 miles southwest of Griffith Park. I've been here before, to hike. That first time was part of a County healthy activity thing. I then returned a few years later, both to hike and scout, then to take pictures on post-snow day.

Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area is the best place to get a shot of the DTLA skyline with a snowy mountain backdrop. A moderate telephoto lens (about 300mm in full frame, or 200mm in CMOS) frames both nicely.
My latest returns were after work. I had no time to take an actual hike, and just came to try to take some pictures. The clouds were too heavy to give me any soft lighting, but the post-sunset nightscape of DTLA looked nice.

3 miles plus for Griffith Park. Only about 1/2 mile on the Kenneth Hahn trips, so I didn't count them as hikes.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Hike 2016.050 -- Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area: Lost Canyon, Icebox Canyon, and First Creek Waterfalls

Hiked Saturday, December 31. Yes, last hike of the year. ;D And only half as many as last year. But I had a good excuse!

The last "hike" was actually three separate hikes: Lost Canyon waterfall (2/3 of a mile, roundtrip), Icebox Canyon waterfalls (2.2 miles, roundtrip), and First Creek waterfall (2.2 miles roundtrip).

Lost Canyon trailhead is off of Rocky Gap Road. You have to take the big, looping scenic drive just about halfway around. Rocky Gap is the second road after you've passed the scenic view at the top of the loop. Once on Rocky Gap Road, the first parking area on the left is the one for Lost Canyon (and the Children's Discovery trail). For Lost Canyon, take the trail that heads from the middle of the ends of the parking area.

You'll soon be treated to the view of the first photo in this post (looking to your right). There's a (usually) dry wash crossing, then a slight incline, then some boardwalk as you walk among the spring.
After that, you continue your climb, and soon reach the end of the canyon, with the waterfall, above. It's a fairly large drop, as you can see, and the often-slight waterflow sometimes seems to dissipate as it descends. Walk under the falls, and it will look something like the third photo in this shot.

No idea who the hikers in the photos are, by the way. But, on this day, the trail was busy enough that waiting for a chance at an un-modeled shot would take too long. Also, the other hikers give a sense of scale to this waterfall.

I'd been to Lost Canyon twice before in recent years, once when it was mostly dry, and once, during active rain, when it was flowing.
Next on my agenda was Icebox Canyon. I had also hiked here at least twice before in recent years, and also, once when it was mostly dry, and once when it was actively raining. Pictures from both times are in this post, from 2013.
Icebox Canyon is the next parking area along the scenic drive down from Rocky Gap. Fun thing about this hike was my parking spot: I literally got the first spot, right at the trailhead. Yes, little things can feel like wins, especially when you're visiting Las Vegas.

The first part of this hike is largely level. Yes, there's an incline. But it's easy going. You soon cross a connector trail (last time here, I walked that connector, down from Lost Canyon). But I had the goal of multiple waterfalls, and didn't want to tire myself out with the extra two miles roundtrip from Lost Canyon.

As the trail proceeds and the canyon narrows, you soon find yourself overlooking the sound and sight of running water, down on your left. You should resist the urge to drop down into that canyon until the last possible moment, since the trail (and the going) is a lot easier up top than it is down below.
Nonetheless, you will soon find yourself with no choice but to descend, then boulder hop, and find your way among the boulders and undergrowth of Icebox Canyon. On this part, the thing to remember is that there are almost always multiple ways past each obstacle. If you find your way appearing too daunting, step back and look for an alternate route. Yes, if the water is high, you may have your choices limited. But, usually, there's an easily manageable way around each barrier.

This includes the "final" barrier, to the base of the lower waterfall. In this case, head to the left, and climb up behind the tree that shields you from a possible fall as you climb the few feet up to the next level.

Getting up to the next level is a little scarier, if only because it's unprotected. I've climbed there before, but chickened out, this time. There's also a middle fall (invisible from the photo, above). Then, getting beyond that fall to the next pool is even more daunting, and I did not attempt that, last time.

Returned to my car, and completed the scenic loop. Then I turned right, towards First Canyon. I had never been here, before. It appeared to be about the third trail access point west from the loop. It also had a big sign that said, "First Creek," at the wide area on the side of the highway. The other two spots I had stopped did not have signs on my eastbound approach. I think the Oak Creek trailhead, at least, should normally be signed, but it appears stupid people make a habit of vandalizing signs out here.
For this hike, I followed the directions of the "bird and hike" website (you can find it, with an easy search). The general idea is to stay on the main and obvious trail until you reach some pine trees. As you approach the first of these pine trees (on your right side), that's where you need to leave the main trail for an unsigned use trail that drops to the base of this small (10-12 feet, at most) falls. On the day I hiked, there was weird graffiti and an arrow on a rock (second from last photo) that pointed along the main trail. A very clear but also "incorrect" trail went straight where the main trail turned right. I went on the "wrong" trail, and found myself at the top of the falls. Backtracking, a bit, I found a conglomerate rock (third picture from the last). Sticking hard to the left as I descended, I found a narrow but easy way to the base of the falls.
Three falls (four, if you count two at Icebox Canyon) and about five miles for the day. Not a bad end to my year.