Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Corona Arch and Along Potash Road, near Moab, UT

Hiked and visited on Sunday, June 9 and Monday June 10. I was in Moab from June 7 through the 10th, having committed myself to three consecutive days of telescope work to support the Southeast Utah Astrofest. Ranger talks and telescope viewing were scheduled in Arches National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, and Canyonlands National Park, in that order, from Friday through Sunday nights.

Of course, I've been to the area several times since I started this blog, and several times before, as well. I've taken hikes in both daylight and after dark. I've hiked on clear days and wet days. I've hiked in Arches, as well as in Canyonlands, both along Grand View Point Road and near Upheaval Dome, and also in areas adjacent to these parks, including William Grandstaff Canyon, just across the Colorado River from Arches.

I'd also done drive-through visits to these parks, and not all of those have been blogged. For example, I'd been to Dead Horse Point State Park, before, but saw no entry for that on my blog. Still, there are so many interesting places within a day's drive of Moab that I knew I could busy myself with, so, when I heard about the Southeast Utah Astrofest, I definitely wanted to go.

Unfortunately, the best time for desert hiking (both temperature and lighting-wise) is either late afternoon or early morning, and volunteering as a telescope operator, with the very late nights you need to do at this latitude, in this part of the time zone, during daylight savings, made the latter impossible and the former difficult. Also, I was traveling with my wife, who isn't much of a hiker. That means I didn't do as much hiking as I had hoped, but I did get to visit one area I hadn't been to before. That was the area along Potash Road (UT-313), and Corona Arch.

This is Bureau of Land Management (BLM) territory, so the rules are less restrictive than in national parks. In particular, hiking with dogs on the trails is permitted, so I did see a number of dogs along this rather short hike. That's neither a plus nor a minus; just an observation.

The top four shots were from the Corona Arch trail. It's where I dropped the pin on the location for this post, but the other stops were very nearby that trailhead.

I got there mid-morning, and was pleasantly surprised to find the trailhead relatively empty. This was on a Sunday for the actual hike. Parked right near the trailhead, grabbed my pack (no camera, just a cell phone, personal locator beacon, and two bottles of Powerade), and headed out. I was out so quickly I didn't notice I hadn't put my hiking boots on, but even after figuring that out, I was pretty sure I'd be fine with my athletic shoes, so I didn't bother turning around.

A lot of this trail is over slickrock. In those areas, green rectangles of paint marked the route. Other areas are across sand. It's mostly not difficult, but there are a few steeper sections that will make you feel the moderate altitude of the area. There is also a very short area on the way to Corona Arch where there's a ladder and an anchored chain to help you up short climbs. Obvoiusly, if you bring a dog, the doggo will need help going up the ladder, although I've read that a short detour would allow your four-footed friend to walk around the ladder climb.

The trail to Corona Arch is given as 2.2 miles roundtrip. It goes right past Bowtie Arch, with essentially no addiitonal distance. By contrast, the sidetrip to Pinto Arch (pictured) will add about one mile to your hike, total. Both Pinto and Bowtie are sort of vertical skylight arches, with the opening pointing mostly up rather than horizontal to the ground. Also of interest, near the start of the Corona Trail hike, you cross an active railroad track. Makes a nice photo. Obviously, pay attention if you hear a train approaching!

Before getting to the Corona Arch trail, there are two areas of interest you probably want to stop at. The first is given as just "Potash Roadside Petroglyphs." That's exactly what they are. They are right adjacent to the road. You can even see them in the google maps street view of the location.

The petroglyphs may be easier to see from across the highway. A telephoto lens or binoculars will give you a closer look. Post-processing can increase the contrast and make the glyphs more apparent in photographs.

However you choose to view them, obviously be mindful that you're standing adjacent to (or perhaps even on) an active highway. Don't get run over!

The other point of interest you'll come across on the way to the Corona Arch trailhead is at the Poison Spider trailhead. That's actually the start of an off-highway vehicle motorized trail, but there's a parking area for non-OHV there, too.

There are two things you want to see near this trailhead. Both can be reached with just a hundred yards or so of walking. If you want to do more walking, you can continue a bit over a mile more to yet another arch, Longbow Arch. I didn't go there.

From the parking area, if you head away from the dirt road (towards the infromational kiosk/bulletin board), you'll see a hill above and maybe to your left (depending which way you're looking. It's probably only about fifty horizontal yards from the road, just north of the parking area, where you'll see a couple of slabs of flat rocks, laying open on the boulder-strewn hill.

The flat slabs are your first destination from this trailhead. The upper slab has indentations from dinosaurs walking. The lower slab is the protrusion that would been directly above indentations such as these. When the dinosaurs walked over what would have been wet, silty ground, they compressed the silt, making a stronger rock that what formed of the rest of the silt. When the slab fell, it split at the division between what came before and what came after the footprints' formation, exposing both the indentations and the protrustions. It's pretty cool.

If you continue past the slab, to the base of the flat cliff base with desert varnish, you'll see many ancient petroglyphs. That's the second destination from this trailhead. Unfortunately, some more recent graffiti is also on these rocks, though not as much as you might have noticed near the Roadside Petroglyphs.

The way to the dinosaur prints and petroglyphs at Poison Spider trailhead are a minimal distance, though a bit up a steep eroding way, so athletic shoes, at least, are recommended. And, as noted previously, athletic shoes were sufficient for Corona Arch, although this was during dry weather. If the rocks were wet, they'd be slicker, and lug soles might prove helpful.

Overall, just 3.5 miles or so of walking for everything pictured. Adding Longbow would have added a few more miles, so still a pretty manageable day, if the temperatures are moderate.

Regarding the star party, I had fun, of course. It was well-advertised, as we saw ads for the event on the back cover of the local free newspaper, as well as on bulletin boards in various visitor centers and places of business in town.

Friday night was the least good for viewing, with significant clouds for most of the night. This limited us to just a few bright stars for the first hour or so, while most of the visitors were still there. The last half hour cleared enough to show M4, M13, M57, M51, and M81 (Globular cluster near Anatres, Hercules globular cluster, Ring Nebula, Whirlpool Galaxy, and Bode's Nebula, also a galaxy, respectively).

Saturday was much better, so I could add the Leo trio of galaxies and Markarian's Chain of galaxies to the above-noted objects. Finished the night with a low view of the Lagoon Nebula in Sagittarius, a combination open cluster and emission nebula. This was my first view of that object this season.

Sunday night had the clearest seeing, except to the southeast, so everything above, except for M8. Also hit the Alcor/Mizar system for a bit, and we had a decent crescent moon to show before and during the ranger talk. That meant the sky was not quite as dark Sunday as it was on Saturday, but the deep sky objects still looked great. I think these were my most rewarding views of Markarian's chain and M51 that I have had through my own telescopes. I brought my 10" Explore Scientific hybrid dobsonian telescope. Second consecutive outreach event using it. Works fine for everything except high-power views

Definitely worth the trip, although it's a long one. Not sure if I'll be able to come next year. I likely start a new job classification soon, and vacation time may become more limited.

Included shots were from Sunday night, at Green River Overlook, in Canyonlands. Ranger's giving a talk in the last shot. Few seconds of exposure time, so she's a blur. Scorpius' head is rising. Second to last was of some tourists, trying to snap a picture of the crescent moon through my telescope.

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Black Mountain, Sloan Canyon NCA, NV

Hiked May 26, 2024. I've hiked this mountain more than a few times, because it's quick and easy to get to, and it's a good enough length and steepness that it makes for a great workout. A link to what was probably my last time up Black Mountain is embedded, here.

The starting point for this hike is the Shadow Canyon trailhead. That's the name of the street; no idea if the canyon above the trailhead is actually Shadow Canyon. It should show up on your gps nativating software for turn-by-turn directions.

If not, the trailhead is reached off of Anthem Parkway, which splits from Eastern Avenue south of Sunridge Heights Parkway, in the hills of Henderson, NV. Sunridge Heights is the continuation of Green Valley Parkway, which runs north-south through much of lower Henderson, so if you're near Green Valley Parkway, just take that south, then left on Eastern. If you're near Eastern, just take Eastern south until the two left lanes split off to form Anthem Parkway.

From Anthem Parkway, you'd take the first left after Hampton Road, which is Atchley Drive.

If directly west, you'd likely take Volunteer Blvd east to Sun City Anthem Drive, make a right, then a quick left on to Hampton. Make a right at Anthem Parkway, then a quick left on to Atchley Drive.

If coming from further west, you'd likely take Raiders Way to Volunteer Blvd, then east, same as above.

From Atchley, the first actual road on your left (not the paved fire access road) is Shadow Canyon Drive. Make that left, and follow the road about 1/2 mile. The access point will be on your left. There is a small parking lot and shade structure at the access point, with room for about five cars. No restroom or running water here. Fairly good chance there will be cars parked on the Atchley on either side of that access point.

From the trailhead, walk the paved multiple user trail to the southeast. A large detention basin is behind a detention dam in front of you. Just before you get to the dam, a paved trail heads up and to the right. It'll take you to the top of the dam. Once at the top, your trail runs along the right edge and behind the detention basin. There's an area trail map on the structure near the top of the dam.

About halfway around the back of the basin is a sign for Black Mountain, BLM trail 404. It'll be on your right (obviously).

Trail 404 is a loop, but the south loop has "traditionally" (meaning, since I've been walking it) been a lot more clearly defined and easier to walk and follow than the north part of the loop. Also, the north loop, has traditionally been harder to pick up from the top of Black Mountain. On the other hand, the north loop was designated only as a "proposed" route when I first started hiking here, so it may be clearer, now.

If you were trying to follow the northern part of the loop, you'd likely walk further along the back of the basin, looking for a trail that will head up the wash/canyon to your right.

If you're following the south loop, however, it's trivially easy to follow. As noted, it is well-defined and with few significant rocks in the trail. But do keep an eye out for reptiles if it's in season, as there are undoubtedly lots of them, including rattlesnakes. If you're on the trail and they're on the trail, you should see them (or they will see you) long before you step on them. But that requires you to actually keep your eyes on the trail in front of you rather than admiring the scenery. So I guess my advice is to admire the scenery only when stopped. Otherwise, be looking where your feet are going, so you don't inadvertently step on or near a rattlesnake.

This was a little late for wildflowers, although this area doesn't usually get super dense blooms, due to the volcanic nature of the landscape. There were lots of spent globe or desert mallow, and still more buds coming, however. At lower altitudes, the creosote had all gone to seed, but at higher altitude, they were still blooming. I also saw a few mojave aster, a few of what might have been brittlebush. Looked different from what I see of them in southern California, so I'm not sure.

In terms of reptiles, I came across the small California king snake right near the summit. (Turns out the last time I saw a king snake would have been 10 1/2 years ago).

I think the horned lizard was on the way up, quite a bit lower, while the (presumably) Great Basin collared lizard was on the way back, well off the highest part of the mountain. Several large ones together.

Not great shots, because I was only carrying my cell phone, so not great zoom resolution.

My Alltrails recording says I walked 7.3 miles and gained 2,083 feet of elevation. That's pretty steep. Also, on the south loop, there's not a lot of down on the way up, so the net is pretty much the same as the gross, I would expect.

The northern loop, which I didn't take this time, used to have more ups and downs, because it runs along a ridge, so a bigger gross altitude gain. And, due to lighter use, there were more rocks protruding on the trail, so if you're walking in the dark (not uncommon on my return leg), there's a lot more things to trip on.

Because of the significant climb over a relatively short distance, there is a noticeable change in flora on the way up. As noted earlier, the creosote further up was still in bloom, while the bloom was long over at the trail's start. Also notable is that you start running by the occasional Joshua Tree, once you reach the upper parts of the trail that overlook a canyon, to the north. The combinaton of higher altitude and partial shade means cooler and wetter conditions, which put this area on the edge of Joshua Tree habitat. It's not great Joshua Tree habitat, as indicated by the thinness, and lack of really large specimens. But it's still different from the lower Las Vegas valley.

It seemed to me that the trail has been somewhat realigned since my last trip. The split for Black Mountain versus Park Peak seemed less distinct. I feel like it used to be more obviously straight ahead to Black Mountain, and a hard right to Park Peak. This time, it seemed on the way out that Park Peak was more straight on the trail, and Black Mountain was a hard left.

A bigger change was near the top. Where as before, the final bit to the top involved a bit more picking and choosing of routes, with brief class two or maybe low class three pullups and scrambles, this time it was no more than low class two (needing to use your hands for balance and leverage on rocks, but mostly not needing to actually pull yourself up). As a result, the trail is more clearly defined than before. On the other hand, there are less places for obvious rest and so a more continuous climb to the top.

Because of the peak is higher than everything around it, it's usually breezy near the summit. This time, the wind was kind of weird, though. While the Nevada state flag flapped smartly in the wind, the nearby summit was still. That meant small flies were thick enough to be annoying, so I didn't spend long at the summit.

I took a brisk pace down, though still stopped for the occasional photo. That's how I caught the shot of the collard lizard.

Alltrails gave my hike time at 3:14. I can't remember if that's total hike time or actual walking time. I think it's the latter. In any event, allow 3-4 hours for the hike.

I carried two 28 ounce Powerade bottles with me. Finished one. It wasn't super hot, hot, though. I'd have drunk a lot more if it was.

Nice to finally get some mileage under my belt. My hope is that this'll be a good start, in case I try to get some hiking in this upcoming weekend. On the other hand, the forecast high where I'm going is in the 110s, so it's also possibel I'll do very little hiking.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Griffith Observatory to Mount Lee (Hollywood Sign)

Hiked May 24, 2024. I've hiked to the Hollywood Sign a number of times, but can't offhand recall the last time. On Friday, I was at the Observatory with about three to four hours to spare, and was curious if that was enough time to hike from the Observatory to the Hollywood Sign and back. The answer was, yes, three hours is long enough, if you know the shortest way and walk quickly. I call this the "ridge route," because you run overlooking a pretty good drop-off to your south for a bit. Unfortunately, the directions are confusing enough that I won't try to describe all the turns, but the general plan would be to stay high and resist losing altitude. But don't go up any intervening peaks -- keep the taller peaks to your right on the way out.

On this trailmap, you'd start from the Observatory, walking north, to the Charlie Turner trailhead, take the trail over Vermont, then take the thin, steep trail on your right (not the rutted use trail along the pipe) to meet up with the Mount Hollywood trail, south of Mount Hollywood. There is one trail junction along this route, where heading straight would take you down to Vermont and the "Bird Sanctuary, while left takes you up towards Mount Hollywood.

Once you rejoin the big dirt fire road, turn right and walk along the eastern side of Mount Hollywood, then continue to the "North Trail," towards Taco Peak.

[If you go right, along the west side of Mount Hollywood, it's my suspicion that it's slightly longer and with some wasted climbing, but the difference is not great.]

As you near Taco Peak, take the narrow trail along the big pipe up and around the north side of the peak. Once to the north of the peak, it's a wide dirt road that'll bend back around and take you towards Mount Bell. I typically follow the dirt road down and around the south end of Mount Bell, following that dirt road until it reaches the paved (but closed to public vehicles) Mount Hollywood Drive, then picking up as it climbs a bit up to the pass between Mount Chapel and Taco Peak. There, a narrow trail heads long the "ridge," towards the summit of Mount Chapel. Veer left before the steepest ascent begins and stay to the south of the peak. Follow that thin trail, with many ups and downs, as it runs south of Mount Chapel's summit. There may be quite a lot of brush, with lots of bees visiting thef lowers of that brush. Long sleeves and long pants could be helpful.

Just before you reach paved Mount Lee Drive, a clear but thin trail drops down and to the right, while the possibly clearer use trail continues along that last bit of ridge, before it reaches a dead end. If you come to the deadend, backtrack the few yards to the spur that dropped to the northwest. It hits Mount Lee Drive within 50 yards or so. Once on Mount Lee Road, walk the pavement up (right, intially) to the top of Mount Lee. You'll pass to the north of Mount Lee first, with Forest Lawn and Burbank to your right, along a long incline. When you make the hairpin turn, you'll see the back of the sign.

Had you continued on the dirt path straight ahead instead of turning with the road, you'd go to Cahuenga Peak, then on to Burbank Peak.

Continue past the sign a few yards, and trail takes you to an overlook, on your left. You can see and photograph the entire sign's back more easily from up there.

It's now late spring. Still some flowers in bloom, though not too many really thick blooms. Rattlesnakes are also active, though I didn't see any. The narrow "Ridge Route" offers some rattlesnake potential, btw. Sticking to the wider dirt roads would be safer from a rattlesnake perspective, though somewhat longer.

In terms of what flowers you're looking at in this post, in order, it's bush sunflower, bush sunflower, bull thistle, Indian pink, farewell to spring, California buckwheat, blue dicks, wild mustard, sticky monkey flower, golden yarrow, chaparral yucca, pearly everlasting, farewell to spring, phacelia, and morning glory.

As noted at the top of this post, I made the roundtrip in under three hours (about 2:45). This was with a slight wrong turn around Taco Peak on my return, which added about 8 minutes, I would guess. I've done this hike often, but not that recently, so I wasn't always sure I was on the right path, but that's the only wrong turn I made. Also, I'm a pretty fast walker by nature.

My Alltrails showed the total distance I covered as 6.12 miles, a gross altitude gain of 1158, and 2:11 of moving time (meaning, ignoring my stops for pictures or to sip some water), which is roughly a three mile an hour pace, which sounds about right. So, although it was less than three hours from the Observatory to the Hollywood Sign and back for me, if I wanted to stick to the wider dirt roads and rely on line of sight to choose my path because I was less sure of the proper route, I would definitely allow four hours roundtrip.

Just adding the Mount Hollywood Trail part in (rather than cutting up the steep designated trail that starts right after the Vermont Tunnel) adds at least two miles, roundtrip. Dropping down to the Mulholland Trail instead of the "ridge route" probably adds a similar distance. So then you'd be talking about 9-10 miles rather than 6 miles, which would be a non-trivial increase in length. The longer way also adds more gross altitude to be gained and loss.

Of course, if you just want to get to the Hollywood Sign, there are shorter trails to get there. But if you park anywhere directly south of the area between Burbank Peak and Mount Lee, be careful. The roads are narrow and winding, and the closest paved roads are highly restrictive in terms of parking.

This way works for me because I have convenient parking up near the Observatory. If I parked down at the Greek, that would add another mile or so roundtrip. Alternatively, if I took the free DASH bus up to the Observatory, the distance would be the same as parking up there.

If you're taking public transit to the Observatory, the Observatory LA DASH bus is free (as are all of the local circulator DASH buses), and runs between the Sunset and Vermont subway station and the Observatory, with several stops in between. This subway route used to be called the Red Line, but now is called the B-line, because it was the second transit line built, after the "Blue" or A-line, that runs between 7th and Wilshire ("Metro Center") and Long Beach.

If driving a car, from DTLA, you'd either take the Hollywood Freeway (US-101) north and exit at Vermont, heading straight north from there up to the Observatory, or you'd take the Golden State Freeway (I-5) north and exit and Los Feliz. Take Los Feliz west, and turn right (north) at either Hillhurst or Vermont. The two streets merge a bit up the hill, and continue on to the Observatory.

From the north, if on I-5, you'd still get off at Los Feliz and head west, same as above.

From the 101, you'd probably exit at Hollywood or Sunset, head east to Western, then north, until you merge with Los Feliz. Then Los Feliz east, to Vermont.

If you just want to get to the front of the Hollywood Sign or to Burbank Peak, you'd be able to get a lot closer by using one of the trailheads closer to Lake Hollywood Park. To get there, I'd exit the Hollywood Freeway from Cahuenga, and take that to Barnham, then head "east," then turn "east," again, on Lake Hollywood Drive. [The streets don't run in the cardinal directions around here. There's a traffic light at Lake Hollywood Drive that just says "Lake Hollywood," and there's only one way you can turn, there.]

Lake Hollywood Drive is pretty narrow in places, with either limited or no parking rules along several sections. Check signage before you park, including any signs you may pass with an arrow (indicating parking rules for extended segments of road).

There may be parking near the end of Innsdale Drive, parts of Tahoe Drive, and the part of Canyon Lake Drive adjacent to Lake Hollywood Park, although I haven't hiked around Lake Hollywood Reservoir in a few years, so I'm not sure if accessibility has changed. I do know that the exit off the 101 for Barnham was removed, which makes the slightly more complicated route to this area necessary. They have also changed street parking rules a few times in this general area, because it can get congested.

It should go without saying, but if you do try to hike from the area south of the Hollywood Sign, don't block any driveways and follow the rules. The bigger pain in the butt you make things up there, the more likely additional restrictions and stricter enforcement will follow.