Sunday, July 25, 2021

Mount Wilson via Old Toll Road

Hiked Saturday, July 24. I've got at least six other hikes I still need to blog, but this was the latest. Just did a quick edit of the photos with Microsoft, as it's faster (but not nearly as powerful) as Lightroom.

Hiked yesterday. Accessed via Pinecrest. This makes the hike approximiately 9.1 miles each way. Unfortunately, I forgot to start my Alltrails recording before I started, so I just recorded the return leg. Screenshot at the end of this post.

Although I had been checking on trail access up to Mount Wilson for quite some time, I apparently hadn't checked since May 1. The May 1 Bobcat Fire closure map now has both the Old Toll Road and the Mount Wilson trail (up Little Santa Anita Canyon) as outside the closure zone, which finally gives you a legal way up from the south.

I checked on Alltrails, and saw several mentions of an aggressive beehive along the Mount Wilson trail. Also, the Toll Road is wider, so I figured maintaining social distance would be easier. So I chose to go up that way.

As expected, the lower section was pretty crowded. Lots of cars parked, both down near the nature center, and up around Pinecrest Drive. I picked a nearby sidestreet and parked there. Just as a FYI, actually parking on Pinecrest is limited to two hours on weekdays, and is prohibited on weekends.

Alltrails gives the distance from Pinecrest as 9 miles, each way. That would make it 20 miles roundtrip, if you start near the nature center. I hadn't realized it was that far. In any event, I started up near Pinecrest, to avoid at least some of the crowds.

Always a mixture of people on the Toll Road: Joggers, slow walkers, fast walkers, mountain bikers. I walked moderately fast up. In fact, I made it in about four hours, which seemed faster than I normally make it. On the other hand, I was pretty tired once up there, so took advantage of the cafe.

The Cosmic Cafe is only open on Saturdays and Sundays. They also have tours of the Observatory that start from there, but I was too tired and too hungry to want to take one of those.

I had a pricey but tasty turkey sandwich, chips, and a ice cold cup of lemonade for $16. Yes, pricey, but yummy, and I assume the profits indirectly support the historic Observatory, so I'm okay with that.

Nice views of San Gabriel Peak, Mount Markham, and Mount Lowe, which I have summited in recent months. Far off to the east, a view of Mount Baldy, which I summited last week. Yes, still need to blog those.

The Toll Road eventually goes north of Hastings Peak, as well. That's connected to Jones Peak, via a firebreak, which you can access via Bailey Canyon or Little Santa Anita Canyon. That's a shorter but steeper route to Mount Wilson. In fact, the Mount Wilson trail is supposed to be several miles shorter than the Toll Road, as well, despite having a greater altitude gain (so lower starting altitude, I guess).

Shortly after the intersection with the fire break from Hastings Peak (coming in from the right), there's a left turn to see Mount Harvard. That's when you know you're in the home stretch.

Next is the intersection with the trails from the east, both Mount Wilson trail and the trails from Winter Creek (Chantry Flats) meet the Toll Road here.
It would appear that the mileage on the sign is at least approximately correct.
Not far after that, a trail heads up and to the right from the Toll Road. I've never actually walked the Toll Road beyond this point. It's never been clear to me if there is a way to walk or bike up the Toll Road directly, although you'd think it would. Maybe I should ask one, one day.

It's only as you passed the intersection with the Mount Wilson and Winter Creek trails and continuned north that you saw some actual impact from the Bobcat Fire. This is sort of why I was surprised the closed the whole area off, in the first place: The fire was mostly kept away from the Toll Road.

Along this final trail section, the trees along this area were burned. Poodledog bush is moving in, so you need to take some care here, to avoid rubbing too much of them, and getting an itch or irritated skin from them. I'm told it's sort of like poison oak or poison ivy, although I've never had first hand irritation. It doesn't affect everyone, and, knowing what it looks like, I have probably avoided exposure, as well. It's the same with poison oak, for me.

Made my way to the cafe, and had my lunch. I specifically wanted the icy cup so I could add the Powerade I brought up in my backpack. So I drank all of the original lemonade and maybe 3/4 of a container of Powerade, along with my lunch. And, yet, very little pee before I left, so clearly I wad dehydrated.

I had started up the trail around 8:30am, reached the top around 12:30pm, and, after my long lunch, started down at around 1:30pm. Ran into several groups heading up, so I was far from the last one up. Did not ask anyone which trail they took, and, if the Mount Wilson Trail, if the bees were still there.

The native California grey squirrel was taken up near the top; the color-changing poison oak was above Henninger Flats. Long, slow return. Didn't get back to my car until after 4:40pm, so a bit over 8 hours for the day. That's typical for me on this trail, except, this time, my speed up was somewhat faster than usual, as was my rest, at the top.

18.2 miles total distance, and about 4,600 feet of vertical climbing.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Bluff Lake Reserve, San Bernardino National Forest, CA

Hiked Saturday, June 5. My third "new" Wildlands Conservancy site in the preceeding month.

Bluff Lake Reserve is in the San Bernardino Mountains, near Big Bear Lake. Despite being only about two miles from Big Bear, the narrow mostly-paved, then dirt road to Bluff Lake makes it a bit of a drive. However, in season, it was easily accessible in my Prius.

This was my fourth new Wildlands Consevancy site visited this year, after hiking Mission Creek, Pioneertown Mountains, and Wind Wolves Preserves. Unlike the other sites however, this one is up in the mountains, at around 7,600 feet, so it's cooler, with a later hiking season. However, like those other preserves, this one also protects something unique.

In this case, it's an alpine lake, meadow, and marsh. After the Wildlands Conservancy acquired the site, they eliminated the non-native catfish, which allowed amphibians and other endemic species to return to their previous home.

The meadow and marshes adjacent to the lake were lush in early June. It had a very Sierra-like feel, especially the plants that I call mule's ears, but may be something else, entirely.

Also unlike those other preserves, this one is really small. The lake's area is given as 20 acres, and the preserve just surrounds the lake, so I doubt we're talking even 100 acres of land. But, as I said, very pretty, and unique in the local mountains.

Because of the tiny size, it's not much of a hike to just go around the lake. I added to that with a short detour to see the Champion Lodgepole, one of the largest of its type in the state. With more time, I'd have continued down Siberia Creek, which also looked very Sierra-like.

You get to the Champion Lodgepole by continuing past the end of the lake maybe a 1/4 mile. Pretty hard to miss. It's signed, and adjacent to another meadow, so you can take it in. That's it, the rounded tree in the photo above.

After passing around the tree, I then looped back around to continue my way around Bluff Lake.

T\As I got around to the eastern parking area for Bluff Lake (I accessed from the north side), there was a naturalist on-site, this day, but a large hiking group (8-10) were there ahead of me, so I didn't have a chance to chat with him. So, instead, just continued around the lake.

Not a lot of flowers blooming when I went. Perhaps still a bit early season. The land seemed marshy, so I'd expect, despite the dry year, there will still be some flowers blooming around here as the summer progresses. What few flowers there were had butterflies making their rounds, however.

The Preserves hours are given as 9am - 6pm in the summertime. There is no auto access in the winter, when the access road is closed to prevent severe erosion when wet.

Because of the early closing and my late start, I decided to drive my car away from the access point and to the trailhead to Castle Rock. This, despite the fact that I was parked outside the gate. Just didn't want the to think someone was maybe overstaying their welcome in the Preserve.

It's only about 1/2 mile from the Bluff Lake parking area to the Castle Rock south trailhead, so, yes, with enough time, you can either hike in to Bluff Lake by walking the access road when the Castle Rock trail hits the road(2N10, from Mill Creek Road), or hike to Castle Rock from Bluff Lake. From the trailhead, it's less than a mile to Castle Rock. Turns out getting to the top is a bit of a scramble, however, and take some tolerance for being exposed to possible falls. So I got near, but not to, the top, took a few pictures, then backed out.

About four miles, total, between my two hikes. Making it one hike would have added a mile. Bluff Lake is an easy, flat walk. Castle Rock, as I said, is a bit of a scramble, and not for the faint of heart. Dogs are permitted on both trails, provided they are on a leash. No charge for parking at either trailhead. No facilities advertised, however, although I did see a portapotty near where the naturalist was stationed, near the east access point to Bluff Lake.

Numerous hikes still to blog. It's been a pretty good hiking year, so far.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Wind Wolves Preserve, Kern County, CA

Hiked Saturday, May 29. Wind Wolves Preserve is owned and managed by the Wildlands Conservancy, the same folks who manage Oak Glen, Whitewater, Mission Creek, and Pioneertown Mountains Preserve, which have all been recent hikes on this blog, as well as Bluff Lake Reserve, which I have hiked in the past few weeks, but haven't yet blogged. They describe themselves as the largest non-profit preserve system in the state.

This was the third "new" Wildlands hike for me in the preceeding month. It's been kind of an exciting time for me.

I wanted to hike this preserve last year, during a reasonable wildflower bloom. No such luck, this year. Still, it was a really pleasant hike.

Summer was threatening, but wasn't quite there, yet, so, while hot, it was not too hike to enjoy a hike. There was a nice cool breeze to help.

There are three main trails heading out of the parking area. El Camino Viejo is the old road that was once part of the trail from San Francisco to Los Angeles, via the inland route, and is open to bicycles as well as hikers. It is wide, mostly flat, and stays somewaht to the west of the water. San Emigdio Canyon trail runs closer to the (small) river, but still offers little shade. The Tule Elk View Trail heads steeply up the canyon to the west of the river.

I took the Tule Elk View trail. As I gained altitude, I saw a deer, in the distance. Wasn't sure what it was at the time, but I used my medium telephoto to snap some shots, then cropped it, later, to get a decent-sized image of a deer.

The trail leveled out, and there was a bench to overlook the southern San Joaquin Valley. After a brief respite, the trail began another climb, to another flat area, this time, with several permanently-mounted telescopes, available to scan for wildlife.

After the dramatic overview, the trail peeled away from the edge of the canyon, and began losing altitude, as it weaved among the tall grass and the occasional fencing.

Several changes of direction, before it decended towards the river, eventually meeting the bike path near "The Willows," where several water-related features have been engineered to reclaim the area for wildlife. Camping also occurs here, though I did not inquire about that.

I spent some time on the San Emigdio Canyon trail, before coming to a split where, when I followed the more obvious branch, found myself back on the El Camino Viejo. More walking on that, until I returned to the area near the parking lot. There were benches, a restroom, and several water features here, too.

Although it was mostly dry grass when I was there, there were some stands of willow and cottonwood, so there may be some fall color to see here, in addition to spring wildflowers, when the conditions are more favorable. I definitely hope to return.

A trail map is here, and, of course, more information is on the Wildlands Conservancy's website, linked at the start of this post.

About 8.3 miles and 1,086 feet of verticle gain, according to my Alltrails recording. That includes some retracing of steps around the parking area, as I walked around the pond and waterfall.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Pioneertown Mountains Preserve, Sand to Snow National Monument, CA

Hiked Saturday, May 15. My second day of hiking in the Mojave, in Sand to Snow National Monument, and in a Wildlands Conservancy preserve.

Pioneertown Mountains Preserve is just outside of Yucca Valley. My Waze app had me take what seemed like a longer way, but even that was only about 20 minutes from Yucca Valley. Would have taken me longer to get to the West Entrance of Joshua Tree.

In looking at the map for Pioneertown Mountains Preserve, it seems like there are two loop choices. The first loop at the end of Pipes Canyon Road, has the "Indian Loop," given as six miles plus a 3/4 of a mile spur to Chaparrosa Peak, for 7.5 miles, total. The second loop is the Sawtooth Loop, which starts from near the actual Pioneertown. I did the former and did not see the latter.

I walked it in a clockwise direction, heading first towards Chaparrosa Peak. This trail begins easy, but then makes a steep climb, possibly because they had to build a bypass around a private inholding. Fire burned through this area not too long ago, as there are still lots of standing snags.

The geography looks a lot like Joshua Tree, with the larger boulders and fractured rock piles. But there are very few Joshua trees here. Some Yucca. Some small beavertail cactus. Not a lot of healthy large trees, though.

After the long climb to get out of a canyon, there's a continued climb to Chaparrosa Peak. Expansive views from there, including of San Jacinto.

Once back on the main loop, there's a relatively short but continued climb to get out of the canyon. Then there's a very steep descent down another canyon. A large meadow is visible, beyond the bottom of the canyon. The path of the actual trail is not obvious until you get to the bottom of that canyon when you can see that it makes a shart turn to the right, to exit via a low pass.

These shots are still on the main loop, before the spur to Chaparrosa Peak. The one of San Jacinto is from the peak. There was a peak register there, so I went ahead and wrote in it.
There were some flowers during the steep descent down the canyon, before the junction with the "green" trail on the linked map. But that was only a hint to what was to come.
Down near the Olsen Ruins, the river bottom was thick with large cottonwood and willow trees, and lots of flowering plants near the water of the creek. Not sure if it's a perennial creek or not, but it looked like it would at least a be a seep all year long.

On one straight away, as I could finally see my starting point in sight, there was a well-defined detour, just 20 or 30 yards, leaving the main trail. It led to some faded petroglyphs.

I liked the direct I walked, counter-clockwise. That gave me a rewarding view, where, if I needed to, I could have bailed out and made this a still-respectable six-mile hike.
The climb on the loop after the peak gave more impressive views of the rocky hills around me. The descent through the neighboring canyon was impressive. Then, the surprising green of Pipes Canyon, so shocking against the dry rocky hills. So many flowers in the desert, too.
This is a potentially hot hike, without much shade, once you get away from that green area near the Olsen ruins. Probably not a good summer hike. Great for fall through spring though.
So if I manage to hike the Sawtooth Loop, that will have to wait for fall. That one is given as a 9.5 mile walk, definitely not a good choice if it's really hot.
It's also described as a horse-hike, for riders, although foot hikers are also permitted. As I said, maybe in the fall.
Since this hike, I've taken several more hikes, including another Wildlands Conservancy reserve, and several hikes in my local San Gabriel Mountains. Never getting as much hiking as I like, and definitely not enough time to blog everything, but still a good few months.
I had a doctor's appointment a few weeks back. They drew some blood and worked up a panel. My previous checkup had my A1C and some other indicators trending in the wrong direction. I didn't get to see the actual numbers yet, but the doctor's assistant called and told me the doctor was pleased with the changes he saw.
Managed to get both a bit of hiking since the previous blood test, and a lot more just regular walking while in town. That's been a good thing, healthwise.
My next challege will be the Observatory. Griffith will be opening, soon, and I need to decide how many nights a week I'd like to work, or if I should just enjoy the additional free time, and forego the fun and money. My current inclination is to limit myself to just a day or two a week. That will certainly be the case early, as the first few months, they'll probably only be open Friday-Sunday.

Work used to keep me more active before the pandemic, both during my shift, and during the frequent short hikes before shifts. So there's that to consider too.

In the meantime there are additional hikes to blog. . . .