Wednesday, July 8, 2020

San Gabriel Peak from Near Red Box Junction

Hiked Friday, July 3

My holiday weekend started early, on Friday. Had only partially formulated idea of which hike I might take. Didn't leave home until mid-afternoon, but this hike was on my mind, as one I had done after work on a couple of occasions, so I knew it wouldn't take long, but might have a nice view at the top.
My first time up was blogged here. A later trip was blogged here. The mostly identical hike to Mount Disappointment is here.

One thing I definitely remember from my first time up was the plethora of poodle dog flowers, which, I later learned, are often the first plant to colonize after a fire. I think this area burned as part of the massive "Station Fire," of 2009. Well, by 2011 (my first hike here), there were still plenty of snags (burned but standing tree stumps), and but Spanish broom (a highly invasive exotic) and poodle dog bush (endemic, but also very opportunistic) was thick.

This time around, I saw no poodle dog bush. Looks like it has all been succeeded by other plants. Spanish broom was still common around Mt. Disappointment, however.
Although the start of this trail is crazy steep and pretty narrow, I knew the parking area was relatively small, and not as heavily used as the one further up Red Box Road. That one provides an alternate (and easier) way up to San Gabriel Peak and Mount Disappointment, but is mainly useful for getting "easily" to Mount Lowe. But, as noted earlier, it's more heavily used. It also requires a section through a tunnel, which doesn't seem like the best place to hike when you're trying to socially distance.
Because of the late start, the sun was getting low by the time I neared the top. As a result, photos taken looking west (like the first one in this post) have a lot of glare. Photo processing cut that a little, to more like you might see with polarized sunglasses), but it's still has glare. That one's looking back over Mount Disappointment, by the way.
The second shot was a very modest zoom of the DTLA skyline. The third was of a snag. Then, there's looking a bit southeast, with Mount Harvard (with antenna) on the left, and the Santa Ana Mountains, off in the distance.

Next, it's looking down south, towards Mount Lowe. Then Mount Wilson, obviously. You're several hundred feet higher than Mount Wilson when you're atop San Gabriel Peak.
Last shot was of Josephine Peak (left) and Strawberry Peak.

The hike is about 4 miles, with 1600 feet of elevation gain. Tacking on Mount Disappointment adds a bit over half a mile, I would guess. I had no interest in doing that, today.

The trailhead is off of Red Box Canyon Road, just a third of a mile or so up from Red Box Canyon. To your right as you head up the hill, a sharp turn to a paved road leads has a small parking area near the bottom, and an even smaller parking area up, about fifty yards, adjacent to the locked gate for Mount Disappointment Road. I suspect some use the road as a bike route up. It can also be a longer, shallower climb to Mount Disappointment.

The trail is down from the gate, on your left, if walking towards the gate. Very steep and narrow at the start. Wider and more opportunities for social distancing as you get a mile or so up.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area, NV, Petroglyph and Cowboy Trails

Hiked Saturday, June 27.
This was actually one of my first hikes upon my "return" to the Las Vegas Valley. I've been back numerous times, since then. This seems to have been my second time there is blogged, here. Looks like a few trips blogged here, too.

Among the things that have changed since my first visit is that there's a paved road to a small parking lot at the top of Nawghaw Road, in Henderson (south of Democracy Drive). Several alternate ways there now, and you can probably use your gps to find an all-pavement route to the trailhead, now. Used to require a longer walk, too.
The trail itself has also changed. What used to be "Trail 100" is now "Petroglyph Trail." What used to be Trail 200 is now "Cowboy Trail." And the trail to the petroglyphs now starts from the south side of the parking lot. Previously, it went down to the east, into a wash then upstream.

Now, you walk the "high" way, along the crest of a rounded "ridge" for about 1/2 mile, before dropping down into the wash. That's just a rough distance, by the way; I didn't measure.
Once you do drop into the wash (hopefully, following the proper, switch-backy trail), you'll see a wooden barrier "downstream," and a sign that they are doing habitat restoration down there. A connector trail, number 101, used to meet the old Trail 100 further down there, so you could connect to the rest of the Sloan Canyon and Henderson trail system. Now, it looks like 101 continues to the paved Nawghaw Road. There's a paved bike path that parallels the actual road. Didn't notice if the hiking trail just goes up the bikepath or parallels that, too. Regardless, if you found the upper lot closed or full, you'd park "down there" and could walk up towards the parking lot, adding some climbing and another mile and a half or so to your hike, roundtrip. On my first few trips to Petroglyph Canyon, parking "down there" was a requirement, at least for non-high clearance vehicles.

Looking upstream from the wooden barrier, there's a sign that indicates you're on the Petroglyph Trail. It also tells you that dogs are not allowed on this trail.
I was starting relatively late-morning, say around 9:30am. Temperatures were already well above 90. But the lot was pretty empty. I guess most hikers and joggers came earlier, or not at all. During my entire hike, I was passed by exactly one jogger, and that was it. Again, the summer temperatures worked in favor in terms of letting me do a socially distanced hike.
This morning temperature was still cooler than my previous afternoon/evening of hiking, however. This meant more active wildlife. Lots of lizards, and a fair number of small rodents, which I'm pretty sure were white-tailed antelope squirrel. Very distinctly white-tailed not like the normal brown-tailed ones I have seen elsewhere. There was also a trio of hawks, squawking and apparently challenging each other.

Oh, yes, and while I didn't post any pictures, I saw LOTS of tarantula hawks, visiting a mesquite tree, I think. The night before, I saw a couple of HUGE tarantula hawks, but didn't try for any pictures then, either.
It's kind of interesting that, each time I come here, some petroglyphs I see all the time, and others I seem to discover for the first time. So when I compare pictures from different visits, some images appear repeatedly, while others appear only once.
Part of the variability is due to the time I'm hiking. The angle and direction of light as I walk affects which petroglyphs become more prominent, or even visible.
This time, there was a rock I couldn't find. After passing the main gallery, after the trail bends to the right, there used to be a rock on the left side of the canyon with a couple of images. Didn't see it, this time. Again, I don't know if that means the rock's not there any more or I just couldn't find it, but I did not see it.
After about 1/8 mile of heading west, there was signage for the Cowboy Trail, on the right. As I mentioned earlier, it used to be just Trail 200. Also, at that point, if you went further up the existing wash instead of turning on to Trail 200, the signage used to indicate you were now on Trail 300. This time, I did not see any mention of Trail 300. I don't know if that means it's been decommissioned or just isn't signed (at least on this side) any more.
Made my way on up to the pass, with the big volcanic plug on the left. I like the view here. But you can't see the Strip from this pass. You'd have to head a bit higher up on that mountain rise to see that.
However, technically, in this section of the Conservation Area, off-trail travel is not permitted. So I've never made it up any higher.

I did see a drone flying around this area, once. That is also not permitted.
I saw this nice big Great Basin Collard Lizard on the way down Trail 200.

After less than a mile, Trail 200 reconnects with Trail 100. I return this way almost every time, because it means less retracing of footsteps, and because it means I don't need to slide down the dry waterfalls I climbed up on the way to the Petroglyphs. Only one of the waterfalls is Class 3 (requiring hands and feet, and the lifting of at least one point of contact of contact to make the scamper up the small drop off), and it's not particularly hard to descend, but I still prefer not to.

Once back on Trail 100, I'd say it's a bit less than 1 1/2 miles back to the parking lot.

All Trails gives the total hike distance as 4.4 miles total, with 564 feet of elevation gain. Not intrinsically difficult, but you will have to make the one scramble. Also, the wash bottom is sandy, and the heat can be significant. But still generally one of my favorite hikes in the area. I think I still prefer Black Mountain, Trail 404, but this one is shorter and easier to fit into limited time, especially if the heat is high.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area, NV, Trails 404-402-403 Loop to Park Peak

Hiked Friday, June 26. It was a hot weekend in the Las Vegas Valley. Friday's high was 104. And it turns out that, in Las Vegas, hot days don't really start cooling off until after dark.

Started my hike around 5:30pm, from the Shadow Canyon access point, off of Shadow Canyon Drive, east of Anthem Parkway, in Henderson. The venerable Bird and Hike site gives directions, here. At that time, my phone said it was 102 degrees in Henderson (not sure if it might have been a degree or two cooler up in Anthem).

Here's my Prius, at the trailhead. :D There were no other cars in the small lot (room for about five cars), nor on the street adjacent to the lot. This boded well for my hope to social distance.

From the small parking area, there's a paved, one-lane road designated as "Anthem East Trail." Walk towards the detention barrier, and take the curving route to a small structure. Anthem East Trail splits off somewhat before you get to the detention barrier, so don't leave the wash bottom prematurely.
A map on the side of the building at the top of the detention barrierprovides this overview of your hiking options from here. It's color-coded, so if you're color blind, you may not find it helpful.

I've hiked from this trailhead about five times previously, but always on BLM Trail 404. I've summited Black Mountain from the southern side of the loop, and made it a fair distance up, but not to the top, on the northern loop of Trail 403.
So this was my first time hiking at least a partially new route. In this case, to minimize retracing my steps, I planned to take 404 south as I had done in the past.

At least initially 404 pretty much heads towards Park Peak, before making a late turn, towards Black Mountain. Just before that trail begins its steep ascent up Black Mountain, Trail 402 splits off, to the south.
After a half-mile, Trail 402 ends, when it intersects with the lollipop path of Trail 403. I then took Trail 403 to the top of Park Peak. From there, I could either retrace my steps back down, then return via Trail 403, or attempt to go over the peak and continue on the loop. In the end, I decided to just retrace my steps on that small portion of Trail 403.
According to All Trails, it's 843 vertical topping out at 3822. By contrast the Black Mountain trail says it's 2063 vertical feet to get on top of that mountain, which tops out at 5167. That means this hike is a lot easier, being both shorter and much less vertical. That means the view here is less than half the view at Black Mountain, since Park Peak doesn't let you see much of what's north, east or south of you, beyond the hills you're in. Fine view of much of the rest of the Las Vegas Valley, though.
Also, unlike Black Mountain, you're not high enough to see the solar electricity towers in Ivanpah. However, like Black Mountain, there is a flag up there, as well as an ammunition case that contains what I assume is the trail register. I don't usually bother writing in there, since I have no idea where that stuff ever goes.
So it's a nice view, but not as expansive or top of the world as Black Mountain. Still, when you're hiking in 102 degree heat, this one makes more sense. There's not a lot of afternoon shade on either of these trails.

I walked at a leisurely pace, drinking often. And it probably dropped 4 degrees or so by the time I reached the summit. There was alsoa nice breeze, which made the heat easier to handle.
Returned back on the same segment of Trail 403. Not long after re-passing the junction with Trail 403, I saw where Trail 403's "other" side came down to meet the main segment.

Easy to follow, except there was no signage at a junction where the trail split, again. There was a fair-sized Joshua Tree, there. My All Trails app said to go right, which made sense, so I went that way.
There were two other splits, much further down, that were not entirely obvious. But, by then, I could see the detention basin, and followed the more logical of each split (keeping in mind that a steep descent is NOT obvious). Back to the car as it was getting dark (wearing polarized sunglasses made it seem darker!). Turned around, and saw the "Nevada Strong" lights on the side of Black Mountain. I had read about this as a father-son project, a month or so ago. Forgot all about it, until I saw the lights, myself.
About five miles for the day. Relatively modest altitude gain. But a good hike. And I saw only one other person on the trail. Several more cars in the lot and adjacent street by the time I got back, and one mother and child, possibly waiting for someone to come down, or just taking a very short walk of their own.

So it turns out that 100 degree-plus temperatures do wonders for social distancing on the trail!

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Josephine Peak, Angeles National Forest, CA (Forest Service Road 2N64)

First time I'm blogging an Angeles National Forest hike in nearly two years! I don't know if this means I really haven't been in here in that long, or if I just never managed anything worth blogging about. Hard to believe I didn't even take any waterfall hikes last spring.

Josephine Peak is ground I've covered before. Looks like I blogged this trail in 2015 and 2016. Definitely clearer weather, then!
Both previous times, I ran into relatively few hikers. Also, I knew the "trail" is a fire road, wide enough for a pick-up truck, at least. Seemed like a good "social distancing" hike. Also, it was overcast down in the Valley, and I had this idea that this hike would let me walk above the clouds and enjoy the sunshine.

I hit the trail late morning. Most people look to have started earlier, as several large groups and numerous smaller ones were heading down as I headed up. Most (but definitely not all) wore facial coverings, at least when they approached. This was less true the later it got.

I asked one couple heading down if the trail took them above the clouds, and was slightly disappointed to learn that it did not.
With the misting rain, it was somewhat cool, although I was wearing shorts and a sweater. But I didn't actually get wet, and, as I kept moving, I did not feel cold, and I knew I wouldn't be out long enough and would move fast enough to stay warm.

Ridiculous amounts of (invasive) Spanish broom were in bloom. Very fragrant. The clouds made for some interesting views of the obscured mountains and trees.

Being my first significant hike in several months, I felt pretty tired by the time I reached the top. Very fast coming down, though.

It's about 7.5 miles round trip, and about 1900 feet of elevation gain. Pretty easy to keep on the right track. The only semi-possible way to get lost would be to turn off the road and head towards Strawberry Peak, and that trail, while far from hidden, is not nearly as prominent as the fire road.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Skyline Trail, Hacienda Hills, CA, and Air Force Thunderbirds

Hiked Friday, May 15. Probably about five trail miles, and another mile of wandering, looking for a high spot with good views north and south.

Over the past week, Los Angeles County has been making some adjustments to their "Safer at Home" guidelines (they call it an "order," but if it's not clearly enforced, it seems more like voluntary suggestions. Particularly when they were rolling it out, it was not clear how far you were allowed to drive for your permitted hiking). Most trails in the greater Los Angeles area officially closed in mid-March, but began reopening the previous weekend, with more opening this week and weekend.
Sometime during the past week, the Puente Hills Landfill Native Habitat Authority reopened most of their trails to public use, with the "requirement" for facial coverings when in proximity to others, and proper social distancing.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, May 13, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds announced they would be flying a "salute to front line workers" in the San Diego and Los Angeles areas. A somewhat detailed map of their route came out on Thursday morning. However, perhaps intentionally, it was far from easy to determine their actual route on the map. Also, post-hoc reports suggests there were substantial departures from their announced route.
To the extent I could see the streets on the route map, my home actually was pretty close to the route, if they flew it. However, my house has no site-lines. Trees and homes severely limit how far I can see in any direction. Similarly, nearby, at least, there are severe limitations on how far I could see, so even if they flew within a 1/4 mile of where I stood, if I didn't know which way to look at the right moment, I'd see nothing. That's why I wanted to try for open space, preferably with some altitude built in.
One open space area that did seem to be near the proposed flight path was land under the Native Habitat Authority. It kind of looked like the Thunderbirds would come up from Orange County, fly more or less up Hacienda Blvd, between the Hacienda and Puente Hills, then bank towards the west, flying up near El Monte before curving a bit to the south of the Los Angels Civic Center.

So now I had to figure out how big of a deal this would be, and if I should either try to find a spot where there is very limited parking, either off of Turnbull Canyon Road or off of Hacienda Blvd. Or, alternatively, there would potentially be lots of parking, but obviously crowds, as well, if I entered at Seventh Avenue or Schabarum Park.

Of course, Seventh Avenue was the starting point for numerous hikes of mine,, going back to nearly the beginning of my blogging days.
I've hiked from Schabarum Park, as well. And, also, I've hiked from Turnbull Canyon Road. But that had been a while, and I was aware of road closures and construction in the area, and didn't want to chance getting lost. I also wanted to avoid possible people congestion from a usually crowded place like Schabarum Park (though no idea how crowded it is, now).
So I chose Seventh Avenue. Took the main (Ahwingna) trail up. One and three-tenths mile to the crest. From the crest, I debated where a good view would be, and eventually decided to head southeast, towards where they would pass between the Hacienda and Puente Hills. Walked to, then on, the paved road to Turnbull Canyon Road, crossed the road, and headed up a trail/fire road. Looked for a high spot, walked up there, chatted with a fellow hiker/jet seeker for a bit, then decided to keep going east. But ran out of time long before I got to Hacienda Blvd.
With maybe ten minutes before the expected flyover, I headed to the base of some high-tension power lines. Another mile or so further east (maybe a bit less) would have been pretty spectacular, but I didn't want to chance walking between hills when the jets arrived.

So I pulled out my camera with a long telephoto lens attached, and snapped a few shots from my vantage point, of passing passenger jets, standing power lines, gliding turkey vultures, and so forth, just go make sure I had my exposure set correctly (iso 400, f/8, and about 1/2000th of a second).

More or less on-time, I saw a rapidly approaching "contrail," trailing smoke, moving fast and low. They cut the smoke as the reached the foothills, and zipped quickly through the pass. Then they made a sweeping turn to the west, flying over the warehouses factories of the City of Industry.
So, in retrospect, had I just stayed down closer to Seventh Avenue, I would have been closer than I was now, although I would have missed the smoking approach. Of course, I would also have missed out on the hike, which was the other thing I wanted to do.
After the flyby, the walk back was pretty hot. Sucked down a quart of icy sugar-free Powerade after I got back home.

End of the spring bloom is still going on. Lots of thistle and sticky monkey flower, evening primrose, wild mustard, and pearly everlasting. Some vetch, and the fruity thing in that one picture.

Annoyingly, the vast majority of hikers I passed were not wearing proper facial covering. I kept what distance I could, and, obviously, the odds of infection from just a walk-by must be pretty low, but this is the critical point: wear face coverings now, reduce transmission, and we can get back to "normal" with fewer fatalities. Be careless now, and the fatalities increase and the restrictions continue for longer. I'm ready for this to be over.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

South Oak Creek Trail, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, NV

Hiked Saturday, March 7. Approximately five miles, out and back. Wrapped up my last weekend of hiking in Las Vegas with a late afternoon visit to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

My initial goal was to try for a post-sunset shot of Orion and the winter Milky Way over the red rocks. I had done this last year, and hoped to try again, this year. However, the moon phase made this a little iffy, and the clouds made it impossible.
Nonetheless, I intended to do some walking out there.

Except for the clouds, t weather was perfect for hiking. I think, because of that, the crowds flocked to Red Rock, which led to a road closure of the scenic drive by late afternoon. At least, that was my guess. In any event the entrance to the scenic loop was closed when I got there. So I drove on along NV-159, past the entrance and exit to the scenic drive. Wound up parking at the second trailhead past the scenic loop exit.

Oak Creek Trail has three access points. The first is from the end of a spur dirt road that leaves the scenic loop, just before it returns to NV-159.
The second access point, called "Middle Oak Creek Trailhead," is the first major parking area on NV-159, past the scenic loop.

The third access point is a bit further along NV-159, and is called "South Oak Creek Trailhead."
All three of these trails potentially intersect, although the Middle and South Oak Creek trails obviously have longer distances to get to a more southerly location; it takes quite a bit longer to get to actual Oak Creek from the latter starts. Both also more head towards the base of Mount Wilson, before heading towards Oak Creek and Rainbow Mountain.
Formally, the South Oak Creek trail is supposed to go up to, then around, a knoll (Potato Knoll), befoe returning to NV-159. Before doing the loop, I first walked a bit up the actual canyon, walked as far as I was comfrotable, then turned around. Saw some water in the creek bed.

There are numerous use trails through the area, so figuring out if I was on the right one or not was not obvious. But I got a chance to enjoy the outdoors, either way.
The sun was rapidly disappearing as I made my way back to my car. Nice side-lighting as the setting sun dropped beneath the cloud layer. I took a last few pictures, then hurried along to my car. Thus ended my last hike in the Las Vegas area in the last two months.
Because of the whole "safer at home" thing, as well as numerous trail closures in my usual stompinggrounds, I haven't gone off on any hiking adventures in quite a while, since then.