Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hike 38: Mount Wilson via Sturdevant and Upper Winter Creek Trails

Hiked on March 24. Took a while to write up this hike. I think I still need to edit and add some pictures. However, it's been a while, so I figured I'd publish this hike write-up now, and go back and edit it when I have more time.

Getting back to March 24--This was my fourth hike up to the top of Mt Wilson this year. It's also the same hike I took for Hike #16, but in reverse. But I never wrote up that hike, did I?

Well, both hikes started from Chantry Flats. I got to the parking lot about 10:15am, which is actually about as early as I've ever managed to get started on a Mt. Wilson hike this year.

The Sturdevant Trail requires a rapid decline down the paved road. Along this section, there's a number of bushes covered with yellow flowers. The bush looks like a palo verde, but I don't think it is. It could be a mesquite, but I'm not sure:

After the end of your descent, you cross the bridge over Winter Creek, then bear right (instead of left, which goes up the Lower Winter Creek Trail). About a half mile later, you come to fork in the trail. To your left are two trails: the Upper Sturdevant Trail, and the Gabrielino Trail. Meanwhile, the trail to Sturdevant Falls continues straight ahead, ending at the base of Sturdevant Falls continues straight ahead, and ends at the base of the falls.

Since my destination was Mt. Wilson, I took the Upper Sturdevant Trail. The mileage sign indicates it's 5.5 miles from here to Mt Wilson (via the Upper Sturdevant Trail). Along the way, you parallel Sturdevant Creek for about a half-mile, until this trail and the Gabrielino Trail merge. You continue mostly paralleling this canyon as you make your way past Cascade picnic area, Spruce Grove Campground, and Sturdevant Camp.

Within 100 yards of beginning up the Sturdevant Trail, there's the remains of an old cabin to your left.

The Sturdevant Trail splits from the Gabrielino Trail just before you get to Sturtevant. However, currently, the Gabrielino Trail is closed, as part of the Station Fire recovery order, so your only choices at the moment are to turn around here, or continue to your left, along the Sturdevant trail.

An 1/8 of a mile after leaving the Gabrielino Trail, you come to a junction with the Zion Trail, which would take you back towards Chantry Flat, with a short spur available to Mt. Zion.

After the Zion trail junction, the Sturdevant Trail begins a pretty steep and continuous climb up towards the Mt. Wilson Observatory. It's a tiring climb, but still more shaded than the Mazanita Trail.

Just before you reach the mountain top, you'll see a short spur to your east. It's got wires strung along poles to provide a protected access to an overlook. From the lookout point, the dome housing the 100-inch telescope is directly to your north. You can also see along where the Rim Trail runs (although it is also currently closed as part of the Station Fire recovery order).

Returning to the trail, the 60-inch telescope dome is to your left. Several of the smaller domes that make up the CHARA array will also be visible on your walk.

If you continue towards the 100-inch telescope, there's a water fountain next to an astronomers' residence. The water tasted pretty darn good that day. :D I decided that getting your friends to build a water fountain in your memory would be a pretty good way memorial.

Heading further to the west along the paved road that runs along the top of Mt. Wilson, you'll pass the solar observatory. That's a picture of the solar observatory tower at the top of this post.

You'll also pass the astronomy museum. It was locked when I came by, probably because the road to Mt Wilson is still officially closed to the general public. I've been in it before, however--it's got a lot of pictures, many with revised captions that indicate some of the changes in our knowledge of the universe since those pictures were first displayed.

I also passed several burned logs and bushes. I don't know if they were burned as part of the wildfire, or burned as part of the backfire that was set to save Mt Wilson's scientific and historic resources.

A bit further west and the road provides access to the large parking lot that is at the top of the Mt Wilson Trail. The pavilion overlooks the parking lot.

I'm pretty sure I've blogged about the Mt Wilson and Upper Winter Creek Trails previously, but that was my return path.

I got to the top of Mt. Wilson around 2:15pm, and back to my car by 5:30pm. That's with lots of stops for pictures and snacks along the way.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Hike 37: Mt. Baldy Trail to Sheep Mountain Wilderness

Hiked on Friday, Mar 19. Between the NCAA Tournament and various other commitments I've had this weekend, I knew I wouldn't be able to get any hiking in this weekend. That's why I squeezed a short one in on Friday: Mt. Baldy Trail to Sheep Mountain Wilderness. Actually, I wasn't sure when I started this hike how far I would go. My plan was to hike until I hit snow or ice, then turn around. I was sure I could make it at least to Bear Flat (1.6 miles), though, so that was the minimum. How much further beyond that would (I thought) depend on the snow line.

My map had this trail starting near the visitor center, so I parked there. It's possible that on weekends this lot is limited to two hours parking. Also, when I got back, I noticed a sign saying the gate would be locked at 3:30pm. Yikes! Good thing I didn't go too much further.

I started by walking around the permimeter of the little learning area they have surrounding the parking lot. On the south side, I found a sign pointing the way. That led me to Bear Canyon Road. A sign on the other side of this road pointed me west.

Bear Canyon Road is paved, but very narrow and apparently has no public parking on it. Only residents drive up. A number of cabins/homes had "For Sale" signs on them, so if you want to become one of these residents, the opportunity is there. :D

Shortly after the pavement ends, the trail crosses a creek (Bear Creek, I presume). There's a mileage sign on the other side, indicating 1.6 miles to Bear Flat, or 6.0 miles to Mt. Baldy.

A bit later, I crossed the creek again. Less than 1/4 mile from the start, the trail split. The left branch headed back down to the creek. The right branch headed up a bunch of switchbacks. Since I wanted to go up, that's the way I went. I didn't notice if the lower branch ever rejoins the upper branch. In theory they might, since you cross another creek (probably the same creek) when you get there.

A short bit up these switch backs, there was a downed tree across the trail. It was a relatively small tree, and I had no difficulty ducking under it. However, on my return trip, there were a couple of young men and their dog at this point. One was using a large axe to cut the tree and clear the trail. They said they walked this trail so often they got tired of ducking under the tree. They planned to clear the trail to Bear Flat that day (Friday), and continue up the trail in succeeding days.

I thanked them for their service.

Bear Flat turns out to be a not very flat place. It's nothing like Stoddard Flats, where the reason for the "Flats" part of the name was obvious. Here, if not for a sign indicating this was Bear Flat, I wouldn't have been sure if I was there.

Nonetheless, it is a relatively cleared area. Part of that is because this whole area burned in the early 2000's as part of the Williams Fire. On the way up, some large burned logs and smaller burned but standing snags (probably scrub oak and manzanita) were evident.

I never did get to see Mt. Baldy. Apparently, this approach doesn't let you see the summit until you're nearly there. Instead, I ran into a sign that said, "Sheep Mountain Wilderness." Technically, you need a permit to enter the wilderness area, even for a day hike. So I looked around the area for a few moments, then turned back around. The views from here was nice--about a 270 degree panorama from west-northwest to east-northeast. To the east, you've got the face of the Three Ts (Thunder, Telegraph and Timber). To the northeast, you can look up Manker Canyon and on to Baldy Notch. To the south is Sunset Peak, now rather distant. You can also see Glendora Ridge Road and the firebreaks and fire roads that head off from the road towards Sunset Peak.

I'm not sure if the sign for the wilderness area is exactly at where the trail first crosses into the wilderness area. However, it felt at least as far from from Bear Flat to the wilderness boundary sign as it was from the trailhead to Bear Flat. That would make it somewhere between 6.4 and 7.0 miles roundtrip. It felt closer to the latter than the former.

Next time I head up there, I'll aim for an earlier start and get a wilderness permit ahead of time. Still, I figure it will be at least another month before it's safe for me to go to the summit of Baldy.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Hike 36: Winter Creek Loop and Mt. Zion.

Wednesday, Mar 17.

This hike is out of Chantry Flats, which is at the top of Santa Anita Avenue, above Arcadia and Sierra Madre. Parking at Chantry requires an Adventure Pass (either a five dollar day pass or $30 for an "annual" pass). Adventure Pass covers entry into fee areas in the Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padre or San Bernadino National Forests.

Since I bought my pass last month, it'll be good until the end of February 2011. Since purchasing my pass, this was my sixth hike that originated out of a fee area, which means it was my "break even" hike.

Two days later, I took my seventh hike out of a fee area covered by my Adventure Pass, so now I'm "ahead" on the Adventure Pass. However, I'm still debating whether I should have gone and splurged for an "America the Beautiful" pass, which would have cost $50 more but would cover unlimited entry into all USDA Forest Service, National Park Service, BLM or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service areas that charge a day-use fee. I haven't gone into any of those other fee areas since February, but I figured I'll be hitting at least Joshua Tree soon. Depending on my summer travel, I might also make it up to Yosemite, Zion or Bryce National Parks (or others), and possibly Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area or the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area (both outside of Las Vegas).

Today's hike was just for the exercise. I've hiked on all of these trails over the past few months.

Lower Winter Creek is accessed by heading down the same paved trail you'd take to get to Sturdevant Falls. When the pavement ends and you cross the creek over a bridge, there's a restroom. There's also a trail sign indicating directions and mileage to various points of interest. Going on the Lower Winter Creek trail requires a left turn, pass one of many unattractive flood and erosion control structures that were built in the 1960s. Not far after that, you pass a number of cabins.

In this canyon, as in many along the San Gabriel Mountains, cabins were built and occupied from at least the middle 1800s. Occupants apparently decided they wanted familiar landscaping, so they planted ivy and periwinkle around their homes. Those non-native vines have largely taken over the floor of these canyons. Periwinkle blossoms are attractive, at least, but I'm pretty sure that neither periwinkle nor ivy provides any food for our native wildlife.

Ivy, overgrowing a downed oak

Periwinkle flower

A little under 2 miles from the junction with the Sturdevant Trail, you reaches Hoagee's Camp. Yep, people actually camp here. Personally, I don't like backpack camping within range of easy dayhiking, but I supppose it does give folks a chance to practice their backpacking skills closer to home.

The Lower Winter Creek trail continues through Hoegees. An 1/8 of a mile later, you reach the junction with the Mt. Zion Trail. The signage at this junction seems to suggest this is also the "official" dividing line between the Upper and Lower Winter Creek trails. The sign also tells you that it's 1 1/4 mile to the summit of Mt. Zion, two miles if you backtrack from here back along the Lower Winter Creek trail to Chantry Flats, or three miles if you continue forward along the Upper Winter Creek trail to Chantry Flats. I'm not sure how accurate these sign mileages are, but it does tell you that the basic loop is about five miles long, while the loop with a Mt. Zion detour is about seven miles.

Mt. Zion is not exactly a towering pinnacle. Indeed, it's not really much of a summit, at all. It's just sort of a slightly higher bump along a ridge. You're largely surrounded by Manzanita bush along the last bit. It's nearing the end of the bloom for that.

Next to the mazanita flowers, you can see a cluster of "fruit." Those look like little apples--Hence, the name of the plant, which is Spanish for "little apple."

Other flowers I saw along the way are pictured below. Not sure about most of the species, except for the wallflower that I previously saw on my hike up Little Santa Anita Canyon.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hike 35: Henninger Flats

Monday, March 15.

I'm running a little low on my hiking gas, in part because I'm going to have to return to a lot of ground I've covered previously. With the Station Fire recovery zone closure, there are several weeks worth of hikes that are off limits until October, at least. Meanwhile, the snow is keeping the high country mostly off-limits, too.

This hike was one of those where I just hopped in the car and wasn't sure which local hike I'd do. In part because Eaton Canyon is the closest trailhead to my home, I wound up here. To mix things up a bit, I accessed the canyon from the midpoint, where Altadena Drive overlooks Eaton Canyon before it angles a bit to the west.

From there, I headed down the hill, made my way across the wash (still running pretty high), then went south, to where the 'shortcut' trail up Henninger diverges from the main trail between the nature center and the waterfall.

If nothing else, I know I'm in better shape, because I was able to move quickly up this section, and then on for the rest of the way on the Toll Road.

My pace was helped by traveling light. Because I had a late start on this one, I knew it would be a short hike, so I didn't even bother with a daypack. I just had my keys, my cell phone, and a half-drunk bottle of Gatorade that was left over from my trip up Stoddard Peak.

I took a picture (or at least thought I took a picture) of the Upper/Mt. Fuji Campground sign, because I think it's funny. However, I can't find the picture on my phone, so no art to display for this hike.

On Wednesday, I did hike 36, the Winter Creek loop to and from Mt. Zion, out of Chantry Flats. It's ground I've covered before, but I did take my camera on that one. I'll have to work through those pictures and do a write-up for that soon. It's just that NCAA basketball today has been diverting my attention the past few days.

I'm tied for the lead in my group's pool. I need to mention it now, since this fact may not last very long!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hike 34: Stoddard Peak

Mount Baldy, from near Stoddard Peak

A short, six-mile hike out of San Antonio Canyon, this one tops out at a modest 4,624 feet above sea level. This makes it a good winter hike, particularly if you can pick a day that's clear.

The trailhead is at the start of Barrett-Stoddard Road. In fact, most of the trek is ALONG Barrett-Stoddard Road. To get there from the west, you take the 210 freeway, exit at Baseline, make a left on to Baseline, then a quick right up Padua. Take Padua north to a traffic signal (about two miles), then make a right on Mt. Baldy Road. Follow this road up San Antonio Canyon. On the way, you'll pass through two tunnels. Stoddard Peak overlooks them both. In fact, if you were to stop at the small turnout just south of the first tunnel and look to your east, you'd be looking right up at Stoddard Peak. Or, put another way, when you get to Stoddard Peak, look down to your west and you'll see San Antonio Canyon, Mt. Baldy Road, and the two tunnels you drove through to get here.

Less than two miles after the tunnels, you'll see the streetpole with a sign indicating Barrett-Stoddard Road, to your right. Turn right there, then make a quick right, again. You'll go down what is essentially a driveway that soon turns back on itself and enters a small dirt parking area with room for about eight cars. If this area is full, you can pull through the parking area and make a sharp right (right in front of you as you turn, you'll face a small fenced-off area enclosing an SCE generating plant). The pavement ends, but in about 100 feet, you'll see a large barren clearing with room for plenty of cars.

Some vehicles (particularly high-clearance vehicles) continue on this dirt road for a little over half a mile and park near a locked gate. However, there is very limited parking up there, and some of that may be occupied by residents of cabins higher up the road. Regardless of where you park, you ought to have your Adventure Pass hanging from your rearview window.

Assuming you parked near the power plant, you want to follow the dirt road that heads east-southeast, NOT the old paved road that heads south. After a few hundred yards, you'll come to a bridge. On the bridge is a sign pasted on to the back of a road sign that says, "No Trespassing." It would seem to indicate that the road is private property, but it is not. The road IS open to public use, although, as noted earlier, there are some private cabins further up the road. There are other signs posted on trees off the road indicating no hunting and no fishing.

My Angeles National Forest map does not indicate inholdings nearby, so I'm pretty sure the no fishing part is just an effort by locals to keep the fish to themselves. I did notice several different people fishing in San Antonio Creek in this area. However, the no hunting part is consistent with forest policy in the area.

Continue along Barrett-Stoddard Road as you climb up and head to the southeast, rounding the bend of a hill. In less than a half-mile, you'll come to a fork in the road. The right fork has a sign that says, "Private Drive." You want to go left here.

In a few hundred yards, you'll pass near several small cabins. The one closest to the road looks a little like the place where the Weasley family in the Harry Potter books might live.

As you reach the first of these homes, the road crosses a creek (at least there was a creek there in March--it may be seasonal), then turns south. More cabins are to your right, and some parking areas are to your left. A few hundred more yards, and you come to a white gate.

Pass between the gate and the stone barrier, or duck under or climb over the gate. People and bikes can continue past.

There are plenty of oaks in this area, as well as some conifers, so your path is mostly shaded for another half-mile or so. But, eventually, you rise mostly out of the trees and into an area that was burned by the Williams Fire of several years ago. Looking back, you can see Mt. Baldy to the north.

About two miles into this hike, your path makes a sharp left turn, and you find yourself at Stoddard Flats. You quickly deduce this must be called Stoddard Flats because it's, well, relativley flat. Almost a meadow.

When you figure out you're at the Flats, you may also realize that you're no longer climbing, but descending. That's when you know you've gone too far.

Go back to just where the trail made its sharp left turn. In front of you is a faint trace of a trail heading into the brush. If you follow that path, you may see that the brush is not entirely impenetrable. It is far from open, however, and some of the plants have sharp points. You might wish you were wearing long pants.

This is where the trail that left Barrett-Stoddard Road heads up the hill. On the day I walked this trail, there was a small pile of rocks and a stick marking the point of entry into the brush:

From here, you follow the faint and broken trail steeply up the slope. This first hill has a clayish composition, with plenty of rocks embedded. It's pretty grippy and easy to scramble up the steep trace. When you reach the ridge, you continue more or less along the ridgeline, to the south. To your left, you can see Barrett-Stoddard Road continue below you, hugging the hills to your east, heading down towards Upland. To your right, you can see across and down into San Antonio Canyon. San Antonio Stream and Mt Baldy Road are down at the bottom. Hills and mountains (including Sunset Peak--see Hike 28) are higher up.

Meanwhile, your path runs up and down several hills. After the first one, most are pretty sandy. The second set of hills you reach feels like a summit. But when you get there, you'll look further to the south and note that the next hill has a metal stake sticking out of the top. You can't tell if it's any higher than the hill you're standing on, but, since it has the stake on top, you may conclude that the mountain with a marker on top is probably the actual peak.

When you get to Stoddard Peak, you've got a nice panorama. Baldy is to the north-northwest. Ontario Peak is to your northeast. Sunset Peak is across the Canyon to your west. On the day I was up here, haze mostly obscured eastern Los Angeles and western San Bernardino Counties to the south.

Return the way you came.

Mt. Baldy Road, at tunnels

Ontario Peak from near Stoddard Peak

Marker on top of Stoddard Peak, with Sunset Peak in the background

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Hike 33: Mount Wilson Trail to Bailey Canyon

[edited March 14, with some flower identifications added by checking this website:]
Wednesday, March 10. Coming from the south, there are about five trails up Mount Wilson. My third or so hike of this series was up the Old Mount Wilson Toll Road. I think that's the easiest way up, because it's wide and relatively consistent in its climb. Upper Winter Creek (from Chantry Flats) is the second way I went up. Sturdevant Creek (also out of Chantry) would be a third way up, and it was how I came down on that hike. The Rim Trail is a fourth way up, but it's currently closed as part of the Station Fire recovery order.

The fifth way up is the Mount Wilson Trail. It's the original way up, that the Gabrielino took, prior to the construction of the Toll Road. It's also the first way I went up Mount Wilson, over twenty-five years ago. But I hadn't been up recently, in part because the trail was closed for a while after the January rains.

Since I was just up Mount Wilson a few days previously, I didn't feel the need to go all the way back up, again. Instead, I figured on making it a shorter loop: Up the Mount Wilson Trail, then west on the Toll Road, then down the firebreak and into Bailey Canyon. That should be about five miles each way, except I took longer because I made a wrong turn on foot when I was back in Sierra Madre.

The Mount Wilson trailhead is north of Miramonte Ave, about 1/4 mile east of Baldwin Ave. The Bailey Canyon trailhead is off of Carter, about 1/2 mile west of Baldwin. If you're at Bailey Canyon Park and head east on Carter, it eventually runs into Miramonte, so walking between the two trailheads if you parked at one but came out of the mountains at the other is not a problem.

There's a small museum house at the corner of Miramonte and Mount Wilson trail. In front of the house is what I believe to be an eastern redbud tree. This week, it was in full bloom:

There is a limited amount of parking at the very bottom of Mount Wilson Trail (road). Most people park on Miramonte and walk up Mount Wilson Trail (road) to the actual trail.

Lots of flowers in the lower reaches. Most of the species are the same as at other recent hikes that I've posted about here. One new one was this yellowish gold flower, pictured below.

[western wallflower]

I saw this one only within about a 1/4 mile of First Water. This is the first major landmark along this trail, and the sign at the trialhead says it's 1.5 miles to First Water. There's a small stream that flows through here. In the old days, I guess you and your horse would drink up here. Nowadays, most people avoid drinking water from the mountains unless its been treated.

Other flowers I saw included this largish white flower and these bundles of purplish flowers on what looked to be some sort of oak tree. There were also these small purple "belly flower" I've photographed before.

[South coast morning glory]

The second major landmark along the Mount Wilson trail is "Orchard Camp," where a few stone walls indicate an old resort near here. The trailhead sign said this was 3.5 miles from the start. Which means this is (according to the sign) the halfway point between Sierra Madre and Mount Wilson.

Just before Orchard Camp, a huge oak tree is fallen across the trail. You can easily go under the tree, but it's such a huge tree I shudder to think at the sound it made when it fell.

From here, the trail climbs rather quickly. Before long, you break out of the oak canopy and find yourself making your way through a shrubs of Manzanita. At this point, you conclude you're nearing Mazanita Ridge. This area tends to be the steepest, and to feel the hottest in summer.

When you get to the actual ridge, you'll see a solid-looking bench, and another mileage sign. About 1/2 mile later, you've hit the Toll Road. The sign at the trailhead said this was 5.8 miles from your start. However, the sign at the junction says you still have 1.75 miles to Mount Wilson, which means the math from the top is inconsistent with the math fromt he bottom (a common occurance with these
signs in the Angeles).

Folks destined for Mount Wilson would turn right here, with just under 2 miles to go to the top. As for me, I headed left. It was just 1/2 mile or so to the firebreak (mentioned in the previous post). This day, I headed down the firebreak (it's pretty steep, but much of the dirt is soft enough to give you good traction on the way down.

I assumed the first peak you ran into was Hastings Peak, but there is no marker or other indication on this peak. By contrast, the second peak from the top (slightly lower) has a USGS marker, a cairn and other indications that this is the semi-named peak.

Down from this ridge, it's still steep. After 1/2 mile, you're at Jones Saddle. The sign in Bailey Canyon says it's 3.3 miles from Bailey Park to Jones Peak, so it should be about three miles from Jones Saddle to Bailey Canyon. Incidentally, just before you got down to Jones Saddle from Hastings Peak, you cross another junction, to the semi-official trail from Jones Saddle to the Mount Wilson Trail. That's the route down I took when I did my first Bailey Canyon Trip.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Rest of the Way to Mount Wilson

The last post took us to the Idlehour junction. After the closed Idlehour fork, the trail runs through a somewhat shaded area. In the winter, it was noticeably cooler here than it was back at Henninger.

The rest of the way, there are sections of the trail with a nice view to the west, and to the east. If there's snow in the mountains, it can look like you're a thousand miles from Los Angeles.

San Gabriel Peak

Mt. Baldy and First Quarter Moon

Backrange of the San Gabriel Mountains from the Toll Road

Other landmarks as you head up: About 2.25 miles from the top, you'll notice a firebreak coming up from the south (right). This provides an unofficial trail from Jones Saddle to the Mount Wilson Toll Road, passing over Hastings Peak along the way.

Firebreak to Jones Saddle. This and pictures above all taken within a few days of a significant snow event. Normally, snow isn't an issue on this hike, but it can be!

Jones Saddle is primarily accessed via the Bailey Canyon Trialhead. It's about three miles from Bailey Canyon Park to Jones Saddle. From the Saddle, you either go about a quarter of a mile up to Jones Peak, or you go a little over half a mile of sometimes-very steep climbing to the north, to the Toll Road. There's also a trail that drops from just north of the Saddle down to the Mount Wilson Trail.

Less than .25 miles after the intersection with the fireroad, you'll come across a large boulder blocking the toll road. Foot, bike, or horse traffic can make their way around the boulder.

Another 1/4 mile or so and you'll come across the junction with the Mount Wilson Trail, also coming in from the right. The trail mileage marker at this junction says it's 1.75 miles from Mount Wilson.

From here, you can tell you're getting close. You'll have Mount Harvard and its set of trasmmission towers to the right, but you'll soon be able to see Mount Wilson's solar observatories and tranmission towers in front of you. Once you put Harvard behind you, you'll be able to see the last stretch of the Toll Road running left, then right, to the summit. Just as you make it around Harvard (where the road forks, with one branch heading to Mount Wilson in front of you, and one heading the short distance to the peak of Mount Harvard, to your left), you'll also have the choice of a trail that leaves the Road and heads more directly to the Mount Wilson summit. It's at least 1/2 mile shorter if you take the trail, so you should take it unless snow and ice make that route dangerous.

If you take the trail, the trail reaches the summit in a large clearning/parking lot.

Just ahead of you, you'll see the pavilion that used to be (and may someday again be) a snack bar. Today, it's just some benches, with the pavilion providing you with some shielding against the elements.

There's a road that runs east-west, just norht of the pavilion. Follow the main road further east, and you soon pass the solar observatory towers, on your right. There's also an astronomy museum on the left side of the road. Then the 60-inch telescope dome, back on your right. Further along, the road curves to the left and runs right into the 100-inch telescope dome.

Just past the 60-inch telescope is where the Sturdevant Trail comes up from Big Santa Anita Canyon (Chantry Flats). That means if you come up from Chantry, you can make a nice loop through the top of the Mount Wilson by coming up the Winter Creek/Manzanita Ridge/Mount Wilson trail, then returning via the Sturdevant Trail, or vice versa.

However, if you came up from Eaton Canyon, you've pretty much got to return the way you came.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Henninger Flats, and a bit beyond

This is a continuation of my previous post, which started at the Eaton Canyon Nature Center, and took you to the bridge that's the start of the Toll Road, as well as to Eaton Canyon Falls.

If you're hiking to Henninger Flats and you started from Eaton Canyon Nature Center or the "halfway" access, there's a (signed) shortcut up to the Toll Road. It knocks off about 1/2 mile from your total distance.

If you're coming from Pinecrest, you need to walk the whole Toll Road, but you're already saved a mile from the nature center and a half-mile from the halfway point, anyway. Also, if you're riding a mountain bike, you need to access the Toll Road from Pinecrest, because bikes aren't supposed to be ridden along the parts of the trail before the Toll Road.

The road from here to Henninger has primarily southern exposure, so it can get pretty hot later in the year. The road also feels pretty steep in the earlier portions. It's steep enough that faster walkers may discover they can make it up to Henninger faster than slower mountain bikers (they'll beat you on the way down, of course). This shot, taken from the start of the Altadena Crest Trail, gives you an idea of how steeply the Toll Road rises from the floor of Eaton Canyon:

Because of the altitude gain, if it's clear, you'll have a great view to the south almost immediately. The towers of downtown should be easy. Ocean views will not be uncommon. If it's the afternoon, it'll be glowing orange. If it's late winter, you might have some wildflowers to admire on the way up.

There's only one mileage marker along the way. It'll tell you when you're 7/10ths of a mile from Henninger and two miles from. . . Where? I don't know if they're measuring it from the bridge or the nature center. It sure *seems* like it's from the bridge, because from there, it seems like you're about 2/3 of the way there and very close to Henninger. But that would make it 3.7 miles from the nature center. Is it that far? I suppose it might be.

From the 7/10ths marker, you can also see both your destination and pretty much the entire rest of your trail there.

Entering Henninger Flats, there's a sign on the side of the road, indicating you're entering an area managed by the Los Angeles County Fire Department's Division of Forestry. That's the sign pictured at the top of this post.

There are a number of picnic benches, flush toilets, a demonstration fire spotting tower, and a small museum. I get a kick out of the stuffed raccoon.

Incidentally, as you pass the toilets, there's a sign making a reference to Mt. Fuji. And if you look above and beyond the toilets, there is a hill that has a slight resembalance to the Japanese volcano. I'll have to take a picture of that and stick it here later.

You'll also get a clear view to the radio towers and solar observatory on top of Mount Wilson. They're still about four miles away by foot, but they're obviously closer than that as the crow flies.

Although there are several water fountains at Henninger Flats, they are currently signed as not potable, so you'll only be able to drink what you carried with you.

The road/trail continues north, through the Flats. There are a couple of spurs to the road that wind around the various campground sites (which, unfortunately, are not available for use).

As you leave the developed area, you'll see a large area with trees of various species and sizes. They're grown here and then transplanted where ever in the forest they are needed.

About a half-mile after you passed the toilet, there's another spur road, heading southwest, to a helipad. Perhaps a quarter-mile after this is an unsigned but very distinct trail that drops off to the left. I only noticed this trail on my last trip, and have not walked it. I don't know how far it goes or where, but I think it's the one that goes some of the water diversions that are used to water the "tree farm" at Henninger Flats.

Another half-mile or so takes you to the junction with the Idelhour trail, which is currently closed as part of the Station Fire recovery zone.

Note--Mileages are guestimated. Take them with a grain of salt.