Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hike 71--Mt Baldy Trail

Hiked Monday, June 28. If memory serves, this was my third time up this particular trail, but the first time I started it with the intent of going all the way to Mount Baldy. Unfortunately, I started a little late (about 11am), by which time it was already very warm.
I brought about 1/2 gallon of liquid to drink, but it wasn't enough. By the time I got to the last 3/4 mile or so of the trail (only about 1/2 mile past where I got the last time--and, incidentally, when I thought I got to within 1/2 mile of the summit last time, I was clearly wrong!), I was dragging slowly and down to about 12 ounces to drink. Since I go hiking to enjoy myself and not to experience misery, I decided I had better turnaround. Yes, I *could* have made it up to the top and back, but I would have come down feeling very dehydrated, extremely sore, and stumbling out in the dark.

Yep, no doubt about it: This trail is a real butt-kicker. It's steep even before you start the formal trail, while you're still walking up the paved, private road that runs from just south of the visitor center in Mt. Baldy Village. In fact, when you get off the pavement and cross the creek at the start of the actual trail, I'm convinced the incline actually decreases. It continues at that relatively (and I do mean, "relatively") easy incline to Bear Flats, at which point the incline increases, again.

Among the changes between this trip and my previous ones was that Bear Flats is now covered by a thick growth of ferns. My first time by, it was mostly barren. The second time, maybe some annual grasses. This time, it was green, green, green.
Oh, yeah, there were more bugs, too. Not nearly as bad as Sawpit Canyon last week, but enough to be an annoyance that everyone I spoke to on the hike (yeah, all three people or so!) commented on them. They flew into my ears two or three times, into my nose at least once, and into my mouth once or twice. But, as I said, they weren't as annoying as last week. I wore a hat with floppier brims, that covered my neck and partially covered my ears and cheeks. I think that made a big difference. There were also more flowers blooming this time than last time. On the part shortly after Bear Flat, where the trail climbs through burned-over manzanita and scrub oak, the splendid gilia created nice pockets of purple pretty much all the way up.

Once I got to the next "level" area (near the boundary for the Sheep Mountain Wilderness), the gilia gave way to lupine.

Above the lupine area, were a couple of other flowers. I think the first one was a large flowered phacelia. Well, I don't necessary think they were, but it's the closest match I could make. The other flower, I couldn't even find a likely suspect.
Nearing the top of my hike for the day, the views were also nice. The coastal layer to the south again created a nice "smokey mountain" look, with ridge after ridge of mountain peering above the haze (top picture in this post).
Meanwhile, looking to the east and north, minus the coastal haze, visibility was pretty good. In this shot, Telegraph Peak is in the foreground. Mount San Jacinto rises to the right, while Mount San Gorgonio is to the left. I'm pretty sure I'll be taking the aerial tramway up San Jacinto to do some hiking the next time I head out for dark sky astronomy in the Mojave Desert.
When I finally got back to my car, I was both thirsty and tired. I wasn't actually that hungry, even though I didn't eat anything since around 9:30am. I drove on down to Baseline Road in Claremont and turned west, looking for a 7-11. Didn't see one. After a few miles, I figured I wasn't going to find one. So I shifted to my alternative plan, of visiting Santana's in Pomona.

They're located on Foothill, at Garey (about midway between Towne and Fruit). I'm not sure if their food is objectively good, but I have a strange attraction to this place. Santana's is a small chain. Their other locations are out in the Mojave. The ones in the towns of Joshua Tree and Yucca Valley are both 24 hours, which means they're a welcome pit stop at the end of a long night of observing (on those nights when we observe from Joshua Tree National Park), or at the end of a long day of attempted-hiking or attempted-thrift-shopping.

Probably because I have such fond memories associated with some of those trips (if not necessarily directly to the restaurant's food), when I discovered they had opened a branch in Pomona, I got a little excited. (They also have branches in Palm Desert and Riverside).
One food I do particularly crave from here is their fish burrito. But, again, I don't know if it's their actual food, or the fact that I associated fish burritos with a dive-ish chain of Mexican food that's based in Tucson--Los Betos. They used to have a Friday fish burrito special that I used to enjoy when I visited my wife during the summer she worked in Tucson.

Yeah, I'm a lot like Chewbacca that way--Always thinking with my stomach. . . .

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hike 70: Eaton Canyon

Hiked Wednesday, June 23.

Since I knew I wasn't going to be hiking tomorrow, I wanted to get something in today. My initial plan was to try something big, but I got lazy and I was a little worried about my pinky toe. So I ended up waiting until "afternoon," when I thought it would be cooler. Figured on something shorter and easier. And, because it's the closest San Gabriel Mountains trailhead to my home, it was there that I went, again.

Even though I didn't leave home until about 4pm, my car thermometer said it was 86. And as I hiked up the Toll Road, I believed it. Hot, and sweaty. And buggy. Not as buggy as Sawpit Canyon was earlier in the week, but close. I think there are more flowers and more moisture in Sawpit Canyon, which probably explains the bugs. But I still got bit several times today.

From the Eaton Canyon Nature Center parking lot, I walked up the wash, crossed at the sign, continued up the east side of the wash, then took the steep "shortcut" to the toll road. About 2/3 of the way up that inclined, I started a large and angry rattlesnake. Couldn't manage any pictures, but, boy, did he shake his rattle!
And he had good cause. About a half-hour later, a large shadow passed over me. A raptor (probably a redtailed hawk, since I saw one on the way back down) swooped over me, wings sllightly tucked. A large snake dangled from his talons. Given the size of these birds, the snake was probably a four-footer, easy. The bird swooped down over a hill and into a canyon. Didn't see it when I got to where I could see in there, but I assume he/she either fed it to its young or found a convenient and protected tree branch to eat an early dinner. No way to know if that was the same rattle snake I saw earlier, but it was about the right size.

Didn't get a picture of the hawk with the snake, but I did get a descent shot of what was probably the same bird, just an hour or so later.

When I got to Henninger Flat, I went into the little museum up there. Mainly, that was to get a break from the buzzing insects that were driving me nuts. I took a picture of the collection of insulators because someone asked about them the last time I mentioned being up there.
I also noticed a soda machine, and noted the price (75 cents a can). I think maybe the next summer day I'm heading up this way, I'll have to carry some quarters. :D

I returned down the hill the "long" way, and took the 1-mile detour to see Eaton Canyon Falls. The water was way down from my last trip up here, and way, WAY down from back in March. It is once againa very easy walk. Nothing longer than a medium stride to get from one rock to the next as you cross the river.
By the time I got to the waterfall, the canyon had long since become shadowed. Exposures were kind of long. On the positive side, that means nicely blurred water. On the negative side, it means there's enough shake that the rest of the picture is very soft, too. But at snapshot dimensions, the latter blur is not too objectionable.

Total mileage for the day was about six miles. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Hike 69: M*A*S*H Hike

The set for the 1970s-1980s tv series, M*A*S*H, is located in Malibu Creek State Park. The route my wife and I took today more or less paralleled what seems to be the most common route, which is relatively easy and about 5.6 miles roundtrip. However, if someone wanted to get here with minimal hiking effort, there's an even shorter way. For example, when looking at this site, (which I didn't discover until after I got back), I see what looks to be a 1.5 mile round trip route from the other side.

Which ever route you take, this area is very scenic, with rolling hills, big oaks, mountain peaks, rocky outcroppings, and water features to keep you company the whole way. Porta-potties and picnic benches are also scattered along the way, usually under wonderful tree canopies to provide you with shade.
There have been several stories about this hike in the Los Angeles Times over the years. However, the most recent impetus for getting us to Malibu Creek was a segment in the tv series, Motion, which airs in Los Angeles on channel 7.2 on weekdays at 7:00p.m. (opposite Jeopardy! on channel 7.1--I often flip between the two). This is also where I got the idea for going to the Hollywood sign, way back when. To get to Malibu Creek, we headed "north" (actually, west) on the 101 freeway, west of the 134. We exited on Las Virgenes Canyon Drive, headed south a few miles, and turned right on to Mulholland Highway (there's a light there). Less than 1/4 mile west of Las Virgenes, the Grasslands trail crosses Mulholland. We parked on the north shoulder of Mulholland, just across from where the Grasslands trail heads south from Mulholland.

Had we instead continued south on Las Virgenes past Mulholland, the main entrance for Malibu Creek State Park would have been on our right. Entering and parking there would have given us access to flush toilets, drinking fountains, and a paved parking lot. It would probably also have saved us a half-mile or so of round trip walking, and removed one small altitude change between us and the destination. However, it would also have cost us $12. I generally don't mind paying a small fee to benefit a park, but I feel $12 for day use in a small park is excessive.

From Mulholland, the Grasslands trail is a dirt road that heads generally south, towards Malibu Creek. A sign at the trailhead said it was .7 miles to Crags Road. On the morning we were walking it, about four trucks hauling dirt passed us the other way. A pair of vans and several other trucks were shuttling people and equipment to some sort of commercial shoot in the park.
There's a slight rise (probably only about fifty feet) as you head south. The park's parking area will be to your left. As you reach a crest, there's a narrow trail that heads to your right, down across the grassy hill to Crags Road. I suspect it would knock off about 1/3 of a mile, but with a slightly steeper gradient. My wife voted to stay on the dirt road, which, after the appointed .7 miles, did hit Crags Road. From here, the sign indicated 2.1 miles to the M*A*S*H site.

After about 1/4 of a mile, you have the choice of either crossing Malibu Creek on your left then continuing along the south bank of the water, or sticking on the "High Road," which runs above the north side of the creek. The two routes reconnect less than 1/2 mile later. Although I suspect the low route is actually a little shorter, we stuck with the high route.
Just about where the two routes rejoin, we saw a trailer with a generator running. A sign from our trail pointed towards the trailer, with an indication that the park's visitor center was .1 mile that way. Given how short .1 mile is, I'm pretty sure the trailer was, in fact, the VC. A sign marker here also indicated it was another 1.5 miles to the M*A*S*H site.
Shortly after the trail merger, Crags Road began a bit of an incline (perhaps 100 feet here). This is the most significant altitude change along this route, but it's short enough that walkers shouldn't be slowed much. However, on our return trip, we noted that several weaker mountain bikers had to dismount here and walk their bikes up to the top.

At the top, a trail with an illegible sign veers off to the left. It takes a rather direct route to Century Lake, a small, artificial lake impounded by a small dam. Warm water species of fish live in this lake, and a fisherman who passed us on our way out seemed to think the fishing was pretty good (He seemed to be a catch and release fisherman).

From Crags Road, you catch only a glimpse of the dam and the far southern end of the lake. In addition to the steep, stepped route from the top of the crest here, there's a longer and more level approach to Century Lake, down the trail another 1/8 mile or so. I suspect mountain bikers take that route. As we paralleled Malibu Creek, I noticed what looked like a trio coniferous trees (I heard they were redwoods) growing at the base of the opposite canyon wall.

As we headed west, we passed a skinny guy heading the other way. As with everyone we passed that day, I shouted my hello. I did notice that this guy looked a little haggard, and sure enough: Rather than the usual return "Hello" or "How are you doing?" or what ever, he responded with a, "Do you have any water?"

I thought that was kind of weird, since the weather was mild (low-70s or upper-60s when we met him) and it was still early afternoon. Of course, I have no idea where he started from or where he was going, but given the time and location we crossed paths, being out of water and thirsty enough to ask for water would seem to have required an extraordinary lack of preparation.
Well, what ever. We handed him our little bottle of water (it started out with .5 liter, but we had drunk about half by this time). We still had our unopened 32 oz bottle of Powerade, which I figured would be way more than we'd need for this little hike.

Not long afterward, we reached a concrete bridge that crossed over Malibu Creek. We chatted with a couple there, who happened to be looking at a nice, fold-out map of the park area. It indicated it was now .6 mile to the M*A*S*H site.
This last bit of trail ran closer to the water, and was somewhat uneven. As opposed to a dirt road that a passenger car could easily drive over, this section would be a challenge for some mountain bikers. It's not that tough for walkers, but the little rocks that pop out of the ground can turn or stop the tire of the unwary.

Finally, as we reached a sign for a "Lost Cabin trail," we could see the replica of the sign with the distances from Korea to Toledo, Seoul, Death Valley, etc.

There were about five benches here, the rusted remnants of an ambulance and a jeep, and sticks with a string outlining where the set tents were located. As is often the case with Hollywood, the real thing covered much less space than you thought they would. Here's a shot from near the "helipad," looking down on the camp:
There were four signs at various places on the old set. Each photo had some information and a still from the show or from production. In each, you could look at the picture, then look above at the hills and mountains that were in the backgrounds of those pictures.
A small shed was also nearby, with additional pictures and show-related trivia.

We returned the way we came. Because I was able to coax my wife to join me on this walk, I got to enjoy her company, but the walk was also a lot slower than normal. By the time we got back, I was pretty thirsty and she was pretty sore. Still, we had some relaxation time together, and got to laugh about the things we saw along the way.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hike 68: Sawpit Canyon

Hiked Thursday, June 17. I ended up cutting this hike short; I just couldn't take the bugs! They seemed to get worse and worse as I approached Deer Park. Buzzed around my ears and face, and ocassionally bit me. Very unpleasant.

My initial plan was to hike from outside of Monrovia Canyon Park at least to White Saddle, via the road that is paved to the Boy Scout camp, then becomes dirt pretty much indefinitely into the Angeles National Forest. I had previously hiked the road from "Deer Park" (near the cabin) out of the park, on the exit portion of Hike 12 (January 27). I had also hiked from Duarte (Melcanyon) to White Saddle (Hike 17, Feb 7). However, it would appear I've never posted about eitehr of those hikes. I don't have time to post about them at the moment, but I will do so after I finish another job application.

Despite the plan to go at least to White Saddle, I ended up turning around where the Twin Springs trail meets the road. According to the signs on the trail, it's 2.8 miles from the "trailhead" (actually a fork in the road, with the main road heading towards Monrovia Canyon Falls and a private road, closed to cars but open to hikers and bikers, bears right, past Sawpit Canyon Dam and on to White Saddle and beyond). That makes it about 5.6 miles roundtrip. In addition, there's the distance from just south and west of where Monrovia Canyon Road heads towards the park, and the trailhead. I'm guessing that was about a mile, roundtrip.

The only nice thing about the hike was that flowers were blooming. Most were familiar by now: white cliff aster, yellow monkey flower, yellow mustard, red Indian pink. One new one was a very bright, red and pink flower. Looks to be related to some of the big lilies we get in the desert. They were prominent at the very start of the trail, which runs along the road, so they may not be native to the area. There were also these red and orange flowers, which I have seen before but have not yet tracked down a name.

[Edit--I have tentatively identified the flower below as a "Canyon Liveforever." The actual plant throwing up these flowers is hidden by the leafy plants above it.]

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I changed my blogger "name" to SkyHiker. I originally selected "site blogger" because I wanted something neutral, that would make sense for both of my blogs. However, then it looks funny when I post a comment on to someone else's blog.

I picked SkyHiker because it'll go with this hiking blog, as well as my rarely used and rarely viewed sidewalk astronomy blog.

Hike 67: Telegraph Peak

Hiked Tuesday, June 15. 12.5 miles. (Mileage is approximate--as with many trails, the signed mileage and the trail mileage doesn't always seem to add up or make sense--for example, the .25 signed mileage from the main trail to Timber Mountain seemed a whole lot shorter than the .25 signed mileage from the trail to Telegraph Peak, while the map mileage for the former is given as .2 miles, and the map mileage for the latter is .1 mile!).

I initially planned to do this hike last week, but my knee injury and assorted other demands kept me off the trail. Finally dragged myself on this hike yesterday. And I do mean dragged. Although the majority of this hike as a simple retrace of Hike 61--Timber Mountain the additional 4 miles seemed to make this one twice as hard.

Most of this hike is at 7,000 feet and above, so it's not surprising that this can be hard. Gaining and losing altitude in the thin air is very draining. And, as feared, the descent off of Timber Peak, down to a saddle, then back up to Telegraph Peak was a killer. Although I started the day thinking I might go on to Thunder Mountain, by the time I got to Telegraph Peak, that feeling was long gone. In addition to being beat, the view down from Telegrpah Peak on to Thunder Mountain made it seem like going down to Thunder would be anticlimactic.

The picture at the top of this post shows the view of Mount Baldy from Telegraph Peak. The flat area right of center is Thunder Mountain, which doesn't seem to be a mountain at all. Instead, it's a cleared area with a paved, private road to the top, designed to support the Baldy ski resort. I may walk up that paved road later in the week.

In the meantime, Hike 67 began around 10am. Within five minutes, I came across a small bear cub. All I have to show for that is a very fuzzy picture, which sort of reminds me of the sort we used to see when ever Big Foot was mentioned.

Although this cub was the size of a large dog, I was nervous. For one, there's always the fear of winding up between a mother bear and her cub. For two, this bear didn't seem too frightened of me. Living where he was, I guess he saw lots of people every day. I wouldn't be surprised if some people tossed him food. That's a recipe for disaster, for both bear and hiker.
After leaving the scrawny little bear behind, I snapped pictures of the late spring flowers. I identified these little purple ones as "splendid gilia." What a name, huh?

However, I could not find a positive i.d. for these orange and yellow ones. They look a little like Humboldt lily, but I did not notice if their petals had all of the markings of the Humboldt lily.

The most dramatic change since the May 21 hike to Timber Mountain was that pretty much all of the snow has melted. Today, I passed only one tiny patch on the way to Telegraph. A few small patches remained on Baldy, while, on the tall peaks to the south, snow was seen only in a few deep cracks. Although the ranger at the Mt Baldy Village station said snow would be a factor on the way to Ontario or Cucamonga Peaks, I really think those routes would be almost entirely snow free. If not already clear, it can't be more than a week more.

Baldy may take two weeks to be essentially entirely clear of snow, but I suspect one could make it to the top without crampons or ice axes, and without taking extraordinary risks. Nonetheless, I'll give it another week or two. :D

At the peak, the wind was howling to the north, meaning there must be low pressure out in the desert. I saw one very large dust devil, twirling on a dry lake bed to the north.

I-15 cut across the north, and the view down the Lytle Creek drainage looked pretty clear.

To the south, the mountains between here and Mt. Wilson and even beyond gave a nice "Great Smokey Mountains" look to that view.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hike 66: Whitewater Canyon Nature Preserve

Hiked Saturday, June 12.

I first heard about the Whitewater Canyon Nature Preserve from a Los Angeles Times article, back in mid-April. It sounded intriguing, particularly since I regularly drove by the Whitewater exit of I-10, and the idea of, not just *water*, but a raging river, out here in the middle of the desert sounded amazing.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make it there during the main wildflower season. Well, I guess I *could* have made it, but my free time coincided with fee-free national parks events, so I went to Joshua Tree NP, instead.

On Saturday, I was heading out to the desert, again. There's a relatively bright comet in the early morning skies, Comet McNaught. Being a long-time amateur astronomer, I often head out to the Mojave Desert to observe from a dark sky location. Nearly always, I just drive out there in the afternoon, do my observing, then either head back late at night or stay overnight and return the following morning. However, given the temperate weather and my six-week long itch to visit Whitewater, we (my wife and I) managed to leave before noon on Saturday. That put me at the trailhead around 1:30pm. Since the Whitewater Preserve is open until 5pm, this was early enough to permit a moderate hike.

Taking the I-10 eastbound, the Whitewater exit is several miles past the Casino Morongo develop-ment. It's also just before the CA-62 exit, which would take you through the Morongo Valley and on to the towns of Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree, and 29 Palms. You take the offramp for "Whitewater," turn left at the end of the ramp (on to Tipton Road). Tipton Road takes you over the freeway. Just before you reach the big rock company parking lot, you'll come to Whitewater Canyon Road, and a sign directing to make a left here to get to the nature preserve. You'll pass numerous residences along the way. Also, on this Saturday afternoon, a number of cars were parked along the road. Apparently, this is where many of the locals go to cool off on the weekends.

The road deadends at the place marked "trout farm" on Google Maps. This building is now the ranger station/visitor center/preserve headquarters for the Whitewater Preserve. Google maps still indicates a trace where Whitewater Canyon Road used to go, but that road was removed some time ago.

The preserve HQ is a beautiful building, set among trees and near a very imposing conglomerate cliff. The material looks similar to what you find at places like Vasquez Rocks and Devil's Punchbowl. It's compressed sedimentary material, composed of silt, clay, sand, pebbles, larger rocks, and large boulders, slowly built up over many, many years, then "cemented" together by its own weight.

Behind the park HQ building is a series of trout ponds. I guess they provide small containers of fish food for kids, and occasionally allow catch-and-release fishing by youth education program participants. Of course, the fish are very fat and not very streamlined. It's surprising that the water stays cool enough all year for the trout to survive.

On this Saturday, however, the temperatures were unusually mild (and humid). The mostly cloudy skies kept things comfortable, so, when I finally took off on my hike, all I brought was my camera.

The trail I took heads north from the HQ, where a moderately-sized pool provides wading for kids. There's a large rock with mileage markers for several destinations. Turns out it's 219.1 miles to Mexico and 2445.4 miles to Canada. It's also .5 miles to the Pacific Crest Trail, which explains why those mileages are mentioned. It astonishes me that they can be that precise with the trail distances.

Just past the rock with the distances, a pair of palm trees stand on either side of the trail. When I google-mapped the area before my trip, their shadows stood out clearly on the satellite image, so they seemed like old friends there to see me off on my walk.

Before you get to the junction with the PCT, the trail on this day was a little mushy. It wound between seeps and wetlands. Tadpoles were swimming right near the trail. Wooden bridges crossed the water at several places, while rock hopping was necessary at others. The crumbly cliff was right up against the water in some places. When the wind blew, you could hear the cliff eroding into the canyon.
At the PCT junction, another sign provided some direction. Turning left up the hills would place us on the southbound PCT. It would also have placed me on the Canyon View Loop. However, since I wasn't sure about my leg strength, yet, I kept on the mostly level path, which was also the northbound PCT.

The main wildflower bloom was long past. However, there were still some small flowers blooming (both yellow and purple). Datura (looking like Devil's trumpet) was also in bloom, as were the desert willows. The willows, in fact, were pretty much covered with blossoms.

Most of this trail is spent hugging the western (or southern) wall of this canyon. The broad wash stretched out to my right, ranging anywhere from several hundred yards to over 1/2 mile wide. Desert willow and yucca were common, as was a great deal of other greenery that I can't identify, but grew thicker where the water was. In other areas, only boulders, rocks, sand, silt and logs washed down from higher altitudes provided the cover.

About 1.5 miles after the PCT junction, I came to Red Dome. It's not marked at the site, but it is red and it is domed and there was nothing else like it along the way.
From there, the trail heads bears to the right, and crosses the wash. Intermittently, the trail is marked by signs, poles, rock piles or other indications of the way to go. However, because of shifts in the water course and the building and destruction of convenient crossing points, I suspect this part of the trail changes somewhat from year to year. Also, because it's a mostly-barren wash, it is crisscrossed with potential trail routes.

Near the middle of the wash, a tall stick, perhaps thirty feet tall, was held upright by a pile of rocks. It helped indicate the general path to the trail on the other side.

However, when I reached the water, there was no obvious crossing there. Of course, with a walking stick, one could cross the water at almost any point, provided one was willing to get wet. Also, later in the year, the water is probably much lower, and easier to cross.

Since I was not willing to get wet, I looked both ways, and saw a possible crossing point about 100 yards to my left (upstream). When I got there, my hope was confirmed. The only iffy part was that the two thin logs (possibly yucca stalks) that spanned about ten feet of the way were on the thin side. I was not completely sure if the thinner one would bear my weight. Fortunately, it did. But I would really not expect it to survive a whole season of crossings.

Once on the other side, I looked again for the trail. Against the hills on the other side, I saw a pole with colored tape wrapped partially around it and flapping in the breeze. Getting closer, I saw the familiar shield of the PCT. From there, the trail climbed pretty steeply, with multiple switchbacks.

I checked the time as I started up the hill. It was about 2:40pm. To provide myself with a margin for error, I planned to turn around at 3pm. I wasn't sure how long this climb would be, but I definitely wanted to make it to the crest of this hill. So I walked briskly up this hill, though still stopped occasionally for pictures.

The top of the hill was tinted green. Don't know if that means copper. Another nearby cliff had pink rocks sticking out. Down below, the brown annual grasses provided some relief against the white rocks of the wash bottom. More soft browns were on the hills across the Whitewater wash. As I climbed higher, Mount San Jacinto became more prominent, off to the south, rising high above the hills around Whitewater Canyon.

Nearing the top, I startled a horned lizard, which, nonetheless, stayed within photo range.

I made it to the crest around 3pm. Had I continued further, that would have taken me to West Fork of Mission Creek. Obviously, the PCT continues on to Canada from there. More reasonably, it also crosses a trail that runs along the West Fork. A left turn at that junction would have taken me to a Mount San Gorgonio Overlook. A right turn there would have taken me to Mission Creek Preserve, which is also managed by The Wildlands Conservancy that manages Whitewater Preserve, as well as a preserve in Oak Glen, and several other preserves that are not in what I would consider to be southern California.

I returned the way I came. In addition to re-startling the horned lizard, I also saw a squirrel, taking cover in some tree branches.

Atop the hill facing me, another dead tree provided an interesting sight.

A cactus also gave some perspective to the pass I just crested.

I got back to the car around 4:15pm. That left plenty of time to continue on our way, stop for dinner in Indio, and still get to our dark-sky observing site by 7pm.

Seeing was great and I got some nice views of the late spring sky, including our temporary visitor, Comet McNaught. But that's the topic of a different blog!