Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Angeles Crest Highway Reopens?

This seems like it would be big news, but I have been having trouble finding stories confirming the reopening.

The Mt. Wilson Observatory says they are definitely expecting it to be open this weekend and are expecting a flood of eager curiosity seekers, so the Cosmic Cafe is scheduled to be open for the first three weekends in December.

I came across this Caltrans press release that seems to suggest the highway opened this morning. However, the issue date says 1/2010, which makes it odd.

The other stories about the road opening all seem to be from last year. So I don't know if the highway is now open, or will soon open. Either way, however, when the highway does open, it sounds like rock slides will be common and great care should be taken by motorist on the Angeles Crest Highway.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hike 104: Henninger Flats

Hiked Sunday, November 28.

Yeah, nothing new. But I had a friend visiting from out of town and we decided to meet someplace we both knew to take a little post-Thanksgiving hike.

The air was brisk, blowing like it often does in Autumn. That meant the skies were incredibly clear. Santa Catalina Island was easily visible, some 40 or 50 miles away. I could see ships out in the ocean. Closer to the mountains, I could see a bit of unnatural fall color among the trees along the streets and in the yards of Altadena and Pasadena. People were out walking their dogs and riding their bikes, or just walking. It was a good day to be out and about in southern California.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Oak Glen

I didn't bring my camera because I wasn't planning to do any walking. However, now I'm starting to think I should just keep my camera with me always (or get a phone that takes decent pictures).

My main reason for coming out here was to buy an apple pie for Thanksgiving. My wife and I are partial to Los Rios Rancho. They sell these humungous pies, filled with five pounds of apples. And their taste is as big as their appearance!

Oak Glen is easily accessible via the I-10. Exit at Yucaipa Road, head north/east about 3 1/2 miles, then turn left on Oak Glen Road. After passing by a huge regional park, Oak Glen Road crosses Bryant Road. To get to Oak Glen, continue straight. However, if you were to turn on left on Bryant Road, you'd hit CA-38 in about three miles. That's one of the main access routes into the San Bernardino National Forest. Angelus Oaks is about fourteen miles further on CA-38.

Meanwhile, if you were heading to Los Rios Rancho, you'd reach it about five miles east of Bryant. You'd also pass about two miles of other shops and working farms before you reached Los Rios.

The land is owned by The Wildlands Conservancy, which also owns several other lands in the state, including the Whitewater Preserve that I hiked on a number of months ago.

Oak Glen was gorgeous today. On the way up the mountain, I could see what I believe is Mt. San Gorgonio, snow covered and looking very inviting (but cold!). The peaks closer to Oak Glen (Wilshire Peak, Oak Glen Peak, etc) also had a dusting of snow. Meanwhile, the oak trees down in town had their rusted yellow tint of autumn. Especially with today's brisk weather, it felt very fall-like and very un-Los Angeles.

The view was so wonderful I just had to get out and walk a bit. There are several short trails around Los Rios, but even if you walk all of them, you'll cover no more than about 1.5 miles. So don't drive to Oak Glen for the hiking. Drive there for the apples. And the apple cider. But, especially, drive there for the pie. :D

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hike 103: Heaton Flats Trail

Hiked Monday, November 22.

Today's hike started at the end of the East Fork Road in the San Gabriel River Canyon. As yesterday, I took the 210 Freeway, exited at Azusa (CA-39), and headed north. About nine miles into the canyon, I again turned right on East Fork Road. However, this time, I took it all the way to the end.

There's a little bit of a tricky spot near the end. When you reach Glendora Mountain Road, the road makes a sharp hairpin turn to the right. If you stay on the "main" road, you'll be on GMR, and heading back down into the Basin. Instead, you need to make half of the hairpin turn, then make a left, across a lane of traffic, on the right side of a pine tree, to continue to the end of East Fork Road.

At the end of the paved road, there's a locked gate and a very large parking lot. Even on a weekday, many cars were parked there. I don't know how many were left by backpackers, how many by people camping near Heaton Flats, and how many by people practically living up here.

Pass around the locked gate and proceed 1/2 mile up stream. When you reach a bathroom, it's time to turn right. The trailhead sign is there. There was no wilderness self-permit material here, however. I assume now you need to get that at the San Gabriel Canyon entry station.

The sign at the trailhead says it's 1.2 miles to the Sheep Mountain Wilderness, 5 miles to Clearwater Saddle and 6.2 miles to Clearwater Canyon. That makes it a total of 1.7 miles from the parking lot to the Wilderness boundary one way, or 3.4 miles roundtrip. With a bit of extra wandering I did on the trails today, I probably did about 3.8 miles. Again, very short for me. However, the climb out of the East Fork is pretty steep, so it did get my heart pumping. Looking at the topo, it seems to be a 1,200 foot gain.

It's a little hard to be sure, however. If the Sheep Mountain Wilderness is accurately portrayed on my map (Tom Harrison Maps: Angeles High Country Trails), then it should be a good bit further than 1.2 miles from Heaton Flats trailhead to reach the Sheep Mountain Wilderness. Yet, there was the sign, from which it only took me about 30 minutes to get back to the trailhead sign (not my car).

In any event, from the area around the signed boundary of the Sheep Mountain Wilderness, there are some nice views east and west. To the west, I could clearly see the road cuts where Shoemaker Canyon Road ran, high above the north side of the East Fork. To the east, I could see up what I believe was Coldwater Canyon (a few aspen or cottonwood, narrow and yellow, were visible way down there).

I could also see a whole bunch of clouds, which obscured what I assume to be the top 3 or 4 thousand feet of West Baldy.

To the southeast, I could see Glendora Ridge Road, which connects with Glendora Mountain Road a bit south of where I stood and runs east, past Cow Cattle Saddle and all the way down to Mt. Baldy Village.

Along the way, I passed some colorful sycamore. I also took a few shots below the clouds that obscured the late afternoon sun, showing some of the ridges to the southwest. Despite the shortness of the hike, it felt good to get outside, and the views were definitely worth it. On a clearer day, I'll have to return this way with a wilderness permit so I can explore further to the east.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hike 102: Shoemaker Canyon

Hiked Friday, November 19.

I hadn't been on Dan Simpson's hiking page in a while, but I was poking around there a few days ago and saw a few in the San Gabriel Canyon. I wasn't sure which areas were open in the Canyon, but I figured I'd give it a try. Here's his write-up for Shoemaker Canyon, which sounded interesting to me.

To get to the trailhead, you take Azusa Avenue (CA-39) north from the 210 Freeway. You get to drive past the new Azusa Target store, which is built between the northbound and southbound lanes of CA-39. It's been open only a few months.

Shortly after the two directions are merged back together, you'll pass the entry station (San Gabriel Canyon Gateway Center), on the right. There's no gate here, like in a national park. Instead, you'd have to turn off the main road to get to the entry station. They have a small parking area in the back, and three or four long lanes that I assume are set up for vehicles with trailers to line up while they go inside. If you didn't already have one, you could buy an Adventure Pass here. They also have books, maps, stuffed animals, rocks, and assorted other stuff in there. I think the store is usually staffed by volunteers, although actual USFS employees probably work out of there, too.

In the back, there's a small planted area with signs, so you could learn some of the plants that grow in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Getting back on CA-39 north, you'll soon drive by the old Encanto, which used to be a restaurant but is now the headquarters for the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy, more commonly known as the RMC. The (San Gabriel?) Watershed Conservation Authority also has offices there, as may other agencies. I'm not sure.

Drive north on the canyon road for about nine miles, past the two big dams and reservoirs. At the tail end of the upper (San Gabriel) reservoir, the East Fork Road branches to the right (east--duh!). Just over three miles up the East Fork Road (past Burro Springs shooting area (on your left) and the defunct and closed Follows Camp (right), a sign on the right side of the road will announce that you are approaching Shoemaker Canyon Road, which will be on your left. Take that road up to the gate (about two miles) and park in the large parking area just south and east of the gate.

This hike itself is very straight-forward. You just walk around the gate, up the broad dirt road, until the path gets too hard to follow. For most people, that's about 2 1/2 miles away, just after the second tunnel.

What's that? Tunnel, you say? Yes, two large tunnels. The first seems to be about 400 yards long. The latter is about 250 yards long. Both are tall enough that an 18 wheeler could drive right through.

The entire hike is extremely heavily engineered. We're not talking about some path bladed clear by a tractor. In addition to the tunnels, there are several huge cuts through hills. If they're not 100 feet down, they're close to that.

Because of the heavy engineering, the path has a low slope. There were only two places where my heartbeat picked up some: Just before the first tunnel, then again in the area between the two tunnels. Otherwise, I felt I averaged about 3mph heading up, and 3.5mph heading down.

The USFS gives a distance of 5.5 miles round trip and 900 feet of elevation gain. I'm not sure what they consider the official turnaround point, since you can go beyond the second tunnel. Depending on how much scrambling and erosion you're willing to cause, you could probably go on for miles. I was only willing to go about .5 mile past the second tunnel, enough to get around the next serious point, then down to the next "bay," and a bit out again. I could have gone further, but I did not want to cause further erosion.

However, clearly people do push on. Signs of plant cuts and bends and a clear (albeit rough) trail continue quite a bit further than where I stopped.

It was cloudy when I went, so I couldn't see all the views that this hike would offer. But I was impressed by what I did see. Nice views up and down the East Fork, many tall peaks framed by road cuts or other peaks, and the sound of the roaring river when ever I peeked over the road shoulder to look down below. Near the start, you can look down on Heaton Flat. It's definitely a good reward for a pretty easy hike.

Because I continued past the second tunnel about .5 mile, and also took an alternate route around the second tunnel (on the use trail that skirts the mountain, so you get a better view down the gorge), I figure I did about six miles of walking this day, and a bit over the 900 feet of advertised elevation gain.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hike 101: Pineknot Trail (Aspen Glen to Grand View Point)

Hiked Tuesday, November 16.

No pictures for this hike: I forgot my camera! Also, although I took a number of shots with my cell phone, 1) Even when it works, the resolution there is horrible, and; 2) For some reason, today I had trouble moving pictures on to my micro SD card. The music on the card plays fine, but I could not move pictures down on to it, which means I can not move pictures from my phone on to my home computer, either.

I haven't hiked much in the San Bernardino Mountains, in part because they're pretty far away from home. From the junction of the 210 and 10 freeways, it's nearly an hour to the Big Bear area. I can get to Joshua Tree in just about the same amount of time.

Today's trailhead was at the Aspen Glen Picnic area. I took the 210 freeway far to the east (ironic that my last hike was to the far west end of the 210). Just after Highland Avenue, there's an exit for CA-330, to the Mountain Resorts. I took 330 north into the mountains. It's a pretty steep, pretty winding road. 330 terminates when it runs into CA-18, about 30 minutes after you left the 210.

After another 20 minutes or so, the 18 reaches the dam that holds back the waters of Big Bear Lake. Currently, there's construction going on at the dam, as well as at several points along the way to the dam. I waited about 10 minutes total at two different flagmen.

Once the flagman at the dam gave me the "Slow" sign, I proceeded along the southern shore of Big Bear Lake.

About one mile before reaching the official town of Big Bear (but after you have already passed many shops, lodges, etc), you'll approach the Hillcrest Lodge. They had a large, greenish sign in front of the lodge. Mill Creek Road is the first road after that. There should be a small sign at Mill Creek Road, probably a picture of a picnic table. That's where the trailhead is located.

Turn right on Mill Creek Road and go straight about 1/2 mile. The picnic area will be obvious and on your left. An Adventure Pass is required.

There are a number of picnic tables and a pit toilet. The trail starts on northeast corner of the lot (front left, if facing the street).

As the trail begins, it is clearly marked by 6x8 inch wooden markers on both sides of the road. After a 100 yards or so, the road splits. The Pineknot Trail (1E01) is the road that goes to the left. About 50 yards after turning left there, you'll pass a sign that says "Trail." Most of the signs for this trail just say "Trail." A few says "Grandview" or "GVL" for Grandview Loop trail. Most will just say 1E01 on the way in.

After about 1/2 mile, the trail drops towards a season creek. The broad and wide path is the one to follow. This gets only slightly tricky when you cross the creek, because if you are tempted to avoid the water, you might get yourself on a false trail that leads the wrong way. Just make sure you are heading generally southeasterly as you cross the water.

About 1 mile after the stream crossing, the trail will approach a patch of bare land that lies atop a small crest. From there, you can spy the far eastern end of Big Bear Lake. A few trails also come up to this crest, though I'm not sure where they come from.

Another 1/2 mile further and you'll get a decent view back to the marina of Big Bear Lake.

After that, the trail heads mostly southerly and you won't see the lake.

The trail generally levels off as it enters Deer Group Camp. There's a pit toilet there.

Maybe 1/2 mile after reaching the camp, the trail crosses road 2N10. There's an overlook here, and a trailhead for trail that heads from the rim three miles down towards highway 38. I don't recall the name of the trail, and, as I said, I can't view the pictures I took except on my cell phone, so I can't read the name of the trail).

From there, continue an additional 1/4 to your right, on up to the official Grandview Overlook. Nice view down into what I assume is the north fork of Mill Creek. It's a little confusing since Highway 38 was Mill Creek Road, and the road I took here near Big Bear is also Mill Creek Road. But there's a whole watershed between the two Mill Creek Roads! That's why I assume they're different forks. No names on the maps I have available, though.

All told, today's hike was supposed to be six miles roundtrip. I would estimate the altitude gain at around 500 feet. Decent workout, but probably among the easier half of the hikes I've taken this year.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hike 100: Wilson Canyon

Hiked Sunday, November 14.

The first 100 hikes of the year didn't exactly end with a bang. However, I decided I was not up for the Mt. Baldy trail, and I got too slow of a start to do Mt. Wilson. Besides, I've been up there about a half-dozen times this year, anyway.

Instead, I headed to someplace I had been to only once before: Wilson Canyon.

It's a bit of a drive: 210 freeway west, nearly to the 5. Exit Roxford Street, go north, and loop around to get on eastbound Olive View. There are numerous access points from near here into the San Gabriel Mountains. I chose the one just east of Olive View UCLA Medical Center. There's a signed access point to the Los Pinetos Trail that runs parallel to a drainage ditch (probably Wilson Creek), between Lots F and G.

Head north about 2000 feet. You'll pass several bridges that connect the lot on your right to the Medical Center, on your left. You'll also pass a helicopter landing area for the hospital (with a sign that says to wait until aircraft have cleared the area before proceeding) on your left, and the remnants of a miniature golf course on your right. After crossing Saranac Lane (gated just to your right), your path continues a short bit further north. Lot J is to your left. A dirt flood control structure is in front of you.

After passing Lot J, you then turn west. Chain link fences are on either side.

At last, your path leads you away from parking lots. You're then in a ravine, with burn-scarred oaks all around. Most are still growing. As your path takes you a bit higher, you leave the moisture of the ravine bottom and the oaks give way to chaparral. A couple of water tanks are on the hill to your left.

Head to the northwest. Several alternate trails will present themselves, and I'm pretty sure most wind up the same place. Your goal is simply to keep heading northwest until you run into a well-defined dirt road. This is Wilson Canyon Road, which is also known as Los Pinetos Trail.

As I said earlier, there are numerous alternative access points into the forest. If you keep heading north and west from anywhere between Olive View Medical Center and Hill Crest Avenue (which is a bit north of Olive View and west of the Medical Center), you'll eventually run into Wilson Canyon Road. If you're on a "major" trail, there'll probably be a sign announcing Los Pinetos Trail when you hit the road.

Although Wilson Canyon Road initially runs mostly northerly, it soon traces a looping path to the west. For about 1/2 mile, you're actually overlooking the next drainage over from Wilson Canyon. What looks like a bunch of old Army barracks are down below.

After that half-mile or so, you cross back over into the Wilson Canyon drainage. Far below, you might see a trail working up a ridge within Wilson Canyon. That should be Wilson Canyon Trail, which is much shorter and much more direct (and, therefore, must steeper) than the Wilson Canyon Road-Los Pinetos Trail approach. Both meet up at Wilson Canyon Saddle. Wilson Trail starts down in Wilson Canyon Park, a conservancy area with an entry road just a few hundred yards east of the start of the trail I took today to the Los Pinetos Trail. However, having peeked over the Wilson Canyon Trail, I really don't think it is a reasonable approach to get to the Saddle, particularly with Los Pinetos Trail as an alternative.

Today was extremely blustery as I started, and continued blowing hard until just before I reached the saddle. That meant great views the entire way up.

At the Saddle, there's a pit toilet and places to tie up your horses (I saw more people on horseback today than I did on mountain bikes). There's also two picnic tables on a grassy rise just west of the toilet. If it's not too hot and not too windy, it would be a nice place to stop and have a bite to eat and something to drink.

It's between 4.5 and 5.0 miles from Olive View to the Saddle (there's a sign at the saddle saying there's a locked gate 5 miles back down, so I'm extrapolating). Altitude gain is about 1,400 feet (My rough trail map has a 1,600 foot contour line above the trailhead, and a 3,000 foot contour line near the saddle).

From the saddle, there are several hiking options. The most obvious one (which I did the last time I was here), is to head straight north, across the dirt road (Santa Clara Road) that runs along the saddle). That sends you down Placerita Canyon Trail, which is also a continuation of the Los Pinetos Trail. After about three miles, you're in the Walker Ranch area of Placerita Canyon county park. Last time, after going down there, I also took the short trail from there up a side canyon to small waterfall.

Rather than going down Placerita Canyon trail again, I initially intended to head west a bit on Santa Clara Road to take the Mazanita Trail down into the western portion of Placerita Canyon. However, after traveling a short distance on Santa Clara Road, I was presented with another dirt road, heading up and towards the southwest. This road (forking left off of Santa Clara Road, and labled 3N64 at the first fork, and 3N64A when it forked again, towards the towers) led, after less than a mile, to a small cluster of microwave towers.

More outstanding views here. Far to the southeast, I had earlier (when I was further down) saw what I figured to be the Hollywood Hills, with an antenna on top of what I thought to be Mt. Lee (with the Hollywood sign on the opposite side). From near the microwave towers, I was higher, and there as a conveniently aligned notch in the hills, between which I could see the skyscrapers of Downtown Los Angeles, nearly 30 miles away.

Somewhat to the right and closer was Bob Hope Airport. The Santa Monica Mountains were further to the right. I'm pretty sure I was also looking clear over Palos Verdes and to Santa Catalina Island. I could definitely see the Santa Ana Mountains, way off to the southeast, and, of course, the San Gabriel Mountains extended to the east.

After shooting dozens of shots and soaking in the view, I started heading back down to Santa Clara Road, where I intended to look for the Mazanita Trail. On the way down, I stopped for more pictures. A gibbous moon was rising over the hills. It was sublime.

Upon reaching Santa Clara Road, it only took a few hundred yards of additional westward walking to reach what I assume to be the Mazanita Trail. No manzanitas to be seen, however. This area (and an uncomfortably large portion of what could be seen from up here) was burned over the past few years.

From the road, I saw what looked like it might be a sign further down on the trail, so I walked down a few hundred yards. It was a sign. Or, at least, a thick and tall wooden stake, with writing on it. It claimed a nature center was 1 1/2 miles down this trail. Funny. It looks longer than that on the map.

By now it was after 2pm and I wasn't sure if I had time to go down there and get back to the car before dark. So I returned east on Santa Clara Drive, then headed down Wilson Canyon Road.

On the way back, I found the same wide spot in the trail where I saw what looked to be a memorial of some kind. The stuffed bear was still there, albeit faded and fallen over. Another, smaller animal had been added. The glass candle holder was still there. But the rocks were more askew and the plants had somewhat overgrown the memorial. I still wonder what this was all about.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hike 99: Warren Peak

My initial plan for today was Eureka Peak, also out of the Black Rock Canyon area. However, a change of plans had me dropping a friend off at Casino Morongo on the way in. I needed to shorten my hike to accommodate my fellow-traveler and gas cost splitter. So I went with Warren Peak, which would still let me explore this section of Joshua Tree that I hadn't been to before.

From I-10, I took CA-62 to Yucca Valley. Once in Yucca Valley, I kept my eyes peeled for Joshua Tree Lane. I made a right at the well-signed corner.

From the main drag, Joshua Tree Lane quickly becomes a residential street, although the speed limit through much of the drive to the end of the road is 50mph. I have read it's five miles from CA-62 to the end of the road, and that sounds about right.

Joshua Tree Lane winds its way south and east before it t-bones into San Marino Drive. A sign points you to make a right here to get to Black Canyon campground. After a few hundred yards, the road makes a 90 degree turn to the left, where it becomes Black Rock Canyon Road. A 1/4 or so later, the road crosses a sign announcing that you are entering Black Rock Canyon campground. Immediately on the left, you might notice a small sign which is the backcountry self-registry for people planning to camp in the Joshua Tree backcountry. The permits are in a small metal mailbox-like container. Also in the container is a flyer with the trails heading out of Black Rock Canyon. (I didn't discover this until I was driving out of the area after my hike). This is where you'd park (if you could find room along the side of the road) if you were planning to hike the California Riding and Hiking Trail, or the Eureka Peak, Fault, or Short Loop trails.

Instead, I continued on the main road, eventually coming to a visitor center. Unfortunately, when I got there, the ranger was out making her rounds, so the VC was closed and I couldn't pick up a flyer or get additional info on my trail options. Fortunately, there was a map of the campground. I wasn't planning to camp, but the campground map had the handy feature of indicating where the trailheads were. It turns out the access to the Warren Peak (and Burnt Hill and Panorama Loop) trail was just pass campground #30. The map also showed me the numbered sites, so I could find Site 30. It also indicated a number of flush toilet/running water restrooms in the campground. Camping here is $15 a night, incidentally. But day use is free, even if it weren't a free public lands day.

From the camp-ground, I headed south. After what seemed like just a few hundred yards, the trail reached a dirt road. Ahead on the dirt road was a water tank. It looked like a use trail ran past the tank and to the right. However, the official trail was left (down the hill) on this dirt road about fifty yards. There, a sign indicated this was the West Side Loop trail. The West Side Loop trail is not marked on the NPS flyer or on the Joshua Tree pamphlet or newspaper the NPS hands out at entry stations, by the way. But it is marked on the National Geographic/Trails Illustrated map you can buy in the bookstore (as I said earlier, I couldn't do that until after I got back from my hike). Nonetheless, the trail marked on the Nat Geo map does NOT match reality. In reality, there is a trail that links the Warren Peak/Panorama Loop trail to the West Side Loop trail, but on the Nat Geo map, those trails are entirely separate but parallel.

So after a relatively short period on this West Side Loop trail, I came across a sign indicating the Panorama Loop and Warren Peak trails was now making a left turn, while the West Side Loop trial continued to the right.

My trail soon brought me into the thick of a relatively dense Joshua Tree forest (lots of Joshua Trees, though not particularly tall ones).

From here on, most of the trail was across a sandy wash bottom. In many areas, the wash was quite broad, although further up it became narrower. The Joshua tree forest also gives way to pinion pines and juniper.

The sandy footing made this a deceptively difficult hike--although your brain tells you you're walking more or less level and on a normal surface, you're actually climbing upward, and losing traction on the sandy wash floor. That means that by the time you've made it 2 1/2 miles to near Warren Peak, you (or at least, I) was wondering why I was feeling so tired after such a short walk.

Conversely, when I was walking back, the descending path was MUCH quicker than it was coming up. I forgot to take my cell phone with a clock, but I felt like I got back in under an hour (maintain 3 mph, once I got off the mountain). Total walking time was a bit under three hours.

There was one point along the way when I got off-trail. I thought I had reached the point where the Panorama Trail splits off from the Warren Peak trail, so I turned right. But I was wrong. This was a use trail I was on, which, after about 1/4 mile, ran into the West Loop trail, again. So I had to backtrack to get back on the Panorama Loop/Warren Peak Trail

Also, when I got to the top of Warren Peak, the NPS map and flyers indicate the trail ends. However, in real-life, a very well-defined trail continues to the north. I followed it about 2/10ths of a mile. It very well may eventually go all the way down to link with the West Side Loop trails, but that I didn't have time to investigate this possibility, since if I was wrong, I'd have to backtrack the entire distance back to Warren Peak.

From Warren Peak, there's a very expansive view. Beyond the foreground hills to the south, you overlook the Coachella Valley. Mt. San Jacinto stands tall on the other side of the valley (That's the picture at the top of this post).

To the west, beyond some steep canyons and foreground hills, there's Mt. San Gorgonio. To the north is Yucca Valley, and many deserty hills beyond that (That's the second picture in this post). The whole rest of Joshua Tree is to your east. I assume Eureka Peak is one of the peaks to the east, but I could not be sure which one. I'll find that out the next time I'm in the area.

Along much of the trail, either modern metal signs with white names and directions indicate directions, or old, thick wooden stakes with PL or WP or WV point the way. The wash does make it easy to be misled without the signage.

I'm not sure how much rain this area got in the last storms, but sections of the wash were moist. I even saw a small amount of standing water along the way.

Not much in the way of wildlife I saw, either. One shot of a bird. A number of other species were sighted, but I couldn't id them. Same with the lizards. Small and quick.

All told, this hike is supposed to be six miles roundtrip. But that distance is given from the backcountry register at the north end of the campground. Parking near the visitor center and heading out near campsite 30, it's got to be a little shorter. On the other hand, I did have my little detour when I accidentally left the Warren Peak trail. That, plus the little bit I added on to the end of the official trail at Warren Peak, means I probably did do a six mile hike.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Veterans Day is Another Free Public Lands Day

Well, folks, tomorrow's November 11--Veterans Day. It's also the last of a surprisingly large number of Free Federal Public Lands Days they've had this year. (One day in November, one day in September, plus that whole week we had back in April). That means normal entry fees to FEDERAL (not state or local) areas that charge a regular entry fee (national parks, national forests, select BLM areas, Army Corps of Engineers lands, national wildlife refuges, etc) are waived. If there's a specific additional special use fee (boat launch, camping, cave tour, etc), those still apply.

I'm debating where I might head to tomorrow. I REALLY wanted to go up to Zion this fall, but that's not a very feasible day trip from the LA area. To do that, I'd have to leave tonight and spend the night somewhere north of Las Vegas. And that would still mean either a ridiculous long drive tomorrow, or another night somewhere north of Las Vegas. Too cheap and poor to do that.

So more than likely, it will be another trip to Joshua Tree. I've been wanting to do something out of Black Rock Canyon (far northwest end of the park), although I'm not even sure if they normally charge an entry fee to access it from there. Maybe Eureka Peak. Still looking at other options.

That would be hike #99.

I would also still like to finally complete the Mt. Baldy Trail. Not sure if I have the endurance and daylight to finish that this year, but it would be a nice way to finish the first 100 hikes of the year.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hike 98: Sawpit Wash

This turned out to be a very short hike because Monrovia Park was closed and the trail to Monrovia Canyon Falls was also closed.

As I pulled out of my driveway this morning, I was still debating where I might go. I eventually settled on just driving north, thinking maybe Echo Mountain, again. It was a little after 8am as I headed north on San Gabriel Blvd.

For the second or third time in the last year, I realized as I approached Huntington that I shouldn't have come this way. There's a private school at the corner of Huntington and San Gabriel, and if you're passing this way around 8:30am, you're going to get stuck in some lousy traffic. D'oh!

As I approached the 210 freeway, Monrovia Canyon popped into my head. That was probably because there was a story in the local paper about Monrovia's new wilderness park acquisitions, which is going to undergo a CEQA scoping meeting next week.

So I decided on Monrovia Canyon. As I pulled on to the 210, I decided I would try something different. I exited on Mountain and headed north. After about two miles, you reach a stop sign, which is where Foothill runs into Mountain from the west. If you turn east there, you're on a small private road/driveway that soon runs into Sawpit Wash. It's a deadend, but that's where I wanted to go. I knew this trail was supposed to lead up to Monrovia Canyon Park, but I had never walked up this way. So, for variety, I figured, what the heck?

Heading north, I found the walk about as scenic as you would expect a walk along a concrete drainage ditch. Interestingly, however, on the other side of the chain link fence, I saw a deer, munching on some grass and leaves. Yep, no doubt: The deer in Monrovia are tame. I guess the bear are also pretty brave, since they're often taking baths in people's pools and saunas in Monrovia.

The path north from Fooothill crosses above Greystone Avenue, and under Norembega Road. The wash slowly bends to the north. As you approach the Sawpit Canyon Debris Basin, the trail crosses through a fence (one of those with a step-through hole that I suppose is supposed to keep motorcycles and minibikes out but allow people, horses, or mountain bikes to pass through), then heads up to Canyon Blvd. From there, you've got about 2,000 feet until you reach the main entrance for Monrovia Canyon Park.

I was planning to catch the short, 1.5 mile trail from there to the falls. However, the trail was closed, so I had to turn around.

I retraced my steps all the way back to my car. Total walking time was just over an hour. I grabbed a ballcap from my car (for shade) and continued south on the Sawpit Wash trail. It deadends at Lemon, only about 1/2 south of Foothill. I returned, again.

My guestimate is I covered between 3.5 and 4.0 miles for the day. Pretty short by hike standards, but something new.

Alone, this hike makes no sense to walk unless you already live near here and it's just a place to stretch your legs. But if you want to add 3-4 miles to the already-short hike to Monrovia Canyon Falls, this seems like a decent way to add to it. It's not very scenic, but it still gets you away from the cars for a while. Some horse properties adjoin the trail. Other properties have gone fully suburban.

There is on-street parking near the Lemon Avenue "trailhead," in addition to the Foothill "trailhead" that I started from. I didn't specifically look, but I assume there's on-street parking near Greystone or Norembega, too.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hike 97: Mt Wilson via Upper Winter Creek

Hiked Weds, Nov 3. I was thinking I might try to do the Mt. Baldy Trail, but I want to give myself a full 10 hours for that one. Since I wasn't ready to leave home until almost 9am yesterday, that would have left me about two hours short of my preferred time. Unfortunately, DST ends on Sunday, so that means a ten hour hike will need to start by 7am next week. That's going to be a little tough to make. But no traffic, I guess. :D

Instead, I settled for a longish but mostly shaded hike to Mt. Wilson. I think the Mt Wilson Trail is the toughest way up, especially when it's hot. So much of that trail is exposed to directly sunlight. Instead, I went up Big Santa Anita Canyon, which is the Chantry Flats trailhead. I also took the Upper Winter Creek trail, which I think has the smallest net altitude gain of any front country route up Wilson.

Chantry Flats is accessed by heading north on Santa Anita Avenue. You need an adventure pass to park there, and you need to arrive or leave between 6am and 8pm. Sierra Madre locks the gates between those times.

From the highest of the three tiers of parking at Chantry, head north, towards a paved but gated road. A sign there will indicate 7 miles to Mt. Wilson. The road will switchback several times before you reach another trailhead sign on your left. It will indicate 6.5 miles to Mt. Wilson.

The Upper Winter Creek trail climbs pretty briskly, and after another 1/2 mile or so you get a good overlook of the parking area, and on down Big Santa Anita Canyon. But once the trail twists around another bend, the route up was surprisingly shaded. With my dark glasses on, it was actually a little TOO dark. Lots of trees overhead, both coniferous and deciduous.

The path crosses several small seeps (they're creeks earlier in the season). No signage until you reach the fork of the Mt. Zion trail. That sign will indicate 4.5 miles more to Mt. Wilson, or 3.0 miles back to Chantry Flats. At this point, you might wonder why the total distance adds up to 7.5 miles, when the sign at the trailhead said it was only 7 miles to the bottom gate, or 6.5 miles to the trailhead that leaves the paved road. I can't help you, there.

If you want a shorter hike, take the right path to Mt. Zion. You can either do that as an in and back trip, or continue past Mt. Zion and take the Lower Winter Creek trail as a loop. I've done that at least a few times this year.

For the longer hike, turn left and begin your climb up towards Mt. Wilson and the Mt. Wilson trail.

As you approach a ridge line, the next sign is a bit mysterious. The actual sign used to direct you to make a left. Someone has since scribbled out those arrows and directs you to the right. It also indicates 3/4 of a mile to the Mt. Wilson Trail, 3 miles to Mt. Wilson, or 4 1/4 miles back to Chantry Flats. Again, the arithmetic may fail you. But more importantly is the direction to take at this sign.

The more-worn path (pictured here) is to the right, and it's the one I took the last few times I came to this area (despite the previous arrow). It's more shaded and not as steep as the alternative. But I'm quite confident that going this way is far longer than 3/4 of a mile to the Mt. Wilson Trail.

If, instead, at this sign you were to go left (where the arrow *used* to point), this is the path you'd follow. You'd have to duck a little to get under a bush that is about 50 yards past this point, overgrowing part of the trail. Once you duck under the bush, you're on the ridgeline.

I suspect you're supposed to just charge right along the ridgeline, along what is the remains of a firebreak. If you do, I can believe it's (a very difficult) 3/4 of a mile. If you take a less direct route, I think this path is also more than 3/4 of a mile to the Mt. Wilson Trail, but it's substantially shorter than if you went right at the previous sign.

Regardless of your path, you'll eventually reach a memorial bench. In the accompanying picture, there's the bench, and there's my backpack. If you turned left at the previous sign, you'd pop out from under the tree that's just past the bench. If you took the most direct firebreak route, you'd have come up from pretty much dead ahead, just right of the bench. If you got here via the Mt. Wilson trail (via Little Santa Anita Canyon), which begins a bit east of Baldwin Avenue, off of Mira Loma), you'd have run face-on into this bench. The trail mileage sign (below) would be facing right at you.

The sign at this bench says it's now 1/2 mile to the Toll Road, 2 1/4 mile to Mt. Wilson, 5 miles to Chantry Flats, or 5 1/2 miles to Sierra Madre via the Mt. Wilson Trail.

In other words, whether you got here via Upper Winter Creek or the Mt. Wilson trail, the route's the same from here. So keep going the next 1/2 mile, and you're at the Toll Road. That means, from that point forward, whether you came up via Upper Winter Creek, the Mt. Wilson trail, or Eaton Canyon, all three routes are the same from there on up.

The sign here says 1 3/4 to Mt. Wilson, 7 1/4 to Altadena (Eaton Canyon), 6 miles back to Sierra Madre via the Mt. Wilson Trail, or 5 1/2 back to Chantry Flats.

I may be over focusing on the signage here. But I'm just trying to make the point that, mileage-wise, Upper Winter Creek is supposed to be the shortest way, and it should have the smallest net altitude gain. The Toll Road is allegedly over a mile longer than the Mt. Wilson Trail and 1 3/4 miles longer than the Upper Winter Creek route. But because of the modest incline, I actually think it's the easiest way. Besides, you can knock off about one of those miles by beginning at Pine Crest Road rather than the Eaton Canyon Nature Center.

From here, it's an easy 1/2 mile or so as you round Mt. Harvard and reach a trail that splits off the road, right where the road to Mt. Harvard joins up with the Toll Road. It's about 1 mile along this trail, which deposits you on a parking lot in front of the big pavilion that now houses the Cosmic Cafe (open on weekends and holidays). Happily, the toilets behind the Cosmic Cafe are open everyday.

The bugs up top were unusually thick yesterday. I was swatting a number with every swish of my hand around my ear. Nonetheless, I pushed on. Having seen a sign near the pavilion for the Rim Trail and its short path to an overlook, I figured I'd check it out. I would actually have made an approach to Mt. Wilson via the Rim Trail already, but a sign down in Sturtevant Canyon a few months ago indicated the trail from there to Newcomb Pass and the Rim Trail was closed as part of the Station Fire recovery order.

Seeing no "trail closed" sign at the top end, I decided to walk the indicated .8 miles to the vista point. This short path was the buggiest, yet. It also gave me a look at the back side of the 100-inch dome and solar tower.

And it ran me near several of the smaller domes that house parts of CHARA (Center for High Angular Resolution Astronomy, operated by Georgia State University) a collection of six telescopes that work like one big telescope to examine individual stars more closely).

From the vista point, I also had a view into some of the fire-damaged areas (some of which can also be seen from the Echo Rock overlook, accessed via the Sturdevant Trail). The difference is that the Rim Trail vista point is further north, which gives better visual access to the San Gabriel Wilderness area and the West Fork of the San Gabriel River. In fact, I was actually able to see Cogswell Reservoir Dam, and that there's a fair amount of water behind the dam.

Although the burn picture makes things look pretty barren, in real-life I could seem some greening in several areas. They're not green like back East, but they're green for the end of summer in the San Gabriel Mountains. At least something is growing back.

All told, I walked about 16 miles yesterday: Between 14 and 14.5 miles on the Upper Winter Creek trail to Mt. Wilson, 1.6 miles RT on the Rim Trail to the vista point, and about .4 miles roundtrip to get from the end of the Mt. Wilson Trail to the start of the Rim Trail. That's assuming the signed mileage is in the ballpark of reality.