Saturday, January 1, 2011

Hike 113: Water Canyon

My final hike of 2010 was on December 31, 2010. The trailhead was just north of Morris Dam. From the 210 freeway, exit at Azusa Ave (CA-39) and head north, into the canyon. At the mouth of the canyon, you pass the San Gabriel Canyon Gateway Center, on your right. Just two miles or so after the Discovery Center is the dam. The next wide spot on the right was across the highway from road 2N28, which Simpson says is named Silver Fish Road. On the Harrison map, the only indication on this road is that it leads into Water Canyon.

I wanted a relatively short hike for today, in the 3-5 mile range. But I had no real destination. To help keep it short, I traveled light--no water, no food. I probably shouldn't do that, because it limits your options. But I had to get back off the mountain pretty early and didn't want to be tempted into going too far.

Road 2N28 begins by heading north, slowly climbing, parallel to CA-39. About ten minutes up, there's your first good view of Morris Dam. There's a power line pole that holds the line in seemingly-arms reach, right in front of you.

If you go back to the road and just barely begin turning around the bend, you might notice a use trail that heads straight up the hill. Up there is a fire break. If you're wanting a short but steep hike, you can go up that way.

If you stay on 2N28, however, your route goes a bit further up stream before turning into Water Canyon. On this day, water was definitely flowing through Water Canyon. When the trail reaches the "end" of the canyon, things may get a little fuzzy. As far as I can tell, the correct route is to make a hairpin turn to your left. After about 100 feet, the road again becomes clear, doubling above and parallel to the route you just took in to the heart of Water Canyon. About 30-40 minutes after you stood at the Morris dam viewpoint on your route up, you'll find yourself much higher on that same ridge that was behind you when you ogled Morris Dam.

From the higher viewpoint, Morris Dam is no longer visible. The reservoir, however, is. On the 31st, the reservoir water was so muddy you could have almost plowed the water.

At this point, the road path becomes very indistinct. You can trace the road cut continuing along the side of the hill, but it is so overgrown that I turned around after only a few minutes. Instead, I went up the firebreak. As I said, it's the same firebreak that ends at the Morris Dam viewpoint, and continues on to a saddle, high above. For confirmation, just compared the picture at the top of this post (taken from the saddle) with the previous picture (taken where the road becomes indistinct and I started walking up the fire break).

The going here was so because of the steepness. Your legs can get scratched here very easily if you're not wearing long pants (I was not).

From the saddle top, you discover yourself in a grass-covered meadow. Views to the west (over Fish Canyon) to the north (to Silver Mountain), the the northeast (to Mt. Baldy), and to the east (over Morris Reservoir and the ridge that carries Glendora Ridge Road).

I walked south a bit from the saddle, to the first summit there. Further south was a slightly higher, greener summit. That would be summit 2843, which Simpson describes here. But I was too lazy to explore. I figured the view to the south in winter is going to be too glare-y, what with the low sun.

Time to head back. On the way back down to the saddle, I favored the west end, trying to see what I could that way. As a result, I overshot the ridge and fire break route back the way I came, so I had to go back up about five minutes.

From there, I headed down the ridge, intersecting 2N28 after about 20 minutes. Having enjoyed the view from higher up, I was pretty sure I could have continued along this ridge, past 2N28, to re-intersect with the road much further down the hill. It would have saved at least a mile (and probably 1.5 miles) each way. It would have been steeper, of course. But much shorter.

My estimated walking distance for the route I did take is between 6 and 7 miles, so I'll split the difference and say 6.5 miles roundtrip.

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