Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hike 2011.026 -- Puente Hills

Hiked Sunday, April 10. Given the coolish tempera-tures and my limited time, I figured the Puente Hills would be a good place to hike today. I started from the 7th Avenue trailhead in Hacienda Heights. It's at the far southern end of 7th Avenue. From the Pomona Freeway (CA-60), exit 7th Avenue and head south. About a mile south of the freeway (and after two stop signs), the 7th Avenue deadends with a stop sign at Orange Grove Avenue. There's a small parking area just north of Orange Grove, and a much larger parking area just south of Orange Grove (along the west side of 7th Avenue, at the back of an elementary school).

The parking lot has a nice display, with a plastic pocket that often holds maps for trails out of the 7th Avenue trailhead. However, it would not take much hiking to go off of this map, so you might want to print other maps from the Puente Hills Landfill Native Habitat Authority before you get here. Ideally, you'll have high speed Internet, or the downloads will take a while. Of course, nowadays, pretty much everyone has high speed.

From the gate, you have the choice of either walking up a gravel road or along the hardened walkway, just to the west of the road. The walkway feels a little more intimate, and you've got plenty of native plants to accompany your progress along this reconstructed drainage swale.

Today, I hiked along the walkway. California Poppies were blooming at several spots along the path, as well as sunflowers. At the fourth crossover of the swale (at .3 miles up, across from the beginning of the Coyote Trail), it looked like bees had taken up residence, so I detoured around them, then backtracked to the Coyote Trail. The map says it's 1.2 miles from there to the crest.

Plenty more flowers, especially a purple one I hadn't seen before. It was most common on the Coyote Trail in sections facing south. Didn't see much of it on the Ahwingna Trail, nor did I see it after I reached the top.

As I neared the top, a familiar but unknown "flag" flower was also common. I don't think I ever managed to identify that one last year, either. And, this year, I can't find my cd with the native flower pictures.

These flowers seem to be most common on the flat area atop the Puente Hills. I don't know if they're native or if they were planted as a dividing hedge and naturalized along the top.

From the crest, I worked my way a bit to the west before crossing through the chain link fence that I assume used to be a meaningful property line but now only serves to limit access points from one open area to another. Only after reaching this crest did I finally decide to head towards the large water tank to the southwest.

It's completely covered by graffiti, although several microwave antennas are attached to the top and appear in good working order. The tank is also empty. You can tell because when people bang on it with their hands or a Frisbee (and both seemed to happen quite often in the short time I was there), the sound is of a hollow metal drum.

From the tank, you've got a pretty good, 360 degree view. On a clear day, you can easily see Santa Catalina Island and the Pacific Ocean. Today was a little too hazy for that, although downtown L.A.'s skyscrapers looked pretty close. The snow capped mountains to the north also seemed pretty close. Meanwhile, closer and to the east and southeast was Turnbull Canyon Road. Much of the Puente Hills Landfill Native Habitat Authority land is off to the east from here, across Turnbull Canyon.

Next, I decided to head towards Rattlesnake Ridge, a trail that I've been on a few times before. The trail between the Ahwingna Trail that I took up from 7th Avenue and the Rattlesnake Ridge Trail I was heading to is apparently not an official one, and no mileage is given for the distance. I'd estimate it's close (but less than) one mile, so I'll call it .8 miles. Along the way, you spend a little bit of time on the Schabarum or Skyline Trail, but most of your time is spent on a dirt road that is unnamed on the Puente Hills Landfill Native Habitat Authority maps, but at least part of this road seems to be labeled as "Rose Hills No. 1 Fire Road" by Google Maps.

Eventually, however, you do come to a sign for the Sumac Trail. You may or may not eventually pass a sign for the Rattlesnake Ridge Trail Several of those signs were missing today, however. As I have noted in the past, it's a good idea to have these trail maps with you, since many junctions are either not signed, or have had the signs removed.

(On Google Maps, it looks like this entire path is named "Side Fire Road," "Tank Fire E Road," or, at the far west end, "Ridge Fire Road").

Since I've been here before, I had no trouble finding my way to the Rattlesnake Ridge trail. I enjoyed my views down to where Dark Canyon, Sycamore Canyon and Sycamore Switchback trails were. You also get some nice views over Rose Hills Memorial Park, although you're not as close as you would be if you took the Schabarum or Skyline trail to the west, instead. It's kind of cool here, because you can see from above the homes you could only see from below while walking in Sycamore Canyon.

Before the Rattlesnake Ridge trail begins a long decent to Grande Vista Drive, there's yet another water tank and antenna cluster. I could have sworn the figure on the water tank last year was a large blue bird, wearing a sash. However, this year, it's clearly just a blue fire hydrant, wearing a sash. I don't know if they repainted it or if my imagination was just more active last year.

There's also a pipe, trickling water into a bath tub. I assume this is for horses, though dogs obviously drink from it, as well. I suppose if an individual was patient enough, he or she could gather water as it drips out of the pipe. That could take a while, however.

At the very end of Rattlesnake Ridge trail, there's a low gate and an art deco water tank (again, with antennas attached). From there, the climb back up looks a little daunting. The other water tank you enjoyed the view from earlier also looks discouragingly far away. In reality, it's about two miles away.

So, back I headed: 1.6 miles, beginning with a serious altitude gain, on the Rattlesnake Ridge Trail. About .8 miles from the end of the Rattlesnake Ridge Trail, along a dirt road, past the other graffiti-covered water tank, then 1.3 miles back down on the Ahwingna Trail, to 7th Avenue. This was after the 1.5 miles on the Ahwingna and Coyote Trails on the way up, then the .8 miles to get to the Rattlesnake Ridge Trail, and the 1.6 miles on the Rattlesnake Ridge trail. All told, I estimate my mileage today at 7.6 miles.

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