Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hike 2011.041 -- Sunset Ridge

(Pictured: Saucer Branch Falls). Hiked Tuesday, June 21. The first day of summer brought above-average temperatures into the San Gabriel Valley for the first time in quite a while. My plan, then, was to hike early and relatively short, so I would still be rested enough to get some work done in the afternoon.

The trailhead for this hike was above Altadena, off of Chaney Trail. To get there, I took the 210 freeway to Lake Avenue and headed north. Lake terminates in an L-turn, with the trailhead to the Sam Merrill Trail on the right and Loma Alta Drive heading off to your left. Approximately one mile east of Lake (about 1/3 of a mile after crossing Fair Oaks), a small and nondescript road called Chaney Trail heads off to the right. There is a street sign that gives the name of the street, but no indication that this road, unlike the others you've passed, heads into the Angeles National Forest.

Just over 1 mile north on Chaney Trail (which quickly becomes a narrow and winding, but still paved, road), and the road reaches what seems like a crest. A sharp left turn would keep you on Chaney Trail and take you down to the Millard Canyon picnic area. However, since the trail to the waterfall is still closed, there was no reason for me to drive down there.

Instead, I went straight where the road made the hairpin turn. About fifty yards in front of me was a locked gate, and 3 or 4 cars parked near (but not blocking) the gate.

I'm moderately sure an Adventure Pass is needed here, but it's possible you don't actually need it until you drive over the crest and down into the canyon. Also, today (June 21) was a fee-free day on all the federal lands that charged entrance fees. Nonetheless, since I already own an Adventure Pass, I hung it on my rear view mirror before leaving.

The road here at the gate was labeled as 2N50.

After 3/10ths of a mile up this paved road, two trails intersect the road. First (and less obviously if you're heading up hill), there's the dirt trail that came up from Millard Canyon, on your left. About 20 yards after that is a more obvious trail that also heads to the left. There's also a trailhead register right between these two trails, on the right side of the main road.

Either the paved road or the actual Sunset Ridge trail (12W18) actually take you to pretty much the same place, and in roughly the same distance. If you were on a mountain bike, it would therefore make sense to just keep riding up the pavement. Hikers might prefer the trail. It gives a better view of several waterfalls down in Millard Canyon.

The trail is somewhat narrow, and it's difficult to impossible to walk it without rubbing on the plants that line the way. Keep an eye out, because some (not a lot) of those plants are poison oak.

Plenty of flowers are still in bloom. Spanish broom seems the most common. I also saw phlox, primrose, scarlet larkspur, cliff aster, and several flower species I did not recognize.

About 1.5 miles after the second "trailhead," the Sunset Ridge Trail runs immediately adjacent to the paved road. If you get off the trail and make a hard right, you'll be in the midst of a picnic area, with several benches and pine trees to give you some shade. If you were to get on the pavement and turn left, you'd reach hit the same paved road you got off of 1.5 miles previously. You could return that way, or continue up the pavement, if so inclined.

If you stay on the trail, instead, it's another 2/3 of a mile or so until you reach the rail bed, just below The Cape of Good Hope. There are also potential routes from along the Sunset Ridge trail that would take you (the long way) to Switzers Falls, although I think those routes are still within the Station Fire closure order.

Once I reached Cape of Good Hope, I no longer had the motivation to continue towards Echo Mountain (That would have been an additional 1/2 mile according to the trail sign, or 8/10ths of a mile, according to my Tom Harrison map). It was getting warm and the bugs were starting to get on my nerves. Also, I've been to Echo Mountain often enough that I didn't feel the need to visit it again. Besides, as I said earlier, I had stuff I wanted to work on this afternoon and didn't want to get too tired hiking.

(Pictured: Millard Falls, from quite a distance). On a somewhat related note, I had a flurry of job-related contacts yesterday. The bottom line is I now have two phone interviews set for Thursday, and an in-person interview scheduled for next Tuesday. The bad news is that all three are far out of the local area, so a move would be involved, no matter what. Also, only one of the three is for a permanent position. Too convoluted to get into all the details, except to say that, from what I have been told, I'm a pretty good bet for one of the temporary positions, but one of many candidates for the other two jobs. Obviously, I'd prefer a permanent position to a temporary one, but I'm not sure if the guys hiring for the permanent position will be able to extend an offer before I'd have to say yes or no to the temporary position. Of course, I've been confident before, so it's definitely within the realm of possibility that none of the three will pan out.

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