Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hike 2011.049 -- Petroglyph National Monument, NM

Hiked Monday, July 25. July 25 was a long day. I woke up in Albuquerque, hiked around Petroglyph National Monument, then drove all the way to Oklahoma City. Didn't get there until around 11pm local time. And it was still not far enough to easily reach my final destination the next night. From Albuquerque, Petroglyph National Monument is just to the northwest. Off of I-40, several portions of the national monument (including the visitor center) are located off of exit #154 (Unser Blvd). Head north 3 miles to Western Trail, then turn left into the visitor center. On the way to the visitor center, you pass the Rinconada trailhead, which is about a mile south of the VC. After my quick visit to the VC to get oriented and pick up some materials, I headed back to Rincondada for a short hike. This trailhead, like seemingly all of the ones in the monument, are open during daylight hours, only. That's to discourage vandalism. From the parking area, the trail heads into a broad canyon, with lava rocks pretty much covering the hills around the canyon. On those lava rocks were carved many historic petroglyphs, and many more recent scribblings. Not being trained, I can't necessarily tell one from the other. For example, on this picture, the face looks suspiciously like Mr. Bill, to me. I suspect most are not visible from the trail, but you're not supposed to walk on the lava rocks. From the trail, the visibility of petroglyphs depends on the angle the light strikes the rock. The same rock can appear barren or covered in markings, depending on the angle of the sun. Most rocks appear bare. One thing I saw a LOT of on my hike was millipedes. They were everywhere. Not sure if the rain the previous night is what brought them out, or if they're always that way. Other wildlife I saw were mostly lizards. I also saw a road runner, which was probably eating the lizards. He's right in the middle of this picture, though his plumage definitely helps him blend in to the rocks and grass! Ironically, not five minutes after I saw a roadrunner, I saw a drawing that looked like a roadrunner. I like to think that there's some strange spiritual connection between the person who carved the roadrunner, hundreds of years ago, and the roadrunners that still live in this canyon. Of course, it could be it's a non-ancient scribbling, and the drawing is of this actual roadrunner. :D This loop has an official distance of 2.2 miles. After I finished this loop, I headed to the Volcanoes section, which you would access by taking exit 149 north off of I-40 and driving about five miles north on Paseo del Volcan. Although the map shows the road as unpaved, it is actually paved until it reaches a small parking lot. It's on your right, shortly after you pass a sign for a shooting range (pointing to the left). A small parking lot and vault toilets are at the trailhead. During your drive towards the parking lot, you'll see the three volcanoes that this area is named for, off and to your right. They actually stand out better from a distance, when you are looking up, than they do when you're closer to their level and to the west. Looking west from your parking lot, the trail begins heading straight towards the southern-most volcano. Meanwhile, once you start on your trail and look to the north, here's what the other two volcanoes look like: Nonethe-less, even from here, it is clear that the, the northern-most volcano is the tallest. My plan was to take the 2 mile loop that goes around the southern two cones, then climb up the third one. It's distance is about two miles. That means total mileage for the NM monuments was 4.2 miles. From the west side of any of the three volcanoes (or even from the saddle between them), you have a view overlooking Albuquerque, with the Sandia Mountains in the background. Here, we're looking towards that saddle, with the Sandia Mountains in the background and some hikers on the saddle, heading north. Meanwhile, as you approach the northern volcano, here's what you'll see:And from the top of that volcano, here's the view looking back to the south: Although the picture somewhat flattens depth, it accurate presents that the two southern volcanoes practically disappear once you climb up the third one.

Hike 2011.048 -- Sunset Crater Volcano and Wupatki National Monuments, AZ

(Pictured: Lomaki Pueblo, Wupaki National Monument). Hiked on Sunday, July 24. This one's a bit of a cheat, since, even though I hiked pretty much all of the trails in both monuments, I don't think it was a cumulative three miles. If I had a bit more time, there are a number of longer trails on adjacent Forest Service lands that I could have walked to up my mileage, but I needed to get to Albuquerque that evening. Also, I walked an extra mile+ on Monday, so I'm going to carry the debit from Sunday into Monday. Boy, that line is going to cause some confusion! (Pictured: Along Lava Flow Trail, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument). Both Sunset Crater Volcano and Wupatki are located north of I-40, near Flagstaff, AZ. From I-40, take U.S. 89 north for 12 miles, then turn on to the Wupataki Loop Road. The loop road is 35 miles long, and passes through the two aforementioned national monuments. It then links up with U.S. 89, 15 miles north of where you started the loop. That makes it (duh) 62 miles of driving off of I-40, mostly at 45 mph or less. In other words, it's a 90 minute detour, even before you get out of the car. Take a few short hikes (with lots of pictures), and this is easily a 4-hour detour, which was somewhat longer than I intended. From U.S. 89, the entrance station is two miles down the Loop Road. A $5 entry fee (or free, with one of the various federal lands passes, or a Flagstaff-area park pass) gets you into both Wupatki and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monuments. The Sunset Crater visitor center is located just inside the entrance station. Shortly after the VC, the first trail (Lenox Crater Trail) is on the left. The parking area is on the right, overlooking an ancient pahoehoe (yes, that's a word) lava flow. The actual trail is short but steep, right up to the top of Lenox Crater. Trees line the trail and give you broken shade pretty much all the way up. It also shields your view to the north and east. From the top, the only clear views are about 120 degrees, from east of south to southwest. A clearly delineated dark area of ancient flows runs first south, then to the southwest. The San Francisco Peaks are in the distance. I returned the way I came, having covered all of about 1/4 mile. Steep and short. Next up (on your right) is the Lava Flow trail, an easy one mile loop that takes you nearer to base of Sunset Crater. Although a rather clear use trail heads up the mountain, the site is considered sacred and not open to general public use. Some of the local indigenous peoples have permission to conduct religious activities on the crater, but that's it. The next point of interest on the loop is a Cinder Hills overlook. No hike there. Just a little spur road that lets you look over and towards Sunset Crater volcano from the opposite end. Continuing along the loop eventually brings you to Wupatki National Monument. Shortly after entering, there's a two mile spur road to the Wukoki Pueblo. A short trail leads from the parking area to the ruins, which sit atop a rock outcropping. In fact, the rock outcropping is integrated into the structure, providing both a foundation and several walls for the pueblo. Meanwhile the walls of the pueblo are constructed of small boulders (sheets of the local limestone and sandstone, reddish in color, like much of the Southwest). Near twilight, the rocks light up a brilliant shade of orange. However, since I was there mid-day, the rocks were more subdued in color. Returning to the main road, the visitor's center is just north of the Wukoki spur. At the visitor's center, they'll check to make sure you have your receipt for the park before allowing you to pass through to the Wupatki Pueblo. A 1/2 mile loop runs around those ruins. Returning to the loop road, I passed the Citadel and Nalakihu Pueblos without stopping, and stopped at the trail for the Box Canyon dwellings and Lomaki Pueblo. Walking up the trail, then taking the spur to the two dwellings on either side of Box Canyon, then continuing on to Lomaki Pueblo, then returning, is about 1 mile. The Box Canyon dwellings are interesting because there is one on each side of the wash. Presumably, the residents of each planted their crops in the wash and prayed for rain (but not so much rain that it would wash away their crops). This was basically dry-land farming, relying on rainfall, with very small check dams to create small, seasonal puddles in the wash. They were really living on the edge from year to year, with frequent needs to walk ten miles or more to the nearest reliable surface water, and only small woven baskets or heavy ceremics to transport and store the water. Most of both Sunset Crater Volcano and Wupatki are closed to the public, either to preserve the sanctity of the mountain or to reduce visitor impacts on archeological resources. Even from the road, you can see some ruins that are not officially accessible. There are no doubt many, many, many more ruins within and along the other washes and rocky outcroppings hidden from such roadside viewing.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Coming Attractions

Too late to work on going through pictures and writing a real post, and not sure about tomorrow, either. Depends on how far I try to get.

Yesterday, the stress finally got to me and I decided I was better off leaving than just worrying about moving for another night. Left around 4pm, with the goal of Needles, CA (near the Arizona border). The rationale was that this would let me get to Sunset Crater and Wupaki National Monuments (near Flagstaff), walk the hikes, and still get to Albuquerque at a reasonable hour the next day. Getting to ABQ tonight means hiking around Petroglyph National Monument (just west of town), then hopefully getting to near Oklahoma City tomorrow (with a stop at the Cadillac Ranch, in Amarillo).

From there, it's a long day's drive to Murray, Kentucky. Also, I'm hoping to have time to stop at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site.

If things start looking too ambitious, I can scale this back and give myself another day, or just not stop every where I want to stop. I'll play it a bit by ear.

Anyway, think of this as a "coming attractions" preview for my next few posts!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hike 2011.047 -- Echo Mountain. Also, Lost Dog Found in Altadena

First thing I saw when I got to the trailhead this morning was this picture:

I was happy to discover it was a "Found" dog rather than a lost dog. So if by chance (an extremely small chance, I know) any of you know someone in Altadena (near Lake and Loma Alta) who has lost a very cute dog, point them to this poster!

Meanwhile, my time remaining before I need to drive off into the sunrise, and a (temporary) new Kentucky home is rapidly running out. Today was hike 47 for the year, hiked July 21.

It doesn't look like I'll have time for any long hikes. Likely, there won't be time for any more hikes, or if there is, just little 2-3 hour things nearby. If not for some car and computer issues I've been dealing with, I might even already be on the road.

Echo Mountain is a common morning or evening exercise hike for hundreds of folks in the area. It's an old favorite, so I figured I'd do that today.

Moderately strong marine layer in the morning, although the air above the cloud deck was actually pretty clear.

Plenty of scarlet larkspur, as well as Indian pink. No good photos of them, though.

Short, 2 or 2 1/2 hours, roundtrip. After I got back, I made a short detour up to the old mine entrance that's in the ravine north of the Sam Merrill trailhead. I also got a picture of a setting gibbous moon (and a large raptor, carving circles below the moon).

Monday, July 18, 2011

Hike 2011.046 -- Mt. Williamson from Islip Saddle

(View from summit, looking west). Hiked Sunday, July 17. I actually had another hike planned, but it appears the road to Buckhorn Camp is closed, and I was not sure if I could walk in. Probably could have, but it wasn't signed so I figured on passing for today. Might try accessing Cooper Canyon Falls from the Eagle's Roost picnic area next. Definitely running out of hiking opportunities, so it will have to be soon.

(View from summit, looking southwest). After passing on Buckhorn, I was thinking maybe Mt. Williamson. Nice hike because I figured I could not miss the trailhead. It's right where the old CA-39 intersected with the Angeles Crest Highway.

To get to the trailhead, take the 210 Freeway to the Angeles Crest Highway exit and head right (north). I did not precisely measure the distance, but I think the mileage markers were in the 50s by the time I got there. Figure on roughly 60 minutes of driving once you leave the freeway, and have a highway map to mark your progress.

Incidentally, there were two spots where the highway is one-lane, with a traffic light.

(View from summit, looking towards Mojave Desert). Pulled into the lot (on the left side of the road, opposite the CA-39 stub that intersects with the ACH), hung my Adventure Pass, and studied the map. I was a little confused, because there are two trails heading out of the northwest side of this lot. On the map, the one on the left is labeled as the Pacific Crest Trail, and you would follow that for 1.6 miles (according to my Tom Harrison map) before the trail to Mt. Williamson splits off, to your right. Meanwhile, the right trail on my map was labeled as being the South Fork trail, which heads down towards the Mojave Desert 5.2 miles to South Fork Camp. From there, it would be 2.2 miles further to Devil's Chair, in Devil's Punchbown County Park.

However, on the ground, there are currently (July 17, 2011) no mileage, destina-tion, or trail name signs on either of these two trails at Islip Saddle. What's more, the right trail (South Fork Trail) currently has several PCT shields at the trailhead, indicating THAT is the PCT (pictured above). Thing is, this detour is no longer the "official" PCT route. With the exception a a very brief detour near Mt. Pacifico, the PCT has returned to its former route through the Angeles National Forest. Of course, most through-hikers probably already know this, but I can still imagine a number of hikers taking an unnecessary detour as a result of this, and many day hikers wanting to go to Mt. Williamson being misled by the shields.

(View from summit, looking south). Quite a lot of prologue, but I think it's important to let you know that, while your map may accurately show you as taking the PCT towards Mt. Williamson, the shields on the ground will suggest the PCT is actually heading someplace else.

Once on the "real" PCT, heading north from the ACH, the path is pretty steep. As you begin your climb (and for much of the first 1.6 miles of this hike), you can look back towards your car, and see Mt. Islip, rising directly to your south. Incidentally, from Islip Saddle, had you crossed the highway and started up the trail on that side, you could have gone up to Windy Gap, then on to Mt. Islip or any of the peaks surrounding Crystal Lake.

However, today, I was heading towards Mt. Williamson. Starting at 6670, you're at 7900 feet above sea level just 1.6 miles later, when you're supposed to leave the PCT and take a spur trail to the right (north), to Mt. Williamson.

This spur is unsigned, however, so it could be easy to miss. The good news is that it is at a crest, so when your trail is not longer climbing (and, again, as of July 17, 2011, there are small PCT shield decals on plastic stakes facing either side as the ridgeline intersects the PCT here), it's time to make your right turn and pick your way through the manzanita bushes on your way to Mt. Williamson.

(Approach to Mt. Williamson summit). Several paths of equally apparent-correctness make their way up the steepest portion of the climb to the higher ridge line. From there, you trend northwardly 1/2 mile to the unmarked summit of Mt. Williamson. There are several false summits (meaning, "slight bumps in the ridge line) along the way. Near as I can tell, the "official" summit should be the last one, before the trail drops noticeably downward, and with a pretty open view in most directions. Some sections of this final run take a bit of care to negotiate.

Mt. Williamson, at 8214, is a bit under 1,600 feet above the trail head altitude. Good views in most directions, although other tall peaks in the San Gabriel "high country" partially obstruct some directions. For example, in the picture at the top of this post, only a sliver of the ridge line that includes Mt. Wilson is visible between a break in the foreground mountains.

This picture here is a close-up view through that notch. It's close enough that you can make out the antenna and observatory domes.

Once at the summit, I noticed a clear use trail making its way down this summit and up the next (lower) rise. With a bit of time, I decided to head down this steep and gravelly section, losing about two hundred feet elevation, in the process. Then I headed back up the next rise (another 100 feet or so altitude gain). There actually isn't much of a peak to this next rise, and I continued from the crest an additional 200 yards or so. From there, I could see the trail continuing down, then back up over NEXT little rise. But, with time running short (I needed to get my car started down the mountain by 3pm), I had to turn around then. Back along the flat portion, then down the 100 feet I just gained, then back up the north face of Mt. Williamson. The picture above was on my way back, looking at that north face.

On my return back up the north face of Mt. Williamson, I looked back and saw several large, and numerous small, metallic objects reflecting the sun back at me from the ravine to my north. Those are the remains of a plane crash from back in the 1960s. The pieces were more visible in real-life than they appear in this picture. In the picture, the largest piece (about 1/3 from the left, near center) appears as a white rock rather than the metallic reflection it actually was. The smaller pieces are nearly invisible in this shot, but are scattered below and to the right of the large piece.

An extremely faint use trail also makes its way to those remains, but I chose to let the dead rest in peace.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Hike 2011.045 -- Middle Altadena Crest Trail

Hiked Friday, July 15. I had originally planned a serious hike today, having had yesterday to rest up from my 11 1/2 mile or so adventure to Lewis Falls and South Mt. Hawkins. However, I forgot my wife and I had plans to see Harry Potter this morning. Then, after I got back, I was hungry and ate way too much for lunch. Too much fat, especially. So I wasn't up for a long hike. At the same time, I definitely wanted to get at least a little exercise to offset my caloric intake. Didn't want to just do Henninger Flats or Echo Mountain again, though.

Instead, I settled on the middle portion of the Altadena Crest Trail (ACT). I had hiked this section last year and thought I'd revisit it, to see if it had been extended westward any further.

This section starts near the corner of Lake and Loma Alta. From the gates of the Cobb Estate, head east. The Altadena Crest Trail crosses the Lower Sam Merrill Trail right at its start. Just when you get to the little ravine, you'll see several signs. If you go into the ravine and turn left, you're on the Sam Merrill. If you go into the ravine and go straight, then downstream, you're on the east section of the Altadena Crest Trail, and could take this all the way to Eaton Canyon (with a short section on surface streets).

To do the middle portion of the ACT, turn left just before you pass the drinking fountain at the edge of the ravine, and head uphill.

This trail heads more or less due north. If you continue about 1/3 mile, you'll reach a steel-covered reservoir. Extremely ambitious hikers occasionally continue straight up the hill after that. Others turn off to the right somewhat before the reservoir, and go into the ravine on your left. A trail will take you to a small waterfall, which is, unfortunately, defaced by the stupidity of SFB pinheads.

Another unfortun-ately is that the actual sign that would direct you off of the service road to the reservoir and on to the Alta-dena Crest trail fell down last year and has not been replaced. Basically, you just need to be looking on your left, and when you see a trail heading up and away, on your left, and at roughly a 120 degree angle from your direction of travel. That (currently unsigned) trail is the official ACT. Several informal access points are also possible with less climbing. However, since the only reason you'd take this segment of trail is to add some mileage to a too-short return from Echo Mountain or from the eastern ACT, or from the little trip to the reservoir or the waterfall, I'm giving the version that adds the most climbing and mileage.

The turn is before a water fountain that's under a tree, so if you come to this water fountain, you've gone too far. Of course, if you're coming from the uphill side, it's after the water fountain. The water fountain, incidentally, is well below the reservoir, so you definitely don't want to see the reservoir if your intent is to do the ACT.

From here, the trail heads southwest, giving you an overview of the Cobb Estate and views across the western San Gabriel Valley.

I saw some scarlet larkspur in the area, but my camera had trouble focusing on it. And, because of the strong sunlight from behind me, I could not easily see my lcd display to confirm the focus.

After a weaving and winding 1/2 mile or so, the trail drops down on to where Devonwood Road makes a sharp turn, from north-northwest to east southeast. At this point, the trail crosses Devenwood, then parallels it briefly before continuing to the west.

About 1,000 feet later, the trail crosses Canon Blvd. It then proceeds maybe 100 or 200 yards further before disappearing, near a section of private road called "Vinehill." There's an ACT sign indicating the trail makes a sharp right turn, but there is no obvious (or non-obvious) trail. Several faint trails seem to head into people's front or backyards, but none seemed likely to be actual public trails. So after a little exploring in the various directions to be sure I had lost the trail, I turned around.

When I got back to Canon, I just took it south, to Loma Alta. Heading east on Loma Alta, I came out near Loma Alta Elementary School. I was then surprised (again) by how quickly I got back to my car, at Lake and Loma Alta. The trail is obviously a much more weaving and scenic way of going a short distance.

Because it was only about an hour after I left and I was pretty sure I hadn't gone my requisite three miles, I continued past my car, headed back into the Cobb Estate, then made a loop among one of the paved roads in there, then back along a segment of the ACT heading to the east, then looped right back and got out.

Not much of a point to this hike, other than a stretch of the legs. At some point, it's supposed to continue west, eventually linking with the western portion of the ACT, which starts near the corner of Sunset Ridge and Loma Alta, heads generally northwesterly, crosses Chaney Trail, then peters out just 1/4 or so east of Chaney trail, near Alzada Drive.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hike 2011.044A -- Lewis Falls, Angeles National Forest, CA

Hiked Wednesday, July 13. After completing my hike to South Mt. Hawkins, I decided to try doing this Lewis Falls hike.

This is one of the waterfall hikes listed on an Angeles National Forest handout (if I could find a link to it, I'd put it in here, but I can't immediately find that link). However, directions on that handout are skimpy, to say the least. Still, between that and some Internet research, I knew the hike itself was supposed to be quite short, and I knew about where the trailhead should be. As I drove up to Crystal Lake, I saw numerous cars parked at one point, where I already suspected the trail began. On my return trip, I stopped, hiked, and confirmed this was the place for Lewis Falls.

To get to this trailhead from the city, take the 210 freeway, exit at Azusa, and head north, past East Fork Road, past the OHV parking area, past the West Fork parking area, past the trailhead for Upper Bear Creek trail, and past the Coldbrook camp area.

Continue driving northward, paying attention to the white mileage markers on the side of the road. At the 34.5 mile point, there is currently a rusted sand dispenser that Caltrans used in repairing CA-39. The road takes you around that structure, and continues climbing. After a relatively tight right turn, it straightens out, and you'll see the road heading towards a ravine before it makes a hairpin turn to the left. Look for parking at that hairpin turn, on your right. There are small turnouts with additional parking on the other side of the road, either above or below this area.

There's no sign indicating Lewis Falls at this parking area. There is only a "No Fires" sign. A relatively clear trail does head past that sign, into the ravine. It climbs somewhat steeply, then bends sharply to the right, away from the water. You're not far from the water, but you don't need to approach the water yet, which is good, because the vegetation near the water is extremely thick.

Instead, you keep climbing, eventually passing behind one of several mountain cabins along the way. Despite the close proximity to the cabin, the trail is not posted "No Trespassing." So whether this is public land or private land with a hiking easement, the trail is (with care) easy to follow.

In addition to the standing cabins, there are the foundations, rock walls, and other remnants suggesting a number of other cabins once stood here.

The vegetation is pretty thick even up here, but the trail has obviously been maintained. In one spot, however, walking along downed logs is the easiest way to proceed. After about 1/3 of a mile of this steep zig-zagging (which included passing by a healthy Humboldt Lily), the trail drops down to water level. I crossed where the trail seemed clearest, which included walking over a down tree. Then it was mostly on the left bank (when facing upstream). Not sure if I had to cross a few more times.

Finally, when I was getting to the point of thinking the falls should be here by now, I came to a narrow point in the ravine. A very large downed log crossed the stream, and led to the top of a large boulder. From there, the falls were visible, although still partially shielded. Sort of like Switzers Falls, this stream partially reversed direction as it falls, so the face of the falls is pointing slightly back towards the direction of flow. If I wasn't already tired from my hike to South Hawkins, I should probably have removed my shoes, again, and picked my way up the various pools below the falls, to get a more face-on view. Instead, I settled for the partially obscured view.

While I was there, three young men appeared to be doing some climbing down the ravine past and to the right of Lewis Falls. I didn't talk to them, so I don't know how far they went or what they saw. However, when they returned, they moved very quickly under the growth that was on the left side (when facing upstream) of the creek. Thus, where I crossed on the log, apparently it would be pretty easy to push under the vegetation along the left side, and get to the pool below the falls. From there, obviously, it would be easy to cross the pool and get a view of the falls from a more visible angle. But I was too tired to want to try that.

Water flow here is much greater than at any of the other falls I've visited recently. Also, the deep ravine is largely shaded, so this area felt a little like a rainforest. Columbine grew along one of the walls, and framed a relaxing scene.

Despite the short distance of this hike, you need to make several somewhat careful balancing and climbing maneuvers to navigate your way across and along the stream. As I often say, I'm short, uncoordinated and obese, so it's not THAT hard. But I do a lot of hiking, and I can recognize when I'm getting in over my head. More importantly, I'm willing to sound a retreat when that happens. If you go on this hike, be careful, and be willing to turn around without achieving your objective.