Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hike 2012.079 -- Bailey Canyon Trailhead to Cabin Foundation

Hiked Saturday, December 22. Two weeks since my previous hike, which is about as long as i can wait. Slow getting out of the house, and since I needed to get back relatively early to attend a family function, I knew I was going to want to hike something local and short.

Given the recent rains, thought I'd check out Bailey Canyon. Although the waterfall here is dry more often than not, it can be a cute little waterfall if the water is high. Also, if there's no water, there are several possible hikes on up the canyon, including the cabin foundation, Jones Saddle, Jones Peak, Hastings Peak, and even clear over into Little Santa Anita Canyon. But I was pretty sure my destination was just going to be the waterfall, then the cabin ruins.

The Bailey Canyon trailhead is in Bailey Canyon Park. You can get there by taking Baldwin Avenue north from the Foothill Freeway (I-210). If you're coming in from the east, go straight at the light and you're on Baldwin. If coming from the west, make a left at the light, then another left after you've passed under the freeway, then a quick right.

Continue on through a residential area, through downtown Sierra Madre, past several churches and more residential areas, then turn left on Carter Avenue. After a stop sign at Lima Avenue, the entrance is on your right, through a narrow gate. Note that this gate is basically locked from dusk to dawn, so don't park there if you aren't going to be back before dark.

There's a flush toilet and several drinking fountains in the picnic area near the parking lot. There's also a map and trailhead just north of the restroom.

The sign there said it was 2.2 miles to the cabin foundation.

Follow the trail a hundred yards or so to the northwest, and it passes through a turnstyle and on to an asphalt road. The road takes you above a detention dam, then descends a bit back down. Soon, you come to a small, no-longer-used parking area. A small rectangular sign has been blacked out, where it used to be handicapped parking.

Shortly thereafter, a small bridge crosses what will probably be a dry streambed. A nature trail with interpretive signs is over that way.

I continued straight, which also is supposed to be a nature trail. There are a few metal poles with numbers, but no interpretive signs this way.

Maybe 1/4 mile past the bridge, there's a turnoff sign indicating a waterfall 1/4 up the canyon, on your left. If there's significant water coming down beneath you, there's a fair chance of an actual flow of water coming up ahead. Otherwise, if it's dry, you'll be lucky to see a trickle.

Today, there was very little water here, and it turned out most of that was coming from a side stream and was not coming over the falls.

After the 1/4 mile of criss-crossing the mostly dry stream bed and passing through, under, and over the riparian growth, I was at the wall where Bailey Canyon Falls would be. Today, it would qualify as a slow trickle or a fast drip.

The only time I came here with a significant flow was last March. On other visits, it has either been very slightly more than today, or nothing at all. Nothing at all is the default case, probably 9 months out of the year.

I explored some near the base of the falls, then returned to the main trail and started up towards the cabin ruins.

The climb is steep here, as is the way along most of the path to Jones Saddle. However, you're quickly rewarded with a view up Jones Canyon (the picture at the top of this post), and down towards the monastery. Street trees were looking a little colorful today.

The trail eventually makes its way to the south a bit, where it reaches a ridge, then returns back into the hills. At the ridge, there's a very short (10 yard) detour to a bench where you could sit and enjoy the view.

There's no sign there, but I'm sort of assuming this must be MacCloud Saddle, which is signed at the trailhead as one mile from the start. This seems less than a mile, but there's no really obvious place between the start and the cabin foundation that seems like a saddle to me. Yes, a few places where the trail gets level, but it's all along a ridge, which does not seem like a saddle.

As you're walking along the ridge, you get several impressive views of canyon walls to either side of you. The San Gabriel Mountains rise steeply here.

More steep climbing, with a couple of places where a use trail is as well-defined as the actual trail. Then, the next level segment is when you're at "cabin level." The trail runs more or less flat as it heads towards a "V" where, if it's wet, water will spill down towards Bailey Canyon. I'm pretty sure this is where the water that enters Bailey Canyon from the side (not over the waterfall) comes from.

Once your exposed trail reaches the V, you're pretty much at the foundation. A short detour trail will make a hairpin entry from your left. The foundation is visible from the main trail as a short, two-sided rectangle, maybe four rocks tall. A large oak grows over the foundation. Frequently, water is flowing behind the foundation, though it was dry on this day. As a result, there was no water falling out of the "V" on approach.

I walked over to where the cabin once stood, peeked over to see there was no water flowing behind it, then returned the way I came. Just under six miles for the day.

It's raining, now, so I guess no hike for me today. My next chance will be after work on the 31st, when I'll probably be getting off early and have several hours (assuming it is dry) to squeeze in hike 80 for the year.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Hike 2012.078 -- Middle Fork Lytle Creek Waterfalls

Hiked Saturday, December 8. My first non-working Saturday in a while, which I scheduled for the express purpose of getting a weekly hike in, as long as the weather would cooperate.

Despite threatening weather earlier in the week, Saturday was clear enough to take a moderately long hike. I knew if the weather did cooperate, I was going to try heading out to the Middle Fork of Lytle Creek. I hiked this once before, in January of this year.

A few weeks ago, there was a comment on that earlier hike post about not being able to find the falls. So I reread my post, and realized that I had a direction mixed up. The directions were odd here because, unlike the Front Range of the San Gabriels, where I do most of my hiking, from Lytle Creek, going "up" meant going west and south. Elsewhere, "up" usually means north.

I wanted to verify my directions, so I decided to do this hike again.

Despite having hiked this trail only once before, my trek here was very familiar. So, unlike my first time, I made no wrong turns on my drive to the trailhead and on the trail, itself. There were a few times where I ended up having to walk further than I remembered, and where a year of weathering had changed some of the landmarks along the way. But, all in all, the hike went well.

You reach the trailhead by takng I-15 north to Sierra Highway. You exit there, and head west. Sierra Highway becomes Lytle Creek Road. Obtain your Wilderness Permit at the ranger station. Also, if you don't already have one, purchase your Adventure Pass there, too.

About 1.8 miles past the ranger station, Middle Fork Road is on your left. There's a sign saying it's three miles from there to the trailhead.

The pavement of Middle Lytle Fork Creek lasts less than 1/2 mile, as you pass between homes and, eventually, past a church. The rest of the way is a dirt road. The last time I was on that road, the going was so tough I wound up just parking at a wide spot in the road, about a mile from the end.

This time, I parked about 1/4 mile from the end of the pavement, where there's a large, flat parking area just down and to the left of the road.

That meant I had a bit over 2 miles of walking along a dirt road each way, in addition to the 5.2 miles or so I would have had to the waterfall and back.

From the parking area, you can look right up the wash and see a broad flood plain. Look down the wash and see it even wider, with several splashes of color where foliage was changing color.

The start of this hike was warm. Although the temperature was probably in the 60s, it was in full sun, with little shade. That's the case for essentially the entire dirt road section of the trail. It's wide and on the north side of the canyon, so there's no escaping the sun. In this section, I wished I had worn shorts and a short-sleeved shirt.

I walked deliberately up the dirt road, which climbed consistently on up towards the trailhead. Most areas seemed like they would be passable for my car. Only two areas looked tricky (including the last stretch up to the official trailhead parking). If I took it slow and didn't mind knocking my alignment out of whack, I'm pretty sure I'd have made it okay. However, only high clearance pickup trucks and SUVs were in the trailhead lot both when I arrived and when I left.

However, after passing reaching the trailhead and walking the first mile or so, the rest of the hike was in shade. The trail moved down towards the bottom of the canyon and the canyon itself had become narrower. In this section, I was happy I had decided to hike in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt.

There are only a few sections of this main section of trail where you need to pay careful attention. First, at the start of the trail, head off from the trailhead and resist the temptation to walk near the water way. Second, if at any point in the first mile, you find yourself rapidly descending towards the waterway, TURN AROUND. You missed a turn.

You may also take a few seconds when you reach a dry wash crossing in from the south. The trail is washed out for about fifteen yards by a wide path of rocks and sand. Scan the other side of the wash out and find your path on the other side.

Finally, when you reach "Third Crossing" (the first time on this hike where you will be crossing significant water, at least unless there's been a recent rain), you'll want to cross the stream, then begin heading downstream (east). You can either stick near the waterway, then turn north when you reach the fork coming in from your north, or head diagonally, to just west of what looks to me to be a limestone cliff. You would have seen this high and to your south as you were still on the main trail.

This side canyon is the one you want to go up. You'll have to cross the stream several times in the 1/4 mile or so you will need to pick upstream to where the lowest of several falls will curve into a pool. The second falls will be visible above that first one.

Some descriptions of the hike to these waterfalls would take you to the top of the highest of a series of falls. You'd need technical skills to make it down those upper falls to get to where you are standing now.

You will not need any technical skills to get to the base of the lowest of falls. But you might need to pick your way carefully. The rocks may be wet and slippery, particularly if the water is high. You might even find yourself needing to turn around, or else risk a significant fall into the water, or a willingness to walk through the pools that may be quite deep in spots.

On the two times I have come here, the water has been pretty low both times, so I haven't faced that problem. Can't speak to what it would be like during the spring melt, but I imagine quite tricky.

I returned the way I came. Figure about nine miles and 2400 feet or so of elevation gain for the day. That was last Saturday. I sure wish I had done a hike today, but I got lazy. Should still be able to reach 80 for the year, though. It's not 100, but it's all I could manage, with my current work load.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Hike 2012.077 -- Eaton Canyon Falls

Hiked Saturday, December 1, 2012. Wow, I just saw that this hike was taken 9 days after the previous one! Too many working weekends, I guess. This month, I've given myself Saturdays off. Fewer hours of working so less money, but hopefully time for at least one hike a week. Should make 80 hikes for the year, anyway.

Recent rains meant the water would be running slightly higher than earlier in the year. And, again, I had just a little bit of time, so a short hike made sense. It being a weekend, I parked on Altadena Drive, just in case the lot by the nature center was full. I walked the trail that passes behind the nature center. This probably adds 1/4 to 1/2 of a mile roundtrip to the trip to Eaton Canyon Falls. Figure about 4 miles roundtrip, or maybe 4.5 miles.

The walk-in from the "back door" gives a different perspec-tive: no parking lot and no row of cars at the start of the hike. Sure, you'll still have plenty of company once you rejoin the main trail. But it really does seem like a different hike when you don't have to walk through the large parking lot down there.

Just north of the developed nature center area, the trail drops down and crosses Eaton Canyon Wash. When the water is running high, even this crossing can be impassable. However, more likely that not, there will either be no water or very little water making it this far down the canyon. This day was no different: no water.

The trail then continues on the east bank of the wash, passing under a number of large oak trees, many of which were scarred by past fires. At least two signed side canyons will be passed on your right side before the trail reaches the bridge of the old Mt. Wilson Toll Road. To get to the waterfall, you pass under the bridge (about one mile from the parking lot) and continue an additional 1/2 mile up the now-narrow Eaton Canyon.

The trail stays on the canyon floor, crossing the water several times. Many unprepared hikers choose to climb out of the canyon each year, with frequent falls, injuries, deaths, and emergency evacuations resulting. I absolutely do not recommend trying to find an off-trail route to the top of the waterfall.

Instead, after several crossings (which require at least average balance and dexterity in times of low water, and above average grace and nerves when the water is roaring high), you arrive at a small alcove, into which Eaton Canyon Falls descends. The water can range from a trickle to a torrent, depending on season and recent falls of snow or rain.

This day, it was running above average for this time of year. It was a peaceful scene, and not all the crowded, despite it being a weekend morning. As with other recent hikes in the local foothills and canyons, there were some patches of yellow from sycamore leaves to give a hint of fall to the scene.

The canyon, meanwhile, was somewhat dark. The high cliffs of the canyon, in combination with the overcast skies, kept things at a sort of twilight brightness. Taking photos required either a high ISO or a slow shutter speed. Since I like the soft veil effect you get from longer exposures of falling water, I took many shots of the falls with my camera held snugly and carefully on top of my backpack, which was on top of a rock. With this makeshift tripod, I mostly shot in the 1/5 to 1/2 second range at ISO 200 and a moderate aperture, and was happy with the results.

Returned the way I came. It's an easy two hour hike, even with lots of time for pictures and relaxing.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Hike 2012.076 -- Sunset Ridge, Above Altadena

Hiked Thursday, November 22. I started my Thanks-giving Day with a shortish hike. I had also hiked the day before, but both were after nearly a week of inactivity. Unfortunately, it was also to be another week after this hike before I got out on the trail, again.

My initial goal was just to do Echo Mountain, again. However, parked cars lined Lake and Loma Alta, so I turned west when I reached Loma Alta, and decided I'd head over to Millard Canyon. I had once previously hiked from the ridge near Millard Canyon on the upper Sunset Ridge trail, on over to the Mt. Lowe Road. That was my plan on this day, too.

However, upon reaching the crest, the parking area was looking pretty full. Silly to think I would find parking on a day like this, I guess.

So I drove on down the other side of the ridge, where the road ends in the parking area for Millard Campground. The campground is actually open, now. However, the trail up Millard Canyon to the waterfall is still closed. That's a shame, since it is among the last easily accessible waterfalls on the front range of the San Gabriel Mountains that I have never been close to. I have only seen it from a distance, and that fact was not going to get changed on this day, either.

From the parking lot, a gated dirt road parallels a small stream and leads you towards the camp area. An extremely smelly restroom building is there, but there is no potable water. If you decide to picnic in this little hollow, bring what ever it is you plan to drink with your lunch with you.

About 100 yards from the parking lot (maybe less) is a sign that points towards the waterfall trail. I walked the additional 50 or 60 yards in that direction to confirm that the waterfall trail was still closed. Then I backtracked to the Sunset Ridge trail, which climbs out of the hollow and on up to Mt. Lowe Road. The trailhead sign there says it's .8 miles to Mt. Lowe Road, and 3.3 miles to Echo Mountain Trail (It would be another mile or so from there to Echo Mountain).

The switchbacks climbed swiftly, but I took it easy and the walk was quick. I did have to dodge a number of mountain bikers, however.

Once on Mt. Lowe Road, you turn left (uphill). After maybe 2/10ths of a mile, the Sunset Ridge Trail drops off from the road, heading to the left. The paved road continues straight ahead. Both meet up again another 2 miles or so ahead. However, the trail is definitely more scenic than the road.

There are nice views looking up and down Millard Canyon. Higher peaks are to your north.

There are also several waterfalls to view on the way up. The water flow on both I saw was very low, however. Also, Millard Falls itself was in shadow, and hardly visible on my way up. It stood out nicely on the way back, however. So the shots I included with this post were actually snapped on my return leg, when the sun was lighting up the falls nicely.

A sycamore stood at the top and bottom of the falls. Both hung on to about 1/5 of their leaves, all looking golden yellow.

Not long after passing the first waterfall, a cabin is down on your left. I am told that there's a trail there that would take you down to the stream, where you could work your way down towards the lip of the falls. There's no real view of the falls from here, however.

A bit further on, another series of waterfalls come down from the west. The last time I hiked here, the water was running pretty good, but, today, it was just enough to keep the algae green. ;D

This, despite the recent rains.

The watershed for this waterfall seemed pretty small, however, so I suspect it only roars immediately after a rain.

Nice views up Millard Canyon from here, though.

This, despite the recent rains. There were even a few flowers blooming, though they were far between. The ferns looked happy, though. Also, in a few spots, fresh growths of green grasses lined the single-track trail. You could almost pretend this was someplace besides the San Gabriel Mountains.

At least, until you break out from under the trees. Then the crumbly rocks and brownish hillsides, and haze to the south made this look exactly like the San Gabriel Mountains!

When the trail rejoins Mt. Lowe Road, you're within about 100 yards of the Echo Mountain trail, and under a mile to get to Echo Mountain, itself. However, since I've walked that trail before, I didn't bother crossing Mt. Lowe Road. I just snapped a few more shots, then returned the way I came.

The sign at this side of the trail said 3.3 miles back to Millard Camp-ground. But it was a quick 3.3 miles. Made it back to my car, and drove on back home with plenty of time to get ready for T-day with the family.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Hike 2012.075 -- Griffith Park -- PaDATL Trail, Bill Eckert Trail, Vista del Valle, Five Points and Fern Canyon Trail.

Hiked Wednesday, November 21. Occasionally, before a big holiday event, we get let off a little bit early. Since I already have an early shift, sometimes that doesn't really help me much. Today, the bosses decided to make it an even half-shift for everyone, so the folks who start early and/or have an eight-hour shift got a proportionate amount of time off. That meant I could get a nice early start on to my "holiday."

So, by very early in the afternoon, I was pulling into Griffith Park, getting ready for my latest hike. The trees in the lot had turned even more orange than they had been the week before.

From this lot, there are several trails. It was the same trail head I have used twice previously: the parking lot that's just south of the merry-go-round. From the Golden State Freeway (I-5), I exited at Los Feliz, headed west, then turned right (north) on Griffith Park Blvd. After about a mile, you reach the ranger station/visitor center area. There, I turned left, towards the merry-go-round area. I parked in the southernmost lot, which is where several trails begin.

I've noticed that I tend to be very systematic about my hiking some-times, returning several times in succession when there's a set of trails I'm trying to "do." In this case, the goal was to hike the Old Zoo area. In previous hikes, I got on The Old Zoo Trail, but it turns out that The Old Zoo Trail runs along ridge above the Old Zoo, and does not actually drop down into the actual zoo, itself.

Today, I started out by walking along the parking lot, due north, towards the Old Zoo picnic area. Once there, I walked to the left. A fair incline takes you along a slew of cage areas where zoo animals once lived. You also have some nice views up at Bee Rock.

Facing the cages is an access road, and across the access road is a large field. Picnic tables are scattered around the area, including within rock enclosures that once held zoo animals.

On the eastern end of this clearing is a restroom. Unlike many other restrooms in the park, this one has locking doors that would give you some privacy. However, the toilets are still prison-type toilets, so it's not the most attractive place to use, if you don't have to.

After following the access roads and keeping the cages on my left, the road reaches an apex, then starts curving back down towards the east. There's a break in the fence there, and a clear trail that heads up. Bear to the left and you'd reach the Bee Rock Trail. Bear right and you'll intersect the Bill Eckert Trail. I went right.

From there, it's a swift climb. A canyon is down below you, on the left. The Bee Rock Trail is also to your left, below you, but on the other side of the canyon.

With the gain in altitude come 180 degree views, from down south, towards Glendale Peak, to up north, towards the new zoo. To the northeast is the golf course I walked along on my last hike in Griffith Park. Unfortunately, unlike last time, this day was much hazier than the last.

The more I hike around these hills, the more taken I am by how steep these hills are. They're not all that tall, topping off at well under 2,000 feet of elevation. However, they rise rather quickly to that altitude, so if you start from the base and head all the way to one of the top peaks, you've got a pretty good workout without walking a lot of miles.

In my case, I was starting at the base, but I was not really interested in making it to a top peak. I was just trying to cover some new ground. So my path kept me entirely to the east of the ridgeline. That meant I had several rather impressive views UP at the peaks and ridges. Given the haziness of the day, however, I had little motivation to head up there to NOT have a nice view.

I also got some nice views of Bee Rock from the north and west. It's much less impressive from those ends. You're above Bee Rock, looking down, so there's not much incentive to make the detour *down* to the fenced-in precipice. Even more so than Eagle Rock in Topanga State Park, Bee Rock is a more impressive lookout if you're coming from one end versus the other.

As I passed to the north and east of Bee Rock, I eventually reached Vista del Valle Road. From there, a right turn would have taken me north, with a possible detour back to the peaks north of Mt. Hollywood. However, since I've been that way several times this year already, I turned left.

Vista del Vista is paved, with a double-yellow line dividing the road. Not sure when it stopped being a driving path and became a "trail," but I suspect not all that long ago. The pavement is still in decent shape. It provides an easy and hardened path for mountain bikers. In fact, I think most of the designated mountain bike trails in Griffith Park are either paved like this road, or at least a broad, dirt road. I don't think many (if any) of the single track is open to mountain bikers.

In fact, Vista del Valle, along with Mt. Hollywood Drive, basically crosses and loops through the entire eastern end of the park, so if you did want to bike (even on a road bike), this combination Vista del Valle and Mt. Hollywood roads would give you a nice workout, generally free of any motor vehicles.

After passing the Bee Rock trail, my paved path swept to the south, then to the west. It brought me to the base of one of those impressive escarpments, where you look up and marvel at how abrupt these hills rise. Earthquake country? Yeah, I'd say so.

This particular escarp-ment makes a hike from here to Mt. Hollywood a long detour. This exposed cliff face is apparently a favorite place for crows to hang out. There must have been two score of them circling as I passed below their rocky perches.

Once beyond the crow hangout, Vista del Valle loops back towards the east, where you can look across a small side canyon and see Bee Rock from the south. It looks much more impressive from this angle than it did on your approach from the north.

The road continues to the southeast. The Old Zoo and PaDTL Trails are to your left (or, if you turn and look back the way you came, as in this picture, then the trails are to your right!). Invisible to you but at times no more than fifty horizontal yards to your right (but well above you) is the Hogback Trail. You may occasionally hear voices from hikers up there.

You'll also pass quite near (but, again, well below) the short metal bridge that hikers take on their way to the hogback. All the while, you can look north and south along the east slope of the Hollywood Hills, with the Golden State Freeway cutting north to south, and the San Gabriel Mountains far off in the distance.

Finally, you reach a turning point. As you round the ridge, there's a small wooden DWP shack. A pair of dirt roads meet Vista del Valle here. The one requiring a sharp right continues up the Hogback, towards Mt. Hollywood. I took that trail as part of a different hike, earlier this year. A softer right would send you down towards the Roosevelt Golf Course. You'd also pass the tennis courts and eventually pop out at Vermont, where you could take several paths either up towards Mt. Hollywood or towards the Observatory.

Or you can just pause for a moment, and enjoy the view to your west. The Observatory domes and parking area are to the west, less than a mile as the crow flies, but several miles of winding, up-and-down trail away.

So, after enjoying the view, I remained on Vista del Valle, towards the east. As the pavement reaches its easternmost point, a watering point (for equestrians) with wooden fences marks the point where a trail continues east, towards Five Points (where five trails converge). At Five Points, I made a soft left and headed north.

At the next junction, I turned left, then left again. I was aiming to get on the Fern Canyon Trail. Somewhere along the way, a couple of hikers popped up out of the brush. I assumed they took one of the indicated trails that climbs from near the merry-go-round. Didn't look like much of a trail junction from above, but obviously it must be passable (but also much steeper) from below.

This was the home stretch, and there are nice views along the east slope, again. You also start hearing the sounds of folks down on the flatlands, so, while the views are more impressive, the sense of solitude is diminished (not that the freeways and megalopolis below you ever really disappears, of course).

I neared my starting point, but decided to stay on the trail, taking the PaDTL trail back to the Old Zoo. So I again could look back at the parking lot where my car was located. The orange leaves of the ornamental trees below looked even more colorful in the late afternoon sun than they had looked under the noon sun.

I passed through the upper section of the Old Zoo (which I had bypassed on my way up), walked through an abandoned building, then returned to the Old Zoo picnic area. Once I reached the road, I detoured to see a sign confirming that the play area I saw was Shane's Inspiration (someone had asked about its location when I was still lacing up my boots, and I wasn't sure where it was), then walked back along the parking area, past the merry-go-road (not open on most weekdays, I think), and back to my car.

An easy hike, since I avoided most of the major climbs. Lots of new trails covered, too. I'd estimate about 6.5 miles, particularly given the two passes through the Old Zoo.