Sunday, January 8, 2012

Hike 2012.001 -- Hacienda Hills -- Seventh Avenue to Rio Hondo College

Hiked Saturday, January 7.

First hike of the year. It's been a busy few weeks, what with the usual holiday stuff, plus getting settled back in at home and getting ready for a couple of new jobs. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure I've added an additional inch or so in belly circumference since Thanksgiving, which is definitely not something I wanted to do. So today's hike, while a late start, was a pleasantly long ten miles or so. First decent hike since El Malpais National Monument, on the drive home from Kentucky.

Today's trailhead was at the south end of Seventh Avenue. From the Pomona Freeway (CA60), take Seventh Avenue south until it dead ends at Orange Grove (only about 1.5 miles). There's a small parking lot (room for about six cars) just north of Orange Grove, and plenty of on-street parking on the west side of Seventh Avenue, just south of Orange Grove.

I've used this trailhead more than any other in the Hacienda Hills, simply because it's easy and quick to get to from my San Gabriel Valley home. On my first hike in the Hacienda Hills, I started here and walked to the old Nike missile site that overlooks Rose Hills. Hadn't been there since.

My initial goal for the day was just to do that hike again.

The trail starts out heading directly south, with a wide dirt road as the main path and a narrower, winding, ADA-accessible trail passing through a native plant corridor just to the west. This is the "Ahwingna Trail." Every time I hear that name, I think of "The Lion Sleeps at Night." Or I think to myself that maybe "Ahwingna" is the Gabrielino word for "landfill." ;D

The Ahwingna trail starts out heading due south, then curves to the right. After .3 miles, the Coyote Trail breaks off sharply up and to the left. I ignored that turn (which can easily be combined with other trails off of and including the Ahwingna to make a nice, 5-mile or so loop). After another 1/10th of a mile or so, the road turns to pavement and begins a steep climb. As the pavement nears the top of the crest, a dirt path splits off to the left. That is still the Ahwingna Trail.

Now dirt rather than pavement, the trail continues climbing steeply for another 1/2 mile before reaching a fork. Two hitching posts are to the right, partially shaded by oaks. A sign indicates that the Ahwingna Trail splits to the left, while the Native Oak Trail goes straight ahead. I went to the left.

One-half mile later, the Ahwingna trail runs into the Skyline/Schabarum/Juan Bautista de Anza Trail. Make a left turn there and go 12 miles, and you'd reach Schabarum Park. I've been that way before. No time or inclination for that long of a walk, though. Instead, I made a right.

After 1/2 mile, the Native Oak trail also intersects the Schabarum Trail, from the right. Almost immediately thereafter, there's a boundary sign, indicating you are leaving the Puente Hills Landfill Native Habitat Authority land. As you continue on the Schabarum trail, a fence remains on your left. When it's the right season, vetch bloom thickly in this area.

There's a graffiti-covered (empty) water tank in the distance to the southwest. I've hiked there before, too.

I continued heading west. Because of the haze, views were pretty limited.

After about 2/10ths of a mile, the trail passes around a gate. Rose Hills Memorial Park owns the land to your left. The Puente Hills Landfill is immediately to your right. A portion of the tipping fees paid by dumpers helps finance the Native Habitat Authority that owns some land and manages other easements for the trail system that cuts through the Hacienda and Puente Hills.

Another 3/10ths of a mile or so later, the trail somewhat splits, with a mulch-covered path going between a row of trees, and a paved road on the right. I'm pretty sure you're supposed to stay on the mulch path. The active landfill is now very close on your right. It has expanded much closer to the trail than it was the first (and last) time I walked this section of trail. Seemed a little surprising to me how much it has expanded, given that it is going to close in about 21 months.

In the area just before and during this section, I could here the low toots of what sounded like a tuba. To my left and ahead, a band was playing for a funeral in Rose Hills, but only the deep tuba noises traveled this far.

At the end of this passage, you're now potentially within a stone's throw of large earth movers on your right. A cluster of microwave towers are above and to your left. You've actually been able to see this cluster pretty much since you got on the Schabarum Trail, but now you're at the base of the final hill. A white fence zig-zags up the hill.

You can follow the zig-zag path all the way until it runs on to the pavement, or take it only part of the way, before dropping down and to the right on what is the actual Skyline trail. Either way, you're at the top soon enough.

If you came up the paved road, there's a painted brick guard shack (empty) on your left, with a commemorative plaque nearby.

There's also a trough for horses across the pavement from the guard shack. However, at the moment, the trough is signed with a warning to equestrians not to allow their horses to use the communal trough for fear of spreading some form of equine disease.

The Skyline trail continues over the hill, with Rose Hills still on your left and landfill property on your right. As you head down the steep paved road (or perhaps walk on the mulched shoulder), huge steel trellises support power lines overhead. This is part of the massive Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project.

As you make your way down the road, Rio Hondo College finally begins to come into view. They've got a little observatory dome to the east of the campus. Apparently, there's a 16" reflecting telescope (probably a SCT design) in there. I have poked around the Internet to see what I could learn, and I saw that it at least used to be open for free public viewing. However, the only current viewing opportunities seem to be linked to signing up for a $25 continuing education class at the college. I may need to investigate this further.

With a 16-inch aperture and likely Schmidt-Cassegrain, it's got 1/3 more light gathering power yet is much more compact that the main telescope at Griffith Park.

The descent from the Nike site to Workman Blvd (just north of Rio Hondo College) is a long one, longer than it appeared from the top. However, I was curious to see where it reached Workman, because I had previously tried to find the trail access there.

Following the pavement down from the Nike Station, it's probably a mile before you reach the energy generating plants (gas to energy). Steam and a slight odor were apparent from a distance.

Keep the first plant you see on your right as you continue on the main road (the trail actually drops off the road after about 1/2 mile, but it's slightly overgrown, so it's easier to stay on the pavement until after you pass the power plants). Eventually the road reaches the Puente Hills Landfill receiving point. Yellow stripes on the pavement represent a crosswalk, and the trail cuts down to the left here.

After a brief descent, the path again crosses the pavement before beginning another long and winding descent. Shortly after you pop out on a dirt road, the Rio Hondo (College) Police Academy facility is on your right. They've got a little obstacle course and a drinking fountain. The police academy has been closed for a while due to some sort of financial irregularity, so I don't know how long the water in the fountain has been sitting in those pipes.

Continue past the police academy course, opting for the lower of several dirt roads as you continue to the south. Federal Express has a large sorting facility to your right. Workman Mill is the street nearest you. Peck Road is the one that Workman Mill intersects, just to the south. When facing to the west, the San Gabriel River Freeway (I-605) runs left to right, and crosses the Pomona Freeway (CA-60) just a mile or so to your left.

When the trail reaches Workman Mill Road, a tunnel takes you under Workman, or you can (illegally) jaywalk across Workman. The Bookmart and a flower shop is immediately to the west of a public parking area for trail access. North Drive is immediately to the west of the start of the path. A shiny new building stands on the southeast corner of Workman Mill and North Drive. The last time I was here, there was major construction all around the Rio Hondo Campus, and I'm not sure if that building was there, and/or if the trailhead parking had been appropriated by construction vehicles. Either way, I saw neither the Skyline Trail that I just walked nor the public parking area across the street.

After crossing under Workman Mill, I explored a bit further. Another hiking/equestrian tunnel goes from the parking area west under Peck Road and towards the San Gabriel River. However, the path under Peck was wet, presumably with a mixture of water and horse urine, so I did not continue further. Had I done so, I presumably could have linked up with the San Gabriel River trail (paved) that heads from here south to Long Beach, or north to Azusa and the mouth of San Gabriel River Canyon.

I returned the way I came.

The sun was already getting ready to set as I headed back up towards the Nike Station. A nearly full moon was rising in the east.

I took relatively few pictures as I returned, and walked very quickly while the light remained. However, during the last 1.3 miles or so (along the Ahwingna Trail), I had to slow down on parts because it was too dark to easily see the trail and the trail itself is steep and eroded in parts. I didn't want to fall.

I did not get back to my car until about 5:45pm, which was about 1:45 after I began walking back.

After returning home, I googled "Seventh Avenue to Rio Hondo College" (no quotes) and found an old (25 year old) L.A. Times article by John McKinney about the trail I walked. It gives the roundtrip distance as 10 miles, with an altitude change along the way of 800 feet. I am sure is an approximation, since this was written long before the public use of GPS became a reality, but seems reasonable considering the time it took to return home.

McKinney used to have regular articles in the Times of hiking trails in the area.

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