Friday, February 24, 2012

Hike 2012.010 -- Puente Hills from Hellman Park Trailhead

Hiked Friday, February 24.

Over the past few weeks, I determined that daylight was lasting long enough that I could manage a short hike in the Puente Hills after work. I get off at 4pm, and I'm working about 20 minutes south of the Puente Hills Landfill Native Habitat Authority lands that marks the southern boundary of the east San Gabriel Valley.

The trail map is here. Hellman Park is on near the northern end of Greenleaf Avenue in Whittier. From the San Gabriel River Freeway (I-605), Beverly Blvd east should get you there. There's some construction going on around Beverly, but I'm pretty sure it still goes through. When you reach Greenleaf, head north a short block. That's Orange Drive. The entrance to Hellman Wilderness Park is on the right side of the street, just past Orange. They suggest using 5700 Greeleaf Avenue to google or Mapquest for driving directions.

The parking lot there has room for about 8 cars. There's a large topograph-ical map display at the trailhead.

A covered reservoir is in front of you. If you head straight, that's the Hellman Park Trail. If you head to the right (a soft right, on to the higher of two possible trails leaving to the right), that's the Peppergrass trail. That's the way I headed.

Either route is quickly gains altitude as you climb into the hills. Both trails claim a 350 altitude gain along the way, and both link up with the Rattlesnake Ridge trail that runs east-west along the ridge. Take the Rattlesnake Ridge trail east and it would also soon link up with the Schabarum/Skyline/De Anza trail, which continues east towards Schabarum Park.

Canyons drop steeply off, no matter which trail you take. That's part of why this place is still open rather than tract homes.

I saw many red tailed hawks cruising the area, looking for rodents. One pair, in particular, few circles around each other.

I also saw a number of squirrels, gophers, rabbits, and other creatures rustling in the brush, and occasionally poking their heads out.

Meanwhile, an L.A. County Sheriff's Department helicopter made a quick turn through the hills.

After starting up on the Peppergrass trail, I took the Mariposa Trail, which hugs a canyon. There used to be a large tree with a tire that swung precariously over the canyon, but the tree appears not to have survived the recent windstorms.

The Mariposa Trail soon rejoins the Pepper-grass Trail. Views to the south and southeast overlook Whittier and Turnbull Canyon. There's a trail that runs down there, too. I may hit that trail after some other day of work.

The Peppergrass trail made its way past a rounded peak. A steep use trail headed up to the peak. My path looped counter-clockwise around the peak.

When it go to the northeast side of the peak, the Pepper-grass hits the Rattlesnake Ridge trail. I made a left. From there, you have a clear view to the north. A large "Asian" pagoda stands watch on the other side of the canyon. Beyond that is a more "American" chapel, and beyond that is the large watertank that I walked past on my first hike of the year, also into the Puente or Hacienda Hills. The San Gabriel Mountains poked above the haze in the distance.

As I came around the peak, another use trail headed up from the west side. Since my planned loop was only going to be 2.9 miles, adding a charge up and down this hill would add the necessary distance to let this count as an "official" hike. So up I went, the roughly 1/10th or 1/8th of a mile to the summit. The topo map I linked above says this peak is 1197 feet above sea level. With my car parked down on Greenleaf, at an altitude of 460 feet, that mean a total of 737 feet of net gain for this hike, and a total distance of about 3.1 miles.

On my home-going leg of the loop, I got to watch the sun sink into the haze, disappearing what seemed like a solid bit of ground. I don't know the geography and geometry of where I stood and where the sun set, so I'm not sure if that was mainland or island that it was setting behind. But it was a nice sight.

Got back to my car about 6pm, meaning I had some margin for error on this hike.

Might even try an after-work Griffith Park hike in the next few weeks, or I might wait until after daylight savings time kicks in.

By the way (mostly unrelated note), tomorrow night, as the sun sets, the crescent moon will be pretty close in our line of sight to the planet Venus. They'll make a pretty impressive sight. Jupiter will be a bit to their upper left. If the weather is clear (not a sure thing, given the fog that has rolled in the past few nights), I'll be joining my friends in Old Town Monrovia for some sidewalk astronomy. Visit their website for more information.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hike 2012.009 -- Henninger Flats, Angeles National Forest

Hiked Monday, February 20. Thanks to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, I had today off from work. There were other things I had to do today, so I couldn't take a whole day off for hiking. Instead, with just a few hours, I debated between Echo Mountain and Henninger Flats. Since Henninger Flats is closer, I wound up there.

I used the Pinecrest Drive access. From Altadena Avenue (accessible via the Foothill Freeway/I-210), go north, past New York Drive. The Eaton Canyon Nature Center is just north of New York. However, even at 9:30am, people were already parking on the street. So I continued north an additional mile or so, past the midway access point, and just past where Altadena curves to the left. As it does so, Crescent Drive is the road that opens up to your right (it's called Mendocino Lane on the south side of Altadena Drive).

After turning on Crescent, proceed about 200 feet north, parking just before the stop sign. Pinecrest Drive is the road you just ran into. Parking on Pinecrest near the access point is limited to two hours on weekdays, and is prohibited on weekends. Since I wasn't sure exactly how long the walk would take, I parked on Crescent, and walked the additional 100 yards or so to the Pinecrest Drive access point.

The gate there is locked from dusk til dawn, so you don't want to use this access point if you may return somewhat after dark.

Passing through the gate (topped with razor wire, to *really* discourage after-hours passage, either coming or going), you have a great overview of Eaton Canyon. There's a bridge in front of you. If you were to cross it then loop back under and pass north of the bridge, you'd have a half-mile walk to Eaton Canyon Falls.

Alternative-ly, just before the bridge, there's a sign for the Altadena Crest Trail. Turn right there, and in about 2 1/2 miles (including some short segments on road), you'd intersect with the Sam Merrill Trail. Also on the Altadena Crest Trail, just before the Sam Merrill Trail, you'd also intersect with a new access point to Rubio Canyon.

However, my plan for today was just Henninger Flats. To get there, just cross the bridge and continue on the broad "Old Mount Wilson Toll Road." It's roughly 2 1/2 miles from the bridge to Henninger Flats.

Pretty heavily traveled, by both hikers and mountain bikers.

Overcast and cool today. I walked briskly, wondering if I could actually finish this hike in less than two hours, round trip. Because of it's relatively short distance, I usually do not stop on this walk unless it's to take pictures. On cooler days, I don't really need water, either, though I brought the same bottle that I brought (and drink very little from) on Saturday.

A bulldozer widened and recut several areas of this trail a few months ago.

Very few wildflowers here, too. Nonethe-less, I took pictures and present examples of most of the flowers I did see: Deerweed, Spanish broom, lupine, wild mustard, California buckwheat (not pictured), golden yarrow, and a small purple flower that I have not yet identified.

Stayed at Henninger Flats for no more than ten minutes. Took some pictures of the folks walking up the trail, including a large group of college-aged kids that I suspect were on a church outing.

Got back to my car about 115 minutes after I left it. So now I have the answer: Yes, I can park on Pinecrest and get up to Henninger and back in less than two hours, at least as long as it's not too hot.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Hike 2012.008 -- Monrovia Hillside Wilderness Preserve

Hiked Saturday, February 18. After reading this story in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, I decided to visit the area today. I googled "Monrovia wilderness preserve" and looked at some google maps to get an idea of where access might be practical. Then I drove up there.

I took the 210 Freeway to Myrtle, headed north (going right pass my usual sidewalk astronomy site, at Myrtle and Lime, where I'll likely be next Saturday with my telescope--Venus, Jupiter and the moon will be on tap) to Foothill Blvd. I made a right there, then a left at Canyon.

After about 2/3 of a mile, Canyon makes a right turn at an intersection and shifts from heading due north to due northeast. The second street on the left after the split is Ridgecliff Drive. I made a left there. I drove slowly and carefully along this narrow, winding residential street, and kept an eye out for possible points where the Lower Clamshell Truck Trail intersected with Ridgecliff.

Eventually found one (forgot to note the street number). It's on the left, about a 1/2 mile after the street started and about 150 yards before Ridgecliff curls sharply to the right and begins a descent. (In other words, if you reach that point, you've gone too far. A small sign on the right side of this "driveway" says, "Walk bicycles" and "Stay on Outside Edge of Pavement."

Construction is currently (February 2012) ongoing as a new home is coming up on the parcel at the corner of Ridgecliff and Lower Clamshell. About 50 yards up this road, there's a "Road Closed" gate, next to the sign photographed above.

The sign says public access ends just 3/4 of a mile ahead. However, the sign is apparently somewhat out of date. It appeared to be slightly over 2 miles before I reached a "Private Property" sign. I was told the 3/4 mile referred to a point where a landslide once closed the road.

At the gate, you'll have to crawl through or climb over the gate to start your hike. Once past the gate, you begin a pretty immediate weave, with the mountains mostly on your right and the San Gabriel Valley on your left. This truck trail is easily visible and labeled on google maps, which shows that the road continues all the way to Arcadia Wilderness Park.

Unfortunately, it does not appear that public access is permitted between these two points. The "No Trespassing" and "Keep Out" signs on the gate certainly suggest not. On the other hand, the other side of the gate also had "No Trespassing" signs on it, but clearly, here I was, standing on the other side, without having ignored any no trespassing signs to get here. Also, I have come across and/or am aware of a number of other places where residents place "No Trespassing" and "No Parking" signs where parking or access is, in fact, legally protected. It's sometimes residents trying to secure public lands for their own use, or exclude the public from accessing public lands. Don't know if that's the case here, though.

Since I wasn't sure, I turned around at the second pictured gate. I may call Monrovia and/or the USFS to find out if there is an easement or legal access to cross the private property in the future.

The sign at the start of the hike notwithstanding, I did walk along a few of the more obvious use trails that branch off Lower Clamshell Road. The thickest set of these trails is where the truck trail reaches a saddle. One use trail heads steeply to the northeast, towards a small oasis of palm trees. I was told a homeless person lives up there, and also that this trail used to (and may, again?) go over into Monrovia Canyon.

Didn't walk that one.

Another use trail splits off and heads to the southwest, to a slightly higher point, on which was an L.A. County surveyor's monument (I did walk there). Just past the monument was what looked like a 400 or so square foot area, under trees and looking like a large tent. I suspect another homeless person may live there, so I turned around.

The third use trail headed north or northwest, dropping down in altitude a bit and paralleling a pipe structure that still funnels water down to the residents below. After about one mile, it led to a small waterfall (the first of many, I was told), though the water flow as low. It came down in a broken sheet of water about 2 feet wide and dropped about 20 feet.

At the bottom of the falls was a tarp, tied to the side of the cliff, and intended to either partial shade the water to keep it cooler, or perhaps to be used as a shield when the homeless guy up the cliff came down to shower.

I hope this doesn't sound too cynical, but seeing as how several people are apparently living up here (and have for quite some time), I don't understand the alleged fear of certain property owners in the area that opening the area up to more hikers is somehow going to increase the fire danger.

Total distance for the day was about 6.5 miles. The person I chatted with as I hiked a good part of this trail said it's 5.1 miles roundtrip from gate to gate, although my walking time seemed too fast for that distance. I'm thinking more on the order of 2 miles or so--with the saddle being more or less the midway point.

The person I ran into also said it's about 3/4 of a mile from the road to the first waterfall. I think it might be closer to a mile, but 3/4 of a mile would not be inconceivable. The short use trail I took to the surveyor's monument was probably about 1/2 mile roundtrip. That's why I'm going with 6.5 miles as my guess.

The trail to the waterfall was very narrow and crumbly, sort of like heading towards Rubio Canyon. Not as steep, but quite narrow in places and impossible to traverse without pushing down some soil and gravel into the ravine bottom. It's been substantially improved in places, with metal bridges and soil stabilizers, but it's still a tricky walk. There's also a lot of poison oak along this narrow trail, and, I am told, lots of ticks once the weather warms.

Not sure if I'll come this way again until I figure out better which areas are legally accessible and which are not.

Nice views from the saddle (and pretty much all along the truck trail). From there, you can look northeast, to the road that heads to Chantry Flats. You can also see the flat radio structure that's at the end of the paved/dirt road that continues above Chantry (that you need to walk some of to get to the upper Winter Creek trail).

Nice views over Monrovia and Arcadia, too. I'm sure when it's clearer, the ocean and Santa Catalina Island would be easy. Today, I could barely make out downtown L.A. through the haze. The Santa Ana Mountains were also tough.

Some wildflowers blooming along this trail. Some are old friends with names I remember (Spanish broom, bush sunflower), some are familiar ones with names I don't recall, and some were entirely new to me.

Short video at the end of the waterfall, shot from up-close.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Hike 2012.007 -- Marshall Peak via 2N30

Hiked Sunday, February 12.

Last week, I was thinking I might hike Mt. Wilson this week. But when this week finally came, it was cloudy and threatening rain on both Saturday and Sunday. Didn't want to get stuck on a long hike with that kind of weather, so I went on a shorter hike. Just read about this Marshall Peak hike on nobodyhikesinla, and decided it would do. It's moderately short, relatively low in altitude, and someplace I hadn't been before.

As is my habit, I read the directions to the trailhead carefully, but did not read the hike description as carefully. Always want to be a little surprised by what I see.

The directions to the trailhead were right on target: 210 Freeway to Waterman Avenue exit (CA-18), head north five miles, and look the trail will start at mile marker 11.23, on the left (south) side of the road. The line on the highway is double-double, so, as with Walnut Creek, you're not supposed to cross over the "median." Also, there's a lot more room for parking on the right side than on the left side. Parked on the right side of the road, and had to wait a while for a long enough break in the traffic to make it across.

No signs indicating this is a fee demo area, so no Adventure Pass is required.

Walk around the gated road and follow it up. It begins heading a bit to the west, then turns back around, paralleling CA-18 as it gains in altitude. You can see the Arrowhead across the canyon, although the view is pretty oblique. There was a more distant, but face-on view, from down just before CA-18 starts climbing up the canyon. Good views up and down the canyon, although, on the day I hiked, clouds pretty much hid the view upcanyon.

There's also what looks like a large "13" or "12" marked on the canyon wall across the way. Not sure if this is an official commemoration or just giant mountain graffiti.

There are several spots where you could take a more direct, steeper route up, but I stayed on 2N30 the whole way, from start to finish. On the way, it passes near what looks like a clearing where I suspect they set up bee colonies to make wild sage honey, some transmission towers, and another hill along the way. Staying on 2N30, your path begins to descend after about 1 3/4 miles, before intersecting with Forest Service Road 2N40.

At 2N40, you need to cross over the low wooden barrier then make a left. If you stay on the road heading upward (left), you can follow that to the top of Marshall Peak.

While I was still down near the antenna, I became aware of a paraglider. Wasn't sure where he came from at the time, though I was soon able to answer that question.

At the top of Marshall Peak is a U.S. Hang gliding and Paragliding Association launch area. It's listed as 4003 feet above sea level, with their official landing zone way down at the bottom, at an elevation of 1710 feet.

I'm not sure if it's busy every weekend, but on the day I hiked, there must have been a half-dozen paragliders and 8 or more hang gliders. The hang gliders were mostly hoping for better wind or more thermals, as I only saw one of them actually take off, and that was after a pretty long wait at the tip of the launch area. The para gliders, by contrast, launched pretty regularly.

Took plenty of pictures and some video. It's cool watching them launch and land. Even though it's "just" physics, it still seems almost magical that you can run off the side of a hill and "fly" around in circles for 30 minutes or more.

Skies were overcast and rain still threatened, so I did not get a very good view of the surrounding area. But the paragliders made it all worth it.

On the way back, I stopped at the turnoff for "The Arrowhead" interpretive sign. I've seen the Arrowhead many times from a distance, but never stopped to read the official sign.

nobodyhikesinla says it's 6.2 miles roundtrip from CA-18 to Marshall Peak. With the short detour I took to check out a vista, I'll call it 6 1/4 miles for the day.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Hike 2012.006 -- Hastings Peak via Little Santa Anita Canyon

Hiked Saturday, February 4.

Late start, but I still got a decent hike in today. Headed out of Little Santa Anita Canyon. This is the trailhead for the Mt. Wilson Trail, and is located at the intersection of Mt. Wilson Trail Road and Mira Monte Avenue. From the Foothill Freeway (I-210) exit at Baldwin Avenue and head north. If you're coming from the east, head straight off the ramp at the light and continue north on Baldwin. If coming from the west, turn left at the light, left again after you get under the freeway and hit Foothill Blvd, and right where Baldwin continues, north of Foothill.

About 1 1/2 miles north of Foothill (after passing Sierra Madre Blvd and a whole bunch of churches, make a right at Mira Monte. About 500 feet later, you'll pass Carter Avenue. Mt. Wilson Trail Park is a bit past Carter. Mt. Wilson Trail Road is just west of the park.

Walk up Mt. Wilson Road to reach the trail.

This is the same trailhead I took on Hike 2011.098, late last year. It also has a similar end point to my Hike 2011.097, so I've obviously been in this area recently.

A sign at the trailhead provides mileages for several points of interest along the way. If you go all the way to Mt. Wilson, it's 7 miles, one way. Most hikers seem to go only as far as First Water, which is listed as 1.5 miles each way. The next reliable water crossing is not until Decker Springs, 3.5 miles away. Just past that is Orchard Camp (3.5 miles), which is just before the trail makes a steep ascent towards Manzanita Ridge (5.2 miles), which, itself, is just before reaching the Toll Road (5.8 miles). If I'm feeling good and have some free time next weekend, I may try to do Mt. Wilson via this route.

For today, my goal was initially Jones Peak, although I wound up going to Hastings Peak, instead.

The trail through little Santa Anita Canyon (and, really, all the way up to the Toll Road) is rather steep, and has a lot of southern exposure. This makes it hot in the summer, though pleasantly warm if the weather is cool. As you weave along the face of the hillside, there are plenty of views up canyon, where you can see the climbing that lays ahead of you.

There's also the sound of running water on your right. Don't know if there's any feasible way to reach that water, but several waterfalls are visible from on high. I took a short video of one of them (linked at the end of this post), because still pictures don't really make the waterfall very obvious.

This is a heavily traveled trail--not as heavy as Echo Mountain, and definitely not as heavy as Fish Canyon when you take the Azusa Rock shuttle vans, or Eaton Canyon to the waterfall or Henninger Flat, nor as heavy as Chantry Flat trails, but you won't have much solitude unless you either leave the Little Santa Anita for Jones Saddle or if you push on past Orchard Camp.

The trail to Jones Saddle is somewhat past First Water. I initially thought it was about one mile past, but I have reconsidered the distance in light of the fact that I could see the "Helipad" on the way back down, and it was within easy earshot of that bare spot of ground. According to the sign at the trailhead, the Helipad is 2.7 miles from the start, or 1.2 miles past First Water. That would put the Jones Saddle trail 1.1 to 1.2 miles past the First Water cutoff.

There's no signage at this split, and it's an "informal" trail, though obviously maintained by someone. At the fork, there was an orange tie around a shrub branch, and about three fallen trees and logs. Head up that way about 100 yards, along the base of the ravine. It won't really feel like you're on a trail, but after those 100 or maybe 150 yards, a clearer trail weaves up towards your right. From there, the trail is obvious, though not always wide.

I'd estimate (based on my travel time back down) that it's about a mile of switchbacks up the hill 'til you reach the Jones Saddle trail. A left turn there would take you towards either Jones Peak (significantly lower than where you would be standing at the moment), or all the way down to Bailey Canyon.

I've hiked from Bailey Canyon up this way several times, but never tried accessing Jones Saddle or Hastings Peak from the Little Santa Anita Canyon side. It was actually not as steep on that last bit as I thought it would be (though I did take my time, and my legs are still pretty tired from yesterday).

Because I hate giving up hard-won altitude, I decided to head up and right, towards Hastings Peak, rather than down and left, towards Jones Peak.

The path is easy to follow, though not as blatantly obvious as it was the first time I hiked this way. The scar of the fire break has been softened by several years of annual growth. Dead herbaceous stems are thick, and there actually is a single trail rather than a wide swath of exposed earth to follow. It's actually easier to walk this way (though still steep and slick in spots) than it was before.

The elevation of Hastings Peak has given altitudes of between 4000 and 4163 on various Internet sites. That means a bit over 3000 feet of vertical gain from the Mt. Wilson Trail trailhead. My estimate of distance would be between 10.5 and 11 miles total, with a gross altitude gain of about 3400 feet. Gross is somewhat larger than net because there's a section of Mt. Wilson trail that was washed out years ago. The detour requires a substantial gain in altitude, via many switchbacks. Much of that altitude is given right back on your way to First Water. You also need to give up some altitude as you travel between Hastings Peak and the mound just southeast of it.

From Hastings Peak, the various mounds below, and on down to Jones Peak, are to your southeast. Santa Anita Race Track is just beyond that. The Santa Ana Mountains are farther east, and off in the distance. The small antenna/microwave complex above Chantry Flat is to your east. San Jacinto, San Gorgonio and San Bernardino Mountains are all far off and on your horizon. The lower reaches of San Antonio (Mt. Baldy) is mostly obscured by closer the ridges of closer mountains, though the top is easily visible.

To your north is Mt. Harvard. Mt. Wilson is eclipsed by the closer (but shorter) Ivy League mountain. I'm moderately sure that the next mound along the fire break you're standing on (before reaching the fire break) is Mt. Yale. Continue over Yale, drop down several hundred feet, then climb back up even more, and you'd be on the Old Mount Wilson Toll Road.

I enjoyed the quiet and the view for several minutes. The sun glared off of the Pacific Ocean, in the distance. Palos Verdes and Santa Catalina Island were to the southwest. Just north of them was tiny Santa Barbara Island. Further to the north, I thought I could see another larger island, though that might have been my imagination.

Finally, I started down on my return trip. It's steep and slick, so I walked slowly, shuffling my feet a little, eyes down, watching my steps carefully. Suddenly, I became aware of the sound of thundering hooves. I looked up in time to see a herd of 15-20 deer, running across the clearing right in front me, right to left, maybe 200 yards ahead of me. I have never seen such a large herd of deer in the San Gabriel Mountains. But by the time I got my camera on and pointed, only the last straggler was there to be photographed. He paused for a moment, staring up at me, before bounding towards the cover of the trees, to the left.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Inexplicable hit increase explained

I've mentioned a few times how neat it is that blogger provides info on various "hit" information for my pages. Every now and then, certain pages have atypical spikes. Sometimes I find out why; other times, I don't.

A few days ago, blogger showed that there were almost 70 hits overnight on one of my Land Between the Lakes posts. I didn't know why. For a little blog like mine, 70 hits on one hike post is very unusual (Typically, I get anywhere from 40-120 hits a day, with older hike write-ups rarely getting more than 10 or 20 hits in a week).

Tonight, for a totally unrelated reason, I checked my e-mail account for my former employer in Murray, Kentucky. There was an announcement in my inbox there about something called the Eggner Ferry Bridge being hit by a barge. I googled, and found a Huffington Post story about this incident.

Read the story, and learned that this was the name of the bridge that crosses the Tennessee River (Kentucky Lake), just east of where KY80 and US68 merge, at the west end of Land Between the Lakes (LBL).

Obviously, I crossed over that bridge a lot: Twice each time I came to or from Nashville, and twice nearly every time I visited LBL (unless I visited the far southern end of the park). Probably 100 trips, total.

Everytime I drove over, my knuckles grabbed the steering wheel a little tighter. The Eggner bridge is an old (70+ years old), narrow, two-lane bridge that they've been talking about replacing for years. One of my co-workers said he always rolled his window down a little bit when he crossed the bridge, just in case it collapsed and tossed his car into the lake. I kid you not. It was a rickety-looking bridge to drive over.

But still picturesque.

Anyway, I guess someone figured out I had a picture of the bridge in my write-up for one of my hikes, and that's what spurred the big spike in hits.

Day's are getting longer!

Got back from work a little before 5pm. Did a few chores and still had time for a short walk (about 1 1/4 miles) half way around the big block. Not nearly enough time for a real hike after work, yet. But with us gaining a minute or two of sunshine every evening, and daylight savings not too far off, I can start thinking about after-work hikes starting in about six weeks, and easily in about two months. Yay!

With no hikes to share from last week, I thought I'd share a link to a story about LA County Sheriff's air rescue videos. Two weeks ago they had a crazy busy week rescuing hikers: 5 rescue incidents involving 16 people over a 28 hour period.