Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hike 2012.018 -- Arroyo Pescadero, Deer Loop and part of Arroyo San Miguel.

Hiked Tuesday, March 27. I wound up here because I keep forgetting which streets run where. I was actually trying to get to Turnbull Canyon Road, but, duh, Colima Road doesn't intersect with Turnbull Canyon. ;D

From the south, take Colima Road north, through Whittier. About one mile past north of Whittier Blvd, you'll pass Mar Vista Street. Then you'll pass a church (on your right). The next traffic light has a sign hanging from it that says something like, "Murphy Ranch Baseball Complex." The field is also on your right.

Right after this light, there's a left turn pocket for you to get into the parking area for Arroyo Pescadero and Arroyo San Miguel trails.

I hiked Arroyo San Miguel a few weeks ago. Previously, I hiked both Arroyo San Miguel and Arroyo Pescadero in the same day. Obviously, my hikes this year have been much shorter than in past years, because I need to fit the hikes in around my work schedule.

The trail map is linked here.

From the trailhead, I followed my curiosity up the "wheelchair accessible" trail, which is a short (maybe 75 yard long) loop along the top of the trail. When I got back to the main trail, I went up hill, and walked the Arroyo Pescadero trail in a counter-clockwise direction.

The Arroyo Pescadero heads northeast, approaches the end of the arroyo, then loops back to the southwest. It's an oval loop that drops in altitude from the trail head and leaves you well below the canyon tops the entire way. According to the linked map, it's 1.3 miles for the whole loop. It's probably about 3/4 of a mile to the Deer Loop Trail.

When I hit the Deer Loop, I made another right and continued on that loop, which is .8 miles in distance. I walked that loop, then rejoined the Arroyo Pescadero. I walked past the parking lot to walk a few tenths of a mile of the Arroyo San Miguel Trail, just to Colima Road. This was to give myself a 3+ mile hike. I covered about 3.3 miles, I would guess.

The north-eastern part of the hike covers areas where "habitat restoration" is continuing. There are lots of California pepper trees and few eucalyptus. By contrast, once you get to the Deer Loop section, nearly all of the trees are eucalyptus.

The wind was blowing strongly during my hike, and several turkey vultures, hawks, and crows rode the wind with outstretched wings. The wind also let them hang almost motionless relative to the ground at times, so I got some decent shots of them.

Overall, I have to admit this is one of the less attractive trails in the Puente Hills. A lot of the walk is on old asphalt. There are plenty of Eucalyptus stumps near the start, and mostly large eucalyptus around the Deer Loop. The most expansive views are near the trailhead. There aren't many flowers, either. But there were lots of squirrels and rabbits, which is probably what attracts the turkey vultures and hawks. Also, I suspect deer really can be spotted around the Deer Loop later in the evening. There's good tree cover, but also comparatively open views with grasses to eat.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hike 2012.017 -- Shoemaker Canyon

Hiked Sunday, March 24.

The forecast for today called for rain all day, yet when I got out of bed, the sky definitely did not look like rain. I spent an hour or so getting ready, keeping an eye out, before deciding for sure that the weather would hold off long enough to allow me a short hike. Didn't settle on a destination until after I left, though. I kept looking at the clouds, trying to decide where it was darker and where it was lighter, and which way the clouds were moving. Finally settled on Shoemaker Canyon.

I've done Shoemaker Canyon twice before: On November 19, 2010, and December 27, 2010. That means it's been about 15 months since my last visit.

The normal route would be to take the Foothill Freeway (I-210) to Azusa Avenue (CA-39) and head north. Azusa becomes one way (north bound) at the freeway, with southbound coming down on as N. San Gabriel Ave (not to be confused with San Gabriel Blvd, which is far, far, far to the west of San Gabriel Ave). You'll drive through downtown Azusa, which looks very small town-like, despite the new Target in the middle. On Sunday morning, the low morning light made downtown Azusa look like someplace much further away from Los Angeles.

After leaving downtown, you pass through some residential areas before the north and southbound lanes come back within sight of each other. That's just after the Stop and Go convenience store (where you could buy an Adventure Pass, if you didn't already have one). There's also the San Gabriel Canyon Gateway visitor center, just a mile or less past the Stop and Go, and on your right. You could not only buy an Adventure Pass there, but you could also get your Wilderness Permit (if the Center is open)

As you drive up Azusa Canyon, you'll notice a bike path on your left. You could ride that all the way down to Long Beach, if time and stamina permit.

About 12 miles north of the Foothill Freeway, after passing two dams and two reservoirs (the water in both was lower than I've seen it in quite some time), a bridge will come in from the right. That's East Fork Road, which you want to take.

Head up East Fork Road about three miles, and keep an eye out for the left turn to Shoemaker Canyon. There's a left turn lane for you to use.

1.8 miles later, you'll reach a locked gate, with a parking lot on your right. Park there.

From the gate and parking area, you can look down on the East Fork trailhead far below. That's where you'd start the hike to either Heaton Saddle/Iron Mountain or to the Bridge to Nowhere.

Despite the forecast, it was crisp but clear as I started my hike. Looking across the canyon, you can see a nice series of foliage-covered hills. Looking upstream, massive Iron Mountain dominates the view. Taller but further away, and partially obscured by intervening ridges, is Mt Baldy (Mount San Antonio). It can be impressively clad in snow in winter, though it has been mostly bald this winter. Some snow, but nothing compared to what I saw the last time I hiked this trail.

Your hike begins by walking around the gate and heading along a wide, heavily-engineered dirt road. There are mile markers just on the other side of the gate indicating 1.89 miles. Several other mile markers are along the way, all looking very shiny and reflective. I think they must have been added in the last year or so, and I'm assuming their mileage is accurate. If so, the distance for this hike is somewhat longer than indicated on the Tom Harrison "Angeles High Country Trail Map." His map says it.s 2.2 miles from the gate to the mouth of the second tunnel.

By contrast, a mile marker just past the first tunnel says 4.4, indicating it's 2.5 miles just to there. There are no mile markers after the ones at 4.4, but it's at least 1/2 mile from there through the second tunnel, making it 3 miles each way, or 6 miles roundtrip. It's possible to add an indefinite amount of walking, either by continuing on the rough trail that extends past the second tunnel, or by taking a cross-country route out of Shoemaker Canyon along one of the side canyons. Neither would be easy or pleasant, unless you're willing to get scratched or if you're wearing proper clothing.

Mile markers seem to be placed in most "coves," probably to help maintenance crews locate pipes or other things that must be monitored. When I got to the 4.4 mile marker, I heard a quiet trickle coming from the cove, so I walked about fifty yards to the left to see if there'd be a waterfall in this way. The small trickle I saw did not really qualify as a waterfall.

I went back to the trail and continued through the second tunnel, then returned via the "outside" trail that goes along the outside of the hill that the tunnel goes through. This gives you a better view of the canyon below. It's a steep and rugged canyon. However, it looked like there was an orange tie where someone took a trail down to the river. Not sure if they needed any technical assistance to make it to the water.

When I got back to the first tunnel, I also took a short side trail to the top of the stone wall that tops the entrance.

There were some Indian Paintbrush, and some small blue and purple flowers here. Meanwhile, the clouds that were building all day were turning pretty dark around Iron Mountain.

Still, the rain held off until after I got back to my car. It was only after I got on the freeway that the drops began falling. Although it would pour later in the day, the first pulses of this storm were intermittent, so even if I had gotten caught in the rain, it wouldn't have been that horrible. Nonetheless, I purposely took a short hike on a wide trail so that if I needed to make a mad dash back to my car in the rain, I could. I could also have taken shelter in the tunnels if it looked like the rain would pass. Moot point, though, as the rain did wait until I was back in the car.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Hike 2012.016 -- Van Tassel Motorway and Silverfish Truck Trail

Hiked Wednes-day, March 21. I spent the first full day of spring enjoying another local mountain walk. Apparently, I've hiked this trail twice before, but not since February 2010. Both times going somewhat further than I went today. My first hike was all the way to White Saddle. A picture of White Saddle is include in this write-up, of a hike to Monrovia Falls.

A later hike (that I actually posted long before the first trip to Mount Bliss) is linked at the start of this sentence.

As noted in those earlier hike posts, my trail head for today was at the corner of Brookridge Road and Opal Canyon Road. You can see in the street sign picture, it was 200 block of Opal Canyon Road and the 3200 block of Brookridge Road. 163 Opal Canyon Road seems to put google maps right on the spot.

Incidentally, I also noticed on my way out that there's a bus stop sign here. The Duarte City bus is free and runs once an arrow. Their "Blue" line runs generally in a clockwise direction and would put you at the corner of Opal Canyon and Brookridge at 52 minutes after the hour. Their "Green" line runs counterclockwise and would put you there around 13 minutes after the hour. Both intersect with Huntington Drive/Foothill Blvd, so you could reach these buses from Foothill Transit's Route 187, which you could ride in from the east as far as Claremont or in from Pasadena. It (187) also stops at the Sierra Madre Villa Gold Line Station.

For those of you not trying to get here via public transit, you would take the San Gabriel River Freeway (I-605) north to its end, just past the Foothill Freeway (I-210), to Huntington Drive. I made a right at Huntington, passed about two lights over 3/4 of a mile, and turned left (north) at Encanto Parkway.

If I were coming from the east, I'd take the 210 Freeway west, exit at Irwindale Avenue, head north, then make a left turn on Foothill Blvd, which soon turns into Huntington Drive. If coming from the west, I'd take the 210 Freeway east, exit at Mountain Olive/Huntington. Just as you pass under the 605, there's a cloverleaf that loops you around to the surface street. Don't get off at the earlier (more westernly) Huntington Drive exit, which is in Arcadia/Monrovia, and would leave you with a pretty long drive on Huntington).).

Once on Encanto, head north about one mile. After passing the Duarte Museum and Encanto Park on your left, you'll reach a stop sign. Make a left here, at Fish Canyon Road. I made a right on the third street, which is Melcanyon Road. I made another right at the next street (Opal Canyon Road) and took that to its intersection with Brookridge Road. Had I just stayed on Melcanyon Road, I would have hit Brookridge just 50 yards or so further to the west. Park on Brookridge, though, of course, don't park in front of the fire hydrant.

From the corner of Opal Canyon and Brookridge Roads, walk north on Opal Canyon Road, which continues north as a steep and narrow one-lane road. You feel like you're on someone's driveway, particularly with the mailbox and electricity meter near the corner. However, there is no private property or no trespassing signs here, nor at the locked gate about 500 feet up. Similarly, the signed and fenced off water district tank at the top of the end of the pavement (about 500 feet further up) is fenced off, but the fencing does not obstruct the road, and a somewhat overgrown but clearly improved trail continues on the other side of the fenced area.

From there, you zig-zag up the steep trail for about 200 yards, to a large flat and barren area. Note your point of entry so you can find the trail back down when you're done.

Make a left and walk the narrow trail 1/8 of a mile, til you reach Van Tassel Motorway. Make a left there.

Sunflowers are frequently in bloom here, and turkey vultures and red tailed hawks are also common. Bees are less common than they used to be.

After about one mile of continued steep climbing, you reach a locked gate. This is just after passing under a set of very large high tension wires. SCE is placing a new and larger set of towers around here as part of the Tehatchapi Renewable Power Transmission project. Yes, this part of the same project that led to the expanded towers I've been running into down through the Puente Hills. Powerlines run along the San Gabriel River, linking the towers here in the San Gabriel Mountains with those going through the Puente Hills.

The dirt road changes name (on the google maps thing) from Van Tassel Motorway to Silverfish Motorway right around here.

Because I had some work to do back home, I couldn't go too far. I continued for about another 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile, climbing towards (then a little past) the foundations for another set of electrical towers (pictured here, as seen from far below).

After walking in front of the towers, then looping around them, I continued only 1/4 of a mile or so past them. Once I decided the view wasn't going to change dramatically in the next 1/2 mile, I turned around. I thought about heading up to a high point near the base of the tower pictured here, where a clear use trail headed up.

However, a downed sign said "No Entrance." I figured this was part of the mitigation plan SCE had to implement to replace all of these towers (in several places along the path, I also passed signs saying, "Raise Blades: No Grading," so there must be some sensitive habitat under that dirt road.

At this point, I decided to just head back home. I took several more pictures of the powers and these large colored balls that were hanging from the top wire. These were obviously intended to make it easier for helicopter pilots to see the wires, as I'm sure helicopters were used to help lay the transmission lines here.

Difficulty-wise, this seemed at least as hard (or easy, depending on your perspective) as Henninger Flats. I suspect the distance is less, but the altitude may be more.

Got back to the car about 2 1/2 hours after I left (I can charge up and down from Pinecrest Avenue to Chantry Flat in less than two hours, but I stopped for more picture taking on this trip than I usually do for Eaton Canyon). Figure on about 5 miles total walking for the day.

On the last bit of my hike, back on Opal Canyon Road and heading down to my car, I looked down the road at the San Gabriel Valley, below me. Across the 210 Freeway were the many tanks marking the location of the Miller Brewery. Beyond them was Industry Hills, with the rectangular resort building sitting prominently on the ridge top. Beyond that were the Puente Hills, where I had taken my last few hikes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hike 2012.015 -- Schabarum Park and Puente Hills

Hiked Monday, March 19. I enjoyed a brisk but sunny afternoon walking above Schabarum Park. From the Pomona Freeway (CA-60), exit at Azusa Avenue and head south. As you approach Colima Road (less than a mile from the freeway), move over into the second lane from the left. There are two left-turn lanes from Azusa on to Colima, and you want to be in the outermost one (the second from the left) because you need to make a right turn into Schabarum Park almost as soon as you complete your left turn.

On weekends, there's a $6 charge to enter the park. It's free on weekdays, so of course I made my trip on a weekday. ;D

After passing the unmanned entrance kiosk, I followed the "main" road straight, then to the left. It's 15 mph, and, of course, there are lots of people and cars in the area, even when the park is not very crowded. Drive carefully.

After what seems like a mile, the road deadends in a parking area. A restroom (locked when I've been there, but probably unlocked on weekends) with a large number "8" is at the end of the road, as is a small wooden trailhead sign. Head left on the trail to leave the park and head for the hills.

A general map of the Habitat Authority trails, including for the area around Schabarum Park is located here. The area to the south of Schabarum Park is covered in the Powder Canyon map, here.

I'm pretty sure the end of the road is just north of the trails crossing each other, near the south end of Schabarum Park.

As you begin your walk on the trail, the backyards of homes are on your right. After maybe 1/4 mile, there's a fork in the trail, which I believe to be the trail crossing on the map. I took the right one, although both would eventually take you the same way (you can make a loop out of this trail if you're so inclined). My impression is that the right fork takes you up quicker.

In sections, this trail is quite steep. There are also some erosion ruts along the way. I passed some monkey flower, and a couple of buzzing hummingbirds. They stopped visiting the flowers when they saw me, and one sat impatiently in a tree some distance away, waiting for me to leave. In the pictures, he looks fatter than I thought he was, but is definitely more colorful than the typical green hummingbirds I've seen in the past.

As you climb up into the hills, the homes of Hacienda Heights and La Puente are below you. Beyond that is the venerable Puente Hills Mall and the Pomona Freeway. On the other side of the freeway are the white roofs of City of Industry warehouses and factories. The large rectangular building on the hill a few miles out and slightly to your right is the Industry Hills golf course, hotel and conference center. The hill on the other side of Azusa Avenue is West Covina, and the reclaimed hills of the BKK landfill.

Beyond that are the San Gabriel Mountains. On a clear day, they can seem right next door. On a hazy day, they may be invisible.

This trail eventually makes its way up to the Purple Sage Trail. Just before you make the final looping ascent to the hill top where you'd hit the Purple Sage Trail, there's a broad, sweeping hillside that you pass along. In season (which would be now, and for the next few months, depending on the weather), it's covered in wild radish. They're a mixture of white and purple, and can look very pretty. Apparently, these were introduced into southern California by the Spanish, right about when they brought in the wild mustard and te Spanish broom that are so common in our foothills. Native wildflowers have been largely displaced by these relative newcomers.

There was a nice soft afternoon sunlight coming in low over the hill top, and I went bonkers, shooting lots of pictures of the wild radish. I've got about seven of them here, but there are dozens more elsewhere.

Continuing along the trail, you loop towards the west, then back the east, atop the hilltop. Views improve as you climb. You'll also soon reach the Purple Sage trail. If you go left there, you could loop back around towards Powder Canyon, and return that way.

Instead, I went left, along the rest of the Purple Sage trail. I shot some pictures of thistle, lupine, vetch, and wild mustard as I did. I also took plenty of shots of a pair of red tailed hawks that rode thermals in the area, but those came out somewhat blurry, as usual.

This trail passes by numerous radio towers and eventualy reaches a paved road. Crossing that road would send you west, towards Hacienda Blvd. However, I turned around there and made a large clockwise loop, back on the Skyline trail and towards Schabarum Park.

Total mileage was probably around five miles for the day.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Hike 2012.014 -- Powder Canyon, Puente Hills Landfill Native Habitat Authority

Hiked Wednes-day, March 14. My parade of short, after work hikes continued with a short walk out of Powder Canyon.

Thought I'd spend this rainy Saturday finally finishing the write-up of my Wednesday afternoon hike.

The trail map for Powder Canyon is here. It's been quite some time since I had been on this hike. Nonetheless, as soon as I started walking, it did look very familiar.

The trail head is on Fullerton Road, but it's not too obvious (though there is another trailhead nearby that is more obvious). If coming from the north, take the Fullerton Road south from the Pomona Freeway (CA-60). Just under 2 miles from the freeway, you'll pass Pathfinder Road. Immediately after Pathfinder, there's a small, narrow road on your right which is actually Fullerton Road. The big road you were on turns into Harbor Blvd.

Hence, if you were coming from the south, you'd take Harbor Blvd through the Puente Hills. Just as your descent through the hills begins to level out (and just before Pathfinder), you'll make a left turn on to Fullerton Road.

Fullerton Road here is a narrow, winding, two lane road that also passes through the mountains, and would rejoin Harbor Blvd just a mile or two further down the road. In fact, if you're coming north on Harbor, you'll also notice a left turn to get on the far southern end of Fullerton Road about a mile earlier. If you take that one, you've got a bit of winding road to follow before getting to the trailhead.

More likely, you'll access Fullerton Road from near the Pathfinder intersection. From there, it's just a few hundred yards to the dirt road that heads towards Powder Canyon. The first small parking area (near the Nogales Trail) is only about 100 yards in. Another 1/5 of a mile and you'd reach the end of the dirt road, near where a small equestrian exercise circle is located.

Because of the route I planned to take today, I parked near the Nogales Trail. The Nogales trail heads north from here, while the Powder Canyon Trail heads west. I started on the Powder Canyon Trail.

Although my previous write-up of this trail (linked above) was written in May 2010, it still occasionally spends time among my most-viewed pages of the week (which, on my humble site, means maybe 20 views). This was my first return to Powder Canyon.

Now, as then, the trail is a wide dirt road lined with overhanging walnut, oak and other trees. In has a very rural feel, even though you are still just a five minute walk from a very busy suburban road.

After just over 4/10ths of a mile, I reached the junction with the Grey Squirrel Trail. That's a short (1/5th of a mile) trail that heads up to a higher portion of Fullerton Road. It's a deadend, but I didn't hike this segment before, so I did, today. Decent views looking back north over the Habitat Authority and Schabarum Park lands. San Gabriel Mountains were largely obscured by haze, however.

Once back on the Powder Canyon trail, I continued up canyon. At 1/5th of a mile, I passed the fork for the Black Walnut trail that I would take on my return route. In another 1/5th of a mile, I was at the fork for the Purple Sage Trail, where I made a left.

This junction is at the saddle for Powder Canyon, and many mountain bikers choose to rest here before continuing down one way or the other, or to get ready for the tough push up Purple Sage Trail.

As I walked south on the Purple Sage Trail, I could look back over hills of wild mustard in bloom, and over large transmis-sion towers. As you climb, there are several dirt roads that fork off of the official trail, and it's not always obvious which one you're one. All weave along the top of the rise, however, and provide good views in most directions. It's a 490 foot gain to the high point, though which point is highest is also not an easy call.

Since I eventually reached a sign that claimed a junction between the Purple Sage and the Schabarum Trail, I apparently walked all 1.4 miles of that trail. Either way, it does not appear that the Buena Vista trail is signed here. I did stand atop a vantage that looked down on the trail that headed towards Schabarum Park, so I'm pretty sure I did walk that trail back to Purple Sage, then back towards my trailhead.

If I had the time and inclination, I could have extended my hike with a loop along the Schabarum Trail that would have added 1.5 miles or so to my day. Instead, I returned the way I came, back tot he Purple Sage-Powder Canyon Trail. When I got to the Black Oak trail, I took the left turn along that loop, and came back around and then down on the Nogales Trail to where my car was parked.

In addition to the wild mustard (which dominates most hillsides), wild radish was common in some pockets, particularly in more shaded pockets along the way. There were also sunflowers, lots of lupine along the road cut, and thistle adjacent to roads. Most thistle was still not in bloom, though in more sun-exposed areas, a few did bloom; many were set against mustard blooms.

Distance covered was between 4.5 and 5.6 miles. Given my total walking time, I'd tend to think it was closer to the former, though the trail signs suggest it was the latter. I know I did walk pretty quickly in many areas, but 5.6 miles still seems implausible long.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hike 2012.013 -- Arroyo San Miguel, Puente Hills

Hiked Tuesday, March 13.

I enjoyed the second weeknight of post-DST sunshine with a short after-work hike.
The Arroyo San Miguel/Arroyo Pescadero trail head is off of Colima Road in Whittier, just 1/2 mile or so north of Mar Vista. After you pass Mar Vista, there's a large church parking lot on your right. Right after that, there's another light, with a baseball field, also on your right. Almost immediately after that, be on the lookout for a left turn lane. Get in the turn pocket and cross over southbound Colima to enter the parking area for Arroyo San Miguel/Arroyo Pescadero trailhead.

The trail map for this area is here. There's a portapotty and water fountains in the parking lot.

Whether taking the Arroyo Pescadero or the Arroyo San Miguel trail, you start out by heading towards the south end of the lot, where the trail climbs up and to your right. Make a right at the first junction. Arroyo Pescadero would require a quick left. Arroyo San Miguel requires continuing forward.

I chose Arroyo San Miguel trail because the last time I was here, the area was undergoing substantial habitat restoration. A whole dumpster was filled with wild mustard that had been pulled. Eucalpytus trees had also been cut down. I was curious what the place looked like, now.

Arroyo San Miguel gains a bit of altitude as it more or less parallels Colima Road. Then it drops down and to the right, to pass under Colima Road. In fact, the entire hike is within sound (and, usually, sight) of Colima Road. This is no wilderness experience, that's for sure. But I knew that starting out.

The area that had been roped off as under habitat restoration back in 2010 was still roped off and under habitat restoration. Wild mustard was rare, but still popping up in places. More common were the native plants that are "supposed" to be growing here: buckwheat, sage, bush sunflowers, etc.

Small rodents (small rabbits and ground squirrels) were common, and evidence of their burrows was widespread. Above the hills, turkey vultures and red tailed hawks rode thermals, probably looking for careless rodents.

Large mansions stand atop the east side of the ravine. Colima, though not always visible, can be heard on the west side. The arroyo bottom is covered in vegetation. A few palm trees rose above the more typical arroyo plants: beavertail cactus, pepper trees, desert willow, and the like.

The pepper trees had what looked like flowers. Actually, I think they were the burst fruit, but they were pink, like flowers.

I walked to the end of the trail, which requires a slight inline. It terminates at what I think is a private road.

Bound as it is by homes and Colima Road, I suspect wildlife in here is mostly limited to dog-sized mammals--raccoon, skunk, porcupine, etc. Deer probably appear in the area, but mainly stay on the other side of Colima.

Made my way back to the car: 3.6 miles roundtrip.

Once near the parking lot, I took a short detour to look over into Arroyo Pescadero. I was thinking of hiking there the next day, but wound up heading to Powder Canyon, instead. Won't be able to post that one until at least tomorrow, and probably Friday or Saturday.