Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hike 2012.060 -- Hollywood Reservoir

I had been meaning to get to this reservoir for months, but never managed. Finally decided to make the drive here after work. It's significantly cooler near Griffith Park than near my home in the San Gabriel Valley, and it's been hot recently. So the idea of heading west, to a more ocean-influenced area, seemed attractive.

Printed out a trail description and directions to the trail head, but then forgot to bring them with me. Still, I partially had the directions remembered, so I was able to make my way there without too much difficulty.

Had I taken the most direct route, I would have taken the Hollywood Freeway (U.S. 101) north, to the Barnham Blvd exit. After getting off the freeway, my route paralleled the freeway for about 1/2 mile before actually reaching Barnham Blvd, where I made a sharp turn to the right. After about 1/4 mile, there's a traffic light signed as Lake Hollywood Drive. Turn right.

Almost immediately after turning on to Lake Hollywood Drive, make a left at Primera Ave., then an immediate right on Suvida Drive (didn't remember their actual names at the time--just the general idea). Suvida Drive "turns into" (actually, a slight left turn gets you on) Lake Hollywood Drive. (You could have stayed on Lake Hollywood Drive in the first place, but this way knocks off several hundred narrow yards of driving).

From there, the third right keeps you on Lake Hollywood Drive. It'll make a rather steep descent here. There's a gate and on-street parking at the bottom of this hill, but parking there would leave you with a 6/10ths of a mile walk adjacent to a paved road with car traffic. At one time, you could have begun a loop around Lake Hollywood here, but the road along the west side of the lake is no longer passable.

Instead, I continued along Lake Hollywood Drive those 6/10ths of a mile. There, a gate closes the road forward. Tahoe Drive is on your left. I drove up Tahoe Drive a bit, U-turned, then parked along the steep hill here.

I'm moderately confident that there is at least foot access from somewhere up above this section of Tahoe Drive towards the trail that runs near the base of the Hollywood Sign, but I did not have the motivation to seek it out today.

Instead, I laced up my boots and headed clockwise around the half of the lake that was to my south and west.

This entire path is paved, meaning boots were hardly necessary. Oh, well.

There's a sign at on the gate indicating the gate is locked at 7:30pm from May through August, at 6:30pm in September, at 6pm in October, at 5pm from November through February, 6pm in March, and 6:30pm in April. The gate is unlocked at 6am year 'round. There's also a map of the lake and a large sign saying, "NO DOGS." However, as I was leaving, a woman walked a VERY large dog though the gate, so obviously that regulation is ignored by some.

Once on the "path," your hike takes you on a winding road that stays above and adjacent to Lake Hollywood. A chain link fence keeps you from the lake. It also requires you to shoot through the little chain links to get pictures of the reservoir. It's a shame, because this is a very picturesque reservoir. You can also see some houses with undoubtedly spectacular views, and the Hollywood sign. Also, on the hill to your south, there's a water tank. Next to the water tank is a cell phone tower, "disguised" as a pine tree.

After 1.5 miles to 2 miles, you reach Mulholland Dam. Not quite sure on the distance. Books and posts I have read say there used to be a four-mile long loop around the lake, and the portion from Tahoe Drive to the other side of Mulholland Dam is more than half the distance around the lake. Took me about 90 minutes to walk, though I stopped for a lot of picture-taking.

The dam was built in the early 1900s, overseen by Mulholland. It looks to be several hundred yards long, with an arc facing into the water. As you walk across the dam, this is the only place where you don't have to look through or over chain link to see the water.

South of the dam are large pines that mostly shield the view of the dam from the residents below. Hollywood stretches out beyond those trees. You can see the Capitol Records building, nestled near the hill to the left.

The map I saw at the start of the trail said there were portapotties, a drinking fountain, and an emergency phone on the west side of the dam. I didn't see any of those things there, though I didn't look that hard. Portapotties were definitely set up near the east side of the dam, however.

Along your path, it is surprisingly peaceful. I did not hear any cars during my walk, and came across no more than four people during my 90 minutes or so on the path. There were a few helicopters that flew over me, however. Helicopters visiting the Hollywood Sign and Griffith Observatory are a frequent annoyance for the locals.

The locals apparently aren't too keen on outsiders visiting their path, either. The majority of the people I greeted on my walk ignored me completely as they walked past me.

I saw three deer during my little jaunt. Two of them were on the lake side of the fence, and I walked to within about five feet of them before they startled. They still stayed about ten yards away as I snapped a few blurry pictures.

A second, large, 8-point buck, scrambled up a hillside as a jogger approached him from behind.

Large houses with great views overlook the reservoir. Looks like a condo or apartment building is also coming up just on the other side of the Weidlake Drive gate, which is adjacent to the Mulholland Dam that impounds the reservoir.

Probably not worth a long drive just to see the lake, but I'm convinced there's a way to link the lake with a hike to the top or base of the Hollywood sign. I'll post that part once I managed to walk it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hike 2012.059 -- Henninger Flat

Hiked Friday, August 24. Short hike over a trail I've covered many times before. Just wanted to get a little walk in before the weekend.

Parked on Crescent Drive and took a short walk up Pinecrest Drive, to the gated upper entrance and crossed the historic bridge that marked the beginning of the old Mt. Wilson Toll Road.

I know if I push myself, I can do it round trip in just under two hours. However, it was warm, and I did not push myself. I just enjoyed being outdoors.

As is often the case on my Friday afternoon hikes, I'm surprised by how few people are out there with me. Maybe a half-dozen people coming down as I went up, and maybe a dozen coming up when I came down. I guess most working folks don't make it there until about six pm.

The camp-ground at Henninger has been open for at least a few months (forget when I first saw people camping there), and a few dads and their kids were on the trail. Kinda nice intro to backpacking and camping, I guess. I wonder if the sky is any darker up there? No Milky Way, I'm sure, buy maybe a few more stars to make it special.

On the way up, I noticed the first-quarter moon. The next day was going to be a sidewalk astronomy night. Unfortunately, I had to work that night, so I couldn't see my usual crowd.

However, I did put my schedule request in for September, and I gave myself the next sidewalk evening (9/22)off. I also got the next day off (9/23). That's PATS, the Pacific Astronomy and Telescope Show. Not expecting to buy anything there, but I like to show my support for having a big astronomy show like that virtually in my own backyard, so I and the rest of the Old Town Astronomers bought tickets to attend. Probably try to catch a few talks, too.

Interest-ingly, after my hike, as I drove by the Eaton Canyon Nature Center, the sign that was there a week or so previously that said the parking lot closed at 7pm was no longer there, and the parking lot gate was still open. I don't know what the deal was with the early parking lot closure previously, but it may be a thing of the past. Still, I'd likely park on the street if there was some doubt about when I'd be getting back.

About 5.4 miles for the day, and a decent bit of climbing. Felt good.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hike 2012.058 -- Sturtevant Falls

Hiked Tuesday, August 21. I came back here intending to finish my hike to Mt. Zion, but got distracted by some pretty flowers. ;D

My initial plan was to head down the Gabrielino Trail, turn left on the Lower Winter Creek Trail, head on up to Mt. Zion, then return on the Upper Winter Creek Trail. Then I decided maybe I would walk around and pass the waterfall and see if I had time to reach Mt. Zion that way. Realistically, I would not have made that, but I did want to see some new trail.

Instead, after chatting with a few folks along the way, I just got the desire to see Sturtevent Falls, again. Passed a boy, fly fishing. I did not say anything, but I did not approve. The water is so warm and shallow that the rainbow trout they were trying to catch are already terribly stressed. Even "catch and release," the chances of killing a fish seem just too likely to be ethical.

Continued on to the falls. Not much water, as expected. The upper parts of the falls were practically invisible, as a thin sheet of water fell down towards the lower tiers. Down in that lower area, the water was more visible, as the cracks of the rock funnel what little water there is into a thin ribbon.

After only a few moments, I turned around. I was still planning to do some exploring up above Sturtevent Canyon. So it was downstream for 1/2 mile, to where the trail heads out of the canyon. I took the foot route (as opposed to the horse route), which winds back above the falls, high on the side of the cliff.

There are several fair-sized falls in the gorge above the main Sturtevent Falls. Some California Fuschia bloomed near one. I shot a crazy number of shots there, trying without success to get the exposure right.

After about fifteen minutes of this, I decided it was time to go back. Returned the way I came. Figure about five miles for the day.

Extremely tired this past week, so I didn't get around to posting this for several days. Have another hike since then, too. I'd also like to insert some links to previous hikes to Sturtevant, to give you an idea of how low the water has become in just the past few months.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Hike 2012.057 -- Winter Creek Loop

Hiked Friday, August 17. Took me about 70 minutes to get from work to the trailhead. I had to work about ten minutes late, as well, so add in the traffic, and the time to lace up the boots and change my clothes, and I didn't get get off the pavement until about 5pm.

It's been long enough since my last hike up Mt. Zion that I don't remember exactly when I would have reached it. I actually think I was within 150 yards or so of the part where you head off the main trail and up the ridge to the flat summit of Zion. However, time was getting short. Because they lock the gate of the road up to Chantry Flat, I didn't want to mess with the possibility of getting locked in. So, once it got to 6:20pm, I turned around, taking the shorter route back to Chantry.

Made it back to the car around 7:20pm, so I probably did have time to go the extra ten minutes or so to the summit. Oh, well.

Distance for this hike was somewhat over six miles. The sign where the trail to Mt. Zion splits off from the Winter Creek loop, says it's three miles to Chantry Flat via the Upper Winter Creek trail, and 2 miles via the Lower Winter Creek trail. It also says it's 1.5 miles to Mt. Zion. I'm quite confident I went over a mile up the trail before I turned around, so I probably walked closer to seven miles in the 2 1/2 hours I walked. So six miles is my conservative estimate.

Funny thing about my new job is I get an e-mail pretty much every day that tells me when sunset is. Tomorrow (Aug 21), local sunset is 7:32pm. Last Friday, it would have been a little after 7:40pm. Because of the canyon-ous nature of the Winter Creek loop, plus the sections of thick forest canopy and the fact that the ridge is to your west, and it starts getting dark on this trail much earlier than it would in a more open location. So even if I try to finish this hike tomorrow, it will be a tight finish. Maybe if the traffic looks light, I'll give it a try.

The other thing I noticed was that sycamore leaves are already turning yellow and falling. It's been a tough summer and those trees are looking stressed.

The Chantry Flat trailhead is located at the top of Santa Anita Avenue. From the Foothill Freeway (I-210), exit at Santa Anita, and drive north, through old town Sierra Madre and the residential areas north of old town. Then wind along the two miles or so to the end of the road.

There are three parking areas at the top (four if you count the store). There's also limited parking along the road itself, just below the parking area. A USFS Adventure Pass is required, unless you park in the store lot, which also charges $5 or more. The lot fills quickly on weekends, but I'm always surprised by how empty it is in the late afternoon of weekdays. I got to park in the first space on Friday.

The Upper Winter Creek trail starts off from the west end of the uppermost parking area, passing a locked gate. The Lower Winter Creek trail would be reached by heading down the Gabrielino Trail, which heads north from the southeast end of the lowest parking area. You would go down the paved road, cross the bridge at the bottom of the paved section, then make a left up the Winter Creek Trail. Heading straight at that junction would take you to Sturdevant Falls, and also access several other trails, several of which could be taken on up to Mt. Wilson.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Hike 2012.056 -- Mt Hollywood Road and Mulholland Trail

Hiked Sunday, August 12. Kind of a pointless hike. I was going to try to get to the base of the Hollywood Sign, again. I had looked at trail maps and confirmed that where the "trail" passed into a public street, a side-stairway should lead me to an access trail that would loop nearer the sign, and eventually lead me down to the Hollywood Reservoir.

However, I had to work before I could walk, and I had a relatively light lunch during my shift. By the time I hit the trail, at 5:30pm, I was already tired and hungry. And thirsty! It was probably still in the 90s as I walked, even as the sun dropped down towards the horizon. Had plenty of water, but I sure could have used a Power Bar!

I started near the observatory, then hiked down West Observatory Road, crossed Western Canyon Road, then headed up the paved but not-open-to-public-vehicles Mt. Hollywood Drive. It's about 1/2 mile down from the observatory to the gate, then west on Mt Hollywood Drive about 1.5 miles. From there, I got on the Mulholland trail, but only made it about another 1/2 mile before I came to a trail closed sign. Obviously, the sign was widely ignored, but, for several reasons (including my level of hunger), I decided it was wise to return to my car. I'll call it five miles total (took me about an hour each way, and I was moving at a fair but not strenuous pce)--long enough to qualify for a hike, but not a lot to see.

Well, not a total waste. I did see a flock of quail. One of them posed on a branch long enough for me to photograph him.

I also snapped some pictures on the Observatory grounds before heading back to my car.

If I decide to try to hike Hollywood Reservoir after work, I'll need to make a point of eating a snack before I hike, and maybe driving to a different trail head. Alternatively, I could have taken a higher, ridge-running route over to Mt. Lee Drive, then dropping down from there. That way would be longer, with more climbing, though.

My next clear afternoon is Wednesday. It's still supposed to be crazy hot then, so I'm not sure what kind of hike I'll be up for.

BTW, turns out there's a mountain lion living in Griffith Park. I'll keep an eye out for him.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Hike 2012.055 -- Eaton Canyon Falls

Hiked Thursday, August 9.

Apparently, Eaton Canyon Park closes earlier now than it used to. I arrived late, just around 7pm, at which point two L.A. County Sheriff's Department patrol cars blocked entrance to the parking lot. It was locked by the time I walked back. Still figured walking would be fine, and I knew I had just about an hour of daylight, which should be enough for the 3-4 miles round trip from the nature center to the waterfall and back.

There were surprisingly few people as I walked down, however, so I worried for a moment that maybe they really were serious about the park closing at 7pm as opposed to "dusk." However, after about ten minutes walking, I passed several people coming out. A few warned me that a young cougar had been spotted in the area earlier. Hiking alone, I that meant I had to be a little more vigilant than normal. That also meant I felt pretty stupid stumbling back out of the park well after 8:30pm.

When I got to the waterfall, it was past sunset. The narrow canyon walls make the area appear even darker. I squeezed off several shots, bracing myself on rocks or with my camera bag on top of rocks. Exposure times of up to 2 seconds resulted.

A couple of hikers were there before me, and two more arrived as I started shooting my carefully-secured camera. Didn't want to relocate it and try to get the balance, again, so I kept shooting. Tried a couple of camera settings. I think the last one pretty accurately reflects the brightness (or lack thereof) as I finished my shooting.

Made my way back, walked slowly and tried to "look big" as I returned to my car. Too dark to tell; if the cougar was sitting down just off the trail, I wouldn't have seen him. I so I kept my camera and car keys handing to try to stab him, in the unlikely event that I was attacked. I was not, of course.

Roundtrip distance on this hike I usually give as 3 miles, but I'm thinking it's actually a little further than that from the nature center. Also, I actually parked on the street and had to walk several hundred yards just to get to the nature center, so I'll call it 4 miles for the day. Water's pretty low, but I'm not sure if that's the lowest I've ever seen it. Even inside of the mouth of the canyon, a good part of the wash is dry.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Hike 2012.054C -- Hidden Valley Loop, Joshua Tree National Park

Hiked Saturday, August 4.

After getting off the tram, we headed east, across the Coachella Valley, and in search of CA-62, which runs through Morongo Valley and Yucca Valley before reaching the village of Joshua Tree. At Park Blvd in Joshua Tree, you make a right and continue on to the park boundary.

In retrospect, it probably would have been faster to just get on I-10 at Exit 120, go west three miles, and take Exit 117 north, which would be CA-62 east. Instead, I took surface streets all the way, before running into CA-62 pretty much where I thought I would. Still, there's something to be said for taking the smaller roads and appreciating the expanse of the American West.

After reaching Park Blvd, it's about three miles to the park boundary, where I flashed my America the Beautiful Pass and picked up the map and newsletter that allowed our friend to do a quick read to decide which of several possible short trails we'd take. We settled on Hidden Valley.

About six miles later, we arrived at Hidden Valley. It was around 7pm. That would give us about 90 minutes to kill walking around before it got reasonably dark, when we could briefly set up one of my telescopes. My wife insisted our friend was interested in doing some viewing. I never know if people actually want to look or are just willing to put up with the viewing as a cost of spending the day with us, but I packed my 100ED refractor and Orion Sirius mount for this night.

Despite my many visits to Hidden Valley, I had never actually taken the little nature trail that leaves from there. It starts at the north end of the main lot (there's a smaller lot further away from the highway--don't go there if you are taking the hike). There's a large trailhead sign there, which tells you this was private grazing land relatively recently. That means the flora was probably pretty heavily altered by the cattle grazing. Still, the rocks are impressive, and there are plenty of Joshua tree and assorted other succulents. Somewhat surprisingly (to me), there were also quite a number of pinyon pine, as well as a small-leaved oak that I had never noticed before.

The trail leaves the parking lot and begins a slight climb as it heads into Hidden Valley. The entrance to this hidden valley was blasted away by the private land owner, creating the pass we walked through. Undoubtedly, fencing and other "improvements" had been made in the past, and I'm pretty sure I saw evidence of that past fencing and blasting. Still, if you didn't look to closely, it looked pretty wonderful.

Like much of Joshua Tree National Parks, the rock outcroppings were other-worldly, and lit up nicely in the late afternoon sun. They get a much warmer tinge to them, versus when you view them in the harshness of a midday sun.

Plenty of adventurous souls wandered off-trail and climbed the rocks, mostly without any sort of technical equipment.

When your cherry-stem trail reaches the loop portion of the trail, the arrow points left, to put you on a clockwise path. I suppose that's so you don't pass as many people, and helps spread the crowds out and give you a greater sense of solitude on this short little trail.

As with the Barker Dam trail of last week, I really enjoyed this little hike. I'm glad I did this one, too.

After we got back to the car, we grazed on the assorted foods that had survived the day. I had a surprisingly large collection of Power Bars and Cliff Bars that had collected in my day pack over the past month or so. We also had a few more Mandarin oranges and bananas, as well as diet sodas and the last of the Powerade that I brought with me up to San Jacinto State Park. Also, a can of Pringles. Ah, the food of champions. ;D

We then moved the car over to the west end of the lot, where we had a clear view of the southwest. Once it was dark enough, we saw Mars and Saturn, then looked at Albireo. As it got darker and it appeared we would stay longer than I thought we would stay, I went ahead and did a goto alignment.

My Sirius mount has been really poor with gotos the past few years, and, as a result, I hadn't even bothered with trying an alignment for a year or more. I just use it as a tracking equatorial mount. Nonetheless, this night, with the car battery providing a strong and consistent power source, I went ahead and did a two-star alignment.

The results were mediocre, but good enough. With the relatively wide field of my 100ED (compared to an 8" or 11" SCT), the gotos were close enough to put the object in the eyepiece if it was close to one of my alignment stars (Vega, which meant M57 and M27), or inside the field of view of my finderscope for things further away (M17 and M31, for example). It helped speed us through a very quick tour of a fair selection of summer objects: planetary nebula, globular clusters, open clusters, emission nebula and a galaxy. Then we packed up and headed home.

Pulled into the driveway not long after midnight. This made for a pretty long day, but a pretty excellent one, at that: Several nice hikes, two different destination parks, and some time under a reasonably dark sky. It also meant I was pretty beat on Sunday, but I'm not complaining. It was definitely worth the trip.

Hidden Valley is an easy one mile loop (tougher in the summer sun, of course), with options for rock climbing all around. There's a slightly gain of altitude (I would guess no more than 20 or 30 feet) near the start, and a few other gentle inclines along the way. Not a lot of shade unless you're hiking very early or very late, though.

It's not a destination all by itself, but it's a nice place to stretch your legs, and one of many 1 to 2 mile long nature trails scattered around the park. After the drive to Joshua Tree, I figure most folks would want to take at least a few short walks, and this one would be a gentle introduction to the park.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

HIke 2012.054A and B -- Desert View Trail and Round Valley Loop, Mt. San Jacinto State Park

Hiked Saturday, August 4. Walked these two hikes on Saturday, although I apparently took no pictures once I got on the loop. Of course, I had covered most of the area on the Round Valley Loop on previous hikes, here and here.

A friend of my wife (Laura) was visiting from out of state, and we all decided to make it a desert day. After the drive and ride up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, we took in Grubb's View and ate lunch. Pricey food up there, even with the discount they gave me for my seasonal tram pass.

On a semi-related note, I was informed by a snooty little clerk that my pass did not entitle me to a discount on any gift shop purchases. So now I have to go back to an earlier post and amend that.

I don't care much about the discount, because it would have been less than a dollar on our small purchase. I did care that I was informed of this in an extremely condescending and gratuitous manner, treated like an idiot and a liar. I guess, in that respect, they could have bought themselves a lot more customer goodwill than they cost with the dollar *they* saved. Because, guess what? Next year, I'm not riding the tram. Just out of spite. Yeah, I know the sales clerk won't know about this, won't care, and will still get paid whether I visit or not. But what can I do when an employee pisses me off, but refuse to patronize his company?

On the positive side, it was a great day to be hiking up around 8,500 feet. The temperatures were well into the 90s back in the San Gabriel Valley, and well over 100 down in Palm Springs. But up at the top of the aerial tramway, it was a pleasant 70 degrees.

Our first hike of the day (after taking the short walk up to Grubb's View) was the Desert View Trail. I had not taken this one before. It's one of two trails (really, one and a half, since you will almost certainly choose to either come or go along a portion of the Nature Loop Trail) up near Mountain Station where you do NOT need a wilderness permit.

You leave Mountain Station, take the winding concrete sidewalk down to the west, and then turn left. Signage will direct you to Desert View. The name promises desert views, and it delivers.

There are five notch-points where the Desert View Trail pops out for views to the east and south. Along the way, you also skirt portions of Long Meadow. I like this area because it is very Sierra-like. The meadow (at least now--don't know what it will look like in September or October) is lush and green. Not too many wildflowers in or on the way to the meadow, though. I did pass a number of lupine, many of which were in bloom, but many others were not yet blooming. Lupine have a long season, so I somewhat expect them to be part of the scene for at least the next month or two.

Also some yellow flowers that I can't identify, but which I think I have seen at similar altitudes above Ice House Canyon, in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Finally, along near the first notch, I saw some pretty, low-growing California fuchsia. They were almost ground-hugging here, quite different from how I have seen them in the past. However, the flower shape, color, and structure was unmistakable. They added a nice splash of red to the dirt, pebbles of granite and pine cones of Long Valley.

There's also a very impressive granite dome visible from several of the overlooks. Again, it was very Sierra-like.

To the southwest, Divide Peak towered in the distance. I headed that way on my last visit to the area, on the way to Skunk Cabbage Meadow.

After the fifth notch that's the official end of the Desert View Trail. However, a short but sweet descent to the west takes you to the Nature Loop. It was our impression that the grade heading up from the south end of the Desert View Trail is steeper than the grade coming in from the north, so we recommend heading out on the Desert View then returning via the Nature Loop, not vice versa.

The funniest thing I had heard in months was spoken by a young boy (probably five years old or so) as he was climbing up towards the south end of the Desert View Trail: "This is the baddest day of my life!" I could not help but laugh, and respond, "Oh, no it's not!" But he insisted, "Yes it is."

I suspect he is not a future outdoors-man in the making.

While he struggled up the grade, we quickly dropped back down, and were back near the beginning of the trails in no time.

With Laura apparently deciding this hadn't been enough walking for a day, she decided to head out into the Wilderness (capital "W," because it's statutory Wilderness). So we made a left when we got back to the backcountry trails and picked up a Wilderness permit on the way out.

My initial plan was just to take an easy mile or so out, but we wound up doing the whole Round Valley Loop (about four miles). That means one mile south, on the Willow Creek Trail, then 1.1 miles west, on the High Trail, then back 1.8 miles, on the Low Trail. Added to the 1.5 miles or so for the Desert View and Nature Trail segments we walked, and the .3 miles each way from the tram to the trail split for Low and Willow Creek trails, that makes it between 5.5 and 6 for Mount San Jacinto State Park. It actually didn't seem like that much.

We had the benefit of cool temperatures overcast skies, and several periods of large-drop drizzles, accompanied by some impressive-sounding thunder. Despite the thunder, the skies never looked really dark, so I was pretty confident that any rain we would get would be short-lived and not necessarily very heavy. Fortunately, I was correct.

This extended bout of hiking had the advantage (along with our relatively late start) of not getting us back down to the Valley Station until about six o'clock. I think Joshua Tree looks best in the late afternoon and twilight, and the timing for that was perfect. So, after our adventures in Mount San Jacinto State Park, we made our way to the north and east, and the West Entrance of Joshua Tree National Park. More on that part of the day's adventures in my next post.

In the meantime, I was very happy to have gotten a fair amount of hiking in, especially the short little Desert View Trail. It being so short and close to the tram, I probably would not have bothered walking it if not for the company. I'm glad I did. There were many great views on that short bit of trail. In fact, all of the pictures I've posted with this blog were taken either at the bottom or top of the tram, or along the Desert View and Nature Loop trails.

It's some serious payoff for such a small amount of effort. Take my word for it: Walking this trail will not be the baddest day of your life!

One other thing I learned that day was just in overhearing people walking around (who did a better job of reading the little flyer on "Conifers of Long Valley" than I did): The bark of Jeffrey Pines smells like vanilla. Nice texture to that bark, too.

Looks I have only one more free weekend-day I could head here before the end of the month, when my pass expires. Debating what hike I will do, or if I will visit, at all.