Sunday, March 30, 2014

Hike 2014.021 -- Saddleback Butte State Park

Hiked Saturday, March 29. As you can see from the current Hikes of 2014 list, I've been pretty busy the past few weeks. I'm now all the way up to 21 for the year. Lots of hikes, but they're all pretty short. Used to be, one hike would be 10 miles, 12 miles, or more. Now, even with 3 or 4 hikes, I'm only getting that kind of mileage. It's a little sad, but also more realistic, given my limited time.

This is the latest of my hikes (one of 2 from Saturday). It was also my second trip to Saddleback Butte State Park. My first trip was three weeks ago.

FYI, the State Park's website for Saddleback Butte is here. The brochure with a map of the park is here.

Saddleback Butte is about midway between CA-14 and I-15, so whether you approach it from the east or the west depends on where you happen to live. In my case, it it essentially equidistant from both sides.

But I wasn't coming from home today. I was coming from the west, having visited Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve (state park, to be blogged soon) and Ripley Desert Woodland State Park. The Poppy Reserve is about equidistant from I-5 and CA-14. If heading from the Poppy Reserve to Saddleback Butte, you can shoot right under CA-14 on Avenue J. Once on the east side of CA-14, shopping and eating (and gasoline) options are plentiful, though I didn't know it at the time and stupidly bought a couple of gas station hot dogs for lunch at the first station I saw.

Had I continued even a few hundred more yards, I would have seen many more choices. Oh, well. Live and learn.

If heading down Avenue I, look for Sierra Highway, and make a right (this was several blocks past the gas station, though not so far away that I'd bother moving into the left lane without a really good reason. Don't go into the right lane too early, though. Most of those become right turn only lanes, and you don't want to be forced to turn too early.
After the right on Sierra Highway, you'll pass by Lancaster Blvd. That would have been the main "Old Town" area of Lancaster. Next, you'll pass the Metrolink Station, on your left.

Immediately after the station, the next signal, on your left, is Avenue J. Turn left and continue an additional 17+ miles. At 170th Street East, you're there. Continue straight a bit past that corner, and the day use entrance is on your right. Or, turn right at 170th Street East and continue about 1/2 mile to the campground entrance, on your left.

On my first trip here, I drove to the camp-ground and hiked the Saddleback Butte Peak trail. My plan today was to hike from the day use area. I took the Little Butte Trail to the Saddleback Butte Trail, then returned via the dirt road that connects the day use and campground areas.

The coreopsis that were near peak bloom last time were mostly past peak, now. Many still bloomed, but even more had begun to dry and go to seed.

Meanwhile, there were several new additions, not all of whom am I sure about their names.

It was also very windy, which made taking some pictures pretty impossible. All of the desert dandelion I saw, for example, were being blown into ovoid shapes. Not very picturesque that way.

In addition to what's shown, I also saw a lot of fiddleneck. But nearly all were the same yellow variety I've been seeing in all of my other recent desert hikes (most of which I haven't blogged, yet--I'm working on that!). But one, and only one, fiddleneck plant I saw had these orangish buds. So that one made the cut. :D

On my way back the dirt road, I came across a large banner for the Antelope Valley Astronomy Club. This being a new moon weekend, they were optimistically awaiting the clearing of clouds and dying down of wind so they could do some astronomy at a nice public park. I chatted with them a bit, because even on my first trip here, I considered the astronomy potential of Saddleback Butte. It's not super dark, but it is darker than the Angeles National Forest.

It's got dirt roads and camp areas, but it's a hardened dirt that shouldn't be that dusty once night falls. And it has flush toilets, which are always nice. It's also less than two hours away from my house (depending on traffic), and at a much lower altitude than Mt. Pinos. So it's something I'm considering, for future reference.

At any rate, about a 3 mile loop for my second hike of the day. Minor elevation gain and loss of maybe 200 feet. Easy, scenic, and I got to talk to some fellow amateur astronomers. All in all, a good day.

Incidentally, after the hike, I tried tracking down two county "parks" I saw on the map: Butte Valley Wildflower Sanctuary and Carl O Gerhardy Wildlife Sanctuary. Near as I can tell, both county "sanctuaries" are just signed areas. No designated parking or trails. I guess the long range plan is that, when housing someday covers this area (yuck), these areas will remain "wild." That's something, but I really hope the areas around the sanctuaries stay wild for a good long time, too.


  1. You were lucky to find some wildflowers. I went hiking this morning in Santa Clarita and didn't see any.

  2. Head on out to the eastern Antelope Valley.

    There were also some poppies in the state poppy reserve. Not a good year, but still several patches of color. I'm still working on that post. Hopefully, I'll get that done by tomorrow night.