Sunday, June 29, 2014

Hike 2014.035 -- Bristlecone Trail, Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, NV

Hiked Saturday, June 28. Not only am I well behind in the number of hikes I would like to have done by this time of the year, I'm also way behind in blogging what hikes I *have* done. This is my most recent, which leaves about six others still to be blogged.

The "Bristle-cone Trail" is usually referred to as the Bristle-cone Loop, but I didn't do the loop. The loop requires about .8 of a mile on pavement, and about two miles on a road-width grade that has no shade and little to offer versus the other part of the trail.

The Upper Bristlecone Trailhead is at the end of NV-156. To get here, you take U.S. 95 north from Las Vegas. About 30 miles northwest of the U.S. 95/I-15 Interchange ("The Spaghetti Bowl"), turn left at NV-156 (signed for the Las Vegas Ski Resort). Drive up this road until it deadends, just past the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort (about 17 miles).

There's a smallish parking area here. The trail-head is well-signed.

On your way here, you'd have passed the signed "Lower Bristlecone Trailhead, about .8 miles before. The trail from that point would be a road grade; during the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration put men to work building a road through the mountains. When the War broke out, the project was shelved in favor of things with higher priorities and greater national security importance.

Note that there are no restroom facilities at either trailhead. There are some camp and picnic areas nearby, though, currently, those are closed. When they're open, I'd assume they'd at least have portapotties there, though I don't know for sure. This means you gotta go before you leave town, and/or be prepared for a walk in the woods.

From the upper trailhead, the trail runs along a low ridge, overlooking the base of the ski resort. Some of those runs look pretty steep!

There's a fair amount of aspen here, which means in the fall, things should get pretty colorful. I guess in early spring, there must also be some runoff streams from all the snow on the high peaks. This year, by the end of June, however, there was snowmelt here. It was pretty dry, which is why I was really surprised when I saw some columbine blooming in the first ravine.

Also lots of a purple flower that didn't photograph well, small white, fragrant flowers, something that looked like very small aster, and a few other flowers.

On the return trip, along this last straight-away before getting back to the car, I saw a couple of swallowtail butterflies, mating. They moved fast and unpredictably, and I could not manage a decent focus on them, and definitely didn't have time to adjust my iso and shutterspeed. But I did wind up with an interesting picture, nonetheless. You'll know it when you see it.

Trail descrip-tions on-line also mentioned mountain bikes. Yes, they were there. They have no problem on the wide road that heads out of the lower trail-head, but the upper trail-head area is trickier for them.

They seemed nice enough, either way.

Descrip-tions online also mention that this trail is heavily used by all. When I started, at about 8am, I made it all the way from the upper trail-head to the junction with the Bonanza Trail. Probably saw no more than six bicyclists and a like number of hikers.

However, on the return trip, I must have seen twice that number of bicycles, and a crazy number of hikers. In particular, a "meet-up" was coming up the trail--must have been 30 or 35 hikers in that group alone. Add another 15 or so hikers in smaller groups, and that was a little much.

Well, in particular, the meet-up was a little much. Again, nothing against the individuals, but waiting at a narrow point in the trail for the 30-plus hikers to file past felt like waiting for a locomotive hauling a hundred boxcars to pass.

BTW, I guess I haven't mentioned why this is called the Bristlecone Loop. Yes, there are bristlecone pines, here. Lots of them. Most are healthy and green, and look nothing like you pictures bristlecone pines to look like.

But there is one ridge, maybe 1 1/2 miles from the upper trailhead, where a number of tree skeletons still stand, looking very much as you *do* expect them to look.

However, far more are healthy and alive, and you can contrast the two types, and wonder what sort of disaster it must have taken to kill those trees on the ridge.

Incidentally, there are interpretive signs at the trailhead that tell you how to identify bristlecone pines: Their needles are in bunches of five, and they grow off in all directions from the branch, giving a sort of bottle-clearer look to the branches.

A close-up of a living tree is below.

I hiked to the junction with the Bonanza Trail. The trail sign there said it was two miles back the way I came to the upper trail-head, or three miles forward to the lower trail-head. Those are approximate distances, I'm sure. The Forest Service says the full look is 6.2 miles.

I'm giving my distance covered roundtrip as four miles. It might have been a bit more, but that's what I'll go with. The remainder of the look forward didn't look that interesting, I didn't want to have to walk on pavement, and I had an engagement to make later that afternoon.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Mojave Star Party, and a Non-Hike to Cow Cove Petroglyphs, Mojave National Preserve, CA

Not hiked on May 31, 2014. I don't usually post about hikes I don't go on, but this one requires an exception.

I had very high hopes for multiple hikes on this trip (Friday, May 30 - Sunday, June 1). I was driving out to Las Vegas on a Friday, driving down to Mojave Preserve on Saturday, then back home on Sunday. I was thinking two, maybe three hikes for the weekend. Instead, I got zero.

I did get some nice views of a very dark sky, however. That was for the bi-annual Mojave National Preserve star party. Twice a year, some friends of mine (and, most times, me, too) head out to the Mojave National Preserve with our telescopes, and we show lovers of wilderness something we can not show them from here in town: A really dark sky, and some of the wonders of the cosmos that you can only see from a really dark location.

The next star party's going to be on Saturday, November 1, 2014, in case you want to start planning your fall hikes already. :D

Well, so there I was, trying to plan some hikes for this long weekend, and I come across this site. It does not it is "difficult" for non-4wd, but that it is accessible by all vehicle classes. I spent some time looking at google maps satellite imagery to match the description up with actual photos of the route, and it looks pretty straightforward.
So, off I go: exit I-15 at Cima Road, south about 1/4 mile to Aiken Mine Road. Turned on the road. . . And in less than a mile, I was stuck in the sand. This was after several experiences that felt a lot like driving over ice: car's sliding, and turning the steering wheel has no effect on your direction of travel.

So I used my arms and hands to clear a path in the sand and got rolling forward, again.
After another 100 yards or so, I'm stuck again. And I'm not even at the part on the map that warns of deep sand. Practically the whole freaking road is deep sand.

So then I decide, well, better turn around, because I've got another six miles of road, and this isn't even the tough part. And I'll have to drive back on this, too.

Of course, as expected, turning around in deep sand is not easy. You're going perpendicular to the lines of travel (where previous tires have compressed the sand a bit). So I get stuck about four more times before finally getting back on to some tire tracks and making my way back to the pavement.
After I got back to the gas station on Cima road, I asked one of the workers there, "Hypothetically speaking, if I were to get stuck in the sand of Aiken Mine Road, how much would it have cost to get pulled out? Answer: Probably $500. So, my advice: Do NOT attempt reaching Cow Cove petroglyphs by passenger car via Aiken Mine Road. It's definitely for high-clearance and four wheel drive vehicles. If you ignore this advice, be sure to bring a shovel to dig yourself out (clearing a low path where your undercarriage doesn't drag along the sand as your wheels sink into the sand).

This was my experience in a Saturn L200. It's what I would consider to be a midsized car, with a fairly long wheel base and skinny tires. Driving something with a shorter wheelbase, slightly higher clearance, wider tires, and NO traction control MIGHT give you more success.

As for me, I'm planning to wait until fall, then just park my car near the start of Aiken Mine Road wand walking the 14 miles or so to the petroglyphs. This might also prove too difficult, since walking on sand means a lot of wasted energy. But, for me, it's either this or wait until I have four wheel drive.

Obviously the pictures on this post are all from the star party, and none are from my unsuccessful hike attempt. As I ssid, the star party went great. :D

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Hike 2014.029 -- Gabrielino Trail to Lower Sturtevant Canyon, Angeles National Forest

Hiked Wednes-day, June 4. Hmmm. I guess this would have been the 25th anniver-sary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

I haven't been hiking that much recently. Even more so, I haven't had time to blog what few hikes I have been taking. As I write these words, this was the last one I took, although I may hike again before I actually get this posted. I have 3 or 4 other hikes that remain to be blogged.

This being a short and nearby hike for me, I've been here many times before. Most recently was back in March, when the water was slightly higher and I had my new telephoto lens to take some nice close-ups of the falling water.

I anticipated very low water, and had no other expectations about what else I might see. I just wanted to get myself a little walk in the woods, it having been far too long since my last hike. One thing I did decide to do was, rather than going to the base of the falls, I would stay on the lower Gabrielino Trail, which leaves the canyon just before Fiddler's Crossing, and heads just above the lip of Sturtevant Falls.

Along this trail, I had two pleasant floral surprises. The first was a single mariposa lily (first photo in this post), which I encountered a bit before reaching the lip of the falls. It was right adjacent to the trail, and it was a little hard to get a good angle on the bud.

This was the first mariposa lily I had seen on this side of the San Gabriel Mountains so far this year. Of course, admittedly, I have not been doing much hiking this year.

My second surprise was the two Humboldt lilies, which I found just above the lip of the falls, overlooking a deep alcove where a falls above "the" Sturtevant Falls. Hadn't seen any of these in at least a year.

Humboldt lilies are large and showy, and look so dramatic that it's hard to believe they're not part of someone's garden. Yet, while rare compared to many other wildflowers, I have seen them on several other hikes in southern California, including Lewis Falls and Topanga State Park.

Those two flower finds made me even happier that I managed to drag myself out of the house this day to get a little bit of mountain trail under my feet.
The other flowers I saw were Spanish broom (this last photo), Indian Pink (a couple photos up, overlooking that same alcove where I saw the Humboldt lily), and a whole bunch of wild mustard and monkey flower (which I did not photograph).

While overlooking the falls, I saw a flyfisherman. I don't really approve of fishing places where the water is so low and going to get lower and warmer, since the native trout there are already living on the edge, and don't need the additional stress of being caught and released.

About four miles for the day. Not much, but it was still nice to get out in the mountains, if only for a few hours. Got back to my car and drove out the gate at 7:57pm, just three minutes before the gate is ostensibly looked. Numerous cars and day hikers remained behind me, so either they got locked in, or they knew when the gate would actually be locked.