Friday, February 27, 2015

Hike 2015.010 -- Rubio Canyon

Hiked Sunday, February 8. 3 miles. Yeah, I'm still falling behind on my posts. I was hoping to do better, this year.

This day was a short hike, just trying to squeeze a little walking into the weekend. With the not-so-distant rains, I thought maybe Rubio Canyon would be interesting.
Instead, the lowest of the falls was essentially dry, which meant there was no need to continue to the upper falls. Instead, I turned around, and returned almost back to the trailhead (on this day, I hiked from the lowest access point, where Rubio Canyon Road transitions to Loma Alta Road.
The small cabin near the start appears to have crumbled a bit more. I've seen this cabin for years, but don't know if it has any historical significance. It would appear not, as there have been no attempts to arrest its decay.

From the cabin, I continued along the road, around the gate, and came to where a much larger water structure used to be. Now, it's a smaller structure with a pipe coming out of it, and the bridge that links it to the road is in danger of collapsing.

Continuing upstream from there, in maybe 1/10th of a mile, there are soon three splits: Right heads up the hill, on what soon becomes a very narrow climb up the ridge. Left heads up to join the "main" Rubio Canyon trail, that started at the "corner" of Pleasant Ridge and Rubio Vista Drive. I took that direction first, walked along that trail for about 1/2 mile, crossed the pavilion area, and continued to the aforementioned dry waterfall.
Then I returned back to this split area, and headed up the river bottom, which is the third option. It continues for maybe 1/5 of a mile before reaching a place where a rope hung down, to assist a climb out of the ravine and to the right. I climbed up the rope, but this trail seemed to lead nowhere. So I descended and returned the way I came.

As I descended, I noticed that the rope was laying in a bush of poison oak. I rinsed my hands as soon as I got to the bottom, and washed it with soap and water numerous times when I got home. No ill effects in the days since then, so, "Yay!" ;D

Somewhat photogenic collection of live oak along and around the canyon; took several photos here. And that was it. I sort of wanted to hike more, but with the poison oak exposure, I also wanted to get home to wash off any resin I might have picked up, so that was my day: A short three miles. I hope to get more hiking in this weekend, though the weather is iffy.

Two more short hikes to blog, still, as well.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Hike 2015.009 -- Colby Canyon Trail to Strawberry Meadow (Potrero), Angeles National Forest

Hiked Saturday, February 7. 11 miles. It's been two weeks since I hiked this. But, coincident-ally, it's likely weather tomorrow will be very similar to weather two weeks ago, so it will appear timely. :D

The trailhead is off the Angeles Crest Highway, just east of the turnout for Switzer's. In fact, if the parking area near the trailhead is full, your next best choice is the second Switzer's Parking lot. This first shot is from that second Switzer's lot, looking down to the trailhead.

I read about this trail as an alternate way to Josephine Peak on "Nobody Hikes in L.A.," so my initial plan for the morning was to head up the trail, but then maybe see if I could make it across to Strawberry Peak. Yet, even before I had reached the Angeles Crest Highway, I was having some minor reservations about this plan. While it was sunny when I left my San Gabriel Valley home, by the time I was on the Foothill Freeway (I-210) segment that passes through La Canada, the building clouds were impossible to ignore.

And, in fact, as I returned to my car after having stopped to ask the ranger at Clear Creek some questions, I noticed some raindrops. But the air was still pretty warm, and I figured even if it rained, it was going to be a relatively warm rain.

When I reached my parking area, it was full. So I drove back west on ACH, back to the aforemen-tioned second Switzer's parking area. This added between 1/5 and 1/4 of a mile each way to my hike.

I tossed my jacket in the backpack, put on my floppy hat (that normally shields me from the desert sun, but would need to shield me from falling rain, today), and headed out.

The trail starts on the west end of the parking area, by the way.

Many descriptions of this trail note a "seasonal waterfall" less than 1/4 mile into the hike. As i headed out, it was barely a seep.

The trail then goes up out of, then drops back down into the ravine that is Colby Canyon. Many skeletal trees from the Station Fire still stand.

It's a long and sweeping route to the top of Colby Canyon, where I then found myself at the saddle between Josephine and Strawberry Peaks. I then attempted to walk up the ridge to Strawberry Peak. But visibility was so poor I had no way to determine how close I was getting to the top. When I reached a difficult area, I bailed out on my attempt, and made my way back down to the saddle. Not willing to risk such a difficult climb if I might then find myself trapped between that pitch and a possibly more difficult pitch on the other side. That's how you get stranded!
Once back on the regular trail, I took it to the east. The trail runs behind Strawberry Peak, albeit in a broad arc, to the north, away from the peak. The ridge tops were still in the clouds, and I still could not tell how close I was to that summit when I was on the ridge.

Meanwhile, a LONG train of hikers headed back toward's me. I mean a LONG train--I'd estimate at least 30 hikers.

They were returning from a meadow that they described as "beautiful."
I filed that information away, although I had no idea where I would make my turn around.

After what felt like far too long a time and distance, my trail finally started heading back to the south. I had by now determined that, even upon reaching the other side of the ridge, I was no longer up for a hike to the top of Strawberry.

Breaks in the clouds below gave me some nice, broken views of the burn area I had seen the previous week, on the north side of Strawberry (and Josephine).

Then I saw it: A massive edifice of rock that soared into the clouds. I could not see the top. I could see a dark ribbon running down from the clouds, where I presumed water must frequently flow. It was amazing. Photos did not do it justice.

My trail descended into the trees, and what I deduced must be the meadow that was mentioned by the large group of hikers. I snapped dozens of pictures.

About this time, I discovered that the Cliff Bars and Power Bars that I thought were in my backpack were not there. I had plenty of water, but no fuel to reinvigorate me. So that definitely sealed it--I was going to head back just as soon as I got an acceptable view of this mountain.

Well, between the clouds and the rain, I never did get a very good view of the peak from the meadow. So this becomes a destination to which I must return, likely taking the trail from Red Box Junction, just to add some variety to my hikes.

This day's hike then took a turn for the wet. The misting turned to a steady rain. It wasn't a heavy rain, but it was more than a drizzle, and I was getting soaked. Well, my shorts were soaked, anyway. The outside of my jacket was also soaked, and I think probably sweat was soaking the sweater I wore beneath my jacket.

Still, as was the case earlier, the rain wasn't cold. As long as I kept moving, I knew I'd be fine. Stop for any length of time, however, and I'd probably start feeling a chill.

So I walked quickly, even though I knew I had a long way to go.

Unfortunately for me, I added more unnecessary distance to my hike. When I reached the saddle between Josephine and Strawberry, I missed my turn. I had convinced myself on the way up that the water storage tank I saw when I reached the saddle on this day was the same tank I saw on the fire road I took to Josephine the week before. So I blew by the tank that I thought I hadn't noticed before and continued to the fire road.

Upon reaching the fire road, obviously I found no trail heading down Colby Canyon. So I backtracked the 1/2 mile back to Colby Canyon, then headed down. Enjoyably, when I passed the seasonal waterfall that was largely dry on my way up, it was now flowing cutely over the rocks.

Once back in the car, I took off my jacket, took off my boots and wet socks (from the rain), turned on the heater, and started to drive home. On the way down, I saw a dramatic view of clouds that had settled along the base of parts of the upper Arroyo Seco. I stopped for those pictures on the way home.

Felt good to finally get a hike of decent length under my belt. In fact, I was pretty sore the next day. But it was still great to have gotten out there, to a place I hope to return to, again.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

New George Harrison Tree to be Dedicated Wednesday, February 25, 2-15, 4pm

Back in 2004, a small pine tree was planted just north of the parking lot for Griffith Observatory. A small plaque noted it was planted in honor of George Harrison. I didn't "discover" the tree until December 2013.

Unfortunately, within months of that discovery, the tree was dead--killed, somewhat ironically, by a beetle infestation. At the time, Councilmember Tom LaBonge pledged that a replacement tree would be planted "shortly." Well, shortly has finally arrived.

On Wednesday, February 25, at 4pm, Councilmember Labonge's office will be dedicating a replanted tree. This empty spot with a plaque for a non-existent tree will soon have a tree, again.

There are no reports of George Harrison ever having visited the Observa-tory or the Charlie Turner trail, at the start of which will stand this tree. This trail is a jumping off point for some of the prettiest parts of Griffith Park.

So, whether George Harrison ever walked here or not, the plaque in the planter will again have a tree to recognize.

So if you want to be part of one of the last days of Councilmember Labonge's last term in office, there it is; take it.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Hike 2015.008 -- Josephine Peak Via Josephine Fire Road (2N64)

Hiked Sunday, February 1. The Tom Harrison map for the Angeles Front Country gives the distance as 3.9 miles each way.

This trail is entirely on a fire road, which means it's wide and easy to follow, There will also likely be mountain bikers on the trail, so keep an eye out for that.
The trailhead is on the east side of Angeles Forest Highway, just feet north of its junction with Angeles Crest Highway. From the LA area, you'll probably take the Foothill Freeway (I-210) to Angeles Crest Highway, then head north. Turn left at Angeles Forest Highway, and immediately look for parking.

The area is not signed for an Adventure Pass.

From the trailhead, you walk past a gate and a sign for Forest Road 2N64. And you follow the road. No other instructions are required.

There is only one actual trail junction, and the intersect-ing trail is clearly NOT a fire road. The trail heads right, towards Strawberry Peak. You stay on the fire road, which curves behind Josephine Peak, then eventually reaches its summit.

As you come around the corner of the mountain and first see behind the front range, you may be startled by the barrenness of what lays below you. That area took a real hit from the Station Fire, now over five years ago. It's actually "greened up" quite a bit from three or four years ago, but there's still far less vegetation on that side than there used to be. It's still really sad to think of all that went up in smoke that year.

Fortunately, Josephine Peak was somewhat on the boundary of the burned area, so while there are many tree skeletons you'll see, many of those have already fallen, to be replaced by re-emerging plans. In some pockets, older tree survived the flower, so there's still good cover in one ravine you pass on the way to the top.

Seeing on the day I summitted was mixed--Extremely clear to my north, but haze from downtown L.A. towards the sea. Outstanding views in all directions, though.

To the southwest, you can see to the Ocean. To the south, you can easily see Santa Catalina Island. I'm not sure because of the haze, but on a clear day, you might even be high enough to see over Palos Verdes and see the water that separates Santa Catalina from the mainland.

To the southwest is Mount Wilson, with other peaks partially obscuring the mountain, but the domes and solar telescope towers visible in the distance.

To the east and east-northeast, I could see Mount Baldy (Mount San Antonio), still covered in a winter layer of snow. To the north is Angeles Forest Highway, with some nice wiggles along the way. Northwest and below is Big Tujunga Reservoir.

West is Mount Lukens. Oh, yes, and if you look down towards where you came from, you can see the intersection of the Angeles Crest and Angeles Forest Highways.

Meanwhile, up at the top, you can see the support anchors for what un-doubtedly was a fire lookout. That's been removed. In its place is a camera. Not sure if the camera can be panned and slewed about, but I would tend to think so.
There's also a small structure, which I assume contains the power and the controls for the camera and the transmitter than sends information the camera and probably weather information on down to civilization.

Just below and to your north is a helicopter landing target, and a trashcan. I guess it makes sense, but it's funny to have a single trash can all by itself, on a mountain top.

I spent a fair amount of time, just shooting pictures of the view from up here. Turns out I had the top to myself.

I wasn't sure if this would be the case, since there were about eight cars parked near the trailhead when I started, about two hours earlier.

However, as is my habit, I tried to keep track of probably car-loads of people. So there'd be a couple of hikers going down, then a few more, then a pair of mountain bikers, then I passed a slower-moving pair of hikers on the way up.

Without actually having precisely counted cars at the start, I wasn't 100% sure, but by the time I passed three hikers coming down as I neared to within 1/2 mile of the top, I was pretty sure all cars had been accounted for.

Four mountain bikers had passed me on the way up, but it seemed like all four were turning off towards Strawberry Peak. So, yes, when I got to the top, it was just me and the wind.

I often say I'm not anti-social, and I'm not. But, on a relatively small mountain top, I feel bad if my presence might intrude on other hikers, just 5-10 feet away. So I enjoyed my time alone, at the top of Josephine Peak.

I passed numerous hikers heading up on my way down, but still, I doubt there were more than 8 or so. And this was on a very nice Sunday morning slash afternoon.

By the way, the third- and fourth-from-the-last pictures are of Griffith Park. I often try to see if I can see the Observatory from my hikes. In this case, I was thinking maybe the angle would not let me see it, but there it was.
Distant, but still distinct. The flat-top of Mount Hollywood was more obvious from my perspective; the dome, I wasn't sure about until after I was able to view the pictures in a larger size. The third-from-last photo is a crop of the one before it, by the way.

Wonderful day of hiking. I sort of wish I was able to have fit in a second hike that weekend, as I'm still hoping to return to a 100 hike year. Two one-hike weekends puts me back a bit for the moment, but I have some optimism of being able to pick up the pace of hikes int he months to home.