Friday, August 28, 2015

Hike 2015.064 -- Eaton Canyon

Hiked Sunday, August 16. 4 miles. I had ambitious plans for my Sunday morning, but the heat and the anticipation of heat just sapped my motivation. I finally headed out for an afternoon hike around 4pm. Hadn't really been following the news that day, but I did see that the mountains to my north looked pretty clear.
So I laced up my newest pair of boots and headed north. It was freakin' hot.

About 100 degrees when I arrived in Altadena, at Pinecrest Drive, to access the trail I intended to take up to Henninger Flats. Along the way, I heard on KNX about a fire in the Whittier Narrows.

Once I started heading up the trail, I could see the smoke plume, rising from that area. The smoke was blowing to the east.
At the same time, I could see a "front" of smoke, rolling out of San Gabriel Canyon. That smoke seemed to hang around Arcadia, and was threatening to roll along the foothills and right at me.
So I continued upward, towards Henninger Flat. At the same time, it was still ridiculously hot. I was moving slow because I didn't want to risk heat exhaustion. Just moved up slowly, and tried to keep an eye on the smoke.

Once I got enough discomfort about the direction of that smoke, I decided to turn around. I did not want to have to hike any significant distance in heavy smoke. Yet, once having done that, the smoke no longer seemed to be coming my way.
So once I reached the bridge, I decided to head on up the canyon, to see if any water was still coming down the falls. It was almost, but not quite, dry. Took a few shots, then headed back to my car. My guestimate of 4 miles could be off; it's only about a mile roundtrip from the bridge to the falls and back. I'm figuring I went about 1.5 miles up the Mt. Wilson Toll Road before turning around. But if it was only a mile up, then call it 3 miles.
This hike was from almost two weeks ago, the day after I got back from the White Mountains. At least two more hikes since then I haven't blogged, plus a fair number from before. Still have to try to catch up on those.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Hike 2015.062 -- Switzers

Hiked Monday, August 3. Very short, after work hike. One of many older hikes I have yet to blog. It looks I have not blogged almost as many as I have blogged! Just keeping a little too busy, I guess.
This was a short hike, where all I brought was my camera phone. I've hiked the area many times before, and posts of those walks are elsewhere on this blog.

I was planning to hike from the main parking area to the waterfalls, but it quickly became apparent that there would be essentially no water flowing over the falls if I went that far. So, instead, I turned around at the point where the trail would begin the long descent back to the river.
Around there, I took several shots up and down the canyon, as well as across the canyon, at the remains of the church that used to overlook Switzer's Falls.
This picture here is a crop of the previous one. You can see low walls on that flat area near the bottom left. And, in the last picture, you can see portions of what used to be arching walls, somewhat below center.
After I headed back on the trail and crossed the stream, I poked around that area somewhat, seeing if I could find a safe and easy way up to the chapel ruins. I did not, or at least I did not have the motivation to look very hard. Then I went home. Three miles for the day.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Hike 2015.063 -- Methuselah Loop, Schulman Grove of Ancient Bristlecone Pines, Inyo National Forest, CA

Hiked Friday, August 14. 4.5 miles. Originally posted this as Hike 62 for the year, but I realized I left one out, so this was actually number 63 for the year. Drove up on the 13th, and I tossed in some of the driving up pictures, too. The wider pictures are from my cell phone; the "standard," 2x3 aspect photos are from my DSLR. Both are reduced in size for faster loading.
Schulman Grove is in the White Mountains. From U.S. 395, you go east on CA-168 (just north of Big Pine) 13 miles, to White Mountain Road. Follow White Mountain Road (signed, on your left) ten miles, to the signed visitor center, on your right. If the pavement ends, you went too far. This is approximately 250 miles from Los Angeles. Long drive!

If driving from Los Angeles, it's pretty scenic once you get near Olancha, about an hour north of Mojave. For those of you who keep track of such things, there's a rest area on the east side of U.S. 395 there, called Coso Junction. I took this picture right adjacent to the rest area, by walking across the bridge that spans a small creek and crossing through a person-opening in the fence.

There's another rest area a little over 66 miles north of this one, called, Division Creek. That one's about ten miles north of Independence.

On the day I was driving, there were a lot of clouds, and smoke from some nearby wildfires. Made for a dramatic backdrop.

I camped as part of a group, so I stayed at Ferguson Camp, Cedar Flats Group Campsites, which is off of CA-168, just before the turnoff for White Mountain Road. I spent that night looking for meteors (this was a day or so after the peak for the Perseid Meteor Shower) and chatting with friends.

I slept in my car, and woke to the light of the rising sun, poking between the branches of some conifers. Despite the late night, I was up pretty early. Debating hiking on a different trail with friends, but because I thought they might need to stop for a wilderness permit, I opted for the sure thing.

(Turns out, however, that wilderness permits are not needed for dayhikes in Inyo National Forest, unless you're at Whitney Portal. This is different from the Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests, which do require permits, except for the San Gabriel Wilderness area, which was formed prior to the 1964 Wilderness Act. That's also where there's currently a major wildfire burning. I think they're calling it "the Cabin fire."

Because the White Mountains are a lot drier than the Sierra (even the east slope of the Sierra), there aren't that many wildflowers. Also, it's getting late in the season. But what I did see was pretty much all new to me (except for the Indian paintbrush, which I didn't photograph specifically because it was NOT new to me!).

Not entirely sure which specific flowers these all were. The one here resembles a "musk thistle." It's obviously a thistle of some sort--that's just the closest match I could find. The one before that is a type of penstamon, but the specific color and flower distribution doesn't look like anything I've seen before.

The penstamon had an annoying habit of being very sensitive to wind and growing only in high-contrast environments. I mean it either the flowers were in sun, or the flowers grew near very reflective rocks, or near a mixture of bright and dark objects. That just means they were hard to photograph.

Of course, the main attraction for the Schulman Grove is not the limited variety of wild-flowers, but the density of Bristlecone Pines.

(Almost) everyone loves Bristlecone Pines, because they look cool, and live really long lives.

The two points are related. The trees live longest when they live hardest. In places where they are just barely hanging on, where other trees can not thrive, there they are. And there, they are mostly dead. Often, the tree is all dead wood, except for a single branch.

Under these harsh living conditions, the trees grow slowly, and often only for a few months out of the year. The slow growth means the wood is incredibly hard--so hard that it often erodes rather than rots.

And so, standing snags (dead trees) often remain upright for hundreds or even thousands of years. During their life, they grew twisted. After their deaths, they erode aesthetically.

On this trail, trees of a variety of long-lived-ness are found, mixed with mountain mahogany and londgepole pines. Those trees also often grow in harsh environments, with dense wood and twisted branches and roots.

In other places, they grow well, but then are almost unrecognizable, compared to their more "classic"-appearing brethren.

The trail was a moderate 4.5 miles, with a fair amount of up and down. Given the altitude, you'd be well-served if you spent the previous night at a mountain camp (7-8,000 feet up) rather than near sea level. For me, at least, the night sleeping at altitude makes a huge difference in how I handle the 10K foot level, where these trees are located.

Because of the high altitude, the weather here is often quite bearable, even when it's 100 degrees-plus, down in the Owens Valley. Bring along a sweater, even in the summer.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Hike 2015.053 -- Mount Islip from Crystal Lake Campgrounds

Hiked Friday, July 3. Wow, that was a long time ago. ;) This was a day after a hike to Lewis Falls, which I followed with a quick drive to the Crystal Lake campground area. I was checking to see if the road and parking situation had changed since my last visit, which was quite some time ago.
I'm often surprised when I return to a place I hiked during one of my earlier 100 hike years to discover how long since last I visited some places. Yet, despite the time, when you do the hike, you still quickly do recall what you saw the last time you were there.

Well, this time, it was July, and a guess another hard rain was still in the future. The snow, of course, was long gone. Yet, wildflowers still bloomed.

That's something else I enjoy, although, unfortu-nately, with my untimely posting, this blog isn't helping much with pointing out places to go NOW, though, of course, you can always try next year! So, for future reference, early July is not a bad time for wildflowers around Mt. Islip. ;)
It's not thick, like at the Poppy Reserve, of course. But there are many places to see a wide variety of flowers along the way. I think maybe this bowl just does a good job of trapping some moisture.
In any event, the parking area furthest up the hill is reached by follow signs as though you were going to the Deer Flat group campground. That means NOT turning at the store and ranger station, but continuing straight. The large parking area is just before a road (usually with a closed gate) that would lead to Deer Flat. I think this is near Loop G of the regular campgrounds. In any event, it's basically at the end of the road, if you do NOT turn at the ranger station.
From there, the trail is to your north, and heads along some campsites and soon crosses a dirt road. That road leads to other peaks, but continuing straight across the road leads towards Windy Gap.
Nice views looking down the canyon. If it's clear, you can see several reservoirs down the the river, and on across the Los Angeles Basin.
Once at the pass, I continued forward and to the left, which seemed to be the main trail to Mt. Islip. This trail makes its way up mostly on the south and east sides of the summit.
At the top is the remains of an old cabin. A charcoal drawing was on the inside of this cabin on the day I went.
It looked Gollum-like, to me.

I'm not a big graffiti fan, but, if you're going to graffiti, temporary work is preferable to permanent. work.

Also at the top were a number of swallowtail butterfly, mating. That seemed to be a theme at all of the local summits I visited in July.
Looking to the north is looking across the Antelope Valley. I saw several outcrop-ping, which might include Saddleback Butte. But I'm pretty sure, in retrospect, that it was not.
Should have been about 7-8 miles roundtrip. Not too hot of a day, so the hike was comfort-able. It's mostly exposed to the south, so this hike can be hot in the summertime.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Hike 2015.060 -- Cavern Point and North Bluff Trails, Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park

Hiked Saturday, August 1. I joined (as a paying non-member) a trip planned by the Catalina Island Conservancy. The boat sailed out of Ventura Harbor for the roughly one hour trip across to Santa Cruz Island.
The passage length varies by how many marine mammals are encounter-ed along the way. In our case, we slowed to circle a buoy that was covered by sea lion.
We were also accompa-nied for part of the way by a large pod of dolphins, which surfed our bow shock and our wake, and put on quite a show for us on board the boat.
The boat appeared to be the same design as that used by Catalina Express on their crossings to Santa Catalina Island--catamaran. Two hulls, which I think slice through the water more smoothly than a singled-hulled boat.
Certainly, as we were underway, the crossing was smooth. There was a bit of bobbing when we slowed and looped around to see the sea lion. But the water was pretty smooth in the channel, so even that was no problem for me.
We docked at Scorpion Anchorage, which is on the north side of the island. Santa Cruz Island runs pretty much east to west, so the north side is the landward or leeward side. Relatively calm seas, although there were plenty of steep cliffs on this side, nonetheless. It was not unlike Santa Catalina's windward side.
From the harbor, we were briefed near the dock, then sorted out for our various hikes, of which there were two options. I initially intended to take the longer one (still only 4.5 miles, which is not much land to cover on a nearly all-day visit), but opted for the shorter hike, to Cavern Point. The logic there was that we'd be overlooking the sea for much of the way, and there was also the option of extending it by another two miles, to Potato Harbor.
From the harbor, it's maybe 1/2 mile to the visitor center and camp-grounds. Reserva-tions would need to be made for camping before embarking on your trip to the island. But my wife and I were only here for the day.
Near the camp-ground, morning glory (a local variety, with slightly more purple and larger flowers than the mainland variety) were dense in bloom. I also saw a number of what looked to me to be cliff aster.
As we walked through the camp-ground, the guide mentioned several other plants and made some historical notes. We also saw a Channel Island fox here.
Somewhat sadly, the fox seemed to be intent on scrounging the ground for food discarded by people. That's part of why they are so often seen near this campground. Also, because the fox evolved as the top predator on the island, they habituated to hunting at all hours of the day, as opposed to mainland fox, which are more twilight and night-time hunters.
The Island version are also smaller. Adults weigh only 4-6 pounds, which is less than all but the smallest of house cats. Further, there are slight variations among the subspecies on each of the major islands.
Once through the camp-ground, the trail climbs in a ravine, which tops out near a saddle. Up the right about 1/4 mile puts you at Cavern Point, which juts, Gibraltar-like, above the sea. To the left is the path to Potato Harbor (which, judging by the harbors appearance, is named for its shape and not for any plants that may once have lived here.
Most groups spent a fair amount of time near the point, overlook-ing
steep cliffs, and with views down to the ocean, below.
Seabirds could be seen below, and also buzzed by and above us from the cliff tops. There were many pelican here, as well as the more common seagull.
From the cliffs, we could also see kayaks, navigating the sea caves or cruising over kelp forests. The waters seemed relatively smooth, though, of course, they would need to take care if they approached the sea caves.
I made it about 1/2 way to Potato Harbor before deciding to turn around. Just didn't feel motivated, and my wife was back near the campground. We don't get to spend too much time together, so I decided to spend a few hours of the time on Santa Cruz Island just "hanging." We relaxed in the shade, stared up at a very talkative crow, and watched as the local fox made its regular rounds of the picnic tables and locker areas.
Despite having spent so much time just laying around, the early rising required to catch the outbound boat had me totally conked out, and I slept much of the way back. Smooth sailing back, too.
All told, it was an enjoyable trip. Somewhat pricey, as I'm sure the Conservancy uses the trips to raise a bit of extra money. But it was nice to be guided on my first trip to this island. I did also learn that regular boat rides out to these islands are actually quite affordable, probably because they're operating as a National Park Service concessionaire. There's a fair chance I'll return on my own to further explore this island, which is much quieter and less crowded than Santa Catalina (although, of course, once you walk far from Avalon, Santa Catalina gets pretty quiet, too!)