Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Hike 2015.079 -- North Peak Trail, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Hiked Sunday, October 24. This was my most recent hike as of this writing. It appears likely I'll end the month with either 80 or 81 hikes, meaning I'd need about ten more hikes each in November and December to reach my goal. It'll be a little tough, but still doable.
There will be nine more weeks in the year after this Saturday, so I'll need to average just over two hikes each week to hit my target. Having some holidays coming up that will give me some chances to squeeze in some non-weekend hikes helps make this achievable. Heck, if I'm within a hike or two and I have to, I'll take a day or two of vacation time off to squeeze in that last one or two!
Last weekend, I was in Las Vegas, so I got two hikes in there. One was in Sloan Canyon, which I've done many times before (although the trailhead directions have changed, again, on account of further developments in the "Inspirada" area of Henderson). The other hike was on up to North Peak.
I'm pretty sure I have not hiked here before, though I might have. In the 1990s and early 2000s, I lived in Las Vegas, and hiked somewhat, but not much compared to now. But I probably made it out to Red Rock maybe 15-20 times over the years, and to near Bridge Mountain at least 3-4 times.

I wasn't sure where my destination would be this time, at least not 'til I got there.

The trailhead is at the end of the pavement for the Rocky Gap Road. That's about 3/5ths of the way around on the 13 mile scenic loop in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. At this point, you'll have passed the High Point lookout along the road, and begun heading back towards NV-159. You'll also have passed the White Rock trailhead. Next, on the right, will be the road heading to the the Willow Springs picnic area.
At the end of the pavement, most folks park. Those with high clearance (and, especially, if they also have four-wheel drive) can continue on. If they're gold and skilled, they can drive the whole 4.5 miles to the Bridge Mountain/Rocky Gap Trailhead. If so, then this is a trivially short hike. But, if you're like me, you'll park at Willow Springs and have a long walk on to the top of the pass. Over those 4.5 miles, you'll gain (very roughly) 1200 feet (can't be sure, because the start of the trailhead is not on my map, so I don't know the altitude at the pass).

Incidentally, the map I'm using is the "Green Trails Maps, Map 2474S, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. It seems to be the standard hiking map for folks visiting the area. Sort of the equivalent of the Tom Harrison maps for California.

Back in the day, the 4.5 miles from trail head to trail junction passed quickly. But I'm older and heavier, now, and the walk to the pass proved tiring. I kept saying to myself, "I don't remember this being so long!" and "I don't remember this being so steep!"

Along the way, there are some nice views of both the red sandstone and the grey limestone of the mountains that surround you. In parts, there was also some water at the canyon bottoms. The western red bud trees grew in creek-adjacent areas, and their leaves were turning yellow (in the spring, of course, they burst forth with their tiny signature red flowers). But most of the way, it was more typical juniper-Pinyon pine forest. The occasional Ponderosa pine also stood tall, in wetter, more protected areas of the hike.

At the pass, there are brown plastic markers, well off the road, but easily visible. That's the trailhead. It doesn't give a name or destination here, but there are no other trail markers along the way, so if you find this, you'll be fine. Just avoid going up any of the side canyons by accident before you get here!
According to my map, it's .6 miles from the trailhead (which, as I mentioned, is off-map) and the point where the trail splits between either Bridge Mountain or North Peak. The sign at that split says it's .3 miles to North Peak, or 1.2 miles to Bridge Mountain. Well, because I was already feeling fatigued, I figured trying to head up what I already knew to be sketchy terrain (then having to head back down that way on the way back, when I would be even more tired) was a bad idea. So, to North Peak!
Three Tenths of a mile is't far. And most of the climbing, even on the trail (as opposed to the dirt road part) was behind me. So this last bit was pretty straightforward. The last fifty yards or so required some picking and choosing, but nothing really difficult, and no significant exposure to a deadly fall, unlike what would have happened on the Bridge Mountain trail). There was a plastic "ammunition case" that contained several note pads that served as a summit registry. Because this was one of those rare hikes where I was really beat, I signed it. Had I just driven to the pass, I probably would not have bothered.
I admired the expansive view from the top. To my east was Bridge Mountain. It looked as imposing as ever. I was also able to see the "Bridge" that gave the mountain its name. It's not visible in the 26mm version of the picture I took (3 pictures up), but it's visible in the 70mm version, and quite obvious in the 300mm version.
For reference, the bridge is just a bit below center of the 70mm photo. Obviously, the 300mm photo was a longer exposure, so the colors are less intense, but lightening of the image helped the bridge stand out a bit from the background.

(I'm using a cropped CMOS sensor, meaning you should multiple each of those numbers by 1.5 to get the 35mm film equivalent for focal lengths).
The view to the west was also pretty.

On the left, slightly below the vertical middle, you might see some trace of Rocky Gap Road. The next image is a 300mm shot of that road, with numerous off-highway vehicles, heading towards Red Rock.

I'm thinking Bridge Mountain was a bit closer than Rocky Gap, but that may still give you some perspective on how far from the road we were, and how large the bridge opening might be.

I spent longer than I usually do at the summit, because I was tired and it was just that beautiful. It was also a place of solitude. Once away from the trailhead, I saw only two hikers on the way out (and heard the voices of a few more, off on Bridge Mountain). I was also passed by numerous off-highway vehicles, but certainly no more than a dozen. For a weekend, this was a surprisingly quiet place to be.

I began my hike around 10am, and got off the trail around 4:30pm. That's a lot of time, even for an 11-mile-ish hike. And I was pretty beat by the time I got back, too. Not sure if I'll soon return to try to challenge Bridge Mountain--Just so tiring to get there, I'm even less likely than in the past to want to try to do that last bit of climbing. But I may just return to near that last push, because, from there, even more than from North Peak, you do get to look down the escarpment, to the canyons below. It's a long way down there!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Hike 2015.077 -- Eaton Canyon

Hiked Sunday, October 18. Quick post, as I continue to lag in my blogging. This was a short Sunday hike--less than four miles round trip, from the Nature Center to Eaton Canyon Falls and back. The previous week was, happily, full of hikes, but by this past weekend, the backlog of things I had to do got big enough to consume my entire Saturday.

Sunday was also rapidly escaping me, but Eaton Canyon is close to home, and I was curious to see if the water was any higher than last time. It did not seem higher. In fact, the first wash crossing found the soil completely dry, so it seems safe to say the flow never made it that far.

I walked on along what would be the north bank of Eaton Canyon Creek (if there was water down there), under the oaks. It's always a pleasant hike, even if somewhat crowded at times. The sky was dark over the mountains, but it was dry down here, and good hiking weather.

It's pretty flat and easy up until that last half mile, when you need to cross the stream multiple times. Even that part is generally easy, although the rocks can be slick, and a careless crossing can lead to a fall.

There was a fair (but not huge) crowd at the falls. I snapped a few pictures before heading back. Didn't stay long, since I was out for the exercise, and had seen this falls many times before.

Easy return, of course. Back to my car by about 4:30pm.

This trail head is off of Altadena Drive, just north of New York Drive. There's signage on the right (east) side of Altadena for the nature center.

If the lot is full, there's street parking here, and also access points elsewhere up canyon.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Hike 2015.075A -- Kolob Terrace Road, above Cedar City, UT

Hiked Saturday, October 10. By itself, this bit of photo wouldn't normally be considered a hike. But it was largely the reason for my Columbus Day weekend trip to southern Utah and southern Nevada. On Friday, October 9, I got a moderately early start, and took a couple of short hikes in Cedar Breaks National Monument. Haven't blogged those, yet.
That night, I spent it in a motel room in Cedar City (just 1/2 hour or so from Cedar Breaks National Monument. The next day (Saturday, October 10) was to be spent in southern Utah, then I'd drive down to Las Vegas that evening.
I wasn't sure what I'd be doing on that Saturday. I had several possible hikes in mind before I drove there, and got additional ideas as I thumbed through the newsletter and map I picked up from the ranger at the fee station at Cedar Breaks, and other material I read in the motel room on Friday night.
Even as I drove off from the motel room on Saturday morning, I still wasn't sure what I would do. But as I headed up Cedar Canyon and came to the turnoff for Kolob Terrace Road, I decided that this would be my first bit of the day.

I had read that this road could be scenic in the fall. Also, the previous afternoon, from the Zion Overlook of UT-14, I saw many golden mountain tops where aspen were blooming in profusion. So I decided to drive some distance (not being sure as I turned how far that would be) on this road.
I wasn't even sure how far the pavement would go, although I did know it was paved at least a bit, having hiked to this road on the "C" Trail and driven to that same spot to observe the annular solar eclipse in 2012.

But I did not know how far the pavement went, and how photogenic these trees might be. The second question was answered first: It was VERY photogenic up here. Almost as soon as the road began heading east, (having climbed steeply to get there), I was surrounded by the shimmering gold of quaking aspen.
I pulled off the road and began taking pictures. LOTS of pictures. Jaw-dropping beauty. Then I got back in my car, and drove only a few hundred yards further before stopping again. Just amazing. Then again, a few hundred yards after that.
Then the road made a curve and a fork, and the pavement ended. On either side of the very well-graded dirt road, was a substantial drop, to allow rain water to collect and flow. But this place was also amazing. So I drove back to where a large trashbin was located and parked there. Then I walked about 1/4 mile or so along this road, taking photos, yet a gain. Could not get over the sight of these leaves.
After what undoubtedly was several hours of driving maybe 1 of a mile of scenic, aspen-lined road, stopping many times, then walking along the road and shooting some more, I finally decided to get on to Cedar Breaks.
Back on Highway 14, I pulled over several times and again took many pictures. From the Zion Overlook, more pictures, of both the canyon and the aspen on the rims of the canyon

I took several hikes on that weekend, both before and after this drive, but I still need to blog those. I'm up to 76 for the year, so far. Still on track for a shot at 100 for the year. Just wanted to share some fall color with you all, first.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Hike 2015.073 -- Forsee Creek Trailhead to Johns Meadow

Hiked Saturday, October 3. 7 miles. The distance on this one is a little iffy, since the Tom Harrison map gives the distance as 3.7 miles each way, but the ranger at the visitor center called it "about three miles." I'm assuming the person on the ground is more knowledgeable, since he's talking right off the map, yet giving a different number.
This was not where I planned to walk that morning, but it turns out that the Aspen Grove was burned in the Lake Fire last year, and the area is part of a huge closure order that stands until at least next summer.

This may actually prove good for the aspen grove, since conifers encroach upon its footprint. Depending on how the larger conifers weathered the fire, occasional clearing fires like this will let the aspen expand, or, at least, stop losing habitat to conifers.

Aspen actually do better after fires (unless the temperatures are too high), and recover quickly. They're a transitional species that needs those occasional disturbances (fires, avalanches, etc) to do well.
In any event, the ranger at the visitor center suggested several options, and this one sounded pretty good.

The Forsee Creek Trailhead is located off of West Jenks Lake Road. From CA-38, if coming from Redlands, it's just about six miles past Angelus Oaks. Jenks Lake Road is on your right. Almost as soon as you get on Jenks Lake Road, the dirt road to Forsee Creek trailhead is on your right. About 1/2 mile on a rough, rocky, but (on this day) passable dirt road ends at the trailhead.

The trail leaves from the far end of the lot, and head straight for about 1/8 mile. Normally, there'd be a fork. But, with the large forest closure order in effect, the trail to your left (the actual Forsee Creek Trail, to Jackstraw Springs) is taped close.

"Your" trail goes west and west-southwest, along the northfacing side of the mountains. From there, you gain altitude and have nice views into the Santa Ana River drainage. Mount San Gorgonio is to your east-northeast. Slide Peak and Keller Peak, each in the high-7,000, are to your west-northwest.
After many ups and downs, there's eventually a modest climb over a saddle, followed by a descent to Forsee Creek. It was a fair gurgle, but wouldn't be mistaken for a river, at least in early October.

After crossing the creek, there's a slight rise, to "Johns Meadow." It actually looked nothing like a meadow, to me. There were plenty of trees, and no rolling carpet of grass.

Having not been sure if I was there, I continued a bit. The trail crossed a second little creek shortly, then climbed, first slowly, then steeply, towards the San Bernadino Mountains ridge. Once assured that Johns Meadow was not ahead of me, I returned the way I came.

Because I went past the actual meadow (and also backtracked some when I thought I left my phone on the ground, I figure I covered well over six miles, so I'm calling it seven miles, though it might only be 6 1/2. Pleasant, shaded, cool. Nice hike, but no aspen.