Saturday, December 24, 2016

Hike 2016.029 -- Cape Final, North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

Hiked Saturday, June 4. I made a somewhat last minute decision to come to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for the annual star party. I didn't take any days off, although, checking my calendar, I see that I had a regular day off on Friday, the 3rd. Can't remember if I drove up to Las Vegas on the third, but it would make sense if I did. I do definitely know I had to drive all the way from the North Rim back to the LA area on Sunday, though, and that was one heck of a long drive.
I'm pretty sure this trip would have been a little bit after my computer updated itself to Windows 10, because that's when the way my picture editing software changed. It's just Windows Office Picture Manager, which came with Windows 7 or Windows 8 or what ever this computer came with. The point was that it acted a little different after Windows 10 came on board. So I started on this post months ago, but, surprisingly, never finished it. So here it is, now.
In any event, the approach from the north was new to my memory (although my father tells me I visited it before as a child). There's a large meadow -like area you pass on the way in. Unknown to me at the time, bison graze this area. That's some of them, in the first picture of this post.

After checking in with the coordinator for the star party, I headed off on the longest hike I figured I could safely finish and still get back in time to set up for the party. So I picked Cape Final.
Cape Final is given by the NPS on their "Pocket Map North Rim Services Guide" handout as 2.1 miles each way, although it's given by other sources as two miles. The drive to the trailhead appeared to be about 21 miles each way. So my rough calculation said two hours to walk, and 90 minutes to drive there and back. I had enough time for that, with a margin for error.

The trailhead was within a pine forest. It's a rather small parking area with vault toilets, but no running water. The bulk of the walk is also within this mixture of forest and and small meadows. Lots of wildflowers when I was there, in early June.
Lupine were the most common, and it formed several "carpeted" areas along the way. Smaller flowers than the ones that bloom in southern California. Another common flower I saw was this one, which, from the front, looked unfamiliar. But, from the side, it was clearly a larkspur. I'm going to go with Parish's Larkspur. Not sure about the yellow flower I've got pictured.

The whitish one is some sort of fleabane. Both the yellow and white ones looked like what I would see in Cedar Breaks, when I went there later in the summer.

After running through the forest and meadow for about a mile and a half, you finally find a peek at the canyon . . . to your north! It's just funny to have to label pictures of the canyon as "looking north, from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon."

There are a couple of points where the trail approaches that north or east facing drops, and use trails usually swing out to those points. Then, as you approach the end, there's actually a "Cape Final" sign, right near the edge.

Turns out there's also a primitive campsite, also right near the rim. As has been noted elsewhere, this would not be a good place for sleep walkers, or for those who wake up disoriented.
This butte was actually at one of those earlier cutoffs. The lizard and the juniper skeleton, however, were right there near the rim, at the end of the trail.

There's a pretty expansive view, described as 270 degrees. There are some foreground buttes that cut off some of that view, however.

After enjoying the view, I returned the way I came. Definitely less than two hours roundtrip. The route is pretty flat, so the going is fast.
It's a fairly long drive, with a slow speed limit, so the drive probably was about 90 minutes total. Still, got back to the North Rim with plenty of time to spare. So I shuttled my telescope to the rim, set up, and still had time to take a walk along the 1/2 mile trail, to another lookout.
The last two pictures of this post were from the area near the lodge. The third to the last was from the Cape Final overlook.
Shots from the area around the North Rim (including versions of the shots here) were posted way back over here.
My post-star party drive out of the Park, and at nearby Pipe Springs National Monument, is linked here.
Cropped version of my favorite shot from the trip. I just loved the way the lighting worked out.

Planning to return to the Grand Canyon Star Party in 2017. That one starts over Father's Day weekend. Mark your calendars if you're planning to go!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Hike 2016.048 -- Rubio Canyon

Hiked Saturday, December 17. 4 miles.

Possibly my first outdoor hike since going on chemo. I'm supposed to avoid staying on my feet too long, and avoid too much sun exposure, so I have mostly been just walking in malls and in Los Angeles County Arboretum and Huntington Library and Gardens, which have lots of trees for shade.

This hike is in a canyon. Plus, I went in the afternoon, so the sun wasn't very strong.
I was pretty sure the waterfall would be essentially dry, despite the rain of just two days before. And I was right. But, as noted above, I was here mainly for the shade!

Shortly after staring out (after starting from the trailhead near Pleasant Ridge and Rubio Vista Roads), in Altadena), I noticed a new set of swtichbacks, carved into the slope on the other side of the canyon (first shot, above). So after discovering the falls to be mostly dry, I headed back down the canyon. At the Pavilion, I stayed on the canyon floor, and made my way, in search of a trail to access the new switchbacks. Obviously, it's only about 1/2 mile down before I found the trail, on my left.

Shortly after heading up that trail, I came across what looked like a large water retention area (third picture of this post).

I continued switchbacking and gaining altitude, as far as the trail had been developed. I thought I would eventually reach those other trails, that come up from behind the newer water storage tanks, closer to the mouth of the Canyon. Unfortunately, my developed trail petered out before reaching that. There were some orange strips, fluttering on the ends of tree branches and wooden stakes, indicating this was where the trail work had ended.
I could have continued on my own, since I knew the other trail was near. But I didn't want to cause undue erosion where the trial bed had not been hardened. So I returned the way I came, and upon reaching the canyon bottom, continued downhill, until I reached the access point that drops down from the main trail, and took that short but steep route back up to the trail, then to my car.
Figured about four miles for the day. Broke 100 stories on my fitbit for the day. Lots of climbing, but a relatively short day. Still, nice to be outdoors.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Hike 2016.047 -- Huntington Library and Gardens

Well, as mentioned previously, I've been highly limited in my hiking opportunities, and this limitation will continue through mid-May. I'm supposed to limit my time on my feet, and stay out of the sun. Despite that, I've been pretty fortunate. I've been hitting my fitbit goal of 16,000 steps most of the time, the last few weeks. Most of that is either on a treadmill, or in a mall. More on that, later. I've also been heading out some evenings, and on overcast days.
I took these shots on Sunday, November 27. But I've made some pretty frequent trips recently, both to the Huntington and to the nearby Los Angeles County Arboretum. I may post some pictures from those trips at a later date, but possibly not. It's a "been there, done that" sort of situation.
This particular trip worked well -- overcast, and a little rain in the morning. Also, I had recently purchased a Sigma 105mm macro lens for my Nikon D3200. On this trip, they're all dslr shots, although I do tend to resize and reduce the size of those files, usually down to a third or less of their original size.
The shots that weren't taken with the macro were taken with an 18-140mm Nikon lens, which I also purchased recently. Those were my, "Hey, you're still alive, and it's sort of Christmas and your birthday, so you should buy yourself something to celebrate" things.
It was still a little early for peak Ginkgo color, but the leaves still looked nice. But, mainly, as you probably already noticed, I amused myself with the drops of water on the roses. I shot drops of water on other plants, but the roses presented the prettiest. Meanwhile, with the 18-140mm, the Ginkgo were the stars. That, and the barrel cactus, of course. They were like nature's little lens sharpness test. ;D
Anyway, in addition to getting this post up today, I also worked some on my Cape Final post, from back in June. That one never got posted because I was having some issues with editing my pictures, right after Windows 10 got installed. Although I'm only using Windows Office Picture Manager (which came with my student/teacher Office Suite, I assume), the shift from Windows 7 to Windows 10 changed the way the pictures behaved when you resized and rotated them.
So now, I just have to get used to editing them "sideways" if I shot the picture vertical. I suppose I could also rotate and edit them "right side up," then rotate them back when I save them, to get them to display properly on the blog.
In addition to working on the Cape Final post, I also took a short hike yesterday in Rubio Canyon. Not a lot of interesting things to see or tell, but I'll get that one posted within a few days I think too. I was also thinking of hiking before my evening shift at the Observatory, but my feet are feeling a little tingly, at the moment. It's a side effect of the oral chemo drugs I'm taking, which is why I am supposed to watch my time on my feet (and, as additional side effects, stay out of the sun because of increased sensitivity to the sun. Also, it turns out, it can, at times, affect your coordination, which also limits where I'm willing to hike!).
Still, I'll have some time to able to make a few more updates to this blog over the next week, which, because of recent events, has been pretty dead, recently.

Oh, yes, the other change that may make catching up on the posting easier is that I finally got wi-fi. Up until last week, I was using AT&T regular dsl and a landline, but was getting annoyed by the nearly eight dollars a month that was costing (yeah, I know!). Now, I'm on AT&T's "Uverse" (fiber optic cable) and digital phone, which, for the next twelve months, is supposed to cost me $50/month. So, in addition to saving $26 or $27 a month, I also get "free" wi-fi with the provided modem/router. Annoyingly, they won't let you just buy your own modem/router, so I need to pay $10/month for that. But they're discounting me $10/month for the first year because of my "bundle."

After a year, there's a pretty good chance I'll finally feel comfortable completely leaving the landline business, and just port my number to a mobile phone that'll I'll almost never check, just to keep the number. We'll see.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Hike 2016.004 -- Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden

Hiked Saturday, January 17. 5 miles. Rapidly coming up on one year since the actual hike. But I find myself sitting in a waiting area with a computer, and this is the only draft post I can work on that has pictures already uploaded. Probably won't get very far before I need to go, though.

This was a few months after I joined the Los Angeles County Arboretum (through a Groupon offer). The one year membership includes reciprocal admission to various other arboretum and botanical gardens, including Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens.
(The parks also have the option to "block" reciprocal privileges to parks within 90 miles. Unfortunately, Descanso Gardens, which is somewhat near to me, does block privileges, so I am not able to take advantage of the benefit there. But I did make a free visit there once last year during Museum Free for All day. The next one is coming up in January, so take look over there and make some plans. And, if you go, go early, because the crowds last year were pretty crazy.
Apparently, I was still experi-menting with my camera, as I see I too a few black and white shots. ;D

The park is in Claremont, which is a bit of a drive for me. Probably would not otherwise make a visit, were it not free. So, in that respect, their choosing not to block reciprocal privileges is probably a good idea: they gained a visitor they would otherwise not have gotten.
Rancho Santa Ana is quite different from the Los Angeles County Arboretum. There's a much smaller "developed" area, and a much larger area which almost looks like an abandoned lot. I mean that literally, as it looks like parts of the park have chunks of concrete only partially buried. It's an interesting effect, and not a rare one for many of the larger open spaces in semi-suburban areas of southern California.
Given my choice of visiting date, I was not surprised to find relatively few plants in bloom, and not much in the way of fall color. Still, there were a few, and it was definitely a pleasant place to walk. Relatively large, too. Easy to put together a three mile-plus walk.
Obviously, the San Gabriel Mountains are not that far away. At the start of the year, they were snow-capped. And the Joshua tree made a nice foreground.

Some birds used the bayonet-like leaves as a place of refuge.

It's been long enough ago that I don't remember a lot else about this visit. I do recall that I planned to return to this park during the spring bloom, but that did not occur. I've probably also missed the "fall" color, again.

On the other hand, I recently renewed my Arboretum member-ship, so I can still come back here any time I want. So, perhaps, this spring.

I also plan to visit the South Coast Botanic Garden sometime, soon. They also have reciprocal admission privileges with the Los Angeles County Arboretum, and I have never been to that park, either.
Since the Los Angeles County Arboretum is by far the nearest botanic garden to me, I'll probably keep my membership, there. Particularly given my current health status, having something so nearby that I can walk, among relatively flat paths, and with good shade, is very helpful. I'm also keeping my membership at the Huntington Library.

On the other hand, I should also visit he Whittier Narrows Recreation Area more often.
(As I flip through some old posts about Legg Lake and the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area, it's also looking pretty interesting!)

(By the way, the trees here are Torrey Pine. Kind of nice that they have a number of locally-oriented plants here. The first shot on this post, for example, is of Channel Island Bush Poppy. I got introduced to them during our visit to Santa Cruz Island, earlier in the year).
OK, that's in, for now. Since my last blogged hike, I've only managed walks in malls and at the Arboretum and the Huntington. Perhaps on some overcast winter morning, I'll be able to go elsewhere.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Hike 2016.044 -- Mt Wilson and Mt Lowe

Hiked Saturday, September 24. This was my second-to-last hike before my extended hiatus. The night before, one of my facebook feeds (for the Cosmic Cafe, I think, but it might have been for Mount Wilson Observatory) announced that the 60" telescope would be open for some daytime viewing of Venus.

Well, I've seen Venus plenty of times through a telescope, and I've looked through the 60" telescope a few times, as well. But I hadn't seen Venus in daylight through the 60", and definitely not for free.

So I drove on up there, figuring to take a peek or two, then do a short hike at nearby Mount Lowe.

No problem driving up. Parked, and passed by the 150' solar telescope on the way to the 60" dome. Shot a few photos with the sun "eclipsed" behind the tower, just to get the halo effect. Later, I got a shot of the moon, adjacent to the solar telescope's dome. But, in the meantime, I just continued on my way to the 60" telescope.
As it turned out, seeing on Mt. Wilson was terrible. That meant it wasn't even possible to get the "disc" of Venus in focus. It was just a featureless blob that, on occasion, you could make out the fact that the disc was not circular, but in a gibbous phase (more than half, less than full). That's a function of the geometry between earth, sun, and Venus. At the time, Venus was more distant from us than the sun, but at enough of an angle that part of the night side of the planet was also visible to us.
Incidentally, Venus is extremely bright as seen from earth. That's a function of the highly reflective clouds that surround the planet. What that brightness means is that, often, at night, the planet is so bright that it's hard to see even see that phase. That's why daytime viewing held so much promise. The planet is easily bright enough to see during the daytime, while the brighter sky makes it easier to discern the planet's rim, and to make out its phase.
After my short view, I headed back down to the Mt. Lowe Trailhead. It's a dirt road, 2N50, which starts basically where Red Box Road reaches the crest so that you can see back into the LA Basin, and the road (if you're driving up) begins heading mostly due east, towards Mt Wilson's summit.
It's really a nice view, with steep canyons before you and the Basin stretching out in the distance. The road's wide, and historic. It was part of that whole Mt Lowe / Echo Mountain development from the early years of the 20th Century. Apparently, in 1942, the U.S. Forest Service built a tunnel through some of these mountains for the access road.
Shortly after poking back out of the tunnel, you have a choice. Going straight on the wide road is the long way around Mt. Lowe, and could eventually (after a long detour) take you to Inspiration Point. Right would take you up to San Gabriel Peak, and, not far past that, Mount Disappointment.

Left, however, takes you up to Mt. Lowe. That was my goal for the day.
Nice views down the Arroyo Seco on this trail, which parallels the dirt road for a while, before looping back towards Mt. Lowe. It reaches a saddle that could also be used to access Mt. Markham, though I have never tried what looks like a pretty steep route there. I have been to Mt. Lowe by this way several times, however.b
Nice views pretty much all around from this summit. It's a relatively barren summit, which contributes to the clear views.

Returned the way I came, then returned to Mt. Wilson for another try at Venus. It was higher in the sky, now, which meant looking through less atmosphere, which could potentially lead to better views. in practice, unfortunately, the view remained terrible Oh, well. It was still something that got me out of the house for some hiking and astronomy, and that's hard to beat!

Maybe 3-4 miles for the day. Sure helped with achieving my fitbit goal!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Hike 2016.045 -- Millard Canyon

Hiked Sunday, October 2. Obviously, this hike was a long time ago. I began blogging it a while ago, but did not manage to finish. Then I managed to delete the post. It's the stupid touch pad, which often manages to highlight text as I type, then delete the text when my palm moves on the touchpad. I just adjusted the settings, so hopefully that won't happen any more.

But the real reason for this long hiatus is that I had a bit of a health issue the past sex weeks. Serious diagnosis, followed by major surgery.

I'm mostly recovered, and now doing a lot of mall and park walking, but I have not tried anything seriously strenuous, or even anything taking me more than a mile or so from pavement. I may be trying slightly longer hikes, but I also know my recovery is not complete, and I may soon be taking some medications that will further sap my endurance.
Nonetheless, I'm still alive, and, at least for now, feeling mostly okay. Can't be sure if I'm "cured," or if this is just a calm before the storm. I'm hoping the former, obviously.

In the meantime, this was the last hike I took before my surgery. I read the trail write-up in Modern Hiker, and, quite frankly, I was surprised. This trail was closed the winter after the 2009 Station Fire, which was right about when I was starting my first 100 hike years, so I never managed to see the falls before winter mud flows lead to a closure order for Millard Canyon falls.
The closure lasted for years, and I hadn't even realized the closure order had been lifted. But, upon reading the post, I searched the Internet and confirmed that the closure order had been lifted. So, even knowing there would be just a trickle of water coming down the "falls," I figured it would still be nice to hike some new trail and get a close up of the base of the falls.

The falls themselves are also visible from the Sunset Ridge Trail, which heads out of the canyon and takes you right near the top of the falls. The best view of the falls on that trail is from some distance away, however.
You can also get close to the top by taking the trail past the falls, then swinging back downstream (Hiked last year, but never blogged. Must do that, still!). But you can't really see the falls from the top very well, at all.

Modern hiker says it's 1.6 miles roundtrip, so that's a pretty short distance. Several stream crossings, which are not a problem when the water is so low. Quick walk, and the view was as expected, as was the low water flow.

Knowing ahead of time that this hike was going to be so short, I intended to then add the Sunset Ridge Trail. I intended to go all the way to Echo Mountain, but did not feel the strength or motivation to go the distance. I didn't even feel the motivation to head up from the canyon bottom. Instead, when I drove in, I noticed many parking spaces were right at the saddle, which would save me about 1.5 miles roundtrip, and a pretty significant climb.
So after my visit to the falls, I drove my car back up to the saddle. Yet, even with the head start, by the time I got to the picnic area (about 1.5 miles from the saddle), I was feeling pretty tired. So I sat, took some pictures, then returned to my car. A pretty short day, yet enough for what I could handle, that day.

I'll probably be heading back there if we get some significant rain this year.