Friday, January 22, 2016

Hike 2016.003 -- Rubio Canyon and Echo Mountain

Hiked Saturday, January 16. 5 miles. Wandering route, today. I started from the lower Rubio Canyon access, near the "corner" of Loma Alta Drive and Rubio Canyon Road. I parked on nearby Rubio Crest Drive and walked the 1/10th of a mile or so east, to the access. Headed up canyon, past the old and decaying cabin.
Actually, I don't know if the cabin is actually old. Given its continual decay, I'm assuming it's got no significant historical value, or they'd have stabilized it, by now.

There are various home security and no trespassing signs along the road, but the road itself is a public right of way (no parking on this road, though).
Go past a variety of water supply facilities on both sides of the path, then descend to the wash floor. A trail does head up to the right. Ignore that path, today. Instead, cross over the center of the (usually) dry waterway and head up the path that climbs the opposite bank. This path can be steep in parts. It soon joins the "regular" Rubio Canyon Trail, which starts adjacent to the corner of Rubio Vista Road and Pleasant Ridge Drive. But my way adds a bit of extra distance, which is nice, because the trail itself is pretty short; from the "regular" access point, it's less than a mile to the lower falls (Moss Grotto and Ribbon Rock Falls).

The best overview of Rubio Canyon, in general, that I am aware of is here, on Hiker Dan's hiking page.
I hiked to those lower falls, to see if any water was making it down the falls. None was. So I returned to the foundation of the old pavilion where the incline train headed from Altadena up to Echo Mountain. I followed a trail ("the Incline Trail") about halfway up that incline, at which point a trail veers to the north. ("the Middle Old Echo Mountain Trail").

Staying on that trail would eventually take you up the north side of Echo Mountain ("the Chalet Trail"). However, there are numerous use trails that veer off from it (and the trail itself is not especially obvious). I took one of those detours to a rocky outcropping that overlooks Rubio Canyon, including a reasonably close peek at where Leontine Falls would be, if water were flowing. In fact, I could hear the sound of trickling water, but, could not see any falling water.
After my peek, I headed back to the Chalet Trail, and made my way to the top of Echo Mountain. The clouds that had been around for most of the day were starting to break up, just a little. Nice, dramatic views of the peaks above Rubio Canyon.
Once at the top, I snapped a number of pictures. As is typical on a weekend, the "peak" was quite crowded. It's not really much of a "peak," but it is neat, with all the foundations and remains of the old "White City," which was once a mountain resort, in the hills above Altadena.

Lots of separate groups, enjoying the outdoors. Only one group, which I later caught up to, but which I had heard several times from quite far away, was being obnoxiously loud.

I started down the Sam Merrill Trail, the one most folks take up here, which starts at the north end of Lake Avenue, in Altadena.
Almost as soon as I started down, I was back within earshot of the loud people. "Earshot" means, basically, on the same side of the mountains, because they were really loud. I hate people like that. Music playing, shouting, screaming. Rude.
At about the halfway point (where the trail passes under the power line towers), I diverted off the Sam Merrill and on to the "Old Lower Echo Mountain Trail." All of these names, by the way, are from the little maps put together by the Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy. I don't think their maps are available on line, but they are often in a little "mailbox" at the "regular" Rubio Canyon trailhead, which is north of 1342 Rubio Vista Road, in Altadena.
This trail is steep, though not nearly as steep as the Incline Trail. After probably 3/4 of a mile, it joins with the Rubio Canyon Trail. I headed a bit up canyon after I met that trail, to take the Lower Rubio Canyon Trail, which heads to where the canyon runs into Rubio Canyon Road. Walked from there back to my car. I'm calling it five miles, though it's possible it was more. Decent distance, anyway, and a chance to see if the water had returned to Rubio Canyon. It hadn't, so I'll have to return again after (hopefully) several more significant storms have made their way through southern California.

It's a slow start to El Niño.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Hike 2016.001 -- Railroad Trail, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, NV

Hiked Saturday, January 2. 10 miles. The Historic Railroad Trail follows the bed of, yes, the historic railroad tracks that brought much of the materials necessary for Hoover Dam's construction down from Boulder City to the dam construction site.

It stars near the Alan Bible Visitor Center for Lake Mead National Recreation Area. To get there, take U.S. Highway 93 south from Las Vegas and Henderson. Currently, U.S. 93 is a divided, limited access highway ("freeway") until you are about to leave Henderson. Then it becomes a non-limited access highway.
It's not unusual once the freeway ends that you'll be stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic approaching and leaving Boulder City.

You'll eventually have to make a left to stay on U.S. 93. Once you've done that, the traffic usually picks up somewhat. Then you've got a long, long, long downhill grade towards Hoover Dam. After about 3.8 miles, the left turn lane for Alan Bible Visitor Center should be on your left.
You'll now be on Lakeshore Road. The turn to the Visitor Center will be on your right, about 1/10th of a mile down the road. There's also trail parking, another 1/10th of a mile past the Visitor Center. The latter is a very small parking area, so you may find it necessary to park up at the Visitor Center. Of course, if it's really crowded, the Visitor Center lot will also be full. If so, then I'm not sure what your options are.
From the Visitor Center, looking to the east, you'll see the railroad grade run from near the trail head parking, off into the distance, and along the side of a distant hill. You'll also see a tall hotel and casino behind that hill. That's the Railroad Pass Hotel and Casino. It used to be the Gold Strike. I mention this because there's a nearby trail to hot springs that goes by the name of, "Gold Strike." Never been to this one, and it sounds a little difficult to get to, so I'm not sure if I'll make that trip.
Once on the Historic Railroad trail, it's pretty hard to get lost. Just stay on the grade, and follow the occasional sign.

There's an unsigned but obvious trail from the railroad grade to the Casino, by the way. I assume it continues all the way up to the highway, but I did not check.
The trail passes through five tunnels. After exiting the fifth, you're at a small picnic area. On the day I hiked, the pit toilet there was locked.

Passing this area, you can see the two-lane road that comes down from U.S. 93 to Hoover Dam. Cars may be backed up on that road as you walk by.

Following this scene, there's a sign indicating either one mile to the Dam via the "Historic" grade, or a "shortcut" that goes more directly to the Dam. I'm not sure, but it did not seem all that much shorter. But, there you go.

The "shortcut" also approaches to within 1/2 mile of the access point for the O'Callaghan - Tillman Memorial Bridge. If you detour there and decide to walk across the bridge, it's about 1/3 of a mile from one side to the other.
Importantly, once on the other side, you will have no choice but to retrace your steps. You can not just continue over to the Arizona-side parking and cross back over Hoover Dam. That road is no longer a thru road.

So, once you've taken the 1/2 mile to the bridge, then the 1/3 of a mile over the bridge, then retraced your steps, you've added 1 2/3 of a mile to your hike, which is supposed to be a bit under four miles from the trailhead to the dam. Cross the dam and back, and you've added about 1/2 mile. So now, what was supposed to be a four-mile trip to the dam becomes, in actuality, about 10 miles, roundtrip, especially if you add the extra 1/4 mile or so roundtrip from the Visitor Center to the trailhead. On the other hand, I took the "shortcut" on the way to the dam.
Heh. No wonder I was so tired by the time I got back!

I was actually pretty tired by the time I got there, so ate some overpriced concessionaire food. $14 for a small chicken wrap and a small soda. I mean SMALL soda. Tasted good, though.
Incidentally, had you driven to the dam, parking is $10 in the structure on the NV side of the dam, and, I believe, on the surface lot on the AZ side nearest the dam. I think there are free parking lots further away on the AZ side, if you want to save some money.

There's a dam-specific visitor center on the NV side. I did not take the time to visit that place on this trip. Too tired, and been there before.
By the way, although your hike is entirely within Lake Meade National Recreation Area, if you parked at the Alan Bible Visitor Center or the Historic Railroad trail parking area, you did not need to pay an entry fee. So there's some additional money you get to keep in your pocket.
Because I crossed both the dam and the bridge, I got some pretty out-standing views of both.

You can't walk under the bridge, but, on the NV side of the Colorado River, below the dam, you can get pretty close.
From the bridge, cables get in your view of the dam, unfortu-nately. Still, it's a pretty amazing view. The Dam is over 700 feet above the river on the backside, while the bridge is about 900 feet above the river. The bridge is also advertised as being about 1500 feet south of the dam, which is interesting, because it's about 1300 feet long. So the bridge is almost as long as it is distant from the dam. Yes, it's an engineering marvel.
Forgot to mention that, at the dam, in addition to a cafe and a visitor center, there's also a gift shop and a lot of flush restrooms. There were also vault toilets at the parking area near the start of the O'Callaghan - Tillman Memorial Bridge parking area, and a porta-potty near the small parking/waiting area for where the Historic Railroad trail spurs off to the bridge. That's in addition to the locked toilet near the picnic area, about 1/2 mile back from the turnoff, and the pit toilet at the other end of the trail, and flush toilets in the Alan Bible Visitor Center.
Also failed to mention that you've got some nice views of Lake Meade along the way. You'll also get a really dramatic view, both at the dam and along the way, of how far down the water in Lake Mead has dropped. It's now a LONG way down from the UPSTREAM side of the dam to the water, too!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Hike 2016.002 -- Parker Mesa Trail, Topanga State Park

Hiked Saturday, January 9. Only my second hike of the year. I'm getting off to a slow start.

Wound up here for two reasons. First, I had to drive out to a shopping mall inTopanga to return something. Second, I've got a bunch of California State Park Foundation day passes that expire on April 1. Gotta make a lot of visits, so I hit this one, today.
It would appear I hiked out of Topanga State Park only once before, about 2 1/2 years ago. Then, I took a huge loop that covered much of the central section of the park. Also around that time, I accessed the southern section of the park from Temescal Gateway Park, heading north, and from that same park, heading east.
I was somewhat pleasant surprised that I had no trouble finding the park entrance. From U.S. 101, you take the Topanga Canyon Blvd exit and head south. It was somewhat longer of a drive than I remembered, but otherwise easy to find.

On that previous trip, I had observed the Parker Mesa Trail, but decided on something longer. Well, this being several years later, and with me taking shorter hikes, now, six miles seemed just about right. Plus, in theory, I was supposed to work that night, although I was pretty sure I was going to be clouded out (I was).
Most people coming here park on the roads that approach the fee gate, but, again, since I had my day passes, I was going to use one. The actual parking lot was pretty small, but that's because most visitors park outside. Also, the poor weather helped keep crowds down. It was not a deserted hike by any means, but I did have some time to myself along the way.
From the visitor center, you head east and south, reaching Eagle Springs Fire Road and East Topanga Fire Road. To get to Parker Mesa, you turn right when you hit the fire road. Heading that way, it's East Topanga Fire Road. The trail cuts beneath some cliffs before long, and there was a fair-sized boulder that had clearly fallen quite recently, there on the trail.
Straight shot once you're on the fire road. No problem knowing the way to go. Once above the visitor center area, you've got nice views almost the whole way. Much of it is either looking west, down over Topanga Canyon Road, or east, upon the pink roofs of what must be really expensive, tract-looking homes or condos. That's Palisades Highlands.

You also have views to the north, and can see Eagle Rock from several points along the way, as well as at the trail's end.
The Tom Harrison map gives it as a net 330 foot gain from the visitor center to the end of the trail. However, it's got several ups and downs. Not super steep anywhere, but you can definitely get your heart pumping in places.
This was not the best day to visit this place, weather-wise. It was overcast, and the strong contrast between the "white" of the hazy sky and the darker greens and browns of the grasses made photography difficult. Also, the haze made most telephoto shots look pretty washed out.
Still, from that trail end, I could see Downtown Los Angeles (barely), Century City, the Santa Monica Pier, and, I am pretty sure, The Getty Villa (though I didn't know to look for that at the time). I could also see some surfers down about 1.5 miles to my south. They were pretty tiny, of course.
As noted previously, there were plenty of other folks on this trail, but it wasn't crazy crowded. There were a pair of horsewomen, who came galloping up behind me very quickly. Possibly the first time I heard the sounded of galloping hooves, closing behind me. That was different.
There were also a half-dozen or so mountain bikers. Everyone else I saw was on foot. There was one VERY large group, maybe 30 men. Not sure what sort of group that was. Many more couples and pairs and singles.
Returned the way I came. My Fitbit buzzed that I reached my 16,000 step goal within 1/2 mile of my return. Obviously, I had some fair number of steps in before I started. But it was nice to know I had reached my goal so early in the day.
Once back, I wandered around the parking area a bit. There's another trail that heads north from the lot, the Musch Trail. If I'm back at this park within the next few months, I'll take that trail, and maybe explore the north portion of the park.
No hike on Sunday. Had other errands to run. One of them was actually returning to the mall. Returned another jacket, and bought a third one. I'm trying to find something warm, because I've got those night shifts on the front lawn at Griffith Observatory, and it gets cold out there! I'm hoping my latest acquisition will do the trick.
Okay, so ten days into the new year. Two hikes. One blogged, one still to be blogged. And, still, a backlog from last year. So I should be able to blog my first hike later this week, and maybe one of my older ones before the weekend. Then, hopefully, two hikes over the MLK weekend. See you all later.

Oh, yes, about this last shot--On my return leg, I passed four of these little bags of dog poop within about a 100 yard section of trail. I hate people like this, who think they're doing us all a great favor by bagging their dog poop, then just leaving it on the trail for someone else to carry out. Those guys suck. Cleaning up after your pet means actually carrying that shit off the trail. Bring an extra bag and double bag it, if you need to. It's your dog; it's your responsibility.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Hike 2015.099B -- Huntington Library and Gardens, San Marino, CA

Hiked Sunday, December 27. 2 miles. I came here very late on Sunday afternoon, with only about 90 minutes to walk. I'm pretty sure I didn't cover enough ground to make my 3 miles, so I would up not calling this Hike 2015.100. Hike 100 turned out to be a trip to Monrovia Canyon, on New Year's Eve.
I've been a member of the Huntington for a number of years. I visit it more in some years than in others. But, despite those many trips, I almost always find something different to photograph as I walk around the grounds. This day was no exception.
I suppose my favorite shot for the day was the one that leads this post. Candid shot of a couple in the Chinese garden section. The water and the changing seasons that are evidenced by the changing foliage of the trees around the pond make this a favorite location. I also found new ways to frame some of the sights here.

Pretty pleased with this rose shot, too. I also hadn't shot that bowl / fountain, before.
No shots of the Diana sculpture, nor of the "Love" one, though I do like both. But I've done those, before. And the ginkgo, which was so colorful on my last visit, had fallen, by now. So not much seasonal color, already. I will have to think about shadow compositions for a few months, I think. ;D

Between my membership here and the one at the Los Angeles County Arboretum, and nearby Legg Lake, I've got plenty of nearby spots to walk in developed parks. But there are other possibilities now, as well. First, my Arboretum membership will let me visit the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens, in Claremont. Haven't been there, yet. But a definite new places to see and probably walk several laps around to get my steps in, in addition to having a new places to photograph. Probably want to visit there seasonally, too, as I expect it, like the County Arboretum and the Huntington, change greatly with the seasons.
On a somewhat related note, Saturday, January 30 is Museum Free For All Day. Thirty museums in southern California will waive their basic admission fee on that day (or, for a few exceptions, on the 31st). Included among these museums is Descanso Gardens, in La Cañada Flintridge. Never been there, either. and several of the museums participating in Museum Free for All are also free on the first full weekend of each month, with my Bank of America card. Just some reminders of options for cheap or free entertainment.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Hike 2015.099 -- Legg Lake, Whittier Narrows Recreation Area, Los Angeles County

Hiked Friday, December 25. 6 miles. This was my "official" hike 99 for 2015. It's only about two miles to walk the long trail that more or less circles the entire section of park (south of the Pomona Freeway, CA-60, and east of Rosemead Blvd, CA-19). If you walk up and down the trails the pass between each of the three lakes, you can add maybe a bit less than a mile. And if you encircle the whole area twice and cut around each of the lakes in addition to that, you're well over 5 miles, probably more like 6 miles.
Currently, my Fitbit is set to 16,000 steps, and, although I undoubt-edly had a thousand or two before I started, I wanted to make sure to break the 16,000 point before quitting.
My wife gave me my Fitbit in December 2014. Initially, I was skeptical. I already knew I wanted to walk more, and I didn't need some damned device to tell me that. However, I soon found that having a firm, quantifiable number worked for me. It set a floor for my walking. If I didn't "buzz," I needed to walk more.
Default on the Fitbit is 10,000 steps. Depending on your job and your self-moti-vation, that may be either depressingly unachievable or completely unchallenging. In my case, if I made a point of taking a 15-20 minute walk during my morning break at work, and another 15-20 minute walk during lunch, and maybe 15-20 minutes in the afternoon or evening, I was there. So, eventually, I upped it to 15,000.
For me, 15,000 worked, because it required me to do more than I was already doing. Now that my commute to work involves a 10-15 minute walk coming and going, if I do a couple of walks up the stairs during the day, and a 30 minute walk during lunch, I'm moderately close. If I work that night, no problem, since my night job lets me walk a bit. If I don't work at night, I need to either take a walk after getting home (if there's still daylight), or a short hop on the treadmill. If I don't manage to get as much walking in during the day, it's a LONG hop on the treadmill. The target makes sure I achieve my goal.
Of course, preferable to a walk around the block or a long walk on the treadmill is a hike. Even a short, 3-mile hike, after a normal day of activity, puts me above my target. A longer hike puts me further above my target, and a 6-8 mile hike achieves me goal all by itself. The point is, on days that I don't manage to fit in a good hike, the Fitbit nags me into achieving my floor.

Of course, there's nothing magical about a Fitbit that a lot of other activity trackers couldn't also achieve, or even a good old fashioned pedometer. But, for me, it's easy to use (I only use the step counter--I don't try to measure food intake or sleep hours or anything like that), and it creates a modest level of external motivation (because, in theory, other people will see if you are or are not achieving your goal).

So, anyway, the point of this post is just to say that the Fitbit and my goal of 100 hikes in a year worked pretty well to keep me much more active this year than I otherwise would have been. I'm still much overweight, but a little bit less so this year than last year.

Still lots of old hikes to blog, as well as new ones. Not sure which I'll do next.

Guess I should also say that the main bit of photography I did during this hike was of the small motorboats, operating in one corner of the lake. Not necessarily the main attraction of these lakes, and you'll see other, more wildlife-oriented shots in my previous visits here. But this was something different.