Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Hike 2016.032B -- Rainbow Falls from Red's Meadow Resort

Hiked Saturday, July 2. 3 miles. After catching the shuttle bus from stop #7 (walk to your left after you reach the road to find the stop) to stop #10, I left my wife at the "Resort," then wandered on down to Rainbow Falls.

The given distance from the "Rainbow Falls Trailhead" to "Rainbow Falls" is given as 1.3 miles. I'd sure the distance from the trailhead to the "Resort" is over 1/5 of a mile each way, so it's about three miles, roundtrip.
This trail quickly brought me into an area that had clearly burned, not too long ago. There were standing snags and many downed logs. It wasn't quite as dramatic as Yellowstone after those great fires, but there were a LOT of dead trees.

Sadly, this is becoming a recurring theme across much of the West.
This being the Fourth of July weekend, I expect this trail was even more crowded than it normally is. It was an almost continuous flow of people, including many that were not dressed as you would expect even a casual hiker to be dressed. Many were also somewhat elderly and/or hobbled, yet, there they were, slogging their way to Rainbow Falls.
Given the modest distance and lack of significant altitude change, I suppose this should not be too surprising.

Also not surprising was the size of the crowd at the waterfall viewpoint.

But, what was just a little surprising was the number of selfie-obsessed hikers. Yes, that's becoming less surprising as time goes by. It used to be, you'd hike for the view, the experience, and, yes, to document what your experience.
What's changed is that the documentation now must include a picture of yourself, in front of the scene. And it can't just be a snapshot. There was one self-obsessed twit who literally spent 7-8 minutes, standing right were anyone would need to stand to take a shot of the falls, posing, snapping, reposing, snapping, reposing, snapping, etc., etc. Sadly, I do mean the 7-8 minutes, literally. That's just selfish.
Then again, I also saw selfishness on my recent hike to Angels Landing, where, at places where you would have to wait because you can only pass one at a time along narrow sections, rather than seeing people coming up, seeing I was waiting, and waiting for the oncoming group I was waiting for to clear. People would push pass me, get about ten feet, then realize they couldn't proceed.
Well, after 5, 10, or 12 people do this, now the folks coming up the opposite direction have no where to go, either. Increased gridlock.

Again, on that trail, I ended up having to back up on go well away from the chain and trail on several occasions, not because I was blocking the way initially, but because so many people had crowded on the other side of me that now the people coming up had no where to safely get away from the narrow point of the trail.

I suppose that's to be expected by some people, who clearly walk the way they drive. Doesn't mean all, or even most, hikers and drivers are idiots. But when you get enough at one spot, yeah, I can get grumpy.

Point being, I suppose, is that this is a better walk for a less crowded day. But it is definitely scenic, and I can not fault anyone who's on a limited schedule to want to take these walks while they're in the area. It's just a warning, if you don't like crowds, that you might want to schedule your hike here, accordingly.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Hike 2016.032A -- Devil's Postpile, Devil's Postpile National Monument, CA

Hiked Sunday, July 3. 1.2 miles. During most of the season, for most of the day, access over Minaret Pass, to Agnew Meadows, Devil's Postpile, and Rainbow Falls (etc) is by shuttle bus, only. The shuttle bus leaves from the Mammoth ski resort. Tickets were about $7, roundtrip, which permits on-off riding down in the area between Agnew Meadows and Red's Meadow Resort.

Depending on how early you get there, and/or if you're willing to pay a rather steep parking fee, you can either park right near the shuttle boarding area or park a mile or more down the hill. I don't recall if they had shuttle buses to take you from the ticket/boarding area down to the more remote lots on the Mammoth side of things.
Stop 6 puts you close to the actual Postpile. Stop 8 may be marginally closer, but not a big difference. Stop 6 is also near the ranger station, so most people get off, there. From there, you head downstream, with the San Joaquin River on your right. Only about 1/3 mile to the base of the Postpile, which are, you probably already know, columns of basalt.

From the bottom, it's a short, steep 1/8 mile or so to the top of the Postpile. Polished by glaciers, it looks a bit like tile. A small but oldish pine tree grows from out of it's surface. I photographed that same pine tree the last time I was here, about 20 years ago.
From the top, maps indicate it should be only another 1/8 of a mile or so to rejoin the trail that went below the Postpile, but it seemed much further than that. There are several nice extrusions of basalt, coming out at different angles, as you make your way around.

Once rejoined with the trail, it again seemed longer than it should to get to the trail split.
At the split 1.5 miles straight would take you to Rainbow Falls. But my wife was not having fun, so we turned left, to get to Stop 8. Once you reach the road, again, stop 8 is to your left. Unauthorized vandalism was the only way to know that [or, you know, looking at a map. ;D ]

We rode to Stop 10, where my wife could sit and relax, and I could use the restroom, then drop back down towards the trail to Rainbow Falls. But that's the subject of my next blog. ;D
The rest of these shots were actually from the night before. Stayed in Bishop on for a couple of nights. Super 8. Walked basically the length of Bishop after dinner, from my motel room to the Von's and back.
Passed the theater, which was showing (obviously) Independence Day II and Finding Dory. I just got a kick out of the Fourth of July bunting to match that marquee display.

Also passed their POW/Veterans Memorial, which are some flags and rocky plaques, near Von's.

Of course, by the time I got back to the motel room, it was getting dark. Still, I enjoyed the glow of those clouds I saw on the way back.
Here are those clouds, above the Shell Station that was across the street from my motel stay. There was a Jack in the Box immediately south of the motel. Nice for quicky bites, if you needed them.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Hike 2016.031 Burbank Peak, Griffith Park, CA

Hiked Tuesday, June 28. Still catching up. I'm pretty sure this was during the Cajon Pass fire, though the Santa Clarita or Ventura fires may have also been going. There have been many nights at the Observatory where plumes of smoke choked off the view. All those fires have simply blurred into a summer of fire and smoke.
This is by far my favorite hike in the park. It's long enough to fel like a workout, gives you some of the most dramatic scenery in the park to overlook, and hits several of the most iconic sights of the south-facing portions of Griffith Park.
I always start at the Observatory, which you can reach by taking either Hillhurst north from Los Feliz to Vermont, or just take Vermont north from Los Feliz, up past the Greek Theater, through the Vermont Tunnel, then left up to the parking lot.
Of course, since Iwork here, I can always find parking. For most, finding parking at the Observatory Lot can be a challenge, almost any time. If so, parking down near where the paved Mt. Hollywood Drive departs from Vermont Canyon or West Observatory Road would also work fine. Your path would be different, and perhaps less scenic, but still nice, and even a little shorter.
From the Observatory Parking Lot, head north. The Charlie Turner Trail starts at the end of the parking lot. There's now a display board with a map of the park, and a sign with some walking distances given. The tricky part is that there are multiple routes to several destinations, and I'm not sure which route they use to calculate the distances.
Continue north, passing the Berlin Children's Forest. Views of the Hollywood sign are visible through those trees, and along the way past here. You'll descend down a hill shortly after the forest. As you approach the "bridge" that passes over the Vermont Tunnel, a trail will come up from your left. That's one way you could join this hike if you parked down below and wanted to take the same route. More likely, you'd have just walked up Mt. Hollywood Drive, instead.

You cross over the tunnel and enjoy expansive views to your southeast and southwest.
Right on the other side of the bridge is a steep trail that runs up the spine towards Mt. Hollywood. It joins the trail that comes up from the "Bird Sanctuary" (top of Vermont Avenue/Vermont Canyon Road, where it makes the turn to the left and makes a short, steep climb to the Vermont Tunnel entrance). About 1/4 steep mile later, it joins the Charlie Turner Trail right where the trail splits to go either clockwise or counterclockwise around Mt Hollywood. I'm not sure which route is the official Charlie Turner Trail there, or if both are, or if neither is.

Personally, I prefer to stay on the Charlie Turner Trail all the way up to that split. It's a nice, easy climb, and I enjoy the longer, less strenuous climb.

Once at the split, I'm not sure which way is faster. For me, the deciding factor is usually based on which side is shaded, and whether I'm hot or cold.
Either way meets up at the northeast end, a bit below the peak. If you wanted to bag the peak, it's about 1/5 of a mile from that reunion of trails. Incidentally, if you went counterclockwise, you'll pass Dante's View, and a trail that would take you past Glendale Peak, and on to the southeast.
Once at the reunion, either after, or without having visited Mount Hollywood's Summit, you head north. Stay on the nice fire road that heads towards another peak. That's Mount Bell.
Personally, I follow that fire road to the exposed water pipes, then walk up that use trail. It takes me to the north end of Mount Bell, where it runs into another fire road. Follow that road around Mt. Bell. Continue heading west, and you'll run into Mt. Hollywood Drive, again. Continue just a bit further west,and Mt. Hollywood Drive dives down to the north.
Rather than going down that hill, look for the trail that's on your left. It may not be signed. Follow that a bit up the ridge, towards another hill, which is Mt. Chapel. Rather than trying to summit that hill, look for the use trail that contours along its southern flank. If you did this right, you'll soon be walking with a rather steep dropoff to your left, and the broad fire road that is the Mulholland "trail" further down below. After less than 1/2 mile of walking along this ridge, you look for the trail that bears down a bit to your left. Not a steep descent, mind you. It just departs from the trail that wold otherwise dead-end overlooking Mt. Lee Drive.
Again, if you did this right, you run right into Mt. Lee Drive (paved). Follow it to your right to get up above the Hollywood Sign, and/or get to Cahuenga Peak and Burbank Peak. Alternatively, if you go down and to your left, you could eventually get as close as legally possible to the bottom of the Hollywood Sign. That requires a little trick of passing through the gate to Mulholland Highway, the passing right (around the gate) to get on to the trail that goes below the sign. That trail, were you to follow it, ends near Innsdale and Canyon Lake Drives.
On the other hand, if you turned right, you follow the pavement up the hill. When it makes a hairpin turn to the left, staying on it would take you to the top of Mt. Lee. On the other hand, at that turn, there's a monument to he acquisition of the land that is Cahuenga Peak. And, more recently, a trail sign was added, giving the distance to Cahuenga Peak and Burbank Peak. Head up that narrow trail, and enjoy views overlooking Lake Hollywood, the Hollywood Sign, and much of southern California.
Then follow that trail (difficult, at times, with fair dropoffs near by) over Cahuenga Peak, then further west, to Burbank Peak. That's the one with the lone pine tree ("The Magic Tree"), and annoying stacks of rocks. Great views both north and south as you approach Burbank Peak. Great place to enjoy a sunset, too. But that'll mean getting back after dark.

Return the way you came. About eight miles, roundtrip.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Hike 2016.035 -- Mount Disappointment, during the Sand Fire

Hiked Friday, July 22. 5 miles. Looks like I goofed and put two posts up on the 19th. I had intended to post one, then schedule the other one to post in a few days, to spread out the new material. Oh, well.
Here's another one from way back in the summer. This was the first day of the fire near Santa Clarita. I heard of it on the radio and on-line earlier that day, but didn't think too much about it and how it might affect my hiking plans. Since I got off at 4pm this day and did not have to work my night job, I was figuring on a nice little afternoon hike. Little did I expect how impactful that fire would prove to be.

This trailhead is off of Mount Wilson Road, just a 1/2 mile or so south of Red Box Junction. You make a sharp right turn off the road, and head up a bit to a parking area, outside a locked gate.
There's an actual trail that starts just south of that gate, but, today, for variety's sake, I headed up the road, instead of the trail. Wound up taking the trail back, however, to make sure to beat the dark.
Obviously, the altitude gain is the same either way, but I'm sure the road must be longer. Not normally as foresty, either, since you're walking on a wide, dirt road. But, again, variety.
Even before I made it to the trailhead, I could see smoke from the Santa Clarita fires, floating over us. As the crow flies, I figured there was no risk of the fire actually getting near us tonight. Hadn't thought the smoke would be so thick.
The wind also shifted over the course of the hike, moving the smoke lower, on to near the summit of Mount Disappointment (and an unknown peak I summitted, just to its west-southwest.
It was quite a change. At the start, looking to the east and northeast, the air was crystal clear. But, by the end of my hike, the ash was falling, and the air was definitely not healthy to breath.
Made for some otherwordly views. I shot dozens of shots of the sun, disappearing behind the smoke. Weird coloring, of course.
It's been a tough summer, with lots of fires, and lots of hiking days affected by smoke. On some days, I had to call off my planned hike. Still, the main things affecting my hike (and blogging) productivity are not weather-related. Not sure how frequently or for how long I'll be able to hit the trail. Still have lots of older hikes to blog, though. That'll keep me busy for a while.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Hike 2016.032C -- Fossil Falls, Bureau of Land Management, CA

Hiked Monday, July 4. 1/2 mile I just wrote that I was caught up on the last few weeks of hiking, but I checked, and saw I was not. Still much blogging to catch up on the hikes for this year, never mind for last year!
Obviously, this one was hiked back in July, as I drove back from a short excursion to Devil's Postpile and Rainbow Falls, near Mammoth, CA. Apparently, I hadn't blogged those yet, either. How is this possible? I really have been having trouble keeping up with my blog!

The BLM entry for Fossil Falls is here,if you have any questions about location or scientific and cultural significance.
Fossil Falls is one of those places you probably wouldn't make as a destination (although, I suppose, if you were looking for someplace with a dark sky, for astronomical viewing, this might work!). However, since it's right off of U.S. 395, it's one of several places you might choose to use to break up the long drive between Los Angeles and the Mammoth-Bishop Area.
Short drive on a dirt road to get here. I'll guess about 1/2 mile, though I don't recall, any more. I just know it was not immediate, so probably between 1/2 and 3/4 of a mile. The parking area is large enough for a dozen or so cars at a time. There's an informational board and vault toilets here, but no running water.

The trail heads east, then south from the parking area. It's mostly well-defined, except for when it crosses over lava rocks (of which, yeah, there's a lot of that). There's no real "end" to this, either. The trail leads to what you can think of as the "head" of the "falls."
Before the LA aqueduct (and definitely before the end of the last ice age), water flowed south from Owns Lake, polishing this lava outcropping. In some areas, rocks swirled in pits in the lava, carving smooth, almost circular pits. The smoothness is really quite impressive.

In other places, the polish creates sharp edges. Sturdy footwear here is a good idea.

I'd probably driven by this place a dozen times or more (I mean, as the driver) without curiosity getting the better of me. But, last year, I met up with some friends in the White Mountains during the Perseid meteor shower (hiked the Ancient Bristlecone Forest that year). They stopped on the way back to LA, and shared some pictures.
That might have been enough to get me to stop here, all by itself. However, it also turns out that the rest area at Coso Junction (just north of here) was closed, so I figured this pit stop could pull double duty. (at the time, it had been closed "indefinitely," since early June -- I just checked, however, and it opened last week. How's that for timing?).
In addition to the lava flow, there's also a large cinder cone, just north of here. Mining is going on in the area, as well. Doesn't detract from this being someplace very worth of a stopover, at least once, as you drive U.S. 395.

So, I still need to blog my last two hikes, as well as some from back in July!

Hike 2016.041 -- Wildcat Canyon and Northgate Peaks Trails, Kolob Terrace Road, Zion National Park, UT

Hiked Friday, September 9. Four miles. This turned out to be the first of three hikes I managed that weekend. That's good, because the next weekend turned out to be a zero hike weekend.

All three hikes were relatively short, however. This one was to be expected, as I needed to drive up from the Los Angeles area, and I rarely get as early a start as I'd like.
The trailhead is located off of Kolob Terrace Road. From I-15, Take Exit 16, on to UT-9. UT-9 passes through the towns of Hurricane and La Verkin, on the way to Zion. There are plenty of restaurants, motels, and gas stations in Hurricane. A bit later, in La Verkin, the highway makes a 90 degree turn at a light. There's a Maverick gas station/truck stop at this corner, so if you're due for a pitstop, you can pull in just before the light, while you're northbound, do your business, then pull out heading eastbound, after the light.
Up until now, you've been able to follow the signs to Zion National Park. Continue about 6.3 miles, until the sign for Kolob Reservoir. There is no signal here, so you'll have to keep an eye out for the sign, which will be on the right side of the road. Turn left, and continue up Kolob Terrace Road about 16 miles.

The road is somewhat winding, and the speed limit is 35mph through most of it. I saw at least two sheriff's vehicles on my drive, and one person getting a ticket, so keep that in mind during your drive.

You're looking for the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead. It'll be on the left, after the road has made a series of tight switchbacks to gain altitude, then briefly straightening out. At a sharp hairpin turn to the left, among the arrow signs telling you to how to stay on the road, there's also a sign for Wildcat Canyon trailhead, practically between the arrow signs. Following the sign for the trailhead will take you down a short dirt road, to a small parking area. There's a pit toilet there, but no running water.
The drive itself is quite scenic. The first three shots in this post are from the drive. The first was overlooking "Sunset Canyon Ranch, one of many inholdings or "adjacent-holdings" of private or state land among the National Park and National Forest land up here.
The second shot was down Hop Valley, which I once saw from the other side (down near La Verkin Creek, when I backpacked to Kolob Arch and Beartrap Canyon -- That was cool, but long before commercially available digital photography, so I have no shots I can share of that, for now). The third was of just a pretty rock outcropping above a meadow--don't know the name.

From the parking area, you start off walking through a place that alternates between ponderosa pine forests and open meadow.
The trail is wide and easy to follow. It's also relatively flat, so the going can be pretty quick. Lots of colorful outcroppings around you, but especially near the end, when you overlook "The Great West Canyon," before you, and the Western Rim parts of Zion Canyon, in the distance. It's not as impressive as the view from the actual Zion Canyon, but it is still, in my opinion, pretty amazing.
It's also a lot less crowded than the more developed portions of the park. I'm not even sure if I saw any other hikers, once I left the parking lot.
Four miles gets you to the overlook. You don't actually go up any peaks. Not sure if any are safe to climb without technical equipment.

You pass only two trail junctions along the way. At the first one, you basically go straight, or leftish (right is the Connector Trail, towards Hop Valley trail). At the second, you turn a sharp right (left would take you down the "Subway" trail, which requires a permit and careful planning).
By contrast, the Northgate Peaks trail requires only minimal planning. It's relatively flat, and does not drop into the actual canyon, so flash floods are not an issue. It's a nice little hike if you want something non-strenuous, perhaps to break up the drive along Kolob Terrace Road. (Or, in my case, if you only have time for a short hike after driving up from Los Angeles, and don't want to risk running out of time catching shuttles to a short hike in Zion Canyon). I've read that (presumably, more further up, towards the reservoir), fall foliage can be quite impressive up there.
I stumbled across this hike here. That seems like a really comprehensive repository of Zion hiking information.

As noted previously, this was my "Friday" hike last week. The next day, I did the Angels Landing trail, then the Pa'Rus trail. It was a pretty decent overnight to Cedar City trip.