Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Mission Creek Preserve, Sand to Snow National Monument, CA

Hiked Friday, May 14. Mission Creek Preserve is located off of U.S. 62. From I-10, exit towards Yucca Valley. Somewhat before US 62 reaches the Morongo Canyon, and before it intersects with the road to Desert Hot Springs, Mission Creek Road heads off to the west. Follow that to the end of the road. A gate will stop you at the picnic area, unless you get the lock code from The Wildlands Conservancy. Being able to open the gate gets you another 1.6 miles further up the desert.

The Wildlands Conservancy owns and manages dozens of preserves, all over the state. Several are in southern California, but I had only been to two: Oak Glen Preserve, above Yucaipa (many times) and Whitewater Preserve, north of I-10 (about five times), just before the US 62 offramp.

The first time I hiked Whitewater, I hiked all the way to the edge of the main Whitewater watershed, so I could peak over into the Mission Creek Watershed. On several occasions, I thought I would like to hike from the other side, to link those segments. Additionally, on a previous hike, I had come over from the Haugman-Lehman side, walking the Pacific Crest Trail, from the south, over into the Whitewater watershed. And, finally, I had once hiked from south of the actual Preserve trailhead on the Canyon Loop.

Apparently, it's been over six years since my last visit to Whitewater? That seems nuts! But I guess it's because it gets so hot in the summer time, that if I'm not careful, I miss the spring or fall windows, then I don't want to hike here. There have also been fire closures and flood damage closures, however.

With the initial intent of just making it to the watershed from Mission Creek Preserve, I was going to just hike from the locked gate. But then it occurred to me, "Hey, if I get the gate code and drive the additional 1.6 miles to the Stonehouse, that reduces my hike by 3.2 miles, which means I could then hike some north, on the PCT. So I e-mailed the Wildlands Conservancy, got the code quicker than I expected, then decided I would hike here on a Friday, then continue on to Yucca Valley after the hike, then take another hike in the area, the next day, before heading back home.

This turned out to be a good idea. Although, after attaining the Whitewater watershed, on the way back, I saw the sign saying 1.2 miles to the San Gorgonio overlook. The sign had no arrow indicating the direction, however. I assumed (incorrectly) that it just meant to go along the PCT. In fact, I think you're supposed to peel off to the left (west) pretty much at that sign. But there was no obvious trail there, so I stayed on the PCT.

I don't regret the choice. While it's not the "correct" viewpoint, as the trail climbs out of the west fork of Mission Creek's watershed, you do get some nice views up towards Mount San Gorgonio. Even better, it's likely along a strand of the San Andreas Fault. It's also the "poster child" picture of Sand to Snow National Monument, at least for the Pacific Crest Trail Association.

I continued a bit further past that view, hoping to get myself a view back into the Coachella Valley. Didn't quite attain that. But I did get a view back towards where I came from, in the Mission Creek Preserve. Then I suddenly felt tired, so I gulped some sports drink, rested a bit, then made my way quickly back to my car.

Good day of hiking. My Alltrails app tells me I walked 9.1 mies, and gained 1253 feet of elevation on this day. Just under four hours of total time on the trail. Wouldn't have been possible to get that wonderful view if I hadn't "cheated" with the gate code. Thank you, Wildlands Conservancy!

[After that weekend, I made a fairly large (for me) contribution to the Wildlands Conservancy. That's because, the next day, I hiked out of their Pioneertown Mountains Preserve. And I'm still hoping to hike in their Kern County preserve (Wild Wolves), and the Santa Margarita River Trail Preserve, near Fallbrook, and the Bluff Lake Preserve, near Big Bear.]

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Trail 404 Loop, Black Mountain, Sloan Canyon NCA, NV

Hiked Saturday, May 1. I've actually had a pretty good past few weeks of hiking, but havent had time to get the posts done. This was 18 days ago, and one day after my previous post.
I've hiked up this mountain at least two times previously, and made it partially up a few times, too. Both summit trips were from the south side of this loop. My attempt from the north side started too late to summit. But I did make it far enough to decide that the south loop is definitely easier. That's the route I took up, this day.
Trail 404 starts out of the Shadow Canyon trailhead, in Henderson. More discussion in the previously-linked blog posts, but you can also just google for Shadow Canyon trailhead Henderson, and you'll find directions.
Because of the several previous hikes, I'm including a lot of "micro" shots, rather than big picture shots in this post. Lots of flowers, a few lizards, and one really big snake that was up at the summit.
For what ever reason, I seemed to struggle more on this hike than on previous trips up the mountain. This, despite taking my time, taking lots of shots, and not really moving very quickly up the mountain.
Several hikers passed along the way. More traffic than on past trips up here. Still not exactly crowded, though. I like it that way.
The trail only has mostly mild gains and losses, and the trail is also relativley unobstructed along the south loop. Even without trying too hard, you won't kick many rocks that protrude out of the trail surface, because there aren't many.
So, despite the altitude profile on Alltrails, most of the trail is pretty quick going, except the last, steep climb, maybe a 1/2 or 3/4 mile. Like stairs-steep.

One change at the top was that the American flag has been replaced by a Nevada flag. Also, there was that aforementioned-snake, right under a rock, at the summit. I stood on a rock to take some pictures, looked down, and saw the diamond-shaped head. But he wasnt interested in me. So I took a few shots, then left his little part of the mountain.

Decided to walk over, and try the north loop. Past experience was that this end had a lot more ups and downs, and more protruding rocks to trip and kick. That's still the case. But I also saw evidence or recent rock and vegetation clearing along the route. While it's a little confusing near the second summit because of the rocks (so no actual trail to follow), I did not have too much difficulty staying on the trail and making my way back down. It was definitely slower going than the other way, but I was happy to have finally completed my circumnavigation of the trail.

Unfortunately, I forgot to shut off my Alltrails recording, so did not have just a recording of my actual hike, so I can't give you the actual mileage for the loop.

It was a good hike, and a good day for hiking. Cloudy and windy, so not too hot.
The only drawback is, without the sun, the solar generators at Ivanpah were not visible, through the clouds.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Northshore Peak, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, NV

Hiked Friday, April 30. First of two hikes over the weekend.

I had hiked here just a month an a half previous, but ran out of time and was not able to make the short Class 3 pitch up tot he peak. This time, I had much more daylight, so the lighting wasn't as pretty, but there was plenty of time to summit and return.

Details on how to get to this trail, and the hike, were mentioned in the linked post. It's not an exact science, though. You just look across the road from the parking lot, figure about where you want to go, and walk in that general direction.

There actually are sections with pretty well-defined trail, but the area is so barren that you can take any one of a number of routes to reach the crest. Still some rather tall dried grass, however, during which, I was reminded to maybe take some care about where I put my foot down.

Actually one of the first good views of a rattlesnake I've had in a while. In some years, I've managed numerous sitings. And, in fact, not only did I see this guy, but I also saw a small garter snake and a huge diamond back during my next hike. No picture of the former, but the latter will make an appearance in my next post.

Not many flowers on this hike, though. These were pretty much it. Plenty more flowers on my next day's hike. But, even there, the flowers were hardly thick, but there was a bit of variety.

Selfie of me as I achieved the ridge.

After reaching the ridge, you can pretty much stay near the ridge until you're encountered by a short but steep break in the ridge. From there, a short backtrack east and south takes you to an easy walk around. Nice view through the narrow break between the protrusions, though.

That's where I had to turn around, last time. Sun was already down, and I didn't want to have to make my way back to the car in the dark. Well, really, I didn't want to have to descend the mountain in the dark. I knew once I reached the flatter start of that hike, I'd be fine, but the earlier part was going to be steep.

This is where the short Class 3 segment is encountered. It's not at all exposed, with plenty of hand and footholds, so it's easy for anyone of nominal coordination and non-toddler height (IMHO).

Obviously, the view is not dramatically different here versus where I ended, the last time, with the exception of looking west. Nice view overlooking Northshore Road, and nice views over some rugged-looking peaks. Very desolate-looking mountains near you, and Lake Mead, in the distance, both east and north.
It's undoubtedly a great view from up here. Sort of wish they had a more established trail, because that would minimize the many different trample paths to the mountain. Of course, that would also increase visitation. From the top, you do have some serious potential dropoffs, and I suppose they might be worried about that. But it's no more precarious than the overlook near Liberty Bell Arch, which does have a well-defined trail to take you there.
My Alltrails app said it was about 3.8 miles roundtrip for me, and a bit under 1000 feet of vertical. If I hadn't wandered somewhat off track on return, it would have been less. So figure likely about 3 1/3 mile and 950 feet of elevation for a more efficient route. No technical skills required, but take some care, both so that you don't step on a snake, and so you don't take a long fall.