Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Hike 2014.053 -- Wildwood Canyon Park, Burbank

Hiked Tuesday, October 15. Got to do a rare weekday hike, because I had a training day in Burbank that ended at 3pm. So the day before, I googled around and and also checked out Tom Harrison's Verdugo Hills map. Found a likely candidate and doubled checked on directions to the trailhead.

The trailhead was at Wildwood Canyon Park, in Burbank. From the Golden State Freeway (I-5), I took the Olive Avenue east, to Sunset Canyon Drive. I made at left at Sunset, and traveled to Harvard Road. I took Harvard to the end of the road and parked there.
At the end of the road, there's a gate. I walked past the gate and began my ascent. After a brief walk, the trail doubled back over itself and gave me nice views both up and down canyon. As I reached a bit of a pass, a small, steep trail headed back into the hills. Having not been here before, I wrongly assumed that was the trail.
In real-life, I should have continued over the crest a bit, to the actual trail, with a sign showing the trails in the area. That would have been slightly longer, but obviously less steep.

I was now pretty much running along another ridge, and the actual trail here is quite steep.

About a half-mile in front of you, you can see some radio towers that dot the crest of the Verdugo Hills.

I have only hiked in the Verdugos once before, but I also reached the crest then, too. It would have been in the winter, so it was greener. But, no matter what, this area is never too green.
It's chaparral, so it pretty much looks like Griffith Park or the lower altitudes of the San Gabriel Mountains. It's smaller than Griffith Park however, and, as far as I know, there is no permanent natural surface water. The drainage is too small to support any perennial water. I assume, then, that what ever wildlife resides in these hills must come down to the developed parks and homes for water.

It's a steep roughly one mile from the park to the crest of the Verdugo Hills. Once at the top, there's a wide dirt road that links the various peaks, many with small clusters of radio towers.
The view from up top can be nice, depending on the clarity. To the north and east are the San Gabriel Mountains. Deukmejian Park is also visible across the way. Parts of Glendale sit between you and those mountains.
There is also at least one of these nifty-looking reclining seats to relax on here at the ridge.
Looking the other way, it's Burbank and Glendale (again). The LA River is also visible, as is Silver Lake and Griffith Park.
From the crest of the Verdugos, I headed southeast a bit (1/2 mile or so), to reach Verdugo Peak. At 3126', it's the highest point in the range. It doesn't look much taller from the other peaks along the way, but, once on Verdugo Peak, you do know you're higher than everyone else.

I then backtracked my steps, covering about three miles for the day. It was a nice bonus: A weekday hike. I enjoyed the break from my workday. Even more of a bonus, it was a trail I had never covered before. Yes, even after nearly five years of at least moderately frequent hiking based in the San Gabriel Valley, I am still covering a number of new trails this year.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Hike 2014.050E -- Island Trail, Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ

Hiked Monday, September 29. This short trip last month didn't cover a lot of trail miles, but it did cover a lot of highway miles, and I took a heck of a lot of pictures. Many were, admittedly, pretty poor pictures.

Walnut Canyon is about ten miles east of downtown Flagstaff, and a bit south of I-40. At the end of the road is a visitor center. On the parking lot side, the visitor center is just next to a parking lot. Walk though the visitor center, however, and suddenly you're looking over a cliff, and into Walnut Canyon.
There are actually a couple of forks to Walnut Canyon, which is now a usually-dry creek bed. Prior to more recent damming activity, it was more often running, at least often enough that the Sinagua (without water) people who lived here 700-800 years ago could cache what they needed in clay pottery during the spring for domestic use in the summer and fall. Their homes were built under the overhangs of the Kaibab limestone cliffs (yes, the same formation as at the top of the Grand Canyon, just 90 or so miles to the north).

From the visitor center, both the Island and Rim trails begin. The Rim Trail (which I did not walk) runs .7 miles along the north rim of Walnut Canyon. The roughly one-mile Island Trail descends from the rim and the visitor center, to an "island" outcropping between two folks of Walnut Canyon. It's normally a .9 mile loop, but on the day we visited, the far end of the trail was closed for repair.
The remains of these ancient homes are in varying degrees of collapse, and visible both on canyon walls across from where the trail runs, and directly adjacent to the trail. Some have been partially restored.

You are free to walk inside of most of the homes, but you are asked to please not lean or climb over the walls, and please, do not use the homes as toilets.
Yes, that's what the NPS sign at the top of the trail asks you not to do: Don't use the rooms as toilets. You'd think that would go without saying, but if people are stupid enough to graffiti national parks, then take pictures of themselves doing this, then post those pictures to the Internet, there's no telling what kind of stupidity people will do, even if you ask them not to do it.
By itself, this day's walk does not qualify as a hike, so I pooled it together with a number of other short walks I took that weekend. Nice little trip to Arizona.

Only a couple of hikes since then, but there are still some older hikes I haven't blogged yet, as well. I'll keep going at them; hope to catch up some more soon.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Incredibly stupid person defaces national parks and monuments all over the West

There are stupid people, then there are really stupid people. One really stupid person has been painting bad art on rocks all across the West. Fortunately, there's a pretty good chance she'll get caught, soon. When she does, I'm hoping she'll actually come to realize what an insanely stupid thing she has done. I'm also hoping our government will play in role in that. So there's this petition to the President of the United States, asking that this stupid person be held accountable for her actions. Please sign it!

Just over 600 folks have already signed up in just the first day. It would be great if the number made it past 100,000, so the White House would have to formally respond to it.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Hike 2014.050D -- White House Trail, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, AZ


Hiked Sunday, September 28, 2014. As denoted by the letter "D" on this hike, this was the fourth of my short walks during the last weekend in September that I have collectively designated as a hike. When I started this blog, a set an arbitrary 3 mile minimum. On this trip, there were only two walks of any significant length: This one, for about 2.2 miles roundtrip, and the next hike, about one mile roundtrip, in Walnut Canyon. The other short walks were no more than 1/4 to 2/3 of a mile, total, and were basically just viewpoint walks.

As noted on previous posts in this series, White House Trail is the only one in Canyon de Chelly National Monument where you are allowed to walk below the rim of the canyon without a Navajo guide. It starts from the South Rim. If you're not up for an actual hike, you can park at the trailhead and look down, into the canyon. You can see the White House ruins from parts of the rim here.

If you decide to hike, the trail starts off to the east, about 1/4 mile from the parking area. You loop off that way, then drop behind a large rock that leans over the start of the trail. This part is shaded, because you've got the rim to your south. There's not a lot of cover here, though, so if it's raining, you'll get wet.
It's a rather steep trail. Keep in mind you'll have to climb back up this way on your return, and that you're at moderate altitude. If the climb or the altitude may be issues, don't go down.

That said, it's only a bit over a mile each way, so if neither is an issue, the hike is relatively easy, unless it's extremely hot.
As you can see in the photo of the ruins here, the two upper "units" to this ruin are whitish in color. This the basis for the name of these ruins.
It's sandstone pretty much all the way down, and it's a very scenic hike. You also overlook some Navajo grazing and farming areas. Signs indicate not to photograph the Navajo or their dwellings, though obviously there's a distance involved. You're definitely allowed to shoot from the rim. You're not allowed to shoot near the signs. Where in between those extremes you should also not shoot is, I suppose, at your discretion.
It had rained heavily the day before this hike, and showered on occasion during this hike. The ground was wet in spots and the water ran high at the bottom. Several potholes in the sandstone held water.
It was also late Septem-ber, yet the river bottom was green. I don't know how much is regular monsoonal rains and how much due to the season, but this location looked very verdant, as did, in fact, Walnut Canyon (the next post, probably).
Upon arriving at the base of the ruins, I discovered that a fence kept you about forty yards away from the ruins. I also noted that there were portapotties on the other side of the creek, but at the bottom. That's non-trivial, since, otherwise, you're on your own the entire way, and there's not a lot of hope for privacy on the trail down, so you'd have had to hold it in both ways. That could encourage you to hurry your hike more than necessary.
At any rate, once at the bottom, I shot the ruins from several angles. I also shot one looking up the steep cliff face that sheltered them. They certainly have ancient feel to them, and the contrast between these ancient ruins and the continued presence of Navajo in and around the valley does provide a sense of scale and place.

Yet, in comparison to some of the other nearby Ancient sites, those in Canyon de Chelly are not very approachable. The landscape in which they are set is the most impressive of the group, but the ruins themselves are not. I'm definitely glad I came here, but I'm also glad we stopped at Walnut Canyon later in the trip.
Of course, I had previously visited Waputki and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monu-ments. The old habitations there are more accessible, and would definitely be worth a visit, even after someone were to see Canyon de Chelly.
Not much else to say about this hike. Only one more significant off-trail hike to go. I also walked some around Winslow, AZ. Probably won't blog that, but their downtown/Route 66 area was surprisingly pleasant to visit.
During the Winslow visit, we ate dinner at La Posada. I'd recommend a visit there, even if not to eat. It was a pretty place to visit, which is why I may yet post some pictures from that stop.

Meanwhile, after visiting Canyon de Chelly, we also detoured to Hubble Trading Post on the way back to I-40. Probably won't do a separate write-up on that one. Not sure if it's worth the visit, other than that it is an historic location--one of the first (and still functioning) trading posts on the Navajo Nation.
Once back at I-40, we were basically back near the Days Inn that we started the day. There's a restaurant and gas station there, too. We ate dinner at the restaurant there. I had a craving for fry bread, which this place met, nicely. Don't remember the name, but it's the only restaurant near the Days Inn, so you can't miss it.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Hike 2014.050C -- Spider Rock Overlook, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, AZ

This is the third of three posts from Canyon de Chelly, which I visited at the end of Septem-ber. Still need to finish those blogs.

This isn't really a hike, although a small amount of walking was involved. It's no more than 1/4 mile or so, total, at the end of a road, along a paved trail that overlooks the far southeastern end of Canyon de Chelly.

The Navajo call this place "Spider Woman Rock." Apparently, this is where the being who taught them how to weave came to this earth. I think I heard it that she lives in these inaccessible towers.

Can't get to the base of these rocks unless you've got a Navajo guide. As mentioned in previous posts, the only trail you can take unaccompanied into the Canyon is the White House trail, which will be the next one I'll post about. Otherwise, you're limited to the overlooks and the short walks from those parking areas up on the rim.
This overloook is just like the others I have posted about, previously: It provides astounding views into the canyon that was known in the local language as, "the Canyon." So, if I didn't already mention this in an earlier post, "Chelly" is a corruption of the Dine/Navajo word for "canyon," so Canyon de Chelly would roughly translate as "Canyon Canyon," or "Canyon of the Canyon."
The day we visited was the day after a very heavy monsoonal rain, so the river was running high and muddy. I'm not sure what it normally looks like, but I suspect it's pretty low in the late season.

Despite being a short walk, the trail takes you along enough of the rim to give you a variety of perspectives on the canyon and the Spider Rock.
Even more so, because of the weather on the day we visited, shifting shadows changed moment by moment. For such a short walk, I took plenty of pictures. But, of course, the highlight of the day was going to be the White House Trail, a trip down into the gorge. That will probably be my next post, just so I can finish this particular trip.
Just thinking out loud, Canyon de Chelly is about 3:15 from Flagstaff, and 1:20 from Chambers, AZ (on I-40). That makes it a little long for a day trip from Flagstaff itself. But it was definitely worth visiting.

If you are actually staying in Flagstaff, there are three national monuments (Walnut Canyon, Wapakti, and Sunset Volcano) within one hour of Flagstaff, and two national parks (Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest) within two hours of Flagstaff. So, for future reference, Flagstaff can make a pretty convenient jumping off point for day trips in the area, and it's got enough altitude to be somewhat more temperate in the summer than places like Las Vegas or Phoenix.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Hikes 2014.051 and 2014.052 -- The Aspen Grove, San Bernardino National Forest

Hiked Sunday, October 5 and Sunday, October 12. I hiked this last week, but my camera battery was dead, so I have no pictures from that hike.

On that day, the leave still had a fair amount of green, and it was before peak. But I figured this weekend would be past peak. If possible, mid-week would have been perfect.

I was correct. There were plenty of bare white skeletons of aspen this Sunday. But there was also still enough of the golden leaves of quaking aspen to make the sight an impressive one, particularly for those who may not have been here before.
By comparison, here's what it looked like a little over a year ago (sort of what it would have looked like last week, had I a functional battery in my camera), and here's what it looked like on my first visit to the aspen grove.

And, just for comparison, here's what it looks like when the aspen are green. You'll probably find some very comparable pictures from the other posts with the leaves golden.
It's probably too late to see much of a show this year, though, if you did want to see at least something, go *today*!

For future reference, if you visit, I would suggest some time around noon, or maybe a little after. That gives the light more or less behind the main portion of the most easily accessible grove, which gives the great backlighting that makes the golden leaves really pop. Then again, I usually don't get an early enough start to reach the aspen grove much before 10 or 11am at the earliest. How it looks at sunrise, I can only guess. But I did notice that, by the time I left (2 or 2:30pm, the lighting had shifted enough to make some of the most photogenic areas appear just sort of normal.

Technic-ally, you need a wilderness permit to cross the creek into the San Gorgonio Wilderness area. I had one, because I'm a stickler for details. However, I would bet serious money that most folks visiting don't have it. Or, if they do, they must not read the provisions on the permit and the sign at the trailhead very carefully.
There were screaming kids (which annoys me, but does not surprise me) and screaming adults (which annoys me more, especially if they appear to be in their fifties or sixties). Kids were tossing logs and rocks all over the creek (which causes little if any actual harm, but does make the crossing steps less stable for future visitors).

To get to the trailhead, you take Interstate 10 (the San Bernardino Freeway to Highway CA-38, in Redlands. That's the Orange St. exit. Go straight at the first intersection off the freeway, then turn left at the second light (which is Orange). Take Orange north about four blocks, to Lugonia Avenue (that's still Highway 38, though the signage may not be immediately obvious to you). Stay on this route for nearly the entire rest of your trip.
Approxi-mately 18 miles east of Orange Street, you'll pass Bryant Street. Just after Bryant Street is the Mill Creek ranger station (USDA Forest Service). Stop there for your Wilderness Permit (free, but intended to provide a limitation on the number of visitors on any given day, so you can enjoy a modicum of solitude in the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area).
There's also a flush toilet at the ranger station, which is generally closed on Mondays and Tuesdays (hours and days vary by season).

From the ranger station, it's approximately 24.5 miles on CA-38 before you need to turn.
Take care to remain on CA-38, which involves a hairpin turn just a few miles up on CA-38, where a straight would take you off the highway and towards Forest Falls.

You'll then pass through Angeles Oaks, drive past Jenks Lake Road East, pass Barton Flats, pass Jenks Road, again, pass the Santa Ana River trailhead, and pass the Wildhorse trailhead.
Shortly after the road hits a straight-away and has a passing lane, look for signage on your right for a small road heading to Heartbar Ranch. The road dips down, becomes a dirt road, then continues another mile or so before reaching a fork. Take the left fork (towards Fish Creek). After another half-mile or so, the road crosses a creek and becomes quite narrow and steep. If you have a low-clearance vehicle, you probably want to park before that part of the road. High clearance vehicles will have no problem driving all the way to the trailhead. If you start your hike at the trailhead, it's about 1/4 mile to the aspen grove. If you start before the trail becomes narrow, it's another mile or so each way.

After crossing the river to the aspen grove, if you head right, there's another, larger aspen grove about 1/2 mile or so that way. You can't as easily become immersed in that grove, however.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Aspen Grove in San Bernardino National Forest

I intended to post last week that the grove was pretty much at peak. Leaves are actually sort of rust-colored this year, instead of golden. Forgot my camera on last week's hike, so I'm posting a link to last year's hike. I will probably be going back there on Sunday.

Edit: You may have noticed that I came back again this Sunday. Here's the link to my latest visit to the Aspen Grove.