Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hike 2014.038 -- Fish Canyon, Angeles National Forest

Hiked Sunday, July 13. Wow, that was a long time ago. :D

Having recently learned both that the new access trail to Fish Canyon was done, and that the main waterfalls were completely dry, I nonetheless wanted to take a hike up to see the trail and the canyon once more.

It does not seem possible that it's been over three years since my last visit to Fish Canyon. However, going over my pages for the past few years, I see no entries for Fish Canyon
Yes, it's possible the incon-venience factor may have kept me out for that long, but it just doesn't seem like it's been that long. The difference now is that this is supposed to be a 7-days-a-week access trail, as opposed to either taking the long and round-about route detailed on the linked hike, or waiting for one of those infrequent shuttle van access Saturdays that Vulcan used to sponsor.
As part of the package that got Vulcan permission to mine the hill on the west side of Fish Canyon (above Duarte), they had to promise they'd build this new access trail, which passes right through their active mining operation here.
Bare walls, large conveyor belts, and motorized mining vehicles confirm that you're passing through active mining areas. Also, in many areas, you can see that it's just a chain link fence that will separate hikers from those larger earth-moving vehicles.
The new parking area is larger and more easily navigable than the old lot. Numerous infor-mational kiosks have also been added.

Very roughly speaking, I figure it's between 1/2 and 3/4 mile from the new parking lot to the stream crossing bridge that indicates you've crossed out of the private property of Vulcan mining and into the Angeles National Forest.

Previous to that, you would have passed a sign indicating that the hours the trail is to remain accessible is 7am - 7pm from early spring to early fall, and 7am - 5pm in other times of the year.

This being late summer, the flowers of spring were largely gone. There was a set of this particular red flower near the secured area. Not sure what they're called.

From roughly here on, the trail covered familiar territory. In the past, whether you took the long way or the shuttle van way, you walked this next section of trail.

The includes the area that's overrun with Tree of Heaven. Other areas still have oak. A very few blooming flowers of other species were to be found, as well.

But, mostly, this was a dry hike.
At Darlin' Donna Falls (a very short detour from the main trail), the water seeped down. Yet, it would turn out, this was a torrent compared to what would (not) be coming down Fish Canyon Falls.

Well, I supposed I knew going in that this is what I would find in Fish Canyon. More than on other days, this hike was about the journey, and not the destination. It was just a chance to get some exercise over some terrain I had not walked over in a surprisingly long period of time.
Along the way, I passed a fair number of hikers. I won't say "many," though it was quite a bit for the conditions. A fair number were on a meet up, and had never been here before. Hopefully, they'll file away this hikes location for future reference, and return on a day when the falls are running.
Not much else to say, other than that "fall" colors appeared to be moving in already. The sycamore are even more stressed than last year, and dropping their leaves. The poison oak is winter-ish red or orange. The annual grasses are long dried up.

I've many more hikes from recent days that I haven't blogged, yet. Not sure when I'll finally catch up. In fact, some will probably never be blogged.
Those would be repeat hikes that just didn't have many sights worth sharing.

I'll have to go through many of those pictures to see if that's the case or not. As of today, there's one more hike that I've uploaded pictures for, so I know I can blog that hike by the end of the week.
With any luck, I'll manage another hike or two by then.

There was a nice run I had last week, being able to get some significant hiking in. That was due to having jury duty that ended early enough on some days that I could fit decent hikes in during the afternoon.
I was also able to get a hike or two in over the weekends. And I took a couple of personal days last week, as the trial wound down and I needed to take some time to clear my head and manage my transition back to regular working Joe.
Unlike many, by the way, part of me actually did want to be on the jury. And, in retrospect, I'm really glad I got to serve. It was a long trial concerning a gruesome murder, and the evidence wasn't always easy to hear. But my fellow jurors were a very good group. We took our responsibilities seriously, but we also enjoyed each other's company during those long periods, cooped up in the bowels of the court building.
In contrast to some, who leave jury duty cursing the stupidity of their fellow jurors, I left feeling a lot better about my fellow citizens. They're thoughtful, hardworking, and genuinely nice people.

It's actually a bit of a let down to be back in my normal life. I'll probably never face another such serious decision in such a short period of time as I faced last week.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Hike 2014.045 -- San Antonio Falls Road to Baldy Notch

Hiked Friday, August 15. As the day began, I had it in my head that I might try to hike to the summit of Mount Baldy (Mount San Antonio). However, I was starting somewhat late, and had to be home somewhat early, to have time to pack up the car for a sidewalk astronomy event. So, after going up about 3/5ths of a mile, and having spent a lot of time shooting around San Antonio Falls, I decided to make the Notch my destination for the day.

This hike starts where San Antonio Falls Road (gated) splits west, off of Mount Baldy Road. Mt. Baldy Road is divided, here, with random space for parking in the island between the north and southbound lanes. This is a fee area, so an Adventure Pass is required for parking.

Hike on up around the gated entry to San Antonio Falls Road. On the day I went, there were two porta-potties right near the gate. No other facilities (except for the trees, themselves) until you reach the Notch.

As noted above, San Antonio Falls is just under a mile up the road, near where the pavement ends. It's quite a drop-off, and the falls has many parts.

At the base of the falls is a whole lot of gravel and rock shards. Last week, the water would have come gushing over the falls, and there was no greenery immediately at the base. But there were bushes not all that far down. They handled the deluge, I guess.

On the cliff wall adjacent to the falls were a handful of flowers: some columbine and some California Fuchsia. Higher up on the cliffs were tuffs of California buckwheat.

By this time, I had already pretty much determined that I wasn't going to try for the summit this day, so I took my time at the falls, shooting plenty of pictures. It's a short spur (maybe 1/10th of a mile?) from the road to the base of the falls.

I enjoyed the sound of falling water as I finished my picture taking break. Then I headed back up to the main trail and continued on my way.

The trail here is now a dirt road, wide enough for the SUVs and occasional truck that services the ski lift and structures up at the Notch to drive on up here.

After a total of 9/10ths of a mile from the gate, there's a non-obvious trail that takes off from the road and heads up on the left. That's the most direct trail to the Baldy summit. I chose NOT to take that turnoff, and, instead, continued on the Notch.

There is no signage at this trail junction, but there is usually a small "duck" of rocks marking the trail. It's easy to miss if you're not looking for it, though. In fact, if hikers weren't coming down that trail as I passed beneath it, I might have missed it, entirely.

Since the trail is wide and on the side of a cliff, there's a lot of sun exposure on this route, unless you start really early or finish really late. But I had applied sunblock and had my floppy hat on, so I felt fine.

Despite the sun exposure, as I gained altitude, I felt the air cool noticeably as I made my way up towards the Notch, which sits at about 7800 feet. Because it's a notch that separates the Los Angeles Basin from the Mojave Desert, and with substantially higher mountains on either side of the notch, winds are pretty common at the notch.

Down where I was on the trail, however, there wasn't much wind. Still, I continued my climb, with the canyon to my left most of the way.

When you cross over from the west side of the canyon to the east side, you cross right under the ski lift that provides an alternate route up to the Notch. I think I've only ridden the lift once, and that's when I hiked with friends back in college.

But I have to admit to thinking now about maybe riding it up some day to make bagging Baldy a much easier trip.

During the summer months, the lifts run Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Sometimes, the operators have "moonlight hikes" and dinner/show combo tickets. I've also seen them offered on Groupon, although the one time I bought that, I never managed to navigate their website successfully to use the coupons, and ended up requesting a refund.

After passing under the lifts, the trial then heads back south for a while, before making additional twists and turns to get you to your destination.

Near the end, you pass a road that provides an alternate (and longer) route up to the top. I also saw a small man-made lake in the pocket down below, which I assume they maintain to power their snowmaking equipment in the winter time.

Once at the notch, I continued a bit further north, to the Desert View overlook. There's a trail sign there with mileages to various destinations further up to the east or west of the Notch. but, for me, this was the end of the road.

I then returned to the top of the lift, where the Notch restaurant is located. Because I was going to use their facilities and sit on their table, I felt an obligation to buy a drink here.

I selected a bottle of cranberry juice, which wound up costing me $3.24. The one positive to come out of this was my change included three Arches National Park quarters. :D

So I sat on their table, ate a sandwich I had brought up with me, and drank their overpriced cranberry juice. I also sipped a bit from the Gatorade that I had also carried up with me. Then I returned the way I came.

Decent workout, and the cap to a very active week. In addition to wrapping up my jury duty on a very long trial, I also squeezed in three other hikes that week. It's the most hiking in a week I have managed in a long time. I am now even further behind in my hike blogging, so I'll try to fit some time to blog those earlier hikes over the next week or two.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Hike 2014.036 - San Gabriel Peak from Red Box Junction

Hiked July 1, 2014. I mentioned previously that I recently bought a new car. So here's my new Prius at the trail head for San Gabriel Peak. I got quite a collection of my old Saturn at trail heads from Kentucky and Tennessee all the way to California. I'm not sure if this Prius will turn out to be as well-traveled.

To get to the trialhead, take the Angeles Crest Highway (CA-2) to Red Box Junction. That's where the narrow, winding road to Mount Wilson splits off from the ACH. Head south 4/10ths of a mile. On your right will be a paved road that bends sharply to the right, then steeply up a hill. You won't necessarily even know it's a road when you reach it; it looks more like a turnout than a road.

And, in fact, for all practical purposes, it is a turnout, because there's a locked gate not 100 yards form the start. Just before the locked gate is a wide dirt area for parking. About a half-dozen cars could fit here. There are a couple of very busy ant colonies here, with large red ants. Never been stung by one, but I don't want to find out if they hurt or not.
Park here. Rather than hiking along the paved road, you'll probably prefer to take the trail, which goes very steeply in switchbacks up a ravine. If you're in the dirt parking area, look, look across the pavement for the trail.

The trail takes you under a rather thick canopy of trees--largely live oak, but some large conifers, as well. You'll never be all that far from the paved road that heads up to Mount Disappointment, but you should stay on the trail for a more scenic hike.
After 1.3 miles (at least that's what the mileage is on the sign facing the other way), you join the paved road. Don't go climbing up any use trail to join it early; stay on your trail until you see that little metallic sign facing the other way.
From the pavement, it's probably just a 1/4 mile or so to the saddle between Mount Disappointment (on your right) and San Gabriel Peak (on your left). You should have enjoyed nice views to your north on the way up. At the saddle, the pavement widens, and many Spanish broom cover the flat area. You'll also see some poodle dog bush, whitish-purplish flowers on tall stalks. They are supposed to be irritating, so avoid contact with the flowers and leaves.

On this day (now almost a month ago), yucca were still in bloom. Several large "candles" were right along the saddle, and you can see one I've photographed, both from below and from the side.
From the side, you can see the candle shape. Sometimes, in June and July, you can see whole hillsides dotted with these yucca candle.

In addition to the flora, you'll also be able to see back over into the Los Angeles Basin from the saddle.

If it's clear, you'll see clear out over the ocean. if it's not, you may barely be able to see back to urbanization. Either way, you probably will be able to see a very clear dirt road that climbs along the face of the ridge below you, heading down towards Pasadena. I always want to know where that road starts so I can try another way up towards these mountains, but I'm not sure where it starts.
To get to the top of San Gabriel Peak, go left at the saddle. On the northeast side of the wide area is a trail that will take you to San Gabriel Peak. It's probably only another 1/4 mile or so from there to the top.

You'll see many dead and standing snags along the way. The Station Fire burned over this area very thoroughly. That's also why the poodle dog bush is so dense here (thought it was much denser a few years ago)-- It's one of those plants that recolonizes burned areas the earliest.
From the top of San Gabriel Peak, you've got a wondeful, 360-degree view. You're standing on basically the tallest peak (6161 ft) in the front range, just three feet shorter than it's neighbor to the northwest (and, thus, not necessarily on the "front" range), Strawberry Peak.
On the day I stood atop San Gabriel Peak, it was clear out of the basin, but with a marine layer moving into the basin. That meant lots of moisture in the air and not great visibility to the south and west, but very clear views to the north and northeast.
Of course since you're on the tallest peak in the front range, from the top, Mount Wilson is below you. The white observatory domes and radio antenna are prominent. Antenna are also visibile on Mount Disappointment, to your west.
This is a great after-work hike in the summer. It's only about four miles long (roughly--I didn't gps this or anything!), so you just need a couple hours of daylight to do it. In these cases (for this hike, to San Gabriel Peak, and the next one I'll blog, to Mount Disappointment), I could start around 6pm and still finish before dark. Of course, with days getting shorter, time may soon be insufficient to do this after work.

As noted at the top, this was hiked back in early July. I still have many old hikes to catch up on blogging.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Non-Hike: The Butterfly Pavilion at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum

I've been spending most weekdays the past few weeks on jury duty. While some people dread the idea of jury duty, I'm alright with it. After all, I have taught American government at the college and university level for over twenty years. As such, I almost felt an obligation to serve on a jury, just to get a better idea of how life in the Third Branch of government might be.

Also, unlike many other potential jurors, I get paid my regular salary while on jury duty. All government employees and many larger and more enlightened private corporations pay their employees their regular salary during jury duty.

Having such an employer minimizes the financial hardship. I still take a bit of a hit, since I get no compensation for any shifts on my part-time job I might have to give up. And, because of the shifts they schedule for my part-time job and how long court is in session, I did have to give up a lot of those shifts.

This will probably wind up costing me about $600 in part-time shifts, plus some amount of goodwill that could cost me shifts in the future.

On the plus side, jury duty can mean a free bus pass. While I don't get the $15/day normal jurors are getting, I do have the option of either taking money for mileage or taking a bus pass.

Because of the geography between my home and the court-house, and the existing MTA routes, it's an easy bus commute for me--one bus, no transfers, and relatively frequent buses on my route during the morning and afternoon rush hours (but not much service during the middle of the day, so if we get out early, the commute home takes longer). I spend about 20 or 25 minutes on a bus, and have about an eight minute walk to the stop from home, and get off literally right next to the courthouse.

I've been using our lunch break and some post-jury duty hours to walk around downtown Los Angeles. It's possible I'll be posting some pictures from those walks, later. And, last week, I used my bus pass to ride the Red Line and Expo lines to get myself to Exposition Park.

The Butterfly Pavilion is an annual thing at the Natural History Museum. Tickets are required. If you're not a member, you need to buy a package that includes both entry to the museum and entry to the pavilion. If you're a member, you just need to reserve timed-tickets to guarantee entry. I think if you're an higher-level member, you can also enter at anytime.

Jury duty normally ends at 4pm, so I reserved tickets for the Butterfly Pavilion for 4:30pm last Wednesday. Turned out just about right: I think I got to the Pavilion entry by about 4:35pm. That gave me 25 minutes to enjoy the butterflies.

The Pavilion is relatively small, but there's enough fluttering color to keep someone like me occupied for easily over 30 minutes just shooting pictures.

Here's just a fraction of the pictures I took.

Obviously, kids love the butterflies. Adults, too.

Entry to the Pavilion can be scheduled to start at between 11am and 4:30pm (the last entry). I'm not sure if they chase you out at the end of the 30 minutes or not (except for the 4:30pm half-hour, of course) I suspect not. I assume it's timed entry and not timed enjoyment.
The Natural History Museum normally closes at 5pm; however, on the First Friday of every month, they're open late. Not sure about the Pavilion, though.

The Butterfly Pavilion remains until September 1. I assume as the end approaches, the number of butterflies still flying around shrinks. The Monarchs seem already to have passed on or been released or otherwise left the Pavilion.

Obviously, right next door is the California Science Center, which is home to the space shuttle Endeavour, which flew into town back in September 2012. The California African American Museum is also nearby, as is the University of Southern California. Definitely lots of places you can occupy yourself around or in Exposition Park.