Monday, July 27, 2015

Hike 2015.055 -- Lower Icehouse Canyon, Angeles National Forest

Hiked Friday, July 17. Even before the most recent rains in southern California, I was surprised to find that water still flowed in lower Icehouse Canyon. I had somewhat ambitious plans at the start of my day, but got lazy and wound up walking only to the wilderness area boundary. 3.6 miles from the trailhead, roundtrip. Maybe another one or two tenths of a mile if you're parked at the bottom of the parking lot, and if you take a number of detours into the creek area to get some water pictures. I'm rounding up to four miles for no particular reason.
There is perennial water in the canyon, but usually it's just a small seep, between one and one and a half miles up the trail, where water comes in from the left, and maintains a health stand of columbine. So I guess my main goal on this hike was going to be the columbine. That's just the mood I was in. It's only when I saw the water in the creek that I started shooting a lot of creek pictures.

I was starting too late, however, and there was a pretty harsh light and a lot of contrast between the sunny and shady areas. My photos of the water and of the water near a cabin were generally pretty disappointing.
Meanwhile, the area with the columbine was mostly shaded, and, in many cases, left the flowers in dark shade, or under alternating dark shade and bright shafts of sunlight. Very hard to photograph under those conditions.
This was hike 55 of my now-58 hikes of the year. Short hike, but long enough to count as a hike, and a nice add to my daily step count. Add a night shift at the Observatory, and I was well over 20,000 steps for the day.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Hike 2015.057 and Hike 2015.056 -- Sturtevant Falls and Eaton Canyon

Well, still more or less keeping on track for a 100 hike year, but well behind schedule in terms of blogging. So here's a two-fer.

After work on Monday and Tuesday, I decided to visit the two easiest front range waterfalls: Eaton Canyon and Sturtevant Falls, in that order.

Because of the relatively heavy rains on Sunday, I thought the falls might be revived. They had been.
Still not exactly roaring, but running well for late-July. Perhaps even a bit stronger than they were in late June. And late June was better than in early May.

It's been a funny rain year--Last weekend's storm put us well above average for July. The early June rains put us well above average for June. May's rains were also at or above average. It's the relative dryness of the earlier months that make it a drought year.
More detailed descriptions of the hikes are elsewhere, including on this blog. Just trying to get something new posted, quick, this time.

Because it was only the previous day that it had rained, Eaton Canyon flowed muddy. I played with some 1/2 and 2/3 second exposures to get some nice blurring, especially at the base pool of the falls.
For Sturtevant Canyon, I added a flag picture. The cabin at Fiddler's Crossing almost always has a nice, newish flag. Nice color in the forest.
Then I have a snap shot (1/20th or so of a second) of the full falls, wide view, then closer views, at between 1/2 and 1/5 of a second, to get the nice blur, again.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Hike 2015.052 -- Lewis Falls, and Crystal Lake Area

Hiked Thursday, July 2. Not my most recent hike, but a relatively recent one to one of the lesser known waterfalls in the Front Range of the San Gabriel Mountains. From the 210 (Foothill) Freeway, exit at Azusa and head north, through "old" Azusa, across the Gold Line tracks, and on into San Gabriel Canyon. Stay on the main road, and observe the mile markers. Long after you've passed the dams and the reservoirs and the East and West Fork junctions, continue just past Mile Marker 34.54.
There's a rusted, metallic Caltrans rock dispenser (you'll know it when you see it). Within 1/4 mile of this point, as you head straight into the "armpit" of a ravine, and you would then need to make a hairpin turn to the left, open your ears. Hopefully, you'll hear the sound of running water.

There's room for about three carefully parked cars at this turn, plus small turnouts on the downhill side, just past the turn, and a small "deadend" driveway on the uphill side.
From there, follow the trail up and around a cabin. Your trail generally stays above and to the right of the water, which is shrouded in thick undergrowth. (It used to be thicker, but a lot of that clutter has been cleared over the past four years).
Apparently, it's been just about four years since my first visit here. Because of the drought, the water's lower than it was on my previous trips. But it's still a nice waterfall.

The silt has also cleared, which makes it a lot easier to get to the base of the falls than it used to be.

The hike still requires some ducking under and balancing over, but it's a short 4/10ths of a mile each way, so it's still a quick and easy hike. But, because of the lack of parking and signage, it's relatively lightly visited. I only saw one other person on this trip.
The falls themselves are in a nice little alcove. The past four years of running water have helped clear the alcove a bit, and make it easier to approach the base of the falls without getting your feet wet (at least in July--might be harder to do during an actual spring melt).
In the alcove, there have always been lots of columbine in bloom. This trip was no exception.

I've also always seen one lily plant on the approach. I used to assume it was a Humboldt lily, but it might actually be a leopard lily.
After this short little hike, I then planned to drive up to the end of Highway 39 and hike from there to the peak that's opposite Smith Mountain. I'd hiked to that peak both from Smith Saddle and from Highway 39 in the past. Unfortunately, the "Highway Closed" sign just past the turnout for Crystal Lake now prohibits, not merely cars, but also bikes and hikers, so you can no longer walk on the road to access the ridge.
So I retreated back to my car, then drove on up to Crystal Lake. I visited the lake (VERY low!), then checked to see if trail access had changed any since my last visit. I determined where I could park to access the trail to Windy Gap, then returned home. The next day, I headed on up to that trailhead for my 53rd hike of the year.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Hike 2015.046 -- Fish Canyon Falls

Hiked Friday, June 12. I have a growing backlog of hikes to blog, so I should probably post shorter, and just get them done, faster.

Completed my 53rd hike of the year yesterday. It wasn't all that long, but it was warm, and I was getting clumsy on the way down, tripping and shuffling, and slurring my words, a little. So I'm taking it easy, today. Just home, doing laundry, and probably walking around the block in the next few hours.
I think I've been on this hike about three times since the new trail access was opened. It's at the top of Encanto Drive, in Duarte and Azusa. The Vulcan Mining Company owns the land at the mouth of the canyon, and that limited access for year to a very long detour. Now, there's access nearly every day, for pretty reasonable hours.
It was running a little low last time I came, but that was before a series of rains in May and June sort of gave a lot of the local waterfalls a second spring. I've seen it much higher in the past, as well, but it was still a pleasant sight.

Unfortunately, it was not a pleasant sound, as the folks ahead of me decided they needed a reverberating soundtrack to properly enjoy the outdoors. I don't understand the need for constant noise, because then you'll miss things like the sound of running water. I especially don't understand the decision to make everyone else listen to your music, as well.
The flowers were nice, undoubt-edly helped by the late rains. Lots of buck-wheat, which is to be expected. But the elegant Clarkia was a pleasant surprise.
There was also a fair amount of scarlet larkspur, and a lot of "Our Lord's Candle" yucca in bloom.
I also saw quite a lot (relatively speaking) mariposa lily, and Farewell to Spring. Oh, yes, and a large newt, who was residing at the base of Darlin' Donna Falls.

After visiting the main falls and the accompanying music, I worked my way down to the lower pool. I figured there must be a way down there besides diving, which is common, when the water is higher.

Nice little waterfall there, too.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Hike 2015.044 -- Tanoble Drive to Eaton Canyon Falls

Hiked Tuesday, June 2. It's been a week since my last hike, and obviously much longer than that since my last post. I keep hoping to be able to catch up on that, but it's been hard to fine time to even sort the photos, never mind actually writing the posts.
This last one was relatively short, but with an added twist to make it a little different.

As I've written before, the Altadena Crest Trail runs along the foothills above Altadena. It starts at the mouth of Eaton Canyon, just west of the bridge. It heads to the west, lands goes over pavement for a short segment near the mouth of Rubio Canyon, then heads up to the start of the Sam Merrill Trail. It then continues a bit to the west before petering out just a mile or so west of Lake Avenue. There are also several segments around Cheney Trail, and also down near the Arroyo Seco.
I chose the Tanoble access because it added a bit to the hike without making it too long. I just wanted to exceed my arbitrary 3-mile rule, which I'm sure I managed for this round trip.

There are several good climbs and descents on the way to Eaton Canyon. Once there, you have to cross the bridge, loop downstream a bit, before passing back under the bridge. Along the way to Eaton Canyon, you're high above the backyards of many Altadena homes.

You've also got nice views across the north San Gabriel Valley. Rather interesting to me was that the canopy of trees above the houses almost made it look like you were overlooking a forest rather than an urban area. From the lower angle, the treetops almost completely hide the streets and homes. Oh, sure, you can see them, but it looks like it's more forest than city.

There are still some wildflowers blooming, through not a lot. The only one I photographed here was the scarlet larkspur. They're still rare enough to be seen by me that I get a kick out of when I do see some.
In addition to that, there's a fair amount of Spanish broom, along with some Canterbury bell, and a smattering of other flowers, both wild and domestic.

Usually, I have the Altadena Crest Trail pretty much to myself. You'll see people, of course, but there's far more time alone than in sight of other people.

That also means it's pleasantly quiet, most of the time. It's always a little sad when I have to hike among people who have no regard for nature. They'll fling rocks up cliffs and at other rocks, and whack sticks against rocks until they break. Yes, I saw that on my hike. And we're not talking 12 year olds--these are folks in their late teens and twenties. They should know better, and even if it makes me sound like an elitist, I don't like it. And I don't like all the empty water plastic water bottles and potato chip wrappers I pass along the way.

I like to think that, given enough time in the quasi-wilderness, a wilderness ethic will take hold, and these kids will start learning to spend a bit of time in awe of their surroundings, rather than thinking of it as their own living room, to do with as they please, their fellow hikers be damned. But I have no way of knowing if they'll eventually change, or they'll change the norm of how people treat the wilderness-urban interface.
Anyway, aside from all that, the water was still running. These crazy May (and, now, June) showers have kept the water going a bit. It's still pretty low for spring, but better than it was in late winter. And I can still find a spot to get comfortable and take 1/3" to 1/4" exposures to get the nice veils of water on the various falls and rapids along the way.

And, of course, even in the canyon, there are moments of quiet, at least on weeknights. Not always possible on weekends.

I returned the way I came. Probably four miles roundtrip, possibly more. The return hike actually took a little longer than I thought it would take. Something like an hour each way, which, even at a slow pace, should be well over 4 miles, total.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Hike 2015.036 -- Schabarum Trail, Turnbull Canyon Drive to Hacienda Blvd

Hiked Saturday, May 9. It's been a while since my last significant hike from here. Apparently, it's been five years since I walked much of this area. Apparently, it's also a lot greener a month earlier!
There's an annual star party I help support at a school up this way, so when ever that rolls around, I think of the Hacienda Hills. Unfortunately, this year's party got clouded out. Twice! Crazy year. So, no star party. But I was still thinking about the local hills.
My initial plan was to hike from Turnbull Canyon Road to the Hsi Lai Temple, then walk aruond there for a while. But, as so often seems the case on weekends, I got started too late for the whole plan to play out. Still, it was a pretty tiring walk.
The Schabarum trailhead on the east side of Turnbull Canyon Road is just south of the high-point for the road. It's a bit winding, and there are often people who are just driving the road for the sake of driving it. There's also motorcycles and bicyclist on the road, so you need to keep an eye out for all of these vehicles, sharing the road.
From the road, the trail head up to near the big power trans-mission towers that are part of the Tehachapi Renewable Power Transmission Project. There are large plastic balls on the wires, which make a loud humming noise, and I think are designed to help warn-off large raptors that occasionally get fried on lines like these.
Heading to the east, there are two trails that join in from the south: Workman Ridge trail and Worsham Canyon trail. Those two trails themselves form a nice loop of about 3 1/3 miles in length.

For the most part, the Schabarum (also called Skyline) trail runs along the divide between Whittier and Hacienda Heights. Earlier in the year, there are large swaths of the area covered by thistle, wild mustard and wild radish. By now, however, there weren't many flowers, at all. It was mostly just dried annuals remaining on the flatter, open areas.
In the deeper, less-accessible ravines, oak and walnut trees are more common. Down in those ravines, I assume that's where the deer hide out during most days. But, during twilight, I've often seen deer out in the open.
Because of the overcast day, the deer were out late, though still a bit skittish, and they kept their distance from me.

I walked to an overlook where I could see the Hsi Lai temple. This required a couple of street crossings. Two of them were small, but crossing Colima is a bit trickier. There's also a tunnel beneath Colima, but that's a little creepy.
Given how tired I felt after I finished, I'm assuming I covered between 6 and 7 miles, though it might have been less. At times, the trail is quite narrow, with homes on one or the other side of you, sometimes quite close.

I returned the way I came. By then, it had slightly cleared, and downtown was visible through the fog. Earlier, it had been entirely invisible.