Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hikes 2014.063 and 2014.064 -- Monrovia, Thalehaha, and Fish Canyon Waterfalls

After a wet Thursday and Friday last week, I decided Saturday (December 13) would be a great day to check out some of the local waterfalls. My primary target was Fish Canyon Falls, which I had been to a few weeks ago and found completely dry. However, when I reached the parking area at the rock mine, the gate was locked. I figured this meant they were going to make a habit of closing the trail during and immediately after rain. So I decided to go to the next waterfall over: Monrovia Canyon.
Monrovia Canyon is basically at the top of Canyon Drive. There's signage to turn from Huntington on to Canyon (somewhat east of Myrtle, or west of Mountain, both of which hit the Foothill (I-210) Freeway.

Once on Canyon, you can follow the signage right into the park. Or you can do your homework and figure where to park without paying, then walk the extra distance.

Having just come from a locked gate, and not wanting to wind up walking a mile or more for nothing, I drove.

There's a parking area just outside the fee station (which still requires payment of the fee), but it was full. That's really where I wanted to park, since it's a mere three mile roundtrip from here. Parking further into the park would make the hike even shorter.
However, with the lot full, I had no choice but to drive on. So I went ahead and parked at the nature center, from where it's a mere 3/4 of a mile to the waterfall. A little short to be useful for an exercise hike, but, oh, well.

Despite the packed parking lot neare the entrance station and the many parked cars I had passed on the way in, the actual trail was somewhat empty.
Turns out that's because many folks were picnicking in the park, and not hiking. Others (a fairly large number of "others") were shooting a student film in the park, which meant I would only run into them if I ran across their film locale (which, without even knowing they were there, I found).

With the trail somewhat empty, I had a few moments of mostly solitude as I shot pictures of the waterfall. The water was running moderately--I've definitely seen it both higher and lower.

Then I went home for lunch.

After lunch, I again headed to the Fish Canyon Trailhead, hoping that, with a half day to dry out the parking area was now open. But it was still closed.

So now I headed over to Rubio Canyon. I suppose this was a matter of avoiding crowds, since the slightly closer Eaton Canyon fall would certainly be running descently
There were a couple of cars at the Rubio Crest trailhead, but no real crowds, of course. Another car did arrive a bit after me, so I chatted with them on the trail a bit, making sure they stayed on the correct trail for where they were hoping to get.

As expected, the lowest of the Rubio Canyon falls were running, but quite low (Ribbon Rock and Moss Grotto). Not really worth photographing, though if you search my blog, you'll find plenty of pictures of those waterfalls with actual water running.
I initially planned to head back, but when the other group decided to continue to Thalehaha Overlook, I also went that way.

It's a bit of a climb and got my heart pumping.

And, as expected, there was very little water coming down this fall, as well. On the other hand, there were people rappelling down, so that was fun.
After watching 3 or 4 of them complete their descent, I called it a day. Or so I thought.

I did walk back to my car, but then decided to go hit Christmas Tree Lane, as long as I was in the area.

Well, it turned out this was the kickoff for the lighting of Christmas Tree Lane (Santa Rosa Avenue, between Woodbury Avenue and Altadena Drive, in Altadena), so the lights weren't on when I got there, but food trucks, booths, and live music were all to be found there. So I wandered some, walked into the library and stayed warm some, read a bit, then headed out for what I assumed would the be flicking of the switch.
Unfortunately, there was about 30 minutes of entertainment and speeches before the switch was flicked, by which time I was ready to go home. So when the lights turned on, I didn't walk the length of the street was was my plan. Instead, I just walked back to my car and drove home.

When I got home, there was a message on my answering machine at home. Turns out someone had found my cell phone against the curb in the street, presumably where I had parked about five hours earlier. They called the directory entry for "home" in my phone's memory (as well as trying a few other names, including the one that said, "Dad's Cell Phone"), without luck in reaching anyone.
Well, at the time, I did not even realize my cell phone was missing, so I looked in my backpack, and sure enough, the phone was not there.

So I called the person who had left me the message and I arranged to drive right back up to Altadena (about a 25-30 minute drive) and retrieved my phone.

And, suddenly, the night seemed a whole lot better, and the world a whole lot friendlier.

Because it turns out that, during the course of the day, I had run a cross a slew of rude, stupid, and aggressive drivers. One of them was on my way down Christmas Tree Lane.

Because of the big street event at the public library, Christmas Tree Lane had cars parked along much of the road and people walking on both sides of the street. Also, it's a two way street, so you've got occasional oncoming traffic.

So, of course, I'm creeping along at under 25 mph, because I don't want to hit anyone. And, besides, there are cars just up a head, so driving faster than that would only move me about 100 feet further at that speed, before I'd have to slow back down below 25. So what's the point?

But dingus honked several times, though I'm not sure what he thought I was supposed to do about the pedestrian traffic and the auto traffic, other than risk getting a ticket and running people over.

Anyway, that made my cell phone's guardian angel was a welcome change of pace. Because, between the road raging drivers and the usual stupid comments you see in the comment section of newspaper articles, sometimes I develop a really pessimistic view of human nature.
Meanwhile, Sunday, December 14 dawned sunny and cool. So, again, the goal was to visit Fish Canyon. This time, the gate was open, and a fairly large number of cars were in the lot. Nonetheless, the trail was still generally uncrowded. There was plenty of time to ogle the views and shoot pictures at my own pace, without having to worry about obstructing the trail.

This was my second trip down the "new" trail, and I'm still getting used to the geometry. The trail is easy to follow. It's just that there are a few turns that I did not remember.

When I reached the end of the trail, there were probably 15 or so folks in the general vicinity. That's a lot more than at Monrovia or Thalehaha Falls, of course, but not much compared to what this place looked like on public access days. So, again, no problem taking pictures without getting too much in anyone else's way.

I'd seen the water higher here before, but, compared to the completely drive falls of a few months ago, this was a really welcome sight.
I took pictures of each of the three tiers of the fall, as well as the fourth, lowest fall, that drops into a deep pool that crazy people occasionally want to jump in to. I also shot some California fuchsia that overlooked the trail and the third falls.

So, the two short hikes on Saturday are collectively my Hike 2014.063--Just under 2 miles for Monrovia Canyon (because I headed a bit downstream after returning from the waterfall, until I ran into the film shoot), and about 1.5 miles for Rubio Canyon (shorter, but with the very strenuous little run up to the Thalehaha Overlook).
Fish Canyon is supposed to be a 5.2 mile roundtrip hike all by itself, and that was my Hike 2014.064.

I've got a couple of other hikes I need to blog still, as the days in the year tick down. Time is running short, so but I do want to manage at least the new hikes I haven't blogged yet, including the series around Lake Meade, from back in January.
Just 15 more days in the year. Reaching 70 hikes for this year looks unlikely, but I do hope to get a few more in this year. The business of the holiday season makes hiking even tougher to manage than during the rest of the year, however. So even if they get hiked, the blogging may become problematic.

Still, I'm enjoying what hikes I can, and still want to keep up withe the blogging.
I've noticed that many of what were my favorite bloggers don't do that, anymore. It's understandable--it's a lot of work to keep it up religiously, and, for most, it's not something you get paid for. I just do it because I love hiking and love taking pictures. For a while, this was the only way to share my travels. It's been a pleasure sharing the hikes, that's for sure.

I guess it's a little early to write an end-of-year post. Oh, well. Happy trails, to you all!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Hike 2014.031 -- Castaic Lake State Recreation Area: West Ridge Trail

Hiked Saturday, June 14. 3 miles. Another very old hike I hadn't blogged, yet. It was another "first time" hike for me; I had a surprising number this year, particularly as a proportion of my actual hikes. Definitely more "first hikes" this year than last year or the year before.

This was also a work-related hike. My employer sponsors several outdoors, park activity trips a year, always on a Saturday. Since I had never hiked Castaic before, I was really looking forward to this one. Unfortunately, it's been months since the visit, so I can't recall exactly where I began. Lake Castaic is off of I-5, well north of "town," but well before the Tejon Pass. It's about 41 miles from Downtown Los Angeles
I do recall that, from our meeting point, we started along a concrete sidewalk, which paralleled the lake, for at least 1/2 mile. After passing some recreational equipment, we headed across a dry wash area for another 1/2 mile or so before making a loop to the right and heading up a trail that climbed the ridge overlooking the lake.
Followed this trail for another 1/2 mile to maybe 3/4 of a mile. Near the "end," there was a clearing with railings. I think we turned around there.
I do recall the view being pretty nice, in all directions. Lake and park down below, grassy hillsides, distant mountains.
Turned around and returned to where we started. I'm figuring 3-4 miles for the day. Not a very careful hike, I spent a lot of time contemplating in advance. I just followed the hike leaders.
Nice way to spend a Saturday morning. I wish my workplace did even more of these outdoor events, but I'm sure the coordination and cost is pretty substantial. In theory, the payoff is in healthier workers and lower health insurance costs. Not sure if the events are frequent enough to engender those benefits, but, as noted, I do like having that extra incentive for an occasional hike in a county or state park.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Hike 2014.060 -- Palomar Mountain State Park: Doane Valley Nature Trail, Weir Trail, Lower Doane Trail, Thunder Spring Trail, Upper Doane Trail and Silvercrest Trail

Hiked Saturday, November 29. Palomar Mountain State Park is described as 1832 acres, which makes it just under three square miles. In other words, it's a pretty small park. It's mostly between 4800 and 5200 feet above sea level, which makes it somewhat mountainous, with lots of conifers.

And, as the state park brochure shows, there are plenty of trails in the park.

On my short visit on Saturday, I covered a fair portion of those trails, despite only being there for about three hours.

To get to Palomar Mountain State Park, I took I-15 south, and exited at CA-76, which I took east. Along the way, I passed Pala Indian Casino. Always wondered where they were.
Well after the casino (and you can go to the park website for more detailed driving informa-tion), I departed at the signed junction for County Highway S-6 (it is the "main" direction at the intersection, meaning the solid double-yellow line assumes most folks will take that road), and have no stop sign, though you've got to take some care to make sure the guys on CA-76 heading west don't cut in front of you, so be cautious here.

You stay on S-6 the rest of the way, which involves two quick left turns when you approach S-7 and the road to Mt. Palomar Observatory. Again, the intersection is signed.

After entering the park, I made my way down to Doane Pond, as I had heard there was some fall color to be seen around here. I first walked around the pond, then headed southeast, along the Doane Valley Nature Trail. At the next fork, I got off the Nature Trail and continued on the Weir Trail, to the historic weir (low dam). Then I headed back up on the Weir Dam, then turned left to pick up the Lower Doane Valley Trail, which I took back to the campground.

Along the way, I walked through moderately heavy forest, with plenty of conifers and some oak and other deciduous trees. Not a lot of color, but a few splotches to be seen, yes.

When I reached the campground (which apparently means I should have turned right to get back on the Nature Trail and loop back to the pond), I followed the pavement until I could see the pond, again. Once at the pond, I headed northwest, along the Thunder Creek trail, and followed that out to the next split (about a mile), when I looped to the left, and returned on the Upper Doane Valley Trail. That took me to a school, which struck me as a cool place to have classes.
Along that segment of trail (the Thunder Creek and Upper Doane Valley Trails), I circumnavigated a large meadow. This meadow (as the one along the Lower Doane Trail, earlier) was mostly brown; I imagine in the spring and early summer, it must be green, and perhaps full of wild flowers.

Here, again, there were some oaks, still with their golden brown leaves holding on. Again, only splotches of colorful foliage, however. Just a few trees, here and there.

I'm a little uncertain on the mileage, since the park map does not give trail mileage for the various segments. I'd estimate about 1/4 mile around Doane Pond, then a bit over a mile to the Historic Weir, then a bit more than that to return to the pond via the Lower Doane Trail, then a bit under two miles for the loop of Thunder Creek and Upper Doane Valley. So very nearly four miles for just this part.
I still had some daylight, so I stopped at the Silvercrest parking area on the way out. Silvercrest picnic area is just barely inside the park, less than 1/10 of a mile from the fee station, and maybe a 1/2 mile from the park entrance. There are trails that leave from either end of the picnic area.

From the east side of the picnic area, the trail is called the Silvercrest Trail, and it's about a 1/2 mile to the park entrance. The trail runs near the ridge, with nice views down towards the Pacific Ocean. I walked this trail to its end.
It ends when it reinter-sects with with the main road. Walk on to the road, and you see the sign marking the entrance to the park on your left.

There's a fairly large parking area outside of the park sign, and what looks like a lot of space to park. The sign near the area says there's no parking from sunset to 8am, which means, when the park is open, you could park here and walk the Silvercrest Trail in to the park, and avoid the entrance fee ($8/car).
Depending on how far you're willing to walk and what you're wanting to see in the park, this may or may not be a reasonable alternative.

I took a picture here, then returned the way I came. This added another mile to my walking distance for the day, so somewhere around five miles for the day.
On the drive back, on the flat but occa-sionally winding road below the mountain, I got to see a stupid human trick.

For the previous five miles, I had been following a line of cars and motorcycles. When that happens, when it's obvious that you're going to be following a lot of cars for a long while, I see no reason to tailgate. What's the point? So I accept that I'll be following these guys all the way to the freeway. I don't worry if I'm 100 or 150 yards behind a line of cars, since there's no way I'm going to be able to pass those guys. Yet, for some folks, just getting that extra 100 yards is apparently irresistible, because as we approach a traffic light (double-yellow line), stupid person makes his move.

I hear his engine rev, and see him in my left rear view mirror. "Are you freaking kidding me?" I wonder. Yet, there he goes.

Normally, if a stupid person wants to pass, I don't care. So my normal inclination would be to maintain my speed and let him do his stupid thing. But now we're less than 150 yards from the on-coming traffic, and less than 100 yards from the intersection (so even if there was no oncoming traffic, this pass would have been dangerously stupid, because you never know if someone's going to turn from that cross road right into your path). I don't see how he makes this pass without either crashing head-on with one or several of the vehicles heading the other way, or sideswiping me. So I slam on my brakes and pull into the emergency parking lane on the right.

Idiot person eventually sees I'm out of the way, and crosses back into our lane with less than 80 yards between him and the on-coming traffic. What. An. Idiot.

So, at the risk of death, injury, and damage to a half-dozen cars and a dozen or so people, stupid person has manage to get in front of one of the roughly 15 cars and motorcycles that were in front of him, and will arrive at I-15 about 2 seconds sooner than he otherwise would have. Because now, for the next 15 minutes, instead of being the last car in a line of vehicles heading towards I-15, now he's the second to the last car, and I'm right behind him the whole way, wondering how anyone can be so stupid. Good job, pinhead!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Hike 2014.059 -- Arroyo Seco - Archery Range to Rose Bowl

Hiked Saturday, November 22. 4 miles. The official distance between the archery range and the Rose Bowl is 1.5 miles, but I wandered a fair amount around the Rose Bowl parking area and returned via the west side of the Arroyo, which felt a little longer than the east side. Also, I walked on down about 1/4 mile from the bridge to see the sycamore tree I mention at the end of the post.
My main goal of this hike was to see the "Suicide Bridge" (Colorado Street Bridge) up close. It's a a pretty bridge, composed of several concrete arches. I had seen pictures of it for years, and driven by it on numerous occasions. But I'd never walked under it. However, a few weeks ago, I did drive over it (not on a specific trip to see the bridge, but on a drive looking for a particular home in the Pasadena and South Pasadena area). So I got to thinking about making a trip specifically to see the bridge up close, and that's how this hike came to be.
With this as my goal, I scanned the Internet and studied on-line maps of the area, looking for a good access point. I settled on the one off of Arroyo Road, a bit north of California Blvd. The logic was, I know for sure where California Blvd is, it "crashes" right into Arroyo Blvd, where you've got to turn either left or right, so I could turn right on Arroyo, then look for the little road that would provide parking for the archery range. Each turn was obvious and would not be easy to confuse.
California Blvd runs west from Rosemead Blvd (CA-19) to Arroyo Blvd, crossing several major north-south roads between east Pasadena and Pasadena (including San Gabriel Blvd, Sierra Madre Blvd, Allen Ave, Hill Ave, Lake Ave, Los Robles Ave, Arroyo Pkwy, Fair Oaks Ave, Pasadena Ave, and Orange Grove Ave.
That means anyone living along a slew of major north-south streets in the west San Gabriel Valley, or approaching from either the Foothill Freeway (I-210) or the Pasadena Freeway / Arroyo Seco Parkway / CA-110, or CA-134 (Ventura Freeway), you'll pass an exit for either California Blvd or for one of those North-South streets that intersect with California Blvd.
Again, you'd take California west until it intersects with Arroyo Blvd, turn right, then take the first turn on the left to get to the parking area for the archery range.I was going to be hiking pretty close to the Rose Bowl, and that the annual USC-UCLA game was going to be kicking off in the Arroyo Seco later that afternoon. It was still some four hours before kick-off, but the traffic was already building.
I continued along the actual path (that is right adjacent to the channel walls that contain the Arroyo Seco) until I was about equal to the Rose Bowl, then crossed over and into the tailgating area. It was colorful, dominated by blue and gold, but with a number of cardinal and gold pop-ups and apparel. These were the smart guys, who came early to beat the traffic and probably would stay late to miss the traffic leaving. I'm not even sure if they were going *into* the game, since it would be quite a production to break down some of these set-ups.
After much walking around, admiring the crowds, listing to the band, then walking my way back out, passing some rose bushes as I did, I returned the way I came.

When I got back to the Suicide Bridge, I passed over to the west side. There's a concrete slide beneath the bridge, by the way, and a service ladder that drops down to the slide. But it's quite a drop, and I had no interest in going down into what I was pretty sure would be very stinky water.

I did not manage any really good pictures of the bridge. Because of the growth inside the arroyo and other brides crossing the gorge, I got no really complete shots. But I will probably come back in the days to come and try some shots from spots at the top of the arroyo.

The trail on the west side of the arroyo has a steep incline (the rim of the edge of the arroyo) along much of the way. It feels more enclosed on this end than on the east side. Along the natural wall of the arroyo, the remains of trail steps (stakes and boards to hold back the soil) create the beginning of steps out of the arroyo. But I'm not sure if any of these steps actually made it all the way out. The one I walked up a bit surely did not. I was told that maybe some of these once went to properties that were taken when the roads here were built.
Once back at the north end of the archery range (the northern most target area is at a pedestrian bridge that crosses over the channel), I spotted a colorful sycamore tree, which I walked down to photograph. I also photographed some targets on the way back.

I'm guess about four miles for the day. Nice walk. Would have been a terrible drive. In fact, because of construction and lane closures at several spots on my drive back, the drive back was also slow, and very annoying. Still, at least I got a short walk in for the weekend.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hike 2014.001 -- Wall Street and Barker Dam Trails, Joshua Tree National Park

Hiked Saturday, January 25. I'm don't recall any more why it was that I wasn't able to blog my first hike of the year back in January, but it never happened. So, here we are, in mid-November, posting about my first hike of the year.

So I don't know for sure, but I was probably pretty optimistic at the start of the year that I'd manage my third 100 hike year. I was concerned about gaining weight, and wanted to reverse that trend.

Unfortunately, it's *still* very hard to manage 100 hiking days when you're working 50-60 hours a week. Also, it's unfortunate that I got out of my "hiking as default mode" attitude.

There's this idea that you need to do something regularly, then it becomes a habit, and easier to follow or harder to break. During my first two years, I not only had a lot of "free" time (because I was unemployed, and no matter how many jobs you're applying for, you still don't go on interviews every day, and you're mostly just waiting for the phone call). So I easily surpassed my 100-hike goal that first full year.

During the second full year, I became employed in July for a job starting in mid-August. But, complicating that was the need to plan for a temporary move half-way across the country. On the positive side, it also opened up some new hiking areas, both on the drive each way and at my new destination. So I just barely made my 100 hike goal that year.

Then, upon returning to the L.A. area, I soon managed to have both a full-time and a part-time job, and that kept me pretty busy.

About mid-way through that year, picked up a third part-time job. Much of my next few years was then working 5-6 days and 2-3 nights a week, with frequent weekend shifts. After a year of that, I decided this was wearing me out, and I cut back to working just three nights a week, in addition to my regular day job.

Finally, this year, I decided to cut my work load down to just 2-3 part-time shifts a week, in addition to the full time job. Yet, even that, with my hiking still happening, but it no longer being habit, it's been tough getting even decent-length hikes into my schedule. I keep trying to change that, but there are always other things coming up, now. Sometimes, it's a sick cat. Sometimes, it's family obligations. Sometimes, I've got a cold. Sometimes, it's the weather. Still, I want to keep hiking, because, when I finally do get out there, it makes me feel good.

In any event, somehow I managed to make it 26 days into 2014 before I got out on the trail. I did manage my second hike the next day, but it was definitely a weirdly late start.

It was also a late start that day, when I finally decided to go down to Joshua Tree, with my telescope, try to squeeze in a short hike, then set up the telescope for some reasonably dark-sky viewing.

Both the Wall Street and Barker Dam trails are down near the Hidden Valley area of Joshua Tree, sort of the middle-west of the park. I used to visit Hidden Valley frequently for star parties, so I have an affinity for the area. Yet, I never managed the Wall Street Hike (and only managed the Barker Dam hike once before).

From the West Entrance (Park Blvd), you reach the Hidden Valley area in about 9 1/2 miles. Just after that, but on the left (east) side of the road is the road to the Barker Dam and Wall Street trailheads. From what I think of as the "main" lot there, the two trails start out about 20 feet from each other, but head in different directions. The Barker Dam trail heads more due north, towards some large rock outcroppings. The Wall Street trail heads to the east, paralleling the paved and dirt road for a bit before eventually heading away from the road and into the desert.

One of the things you pass along the way is another parking lot and restroom, and a bike rack. Later, once you're out in the desert, you pass a windmill.

As you walk further from the parking area, you pass additional evidence of past habitation--wrecks of old motor vehicles, mining and mine processing structures, and the like.

After having my fill of the mining remnants, I'm pretty sure I went back the way I came. As I neared that starting point, there was a side trail that ran to an old home. Fractured walls remained, but no roof.

Once back to the main parking lot, I then headed right back out on the Barker Dam trail. This one is even shorter than the other one, and ends at Barker Dam. When I was there, virtually no water was impounded behind the dam. It also appeared the lower end of the dam was supposed to be off-limits. It wasn't obvious, but I think that's what they wanted. I wasn't sure at the time why, but, apparently, since early last year, there's been a serious graffiti problem at Barker Dam.

The trail to Barker Dam passes some impressive rock outcrop-pings, which, of course, people walk upon. Conveniently, they provide a nice scale by which to appreciate the size of these rocks.

On my previous visit to Barker Dam, I was lucky enough to see a desert bighorn walking in the area behind the dam. As one of the few reliable sources of water in the area, it's a magnet for wildlife.

After snapping pictures of the reservoir (such that it was) and the dam, I headed back to my car. I then drove to the Boy Scout Trail trailhead (about two miles north of the Barker Dam and Wall Street parking areas, also on Park Blvd) and set up my telescope. I did some observing there, sharing my telescope views with some hikers and rock climbers that were returning to their car as the sky darkened.

I also took a number of 30-second or so exposures of the sky with my dslr on a tripod. While not nearly as dark here as at other locations (because you're now not all that far south of the towns of Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree, and 29 Palms), it is still relatively dark, and the skies are quite impressive compared to what you can see from town.

I had posted these night sky photos a while ago, but never got around to posting on the hike. Until now. :D

About 3 1/2 miles for the day, plus a lot of telescope observing. It was a good day and a good night.