Monday, September 15, 2014

Hike 2014.044 -- Castle Canyon from Lake Avenue


Hiked Wednes-day, August 13. So back in the time machine, again. :D

This was a "bye" date in my jury duty, which I wrapped up back in mid-August. So I took a personal day off from work, and used this as a chance to clear my head.

We had deliberated on Monday and Tuesday, then had the previously-scheduled day off. It was a fortuitous break, as it gave everyone on the jury a chance to decompressed and think about the case we had just heard. Several noted that they were having trouble sleeping the past few nights. And, after hearing that, it occurred to me that I had also had some trouble sleeping. I was thinking it was due to an unrelated matter, but perhaps the case was weighing on my brain, as well.

It also felt good to be exerting myself a little. The problem with things like deliberation, after all, is that all the adrenaline is building up, and it's got no release. Hiking gave me that release.

So, as I hiked, I talked through the facts of the case, and by the time I got back home, was feeling very confident and certain about my decision on the verdict.

The perfect hiking weather helped. Well, having a little more daylight would have been nice. Because of my late start, I didn't have time to make it to Inspiration Point, as was my goal. But, as you can see, I got to within sight of my destination--Probably about 1/3 of a mile away before I had to turn around, and have enough time to get down before dark.
But, of course, when you're hiking, it's all about the journey rather than the destination.

As I was making my way back towards Lake Avenue, the clouds lit up nicely on the western horizon. I snapped several pictures in the deepening twilight.

Maybe eight miles for the afternoon. Perfect end to a a day.

The Sam Merrill Trailhead is at the north end of Lake Avenue, in Altadena. The Sam Merrill takes you up to Echo Mountain. From there, you can continue to Sunset Ridge, Mt. Lowe, or Inspiration Point.

I've linked one of my blog posts for each of those destinations above. Of course, some of those destinations were hiked many times. Just picked the first one that came up as an illustration.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Hike 2014.043 -- Shoemaker Canyon

Hiked Tuesday, August 12. One of numerous hikes from the past that I need to blog. Shoemaker Canyon is sometimes called the "Tunnel to Nowhere." Like its more famous cousin (The Bridge to Nowhere), this is a hike that takes you to a defunct road project.

In this case, the road was to be an additional evacuation route from the Los Angeles Basin. At some point, I guess they figured the road didn't actually serve any useful purpose, so it was shelved. What's left is a road cut and a couple of tunnels that combine to give you a nice four-mile-ish hike, high above the East fork of the San Gabriel River.
The trailhead is at the end of the paved portion of Shoemaker Canyon Road, which splits off from East Fork Road, just a few miles west of Glendora Mountain Road. In other words, if you've come up from CA-39 and you reach Glendora Mountain Road, you've gone too far. If you reach the trailhead for the Bridge to Nowhere, you've also gone too far.
On this particular day, it was a late afternoon hike I took, after jury duty (at the time, I was serving on a criminal court jury), with enough time for just a short stretching of the legs. But it had been a few years since my last visit, so it seemed like a nice time to return to the area.
The views today were great. The sun was low, the clouds were colorful, and the mountains were warmly lit with the long rays of late afternoon.
As I ap-proached the first tunnel, I heard rocks tumbling down the nearby cliff. After some scanning, I found the source--a couple of deer, trying to put some distance between themselves and me.
I took many pictures, but most were of the deer's hind-quarters. The shot above is the only one with their faces clear. The next shot is a crop of the previous one.
It being the middle of a long drought, and their obviously being not a lot of grass or water nearby, I felt bad for making the deer exert so much energy on account of me. So I turned around there, a little earlier than I planned.
On the way back, I practically walked right into the largest tarantula I had ever seen. I've seen a number, both in the local mountains and in the Mojave Preserve. But, really, this guy (or girl) was huge.
Continuing back to my car, I frequently passed the sound of many buzzing bees. They were forcing their way in to numerous blazing star flowers.

Got back before it was completely dark, and felt pretty good about my day's short little hike. Better than nothing, anyway.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Hiked 2014.048 -- La Madre Springs, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Hiked Saturday, August 30. Shorter hike than I wanted today. I didn't realize I had forgotten my sun block until I was on the trail, and didn't want to risk getting too burned.

Latest hike as of today, with several more still needing to be blogged.

Red Rock National Conservation Area is just west of Las Vegas. Of course, I've done a number of hikes in Red Rock the past few years: Turtlehead Peak. And Calico Tanks. Twice. Also Icebox Canyon. Also twice.
Also, the Calico Hills. That's all in addition to my pre-blog hiking; I lived in Las Vegas for seven years, so I probably hiked most of the trails in the park at one time or another, though definitely not with the sort of regularity I would have had after the hiking blog.

As an added incentive to hike in Red Rock, my America the Beautiful pass expires at the end of September, so I'm still trying to get my money's worth. I may even try to squeeze a trip to Bryce Canyon or Zion in this month. But probably not. They're long drives, and I also want to go to Great Basin National Park in September. This might be too much driving in a month.

But if not September, then maybe Zion in October. I'm hoping to catch the leave changing.

Given my previous time in Las Vegas, I probably hiked here before, but I don't have a strong recollection of being here. The vegetation was surprisingly thick, given the relatively low altitude of here versus up around Mount Charleston. Water clearly runs through the limestone and off the sandstone and settles some on the valley between these two structures.
There's also the occasional tree fighting to survive in the sandstone crags, and the trees that fail to survive elsewhere in the valley.

It's been a pretty good monsoon season, so even before I got to Las Vegas, I noticed the more greenery along the highway than one would expect, given the 105 degree temperatures. Fall wildflowers were not blooming as thickly as I had seen them last year, but there were definitely a lot of flowers blooming.

I didn't recognize their species, however. With the exception of the desert mallow, they were just "white flowers" and "yellow flowers."
They were only modestly thicker around the actual spring than they were elsewhere along the trail. The one that looks somewhat like Indian Paintbrush was practically hanging over the small pool the spring flowed in to.
You can see the spring in the background.

Meanwhile, the little white guys seem to have an interesting life cycle. After looking like little white flowers, at some point they turn into those stringy things you see below.
If there weren't some plants with both types of flowers on them, it would have been harder to realize they were the same species.
I began my hike at the Willow Springs Picnic area, which is off the 13-mile scenic loop. From the picnic area, I headed northwest, along the Rocky Gap 4x4 road. Had I my sunblock, I might likely have just headed on up there and to the top of the escarpment. But, having forgotten it (and not realized this until I was well on the rail), I knew I wanted to cut it short. So I turned at the sign indicating the way to La Madre Spring, which it said was about 1.1 miles from the spring.
Total distance for the La Madre Spring hike is given as 3.3 miles, though it did seem a bit further than that. The only significant climb I noticed was the last bit, as you climb past a couple of concrete pads and on up to the ravine where the spring resides.

I returned the way I came.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Hike 2014.046 -- Fern Dell and Mt. Hollywood Drive, Griffith Park

Hiked Thursday, August 21. Yeah, I'm not really catching up on my blogging, am I? This one was from last week. I had to head to the Observatory to do some paperwork, so I brought my boots with the intent of doing an afternoon hike.

Decided on Fern Dell, since it had been a while since my last hike there.

I was not optimistic, given how hot and dry it has been. But things still looked very bucolic down there. The waters still ran.

The yellow flower above was atop a stalk, a lone specimen on a small island in the water that runs through the lower reaches of Fern Dell.

These purple guys were right near by, on long vines wrapped around some trees. I don't know the species of either, but I'm sure neither are southern California natives. But the relative moisture and shade of Fern Dell lets them thrive.

These guys were at the very far southern end of Fern Dell. They were huge, draping, textured lily-looking flowers. I loved them.

Overhanging some water was this single purple flower on a bush, which I believe to be a Rose of Sharon.

After getting back to the upper part of Fern Dell, the plan was to head up the ridge to my west. I had seen a picture of the Observatory from pretty much due west, at Observatory level. Hadn't seen such a view yet, so I went in search of the photo perspective.

I climbed a non-trail which eventually intersected with Western Canyon Drive. Then I hiked up that road until i found a hill to climb to the west. The hill's trail was not posted as private property, so I headed up. Didn't quite get the perspective I wanted there, or any where else in the area.

Eventually, I headed cross-country, up a very steep incline that proved tougher than I expected. I made it back up and eventually joined Mt. Hollywood Drive. I guess that got me a perspective I would have missed had I headed straight back to my car.
I'll guess bout four miles for the day, though that's just a guess.

My previous visits to Fern Dell are here and here. Also, here. Obviously, it's a pretty photogenic place to go.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Hike 2014.041 -- Red Box Junction to Mount Disappointment

Hiked Tuesday, August 5. Hiking to Mount Disappointment is pretty much the same as hiking to hiking to San Gabriel Peak, except that, when you get to the saddle between San Gabriel Peak (to your east) and Mount Disappointment (to your west), you turn west, instead of east.

Going west means staying on the pavement as it curves up around to the north side of Mount Disappointment.
Otherwise, the directions to the trailhead and heading up through the oak forest, then finally meeting the pavement after 1.3 miles is all the same.
It also means you'll get some nice views to your north, where the air is usually clear and the views across the San Gabriel Mountains can be quite expansive.
It's not as steep or as long a climb from the saddle to the flat-topped, antenna-covered summit of Mt. Disappointment as it is to the more pristine summit of San Gabriel Peak.

You also won't be able to look over Mt. Wilson from Mt. Disappointment--San Gabriel Peak blocks that view. But you will still have a nice view over the LA Basin, at least if there's no marine layer and not too much smog.

For me, the skies were not perfectly clear, but clearer than it was on my previous hike to San Gabriel Peak. So I shot more pictures looking south and southwest this time than I did last time. I was also able to see the Griffith Observatory from the mountain top; the photo directly above is a crop of the one before that, and shows the Observatory relatively clearly, though you'll still have to click on the picture to see the enlarged version to make out the Observatory.

As this hike is a little shorter than going to San Gabriel Peak, and as I didn't stay up there as long since I had done much of this hike so recently, I still managed to get back to the car before it got completely dark.

But this was back in early August. I'm not sure if there's still enough sunlight after work for me to do this hike on a weekday afternoon.
In fact, as the days get shorter (the sun now sets before 7:30pm), I'll probably be mostly limited to short Echo Mountain and First Water hikes for the next month or so, until the days get so short that I'll be limited to hiking on days off and weekends.
One fun thing about hiking around sunset is that you get a lot of chances for shadow selfies. Here's me, up near the the top of Mount Disappointment, projected on a pine tree.

Not sure of the distance. I'll guess about 3.5 miles. Just enough to make the hike feel worth it.

Still many hikes remaining to be blogged. And I've also got a bunch of Downtown LA pictures to post. Not sure which I'll do next.

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.