Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hike 2014.037 -- California Citrus State Historic Park

"Hiked" July 4, 2014. Short post, so I'll do this one now, as I try to catch up on the blogs.

California Citrus State Historic Park is in Riverside, off the 91 (Riverside) Freeway. Exit at Van Buren and follow the signs. I've got few pictures here because my camera battery died shortly after my arrival. This was one of several incidents that has me thinking about getting a spare to carry.
If you visit, definitely visit on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, when guided tours are available. Probably best to come in late winter/early spring, although some citrus are edible almost year 'round.

And that's what you get with the guided tour: A walk among a LARGE variety of citrus, which a volunteer docent will pick, and you'll get to sample some in the field and, at least on my day, take a couple of bags home with you. Fresh citrus!
There was an entry fee, although I used one of my California State Parks Foundation vouchers (which also got me into Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve). Twice, this year.

There's an actual hike that would take you out of the developed park area, but it's still pretty short. I didn't have time for that because of when I arrived. So I just walked the mostly-developed walking path around the gazebo, up to a viewpoint, and around the groves, before joining the tour that walked amongst the citrus groves. Not what I expected, but in a good way. Of course, I'm a big fan of anything "free," including fresh fruit.

The last picture in this post is my fruit draw, filled with the bounty from the docent walk amonst the citrus. As I said, with a dead battery, I couldn't take many pictures of the park. So here's one of my refrigerator!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Hike 2014.039 -- Lowe Observatory from Lake Avenue

Hiked Friday, July 18. I really should be more caught up on my blogging, given that I'm not hiking that much. This'll be a short-ish one.

Obviously, I've hiked to Echo Mountain and "The White City" many, many times over the years (most recently a few months ago). Usually, the White City is the goal; today, the Lowe Observatory pillar was the goal.
A friend had posted to facebook a picture of another friend standing atop the pillar. It had never occurred to me to try to stand on the pillar, but I decided I would have to return and see if it was feasible. The answer was, "Not for you, fatso!"

The pillar has plenty of grips (although climbing up there undoubtedly speeds erosion), but it would require a level of strength, dexterity, and fearlessness that I do not possess. So I satisfied myself with more pictures of the object, from afar.

Lowe Observatory was part of Dr. Thaddeus Lowe's mountain development from back near the turn of the 20th Century. To put this in context, after some massive forest wildfires of the 1870s and on forward, and after the Census Bureau announced the closure of the frontier with the 1890 Census, there was an upsurge in hiking and the seeking of things wild by Americas. This would be the time following the creation of our nation's first national parks, and of "progressive conservation" promoted by the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, the fears of a "timber famine," the passage of the Forest Reserve Act of 1891, and of Thoreau's Walden Pond.

Folks were convinced that America was losing something, and we had to return to "nature" to get that back. Anyway, a whole series of mountain resorts above and around Los Angeles sprang up, and this was one of them. You rode a cable car right out of Rubio Canyon and to the White City, and maybe then continued up a bit to visit the Lowe Observatory, which housed a 16" refracting telescope. By contrast, the Griffith Observatory's dome houses a 12" refracting telescope.

All of this burned in a series of fires, then The Great Depression drove the final nail in the coffin. Today, only concrete foundations, walls, stairs, and pillars remain of the first time America tried to "get back to nature."

The clouds were pretty nifty last night, and the sunset would have been great. However, I was too hungry to stick around, and, as if to completely eliminate the temptation, my camera battery died. So no spectacular sunset pictures with this post!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Hike 2014.032 -- Griffith Observatory to Burbank Peak

Hiked Wednes-day, June 18. I'll probably skip blogging the last Eaton Canyon to Henninger Flats hike (2014.033, Sunday, June 22), just because there's not much to add to a hike I've done so many times before.

Of course, this one, I've done many times, too. But not as frequently as Henninger Flats.

First thing to note is that the George Harrison Tree that used to be at the north end of the Observatory lot is no more. It became diseased and was cut down over the past month or so. The picture at the top of this post shows the stone marker and the stump where the tree once grew.

And it seems like only yesterday I even learned it existed. :(
I took the Charlie Turner trail on up around Mt. Hollywood, then continued to the north. My goal was to follow the series of trails that take you up and along the series of ridges and peaks that separate Los Angeles from Burbank, eventually making my way up to near the back of Mt. Lee (with the Hollywood sign), then on to the west, over Cahuenga Peak, then Burbank Peak.
This is by far my favorite hike in the park, simply because you spend so much of it straddling the various divides, and looking across an awful lot of southern California.

I also like it because of some memorable pictures I got on a hike here last year.

Quite simply, it's the perfect summer hike from the Obser-vatory (for me). If I leave after a morning shift (finish at 5pm), there's just enough time for me to make it to Burbank Peak and back to the Observatory. The sun may even have set by the time I get back, but the trail the last two miles or so is wide and smooth. And the city lights are beautiful on the return from Mt. Hollywood.

One annoying incident on this hike was some stupid pinheads were tossing rocks over the back of Mt. Lee as I made my way on the road. I warned them people were walking below, but they laughed and kept tossing more, so it was obviously intentional. And did I mention stupid? Irresponsible and stupid.

Not too many flowers for me to photograph on this trip. The yucca were the most impressive bloom, as they have been at several local hikes over the past few weeks. There were also plenty of buckwheat, which I did not photograph. Quite a lot of Indian pink, as well, but those did not photograph well.
Finally, there was this blue flower that I did not recognize, but did photograph.

Other than the pinheaded buttheads on the top of Mt. Lee, the hike was fine. Despite some uncertainty as to if I really did have time to make to Burbank Peak and back, I eventually went ahead. Stayed on the actual peak for about twelve seconds, of course, because I had some distance to make it back.
In fact, I probably had more time than I thought. The sun was only just setting as I was already back on the relatively flat dirt road that would eventually loop back around Mt. Hollywood.

Meanwhile, atop Mt. Hollywood, a whole lot of folks where there. Councilman Tom LaBonge was doing a near-summer solstice hike, and several "classic" cars were also up there, presumably part of his entourage.

As I made my way around Mt. Hollywood, I decided to return via the east end of the loop. No particular reason why. Just hadn't gone this way in a while.
The east route takes you closer to Glendale, and also lets you look down upon Glendale Peak and an extended section of Vista del Valle Road, a paved road that is closed to private vehicular traffic. It's a hiking and biking path.

About 7-8 miles roundtrip. As I said, a nice post-work hike

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Hike 2014.035 -- Bristlecone Trail, Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, NV

Hiked Saturday, June 28. Not only am I well behind in the number of hikes I would like to have done by this time of the year, I'm also way behind in blogging what hikes I *have* done. This is my most recent, which leaves about six others still to be blogged.

The "Bristle-cone Trail" is usually referred to as the Bristle-cone Loop, but I didn't do the loop. The loop requires about .8 of a mile on pavement, and about two miles on a road-width grade that has no shade and little to offer versus the other part of the trail.

The Upper Bristlecone Trailhead is at the end of NV-156. To get here, you take U.S. 95 north from Las Vegas. About 30 miles northwest of the U.S. 95/I-15 Interchange ("The Spaghetti Bowl"), turn left at NV-156 (signed for the Las Vegas Ski Resort). Drive up this road until it deadends, just past the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort (about 17 miles).

There's a smallish parking area here. The trail-head is well-signed.

On your way here, you'd have passed the signed "Lower Bristlecone Trailhead, about .8 miles before. The trail from that point would be a road grade; during the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration put men to work building a road through the mountains. When the War broke out, the project was shelved in favor of things with higher priorities and greater national security importance.

Note that there are no restroom facilities at either trailhead. There are some camp and picnic areas nearby, though, currently, those are closed. When they're open, I'd assume they'd at least have portapotties there, though I don't know for sure. This means you gotta go before you leave town, and/or be prepared for a walk in the woods.

From the upper trailhead, the trail runs along a low ridge, overlooking the base of the ski resort. Some of those runs look pretty steep!

There's a fair amount of aspen here, which means in the fall, things should get pretty colorful. I guess in early spring, there must also be some runoff streams from all the snow on the high peaks. This year, by the end of June, however, there was snowmelt here. It was pretty dry, which is why I was really surprised when I saw some columbine blooming in the first ravine.

Also lots of a purple flower that didn't photograph well, small white, fragrant flowers, something that looked like very small aster, and a few other flowers.

On the return trip, along this last straight-away before getting back to the car, I saw a couple of swallowtail butterflies, mating. They moved fast and unpredictably, and I could not manage a decent focus on them, and definitely didn't have time to adjust my iso and shutterspeed. But I did wind up with an interesting picture, nonetheless. You'll know it when you see it.

Trail descrip-tions on-line also mentioned mountain bikes. Yes, they were there. They have no problem on the wide road that heads out of the lower trail-head, but the upper trail-head area is trickier for them.

They seemed nice enough, either way.

Descrip-tions online also mention that this trail is heavily used by all. When I started, at about 8am, I made it all the way from the upper trail-head to the junction with the Bonanza Trail. Probably saw no more than six bicyclists and a like number of hikers.

However, on the return trip, I must have seen twice that number of bicycles, and a crazy number of hikers. In particular, a "meet-up" was coming up the trail--must have been 30 or 35 hikers in that group alone. Add another 15 or so hikers in smaller groups, and that was a little much.

Well, in particular, the meet-up was a little much. Again, nothing against the individuals, but waiting at a narrow point in the trail for the 30-plus hikers to file past felt like waiting for a locomotive hauling a hundred boxcars to pass.

BTW, I guess I haven't mentioned why this is called the Bristlecone Loop. Yes, there are bristlecone pines, here. Lots of them. Most are healthy and green, and look nothing like you pictures bristlecone pines to look like.

But there is one ridge, maybe 1 1/2 miles from the upper trailhead, where a number of tree skeletons still stand, looking very much as you *do* expect them to look.

However, far more are healthy and alive, and you can contrast the two types, and wonder what sort of disaster it must have taken to kill those trees on the ridge.

Incidentally, there are interpretive signs at the trailhead that tell you how to identify bristlecone pines: Their needles are in bunches of five, and they grow off in all directions from the branch, giving a sort of bottle-clearer look to the branches.

A close-up of a living tree is below.

I hiked to the junction with the Bonanza Trail. The trail sign there said it was two miles back the way I came to the upper trail-head, or three miles forward to the lower trail-head. Those are approximate distances, I'm sure. The Forest Service says the full look is 6.2 miles.

I'm giving my distance covered roundtrip as four miles. It might have been a bit more, but that's what I'll go with. The remainder of the look forward didn't look that interesting, I didn't want to have to walk on pavement, and I had an engagement to make later that afternoon.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Mojave Star Party, and a Non-Hike to Cow Cove Petroglyphs, Mojave National Preserve, CA

Not hiked on May 31, 2014. I don't usually post about hikes I don't go on, but this one requires an exception.

I had very high hopes for multiple hikes on this trip (Friday, May 30 - Sunday, June 1). I was driving out to Las Vegas on a Friday, driving down to Mojave Preserve on Saturday, then back home on Sunday. I was thinking two, maybe three hikes for the weekend. Instead, I got zero.

I did get some nice views of a very dark sky, however. That was for the bi-annual Mojave National Preserve star party. Twice a year, some friends of mine (and, most times, me, too) head out to the Mojave National Preserve with our telescopes, and we show lovers of wilderness something we can not show them from here in town: A really dark sky, and some of the wonders of the cosmos that you can only see from a really dark location.

The next star party's going to be on Saturday, November 1, 2014, in case you want to start planning your fall hikes already. :D

Well, so there I was, trying to plan some hikes for this long weekend, and I come across this site. It does not it is "difficult" for non-4wd, but that it is accessible by all vehicle classes. I spent some time looking at google maps satellite imagery to match the description up with actual photos of the route, and it looks pretty straightforward.
So, off I go: exit I-15 at Cima Road, south about 1/4 mile to Aiken Mine Road. Turned on the road. . . And in less than a mile, I was stuck in the sand. This was after several experiences that felt a lot like driving over ice: car's sliding, and turning the steering wheel has no effect on your direction of travel.

So I used my arms and hands to clear a path in the sand and got rolling forward, again.
After another 100 yards or so, I'm stuck again. And I'm not even at the part on the map that warns of deep sand. Practically the whole freaking road is deep sand.

So then I decide, well, better turn around, because I've got another six miles of road, and this isn't even the tough part. And I'll have to drive back on this, too.

Of course, as expected, turning around in deep sand is not easy. You're going perpendicular to the lines of travel (where previous tires have compressed the sand a bit). So I get stuck about four more times before finally getting back on to some tire tracks and making my way back to the pavement.
After I got back to the gas station on Cima road, I asked one of the workers there, "Hypothetically speaking, if I were to get stuck in the sand of Aiken Mine Road, how much would it have cost to get pulled out? Answer: Probably $500. So, my advice: Do NOT attempt reaching Cow Cove petroglyphs by passenger car via Aiken Mine Road. It's definitely for high-clearance and four wheel drive vehicles. If you ignore this advice, be sure to bring a shovel to dig yourself out (clearing a low path where your undercarriage doesn't drag along the sand as your wheels sink into the sand).

This was my experience in a Saturn L200. It's what I would consider to be a midsized car, with a fairly long wheel base and skinny tires. Driving something with a shorter wheelbase, slightly higher clearance, wider tires, and NO traction control MIGHT give you more success.

As for me, I'm planning to wait until fall, then just park my car near the start of Aiken Mine Road wand walking the 14 miles or so to the petroglyphs. This might also prove too difficult, since walking on sand means a lot of wasted energy. But, for me, it's either this or wait until I have four wheel drive.

Obviously the pictures on this post are all from the star party, and none are from my unsuccessful hike attempt. As I ssid, the star party went great. :D

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Hike 2014.029 -- Gabrielino Trail to Lower Sturtevant Canyon, Angeles National Forest

Hiked Wednes-day, June 4. Hmmm. I guess this would have been the 25th anniver-sary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

I haven't been hiking that much recently. Even more so, I haven't had time to blog what few hikes I have been taking. As I write these words, this was the last one I took, although I may hike again before I actually get this posted. I have 3 or 4 other hikes that remain to be blogged.

This being a short and nearby hike for me, I've been here many times before. Most recently was back in March, when the water was slightly higher and I had my new telephoto lens to take some nice close-ups of the falling water.

I anticipated very low water, and had no other expectations about what else I might see. I just wanted to get myself a little walk in the woods, it having been far too long since my last hike. One thing I did decide to do was, rather than going to the base of the falls, I would stay on the lower Gabrielino Trail, which leaves the canyon just before Fiddler's Crossing, and heads just above the lip of Sturtevant Falls.

Along this trail, I had two pleasant floral surprises. The first was a single mariposa lily (first photo in this post), which I encountered a bit before reaching the lip of the falls. It was right adjacent to the trail, and it was a little hard to get a good angle on the bud.

This was the first mariposa lily I had seen on this side of the San Gabriel Mountains so far this year. Of course, admittedly, I have not been doing much hiking this year.

My second surprise was the two Humboldt lilies, which I found just above the lip of the falls, overlooking a deep alcove where a falls above "the" Sturtevant Falls. Hadn't seen any of these in at least a year.

Humboldt lilies are large and showy, and look so dramatic that it's hard to believe they're not part of someone's garden. Yet, while rare compared to many other wildflowers, I have seen them on several other hikes in southern California, including Lewis Falls and Topanga State Park.

Those two flower finds made me even happier that I managed to drag myself out of the house this day to get a little bit of mountain trail under my feet.
The other flowers I saw were Spanish broom (this last photo), Indian Pink (a couple photos up, overlooking that same alcove where I saw the Humboldt lily), and a whole bunch of wild mustard and monkey flower (which I did not photograph).

While overlooking the falls, I saw a flyfisherman. I don't really approve of fishing places where the water is so low and going to get lower and warmer, since the native trout there are already living on the edge, and don't need the additional stress of being caught and released.

About four miles for the day. Not much, but it was still nice to get out in the mountains, if only for a few hours. Got back to my car and drove out the gate at 7:57pm, just three minutes before the gate is ostensibly looked. Numerous cars and day hikers remained behind me, so either they got locked in, or they knew when the gate would actually be locked.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Hike 2014.022 -- Claremont Wilderness Park

Hiked March 30, 2014. One of my hikes from earlier in the year that I hadn't gotten around to blogging, yet. This one was new ground for me. I tried hiking here once before, but I think there was a fire closure order in effect at the time

The trailhead is at the north end of Mills Road. There's also another nearby parking area at the northeast corner of Mills and Mt. Baldy Road. I parked in that one because I didn't know any better. Parking there was $3 for most folks, but free if you are a Claremont resident with a resident sticker on your car. The upper lot is $3 for everyone. Seeing so many cars in the lower lot, I just assumed the upper lot was filled, so I parked there. I didn't figure out until later that the lower lot always has cars because that's where Claremont residents park.

Claremont Wilderness Park is a city park of 1640 acres, set just below the Angeles National Forest. The main hiking trail here is a five mile loop along Cobalt Canyon Motorway and Johnson Pasture Road. It also connects to other trails that could take you west, to Marshall Canyon, north, to Potato Mountain, or east, to Evey Canyon. It also links to a couple of other city trailheads.

My hike began with a bit of excite-ment, as I heard the screeches of raptors and saw a pair of red tailed hawks flying not too far away. They were flying back and forth towards each other, and occasionally linked talons during their dance in the sky. I attached my long telephoto lens and did the best I could. Unfortunately, this lens is manual focus, and the depth of field with this lens is very shallow. That makes it hard to get a really sharp focus even on things that aren't moving. With flying objects, it's darn near impossible. So I got a couple of decent but no really good shots.

Later, once on the actual trail, I came to a fork in the road. Either way was going to be a motorway type of trail: as wide as a two-lane road, and relatively shallowly graded. I'm not sure if I remember why, but I went to the right. The sign said, "Cobal Canyon." The other way said, "Burbank." That would be the trail or canyon; it does not lead to the city of Burbank!

Although I didn't know it at the time, there were mileage polls at one mile intervals. Going right gives you the advantage of a countdown, so you can tell how many miles remain in your hike. Going the other way would give a count-up, which is not helpful if you don't already know how long your trail might be. However, if you're reading this, you now know the trail is five miles long.

Based on the contour lines, going counter-clockwise (right at the first split) gives you a less steep climb overall, and ends with a steep decent at the end. That means, obviously, that if you go clockwise, your hike will start with the steep incline. Going either way leaves you with relatively little shade, especially once you climb out of the oak forest. So this is an early or late season or early day/late afternoon hike. If you're hiking in the heat, bring lots of water.

Being the first time on this trail, I had no good idea of what to expect. What I experienced was a surprisingly busy trail. Yeah, it was a weekend, of course. And it was never as busy as, say, going up Mt. Hollywood. It wasn't even as crowded as Azusa Peak used to be. But it's well-traveled by a mixture of hikers, walkers, joggers, and mountain bikers.

If it's clear, you'll have expansive views to the south. The Angeles is to your north, so you can't see very far that way. As noted, there is good access from these trails to several different destinations. On the other hand, parking permits (at the lower lot, at least) are for four hours. That might limit which destinations you would have time to reach and return.

On the day I hiked, there was a fair variety of small wild-flowers. The grass was also still green and the weather was perfect for hiking. Given the alternative destinations, I'll keep this trailhead in mind for future early or late season hikes.

At the time of this hike, I was still just getting some new use out of my 500mm Tamron catadiop-tric lens. It's what I used for the hawk pictures near the top of this post, and for most of the flower pictures (and the lizard picture) later in this post. It's really trick to use, but, if you do manage to get a good focus, the narrow depth of field makes for some decent quasi-macro shots. It also produces the "doughnut hole" boka (out-of-focus blur) if there are any point light sources in the background.

Got one decent shot of what I assume to be a western fence lizard. This one's got a bit of color mixed into his back, though.
The last two miles or so of this trail give you some nice, wide-open vistas. You're running with good clearance to the south, and nice foregrounds both north and south. The trail also backtracks under itself on occasion, so you can get shots like the one a few down.

There was also a fair stretch where you could see downtown Los Angeles. It was a little hazy on this day, and, of course, from way out here in Claremont, you're practically in San Bernardino County, so the look back towards downtown L.A. is a long one.

This being back at the end of March, the wildflowers peak here had probably not been reached. The little tiny purple flowers in the fifth and eleventh pictures were among the more common, and they were far from obvious to see. The morning glory were also visible, down near the start of the hike. Didn't see much else for most of the hike, though the fiddleneck became common on the switchbacks near the end.

The only other interesting surprise was the cassia. I knew that plant from (informally) studying the Sunset Western Gardens book, back when I was looking for low-water use plants. These guys are from Australia, so I was a little surprised to see them out here in a "wilderness" park. Of course, it was just off a dirt road, and not that far from the street. Likely, seeds hitched their way up here from someone's tires or shoes, and they had such a plant in their yard.

Ideally, people would only plant native or quasi-native plants (plants that either naturally occur where you are using them, or immediately-adjacent area) in their yard. Then, even if they "escape," at least they are plants that belong in the area, and are plants that local insects and animals can utilize for food.

After getting lots of shots of the cassia, I made my way down towards my car. Just about five miles for the loop. Not sure on the altitude gain, but my very rough guess would be about 500 feet. Not much shade, except in the lowest sections of the trail. No water. Porta-potties are available at the bottom of the trail, and at a couple of places along the way.

It's a nice hike if the weather is mild, though by no means is this "wilderness." Apparently, cities have determined that if there are no ball fields and picnic tables in a park, it's a "wilderness" park.