30 November 2016

Antimony and Eagle Rest Peaks

Los Padres National Forest

I had a good time stomping around in the early snows last year climbing up some peaks on the Hundred Peaks Section list, so with the coming of the new snows I thought about doing some more in the area. The peak guide for Eagle Rest refers to a final class 3 climb to reach the summit, which sounds like something best avoided in winter, so I let that fancy go again. A couple weeks later, I noticed the Doggetts were actually leading a hike to those peaks. Ignacia has completed the list six times and Peter has managed it thirteen times. If they think it can be done, it probably can. The only person who has done it more is a character called Mars Bonfire. (I am assured this is a real person, really called that, and otherwise famous. He has a Wikipedia page that does not even mention his twenty-five list finishes. He has moved on to other adventures now.) I sent off an email to express interest and found myself signed up. They even scouted it the day before to make sure the gate was open and the road passable. All this leads to a group of six gathering at a snowy trailhead just after 8 AM.

prospects along the side of the road
We start off on snow compacted to a couple inches which largely finishes off as we come upon a couple old prospects.

The trail we are following initially is an old mining road that is one continuation of the road we drove in on. It is covered in a couple inches of snow that fell over the weekend. We wind our way down it, breaking up the clean snow as we go. It levels off, crossing a wide saddle, and the snow largely vanishes. Beside it in the saddle are two holes surrounded by tailings supporting the notion that this is an old mining road. We drop through one avoiding a fallen tree on the road. Further on, we continue on a gentle downhill around the next peak. It looks like this area gets the afternoon sun and there is very little snow now. The downhill finishes with a few slides and a short, steep section past an old gate. Peter points out that when he was first hiking these peaks, they could drive to here.

old road shadowed by pinon pines
Still deep morning shadows under the pinons on this abandoned road.

old gate along a decaying road
One last drop past an old gate to a thin saddle below Antimony Peak.

Antimony Peak sits above a steep rock face over our heads. Our old road continues upward to the other side from the cliff. This was once the kind of road where half of it is traveled backwards. It is steep and unrelenting as it winds upward.

decaying, steep road up Antimony
The start of the steep old mining road climbing the side of Antimony Peak.

Mount Pinos
The dusting of snow on Mount Pinos.

We suddenly level off on a high saddle. The other side is our first view of Eagle Rest Peak below. The road continues down the other side of the mountain. The map shows a rather odd shaped inholding over there that is probably a mine claimed by patent. We turn for the peak instead. Although there is no trail, it is an easy climb compared to the steep road up to the top.

Eagle Rest from the saddle
Eagle Rest Peak from the saddle.

Antimony Peak
At the top of Antimony Peak and retrieving the peak register.

Tecuya Ridge
Tecuya Ridge where we hiked in from.

hills below Antimony Peak
A little of the view, which does include a few pinon pines.

We do not spend much time on Antimony Peak. Much of the view is disturbed by pinon pines. What there is is quite nice. We head down to the saddle, then turn down the far side of the saddle away from the road to follow the ridge down. We are back on continuous, thin snow on the sheltered north side of the peak as we get started down. It is a long way down with a big bump in the middle to get to Eagle Rest Peak.

thick snow again
Making a trail through the couple inches of snow remaining.

bump and peak ahead
Coming even with the bump and peak behind it.

San Emigdio
The dusting of snow on San Emigdio.

We cross the strange shaped inholding as we climb up the big bump between the two peaks, but there is nothing noticeable about it. A brief rest at the top and we are heading down again. The ground is often frozen as we go, but there is very little snow. It is when it thaws into mud that things get a little worrisome.

fallen dead pinon
The roots of a fallen pinon pine at the top of the bump.

clear view of Eagle Rest Peak
One last downhill with a clear view of Eagle Rest Peak ahead.

snow covered Liebre Mountain
Liebre Mountain and surrounding peaks in the distance look to have gotten the greatest amount of snow.

San Emigdio Canyon
San Emigdio Canyon on the other side.

The saddle between the bump and Eagle Rest Peak is particularly thick in places and piles onto our shoes. Ignacia calls it adobe mud, but the lack of straw keeps it from building up too high. It is still plenty to be annoying and make footing slick.

saddle before Eagle Rest
The last of the easy walking across the wide, grassy saddle between peaks.

climbing Eagle Rest
Time to climb for the last peak.

We start the climb. It is easy enough at first, but rocks to clamber up come quickly. We cross westward along a grassy hill to find more rocks to clamber up. It is definitely class 2 climbing as we go needing handholds to help ourselves upward.

up on the mountain side
Making our way up the side of the peak.

The summit block is a few feet where the hands feel needed, but it is really a friction walk up a very steep and very rough boulder. I can feel my shoes nearing the point of slipping with each step. As I get to the top, my eyes drop down the back side and suddenly the thoughts of what I could slip back to is taken over by the thought of the drop on the other side. It is steeper and higher. There is still plenty of room to balance at the top. It brings quite a view.

steep down the far side
Looking down the back side as the slope lessens.

north to the snowy Sierras
Past that quick down to the north is a lot of view out to the snowy Sierras.

west from the top
West from the rocks.

east from the top
East from the rocks.

This peak is the final one in the list for one in the group. People seem to be really trying to get their peak list finished in time for the party in a couple weeks. He has a small bottle of bubbles and some others brought party foods along. We spend some time enjoying it all at the peak, but not too long. The thing about this peak is that it will be a little more work to get back than it was to get out here in the first place. We are parked more than 600 feet higher and have some 1000 foot climbs to get there.

southerly view
South and a little bit east overlooking our path in. We must climb to the high notch to get back.

We start to make our way back up first by making our way carefully down the rocks again. It is a long way down, and up, and down, and up some more, and down again, and up. Mists are forming in the valleys in the already cooling afternoon and then the sun is painting those mists in the evening.

mists on the mountain
Mists forming in the valleys and canyons around San Emigdio Mountain.

flats around the freeway
Mists in the flats between here and Liebre Mountain.

ever increasing mists in the flats
The mists are filling in the flats to the northeast.

The bad mud in the first saddle is no longer bad. It has dried out nicely. Climbing up is a different story. Very few places were melted and soggy at the top, but now there are a lot. Some climbs leave few good places for placing a foot. The last climb is not so bad as we get higher and the snow areas have barely melted. We reach the road again before sunset but the sun has already vanished for us. At least we can make the last steep drop with plenty of light to see all the rocks that try to roll as we come down over them. I pull on my warm pants for this last section because I fear cramps caused by cold so bad the muscle gets pulled and cold is coming.

the old road on the mountain side
Heading steeply downward on the old road as the sun sets. It is already gone for us.

reds in the clouds
Gentle painting on the clouds as the sun sets.

The uphill is easy at first, then turns to climbing switchbacks in the snow after we pass the two old prospects in the saddle. The snow did not melt much here either. Footing on it is pretty solid all the way back to the parking. We all make it back without any injuries and with a lot of great being. It has been quite a successful trip.

©2016 Valerie Norton
Posted 1 December 2016

27 November 2016

Rae Lakes

Kings Canyon National Park

August 1992

Rae Lakes loop with a couple little spurs

Day 1

My dad saw an opportunity to revisit the famous Rae Lakes loop from Roads End in Kings Canyon by taking myself and my little sister around it. Plans were for a week in the wilderness taking some time to head on down to Charlotte Lake and a day up in the Sixty Lake Basin. We got to the ranger kiosk to get a permit around the time it opened, but this was already too late to get three for Woods Creek. Instead, we got three for the less popular counter-clockwise direction up Bubbs Creek. We had day hiked up to middle Paradise Valley at one point, so this was the unfamiliar side. (I distinctly remember that hike, 14 miles and the longest I had done for many years, as the one I broke in my boots that was wearing and I later cut up on my second trip up Mount Whitney.) The permit being the last thing to pack, we set out on the trail.

It starts off very easy on an upward grade next to the river that is so gradual it is difficult to notice. The trail is sandy. We were not in a hurry, so we rolled along through the sand using the least amount of extra energy. Sand mostly punishes those in a hurry. It was not long before we came to the river crossing and obediently followed our permit on the serious climb up Bubbs Creek. The other direction is popular because it is a gentle climb all the way to the lakes.

Kings River
The view while climbing up Bubbs Creek.

Bubbs Creek
A little bit of water.

The switchback climb really does not last all that long. I remember at least one long rest to look out at the massive canyon below us. The climb continues along the creek once the switchbacks end and so we went generally upwards for the whole day. We stopped somewhere a mile or two short of Junction Meadow after feeling like we had done quite a lot of uphill.

Bubbs Creek
Up in the canyon.

Day 2

My dad seemed to have gained a romantic view of Charlotte Lake. He was determined to visit it on this trip so that was our destination for the second day. We had a little bit of easy climb to Junction Meadow, then got started on some more determined climbing. There was a rest for more meadow, then more climb. I got ahead of the other two on this to get to the sandy top. There are a couple junctions and I followed everything down to just short of the lake where my hip belt broke. Or rather, the pack broke away from the hip belt on one side. There was a nice, big rock which I sat on waiting for the others. A faun came down the trail first.

Charlotte Lake
Charlotte Lake.

It was a while before the others got down near the lake and I got quite a scolding for continuing past the intersection above. It was well signed and everything agreed with the map I had been looking at, but that was not considered a good reason to continue. We continued on to the camping area while I held up the loose side of my pack. It was a rather miserable way to be traveling and the short bit of trail left seemed about four times as long as it should have. Once in camp, we tied the belt back onto the pack with a bit of bear rope through a hole punched in the belt. Then we poked a little way around the lake, mostly to the outlet. We also looked in at the little ranger station, but the ranger was not in that day.

There were a few deer down by Charlotte Lake.

Early on the trail this day, we met a fellow who said he frequently hiked this loop. One time, he and his friends tried to do it as quickly as they could and managed it in three days. It sounded amazing to me at the time, but seems a bit less so now.

Day 3

This new day brought the biggest challenge of the trip: Glen Pass. Beyond it are the lakes the loop is known by. We climbed out from the lake and met someone who shared the secret to getting downhill quickly without ruining the knees. He said to walk like Groucho in Duck Soup. I said I was far too young to know who the Marx Brothers were. I still have not seen Duck Soup, but a good bent knee walk does make the downhill easier on the knees if one has the strength for it.

Once back to the large sandy flat of the upper junction, we turned for ever more climbing. The pass teased us particularly badly. We climbed to a big corner up ahead where things seemed to go through. A pass! We got around the corner and it did go through to a lot more climbing. In the distance was another corner where things apparently broke through. They broke through to more climbing still. So we climbed again not daring to hope that the top really was near and finally came to it.

Rae Lakes
Looking down on the Rae Lakes from Glen Pass.

At the top, I learned that Nalgene bottles can become quite brittle. We had a half gallon bottle of water to make flavored drink to have with lunch along and today was my turn to carry it. Maybe that is part of why the pass seemed to tease me so badly. I also had my own 1L bottle that I had not been drinking on the way up and gulped down at the top sitting on a big, high rock. I then pulled out the other bottle and set it down in front of me on the rock, but soon found my thin nylon soccer shorts were peculiarly wet. Looking down, I was sitting in a puddle. I had set the bottle down on a slight corner and it cracked. The water I had worked so hard bringing up was draining out into the depression in the rock I was sitting in. I squeezed the crack together and the water stopped flowing. It was mixed and drunk down quickly after that.

from Glen Pass
More of the view from Glen Pass.

from Glen Pass
And even more of the view from Glen Pass.

After a good long time enjoying the pass just eight feet short of 12000, it was time to drop a lot of the elevation we had been gaining up until then. Time to try out walking like Groucho. We got down to the lakes and found a spot in the well populated camp area. Since we had so many neighbors, we were able to find someone with some extra duct tape for the bottle. We also found a few people who had Nalgene bottles that were completely covered with duct tape since cracking turns out to be a common problem for them.

It was getting colder that night and just a bit windy too. My little sister was getting cold, which somehow was the first I found out she had not actually packed a jacket. Apparently I used to pack extra warm things for her when we go camping because she often forgot them. I did not have extra stuff this time. You do not do that sort of thing when backpacking. I offered her my wool sweater that I really wanted to have on under my jacket. I doubt it was too useful with the cold wind, but it was all I could offer.

peaks around the lakes
The peaks around the lake. Is there a dragon there?

We chatted a bit with an older neighbor who was through hiking the John Muir Trail and was worried about the last bit of trail up to the top of Whitney and how it might play with his vertigo. Since I had been on the trail the year before, I could tell him what I thought of it. He seemed genuinely interested in my childish opinion even though he had to explain what vertigo was. I could not tell him anything definitive. There had been some scary spots, but the trail leaves plenty of room for hikers. He would just have to try. He also showed us what he had done to his pack to help him get up the hills. He had speakers attached to either side of the external frame so he could dance up the passes. Overall, he was quite silly.

We also met a fellow trying to be a trail runner. He was wearing the exact same shoes I had for track to be out in the woods. His daily goal was 35 miles but he was only actually getting about 27 miles each day. While doing the loop in three days seemed difficult, the idea of doing 35 miles a day seemed like an absurd impossibility. Still, he was managing to do something quite impressive even if it was well under where he aimed.

Day 4

Our plan for the day was to day hike the Sixty Lake Basin. The weather had its own plan of storming a bit. We started upward, but things started to rumble and flash. As rain started, we found a sheltering rock. It did not have a lot of height, but it was deep and stayed dry. Ultimately, the day was a bust. We did not get to explore the basin.

stormy lake
A bit of stormy weather.

Day 5

It was threatening to rain some more as we packed up to head back down to Paradise Valley for the last night. The rain materialized for a few hours requiring hiking in our ponchos. What was two days of uphill was now two days of downhill. Some spots required some care in the rain, but mostly it was just the easy downhill stroll that might be expected.

Woods Creek
Heading down on a dark day.

lake in the canyon
A lake along the way.

The sun came out in the early afternoon and it even got quite comfortable out. We found ourselves a campsite and had a lot of afternoon left, so went swimming in the river. We kids went in first, quite slowly. We had a nice swimming hole that was deep enough to sit in up to our necks but quite cold. When dad decided to go in, he of course asked how it was and we of course assured him it was surprisingly nice. It was a little shocking to him when he jumped in and he did not stay in for very long. Maybe we should have told him honestly. We did not stay in for much longer either, but it was nice to be somewhat clean.

Paradise Valley
Kids in Paradise.

Day 6

One last day and it was sunny again. Paradise Valley is a long, generally flat section, but after it starts on a steady downhill again. So we had another long downhill.

somewhere in the canyon
Continuing downward.

Kings River
Falls along South Fork Kings River.

After a long downhill, we finally were back to the last sandy two miles back to the road and finishing.

©2016 Valerie Norton
photos scanned from slides ©Ken Norton
Posted 27 November 2016

25 November 2016

La Purisima Mission grounds

La Purisima Mission State Historic Park

The mission of La Purisima is quite an elaborate set up these days with a giant visitor center full of displays showing what once stood here and details about life, and buildings around the place appointed like they might have been while it was a working mission. We are skipping all of this for the trails around the buildings today. The trails are a wide dirt road and a lot of sandy tracks that are generally named. First, we head up the hill toward the cross. Today, the sand is wet and generally holds together well under our feet as we climb. It is not consistently sand, but quite a lot is, so the little bit of extra firmness is quite nice.

mission buildings
A few of the mission buildings and the wide road that goes past them to the grounds further.

cross on the hillside
A large cross on the hillside above.

We quickly turn off the wide and solid road to climb the hillside toward the cross. It is a short, steady climb to get to this viewpoint.

long buildings
Halfway up and the buildings are starting to be more clearly laid out below.

below the cross
Arriving at the cross on the hillside.

There is a picnic table next to the cross. The buildings are spread out below. Past this, more trail crosses the top of the hill and splits into various other paths. We turn to make a little loop and come down again by the visitor center. This passes through more chaparral and a eucalyptus grove.

sandy trail
Sandy trail along the top of the eucalyptus grove.

Once back down, we continue along the wide road again. This passes by more mission buildings and foundations of buildings that have not been restored. A sign marks these as residences for the converted native Americans. The road splits and a bridge crosses over a creek to the aqueduct and even more buildings. We poke around a little and it is surprising to see the creek is flowing below the bridge.

madrone tree
A massive madrone in a large group picnic area.

creek water
Creek beside the road. It flows!

We head further along the road into the larger grounds.

mission grounds
Some fall color remains out on the mission grounds.

As we leave the main compound of buildings, there are still a few buildings to be found. These far ones are all nearly all related to one thing: water. First, there is a spring house. Water is directed beside it instead of into it now. It would have been nice to hear it trickling through the double thick adobe and feel the cool by the door that this setup generates, but I suppose this reduces the upkeep required for the building.

spring house
The spring house as it stands today. The adobe walls seem particularly thick.

outside pool
A pool outside where water gathers before being directed into the spring house.

spring water
Spring water, now directed beside the spring house instead of into it.

We seem to be following the aqueduct as we go.

aquaduct with a little water
The aqueduct has a little bit of water here, though it does not seem to be flowing. It has stone sides and tile on the bottom.

We head up a thin track beside the road. This gets into some thick trees and passes more ruins that the road bypasses. It goes past the one thing that is not water related. The tanning vats would have been particularly stinky, so it makes sense that they are far from where anyone is forced to experience them.

spring box
A sort of spring box in one creek gathers water to go toward the holding tanks of the mission.

tanning vats
Tanning vats, the source of quite a stink in their day.

water tank, probably
An unmarked structure is probably a water tank.

After the tanning vats and an unmarked tank, the trail drops again to the road. There is a large cistern near it. It has steps leading up the side in a couple places and an aqueduct through the trees brings water to it. The rocks are slightly stained where the water flows in.

cistern steps
Steps up the side of the cistern near where water can be directed from it and into the aqueduct.

A path follows the incoming aqueduct through the trees.

cistern input
Where water enters the cistern beside a box that the water can be redirected to.

We take another little trail off the side next to the cistern, but not for long before turning back. The parking lot will be locked in another hour and the sun will go down a few minutes before.

flat land
Further along the road beside the flats.

water tank
Along the road we missed taking the trail is a cistern that actually is holding water.

Back at the mission buildings, we decide to walk past a few of them. There are gardens and animals kept here as well.

blacksmith shop
Entering the courtyards around the mission buildings next to the blacksmith shop.

The buildings are already closed up, so we just wander among them.

potbellied pigs
The pigs were being rather active. This is just after the spotted one ran around the side of the pen to head butt the black and white one.

fountains in the courtyard
Most the people are here among the courtyards and fountains.

bells in the wall
Every mission needs bells and they sit here by a walled courtyard.

cattle and sheep
Cattle and sheep in their own yards.

Finding ourselves by the parking lot again, it is time to take off.

©2016 Valerie Norton
Posted 26 November 2016