13 August 2016

Ortega Reservoir via Polo Club


The Montecito Trails Foundation maintains paths along easements and beside some roads primarily as bridal paths but also allow hikers and sometimes bicycles. Many of these follow the creeks of the area. One of the weekend hikes the Sierra Club puts on was going to follow some of these, and I decided to tag along. This one starts along one of those creek trails, then climbs past lemons and winds steeply up the side of a canyon to get to the covered reservoir. We got stories all along the way and ate some lunch at the top before returning a slightly different route. I took only a few pictures along the way.

polo ground
Starting off passing a manicured bit of grass surrounded by flowers.

audience for hiking
We are being watched by the locals. The horse seems very interested. It probably needs a scratch.

view to the rear
There is usually a good look at the mountains from somewhere along any walk.

covered reservoir and a couple houses
Just about to Ortega Reservoir. There was a guy doing a regular check on it.

©2016 Valerie Norton
Posted 16 August 2016

31 July 2016


I got a new sketchbook after finishing the last one.  It is another Canson Field Drawing Book like I've had before and quite liked.  The last book was a little on the small side.  I still have a few pages in the watercolor book that hadn't been touched in almost a year and that got the most use.  It should have gotten a little more, but chatting and fish photography happened instead.

A falling cabin corner beside reliable Movie Stringer (my hero) after climbing Templeton Mountain.

The rest stops in Glenwood Canyon have trails and I wandered up Grizzly Creek while waiting for a space for the Hanging Lake.

First night at the flats on top of the Flat Tops.

Second night under the cliffs near the biggest of the Flat Tops.

Fourth night with a distant view of the biggest of the Flat Tops.

25 July 2016

Williamson: Mahogany Flat

Inyo National Forest

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4 | DAY 5 | DAY 6

(Day 2 of 6) The White Mountains throw a long shadow, so the peaks above get light a lot sooner than we do. The others are not in much of a hurry to get out and have a bit more to take down anyway. I looked at the weather and then looked around at various nearby and far areas and eventually decided to believe the National Weather Service although I am usually reluctant to do so for more than three days out. According to it, there will not be the slightest chance of rain, so I left out tent or shelter or even bivy sack. I grabbed the wind breaker and left the rain gear. It is a very nice weight savings. Not as much as expected versus what I carried in Colorado, though. Got to figure that out, that did include rain gear and shelter. Meanwhile, everyone else has and is using a tent. I guess it helps tone down the moon brightness.

bright peaks, dark sage
Morning has broken up high, but down in the sages is still quite dim.

Ralph and I are slow hikers and happy to be so. Dave and Devon are a little more into the speedster camp of hiking, so we arrange a meeting place and let them run. It all starts off easy, wandering along the side of Symmes Creek with a few crossings. Encroaching willows have grown up and been hacked away only to repeat many times. For now, there is plenty of clearance. The walls all rise steeply away. The ridges do too and the walls get taller. There is a lot of up.

John Muir Wilderness
Entering the John Muir Wilderness.

tall walls near the sun
Quickly feeling engulfed in the high mountains.

witness corner
Taking a moment to notice the witness corner not marked on the map, or perhaps marked at the wrong corner of the section. It is having its centennial year and looking good.

Symmes Creek
Up along Symmes Creek.

The creek wandering does not last long. We have one last crossing, check our water, and start to climb. The lore in some places holds that there is no more water until Anvil Camp, but we are expecting some a little closer. That is partly because we want to cross the creek and work our way over Diversion Pass (which I have not seen marked on a map) and into the lower lakes in the Williamson bowl. My first reaction to hearing this was, "Can we do it downhill on the way out?" However, it does not look all that horrible at first glance. We still have to get the first climb done.

Symmes Creek
The creek drops down along the canyon, but we climb up the side.

Ownes Valley again
Not quite so engulfed by the mountains now.

There are quite a lot of switchbacks for the climb. The day is getting warmer, but we have more and more trees for shade as we go. It is nicer at the higher elevations, too.

wash in the mountains
Somewhere up there is a saddle to cross into Shepherds Creek from Symmes Creek.

trees above
You see, there are actual trees up there. Some of them are even green.

across the creek
The rise of rock on the far side of Symmes Creek.

With nothing more than a consistent pace, we reach the top. Well, maybe some rests along the way, too. The mountain mahogany is positively fluffy with seed. In the meantime, my first set of lithium batteries has already died. One minute the GPS was reading half charged, the next it was off. I was expecting to get four days out of those slightly used batteries. At least I have a second set of slightly used batteries to keep it going, but I like my having my tracks later and expect them to be complete.

on the saddle
First look, past the fluffy mountain mahogany in seed, into Shepherds Creek.

The top means more things to look over that just a moment ago were well hidden. Shepherds Creek flows strongly far below, but we cannot see it yet. Around a corner, we can see the long scree slope we propose to go up. It looks like quite a lot of scree, but someone somewhere claims it is not bad. The trail drops a little before popping over another saddle and into the main canyon.

A first look at the Diversion. There is a notch at the top so that no actual rock climb is needed, or so we have been told.

Owens Valley
Looking out to Owens Valley once again.

up the creek
At the second saddle, we can see a little more of the changed mountainous backdrop.

Once in the main canyon, the creek is hard to miss. It pours down the sharp bottom of a valley it had to carve itself. Higher up, glaciers were at work, but not here. It is all cascades and a waterfall or two below. The water is never at rest as it plunges downward.

Shepherds Creek
Shepherds Creek in its plunge to the desert. One larger waterfall is near the bottom.

From the second saddle, we drop a bit, but stay high above the creek. There are some odd islands of vegetation along the way. Particularly noticeable is a slope of prickly poppies and some skeletal yellow flowers. The map shows two creeks on our way. The first is marked with a bit more growth, but there is nothing on the surface. The second brings a lot more green and plenty of water. Above, there is another waterfall.

tributary waterfall
The tributary has a waterfall cascade over a large rock.

The trail drops to get around a difficult rock section just before the stream. Once past that, it is back to climbing to get up into Mahogany Flat. We are now close to the point we were to meet the other two, but they are nowhere to be seen. That is doubly curious because we saw them not too far ahead on the trail just before getting to the stream. We are not yet to the point anyway, so we continue up.

Owens Valley
Getting away from Owens Valley again.

Unfortunately, the point we are supposed to be meeting at is not on the trail at all and as we start to get further from it, we still have not found the other two. The trail suggests they continued on, although we cannot fathom why. We are about to start a cross country part, it is rather important that we get together before doing it. We do not actually know for sure those are their footsteps in the dust and one of them is a geocacher and should know how to get to given coordinates even if it is not on a trail. I want to at least check the coordinates. Ralph still wants to go up the chute even if it is getting late to do so today, so wants to go with packs and just find a place to camp on the other side of the creek. I see a scree pile and scree piles do not have camp sites, so I want to do it light. It takes a bit of just being downright stubborn, but I get my way. It does not matter much anyway, because we do not get very far. We have come up way too high to try to get this random point with any ease. Somewhere in the last quarter mile was a much better take off point. We return after only getting 250 feet closer to our goal with the upshot that we no longer really care to take the off trail route. There is still time, so we decide to take off for Anvil instead.

scree slope to Diversion Pass
The scree slope to Diversion Pass. Water is coming down the rocky left side so maybe the blue line on the map does correspond to something.

It does not take long to find the other two finishing setting up camp. They were up the trail and saw us turn around, so came back down. The do not get a lot of sympathy for the extra miles walked because there was no plan to go to Anvil today anyway. A second look at the pass checking for details like how high up we are when we start, it is a climb of a little over 3000 feet to get over that pass. It is quite the commitment. From there, we would have to drop 1000 feet to get down to the lower lakes that were our target for the day. It can be fun to go a route off the beaten path, especially when the path is as beaten as this route for Williamson, but this seems like one that could use some working up to it. Like just a 2000 foot climb off trail. Since we found the others and they are not budging until morning, we pop back the 300 feet or so to water access to get enough to camp too.

©2016 Valerie Norton
Posted 24 August 2016

24 July 2016

Williamson: Manzanar

Manzanar National Historic Site

Inyo National Forest

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4 | DAY 5 | DAY 6

(Day 1 of 6) Ralph said he wanted to go up Mount Williamson, but he wanted to start the hike at Manzanar. I have been past Manzanar many times and usually given it the hairy eyeball as I went. It is a place I did not want to visit as though visiting would somehow condone the actions that led to the building and populating of this place. After the Japanese hit Pearl Harbor, the American people did a few irrational things out of fear. The west coast states gathered up more than 110,000 people of Japanese descent, most of them fellow citizens, and interned them within 10 camps. The feeble excuses for doing so could just as well be applied to Germans on the east coast, but somehow no one worried about them. Now Ralph wants to retrace, in a sense, the steps of the Manzanar fishermen. You see, in spite of the eight guard towers with armed military police, there were a few who escaped under cover of darkness and crossed the desert into the mountains to fish and, once or twice, climb the big mountain. All but one would risk the return as well, and that one died on the mountain. Ralph had to do a lot of extra planning for the start because he cannot just leave the car at the site. Luckily, he also got an offer to move the car and bring it back, even if it was needed at a rather inhospitable hour.

monument at Manzanar
The monument at Manzanar stands in the cemetery outside the square mile that was the compound. Strings of paper cranes glisten in the moonlight and headlights.

The desert is unpleasantly hot, getting over 100°F currently, so we are roughly following their footsteps in time as well. Three in the morning seems like an excellent time to sneak out of the barbed wire although the moonlight could be a problem if we are actually trying to hide our escape. We start at the monument and cemetery, which was outside the five strands of barbed wire that surrounded the place. Today it is adorned with strings of paper cranes and a few offerings and votives. There are six who were interned that are still interred here. There are potentially 135 ghosts. We spend some moments there before we start walking. Today the barbed wire goes around the monument as well, so we still have to get past that. Beyond the fence are a minor maze of roads.

White Mountains
Looking back to the historic site, highway, and White Mountains. Walking the road is easy just by moonlight tonight.

Somehow any plans to get some sleep during the day did not work out. When I might normally be going to sleep, I was driving, and now I am walking until the walk is done. The permit to enter the wilderness is not good until tomorrow, so that should be the normal trailhead for Shepherds Pass. From time to time, my head seems to swim in murk from the lack of sleep. My feet are moving much more slowly than usual, but I do not even notice it. The ticks that keep the time in my head are passing more slowly as well.

Sierra Nevada Mountains
The Sierra Nevada Mountains glow in the moonlight up ahead.

Dawn brings much more light to the desert landscape and the peaks. We should be much further by now. I am aware of that. I just cannot place the extra passing time. This would have worked better if I was better rested over the last couple weeks.

soft dawn light
The soft light of dawn bathes the landscape.

Alabama Hills
Crossing BLM land with the Alabama Hills to the south. Green stripes mark creeks in the desert.

Of course dawn is followed by sunrise. The sun touches the high peaks long before it even thinks about arriving in the sage and rocks of the flats. Well, the nearly flat. We cross many dry gullies as we go generally upward. There are large dips and hills when we head northward.

sunrise on the mountains
The rising sun does a good job of picking out the very highest peaks. We aim at the brightest one.

more sun
But first, we tuck into a different canyon beside Symmes Creek.

Not quite the peak. There is another point east of it that hides the top of Mount Williamson.

A line of trees appears before us marking Symmes Creek. The creek looks like a river for this parched land. The water is so cold that the air around it almost inspires adding something warm. Almost. Still, feet in the water do not stay there for very long.

a line of green
Trees poke out of the gully ahead. It is washed by Symmes Creek.

Symmes Creek
Symmes Creek flows all the way to the highway year round.

It is so pleasant at the creek that we take a long pause. Besides, there is not much left to do in the day but a couple more miles and to dally in camp. Still, we do get moving again eventually.

Owens Valley
Not a good day for visibility in Owens Valley.

more trees in a line
Another line of tree tops marks another creek racing from the mountains to Owens Lake only to be diverted to thirsty Los Angeles.

Inyo Forest
Still under the moon as we enter Inyo National Forest.

We were expecting two more and after they slept in, they said they would walk back from the trailhead to meet us instead of joining for the desert. We are wondering where they are. Of course they are wondering the same because how could it take this long to come up an easy desert slope? A truck comes rolling up and we know where they are. Dave, another geocacher, joins us to look among random rocks by the stock trailhead while Devon takes the truck back because he wisely has no interest in it. Then we trek up the stock trail to the junction and backtrack to find some camping. The wilderness boundary is just past the junction. The trail is near the creek, but not quite so near as to have the nice cooling from it until it drops to cross.

high quickly
It sure gets high quickly over there.

sudden change in plants
There is a distinct change in the vegetation at the feet of the mountains.

Once we have a place sorted, it is hard to find motivation for anything. The lack of sleep really took its toll, but I cannot quite get a nap in while the sun is so bright. As before, the time passes faster than it should. Night comes quickly with the sun dropping behind high mountains and then sleep quickly follows.

©2016 Valerie Norton
Posted 22 August 2016