29 July 2007

Valley Forge Campground

Angeles National Forest

Locate the trailhead.

There was a very large moon scheduled for the 0:48UT on the 30th, according to the calendar. This made it seem quite reasonable to head out late on the 29th for a bit of moon watching. Perhaps some star gazing too. We chose to try for De Vore campground but the guidebook (1994) noted that the road on the map (1995 and still the one sold) was closed and this would probably be permanent. A little investigation confirmed this. Also there would be toilets and no water.

We weren't really looking for much of a hike, though. Just a stroll in and out with stars and the moon in the middle. So, even though De Vore is supposed to be one of the 10 best campgrounds in LA (according to some Gorp listing) and the next one up, West Fork, not quite as good but still very nice, we decided to stay at Valley Forge, the first campground along the long closed road. It's got a nice historic ring to it, anyway.
We drove up to Red Box late in the day, getting there around 5:30PM and headed for the trail. From Red Box, both the road and the trail go to Valley Forge, but the trail requires a turnoff that, as far as we know since we haven't been there, might be easy to miss. The guidebook implied that it was, so we chose to go down the road to get there.

At Red Box, there is a stairway down to the trail that heads left to points unknown and right to the road. Points unknown turned out to also be the road, just a lot further down.

Sign at the trailhead. Sarah and Abbie already started.
The sign at the trailhead, which doesn't note the distance by the road or agree with later signs. Sarah (in front) and Abbie (in back) are already on their way down the stairs.

The road is nice easy hiking and in spite of feeling slight hurry since we wanted to be there before dark we have plenty of time to go 3.5 miles and an easy walk getting there so we more strolled than hiked at quite the easy-going pace. We found the local outdoor school and just past it the trail intersected with the road. We let the trail go its way and continued on the road.

We passed lovely ravines and noted well forested north slopes on the other side of the valley. Actually, the valley seemed well wooded all over so we started to worry about our moon gazing.

Green valley and distant mountains.
The view from the road out over the valley. The road stays well above the valley for most of the way before finally descending just in time to find the campground. Quite a lot of power lines can be seen in this valley.

We passed a lot of bear scat on our way to the campground and it only seemed to be getting fresher. Since Angeles has never had a problem with bears getting into cars, campgrounds old and new don't have anywhere to safely store food, but we had our rope to help make sure we still had breakfast in the morning. It was still nice and bright when we got to the campground.

Angeles National Forest Campground: Valley Forge (sign)
We have found our way to the place of dinner and the evening's rest. It doesn't look like anyone is looking after this old road sign anymore.

Sarah and Abbie in their sandles at the end of the road where the pavement starts.
A happy Sarah (in her new T-shirt) and Abbie who both selected to do the easy walk in their sandals because that's how nice the trails are. This is the end of the road for us, which is curiously also the start of the pavement.

The evening began with the selection of the campsite and bear bag hanging site. With much pomp and circumstance we managed to get the rope looped over our selected branch without too much romping in the poison oak or gaining of rope burns. We set out ground cloths and mats for our sleeping arrangements. We found a nice spot near the fire ring to set out stove for cooking. We got our ingredients chopped up and were ready.

The MSR Whisperlite is still a right bastard to use, at least when the fuel is in a nearly full and quite tiny fuel bottle. It needs a lot of pumping and doesn't respond quickly to moving the knob, as evidenced by this exchange: "Ah, it's way too high!" "I just turned it off!" "Turn it down!" "But it's off!" Still wouldn't trade it for a propane stove.

At the end of all the ado, we had some lovely quesadillas with cheese, black beans, onions, and brocolli. Some also had tomato. They were so delicious that we had another round of fighting the stove and the super thin "frying" pan for another one. Then we were all out of tortillas so we could only sit back and pat our tummies making "yummy" noises.

Sometime during dinner, the dark had come upon us. Sarah packed up everything for the bear bag and we hauled it up high into the tree. Sleeping bags were allowed to luff in the night air. The mosquitoes that had come out in the twilight started to vanish again and the bats flapping above us thinned out with them. We settled down to waiting for the moon which soon began to show through the trees. If you sat in just the right spot. The light went from brown to brighter white as it came up from the horizon but was still hard to see. Splashes of moonlight could be found and briefly played in, though. There were never many stars even though they claim this is prime star gazing area for LA county.

30th of July, 2007

Sometime very late the moon was finally in a good spot for viewing. I personally was quite asleep by this time and happily stayed that way until morning. The others enjoyed it, though.

With the bright morning, we packed back up and had some breakfast. I had made soda bread for this purpose the afternoon before. It was a lovely affair of:
  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 2.5 cups wheat flour
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • a bit of salt
  • plenty of honey (2-4 T?)
  • enough buttermilk to get it just less than crumbly (should be about 3/4 cup?)
  • onto the insulated cookie sheet and into the oven at 450F for 15min and 400F for another 35min
  • cool and pack (we had to bring all our water anyway)
There was still olive oil left over from frying the quesadillas, so we could have it with a bit of that if we liked. The little bit of leftover cheese could make it a nice lunch too. A little boiling water in the pot as well and we could have tea.

We finished up packing and headed out. We had found where the trail came into the campground (indeed, we had hung the bear bag above it) so we went out that way. It turns out the trail was well signed so we could (in theory) have gotten there without knowing our way the night before.

<- Valley Forge CG
It may not be one of those super cool metal cut with a torch signs but the boy scouts have made sure the people can find their way to the campground from the trail.

Red Box Ranger Station 3 / Switzer's Picnic Ground 7
Their main trail sign has seen a little damage, but the forest service sign is still doing its job. The distance has grown from 2.4 miles to 3 miles somehow and we've already done some of it. This doesn't seem fair.

On the trail we are on the south side of the valley instead of the north side. This should be very nice especially if it continues (as the low detail map implies). Unfortunately we came upon some cabins who happily directed us up their driveway and not to the trail on the other side. We found ourselves quickly climbing back up to the road on the north instead of following along on the south side. The south looks so nice, too.

Green with trees and shrubs, the south slope is so pleasant looking.
Manzanita and other chaparral bushes adorn the land near us while trees grow tall on the other side. High up, the trees give way to more bushes, but not where the trail is.

The way we are going.
We are headed up further along the valley looking for where it ends again in Red Box.

The way we came from, a little misty in the morning.
We came from the valley in the east. It looks a little more misty in the mid-morning sun than it did in the evening sun before.

Of course, without there being so many trees on our side we can see the landscape better. We're a little above the tops of the trees we do have with the road.

Clifflike area of the southerly side.
This bit of the far side south slope of the valley eventually comes to a cliff-like area where the trees cannot quite take hold even though they still try their best.

When we came to the one particularly lush ravine along the road, there were quail scrambling up the side above the road. They seem to be getting quite fat as quail do.

We came again to where we'd seen the trail leave the road and looked for where it came in on the other side. It was very close and not so hard to find, so we took off up it instead of the road. It followed a steep tributary half way then took an even steeper climb right up the north side of that little valley. We got up quite high for another look into the valley where we'd camped the night before.

A look back over the journey.
From high above the valley we came from looks even more misty in the mid-morning sunlight. This is basically what we've hiked over today, except our hike started on this side of the various rows of ridges.

A few more switchbacks up the trail in the quickly developing heat...

More view backwards.
More of the misty valley we came from. Baldy is just a smudge in the distance from here. This is just a few steps from the stone staircase we started at.

We made it back to Red Box and back to the car. Going home again into the Monday morning traffic. A shower and a change of clothes and we were ready to face the day ahead of us.

© 2007 Valerie Norton
Posted 4 August 2007
Last updated 5 August 2007

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