28 June 2008

Arroyo Seco to Switzer Falls

Angeles National Forest

Locate the trailhead.

Fellows who claim to have hiked it before claimed Arroyo Seco connects with Switzer trail for a total of about 8 miles of hiking.  The sign at the turnoff to the bottom of the dam would seem to imply the same thing, although maybe it's 8.5 instead of 8.  The map shows the trails connecting.  A brilliant plan would be to hike up the 6 or 7 miles to the bottom of the falls instead of hiking down only 2 miles to the same.  It would be just long enough and probably not too long.

Unfortunately, it is 9 miles to the bottom of the falls.  As the sign where the trail I was on met up with the trail I'd been on said, it is 8.5 miles to "Altadena".  It is at least a quarter mile to the falls from there.  Ignoring that signs further down claim you are going to "Pasadena" and I'm fairly certain that's "La Canada Flintridge" anyway since it's next to JPL, that's a bit of a longer distance than implied by all the other signs.  Also, why hadn't I noted it?  I guess I do go up to Oakwilde more often.

So now everything from the middle of my back down each has a special kind of hurt that will truly be flaring pain come tomorrow.

Still, it started out very nice.  I was on my own, so I could go along the trail spurs.  I wandered along one that more closely followed the old road that once went up to the Oakwilde resort (I think) and still kind of goes to a small campground that once had a camp host.  I went along a picnic area that ended up paralleling the road and rejoining.  I found out that apparently a bridge was out, closing the trail, but that's silly since we have to cross so many other places ourselves.  Everyone just went around.

I went along the trail through Paul Little picnic area, which actually has a toilet, and kept on going right to the bottom of the dam.  Climbing up the side of the canyon to get past this dam represents the only hard portion of the trail up to Oakwilde.  Standing right below it is quite scary.  I have never seen a dam so high from just the other side of the pool made by the water falling over it.  Never one so absolutely strait up, either.  There's probably a design flaw there.  And way at the top it says 1942.  Maybe it's the long gone bridges dated 1940.  I think it's the design flaw that makes it scary.  Such a tall, flat wall that is holding back water all the way to the top spilling over.  The other side is filled with debris, I think, but you don't know that standing at the bottom.  Anyway, I'd never actually gone and seen it.

The level of water was quite low.  The fords above the footbridge that marks the last proper bridge were all dry with the water happily all flowing under in a pipe.  Some of the crossings above the dam were also dry, but there's a lot of loose stone there and I've seen it suck up all the water before.

Above Oakwilde was fresh territory.  Soon after the camp, there's a table at a named "rest area".  The trail was good except for a little of the result of being traveled mostly by mountain bike.  Little slides had been pounded down into slanted trail-bed, especially on the inside turns.  Still, it got better quickly.  It doesn't cross the creek much above the old camp right up until the trail down from Switzers.

Instead of going up Arroyo Seco as I'd expected, the trail took a tributary for a while.  Eventually the tributary seemed to be getting quite steep and switchbacks appeared.  Then the trail finally started climbing up the ridge finally giving a fresh view into Arroyo Seco.  As expected since this had taken so much longer than the 2 miles it should have according to the signs, the trail soon came into the junction, but not really soon enough.

Waterfall was achieved.  There was even a bit of water coming down.  The old trees are still cluttering up the pool.  I sat in the crook of one that looked very chairlike for a while.  Then suspicious that with the extra miles I couldn't stay long, I packed up again.  By the time I got to Oakwilde, the massive contingent of boy scouts who almost got their first group out as I left had made it up and were having dinner.  They crowded all the tables there.

The rest is just trudging because by this time I felt ready to finish and I still had those extra 4 miles to go.  Not to mention that the last three that should have been the last three I'd done are actually quite easy miles.  The last 2 according to the absolutely wrong sign at the bottom of the hill to climb over the dam.

And then I get home and now I hurt and I really should find something more substantial to eat.  And there's a massive blister on my foot where the insole of the shoe rubbed me way too much although I hadn't noticed that bit being more painful than the rest before.  Ow ow ow.

No pictures because I couldn't seem to find my camera.  Or the other boots that I'd actually wanted to wear.  You'll just have to piece together old pictures from Switzer and Arroyo Seco if you want to see what the area is like.  None of my Arroyo Seco pictures are of quite so low water.  Nor the Switzer though I have seen it that low.

(From my journal entry on the day.)