14 June 2009

Alder Creek

Angeles National Forest

Locate the trailhead.

Alder Creek is apparently a "trail that was" in the guidebooks even though I found it on the current (Ha! It's getting rather old and out of date. They need to do a new one.) forest map. There seems to be very little to be found about it online. There's a little on it by one Caltech alum who is so often a great source on the local trails. There's also an errata site for Trails of the Angeles that notes you can hike this trail now, but then says it's not particularly interesting. In the 10 years since folks have known it was open, there doesn't seem to have been a lot of interest.

The trail heads both ways from where Upper Big Tujunga Road (Between Angeles Crest and Angeles Forest highways) crosses Alder Creek. There used to be a small lot a hundred feet off, but now it has been blocked by a load of dirt as has all the roadside parking for a quarter mile. One presumes this is to discourage use of the creek area to protect endangered and threatened wildlife. The information I could find says each side is marked by a 4 inch pipe only. I didn't find the one for the downstream side, but didn't look very hard. Next to the one for the upstream side was a small sign asking people not to use the stream side area.

The condition of the trail suggests it gets regular, but light usage. The footprints I saw that still showed tread were all my own. The double line of a single bicycle seemed to be the most recent passage. There were a few spots that the hillside was sliding a bit, but the track of the trail never totally vanished. Brush was generally light, but once in a while it reached out over the trail. There were two spots of unavoidable poison oak, one of them with it making a good try for the faces of hikers.

I parked among a few other cars off the road around a 4.5 mile marker on Upper Big Tujunga and hiked down the road almost to the bridge and mile 4.18. As I went down, I was able to see bits of well established trail along the top edge on the other side of the small canyon with the creek. This assured me that there was a trail. Just before getting to the bridge along the road, I saw the trail marker just a little ways down the hill.

The Alder Creek trail as it heads upstream from Upper Big Tujunga.
The trailhead is marked by a single wide pole with an arrow. I didn't see other markings on the pole but I didn't realize to look. A second sign asks the public to please refrain from disturbing the creek area. Flowers were plentiful in the creek area.

The trail dropped right into the stream bed, crossed ...

Crossing of Alder Creek.
A little bit of water flows in the stream bed where the trail makes its first and only crossing.

... and climbed just as quickly back out. I quickly found myself on the rock lined and hard packed trail I had seen from the road. I came to a stand of trees that looked planted (they were all the same age) and passed under the high tension wires that cross the valley. Under the wires, the trail crosses a long abandoned utility road that used to connect the roads on either side of the valley just before coming up onto a spur of the current utility road. There is no indication as to which way to go at the road nor is there a sign to help find the trail, somewhat hidden by the crest of the road, on the way back. Turning the logical direction (right), the road ends very quickly and the trail heads off from there.

It continues to climb up onto the ridge far above the stream bed. The trail wiggles along the southeast facing slope, dipping into the hollows that are streams in times of wet, then around the edge to the next. I had started for the trail after noon and not planned the route there well so didn't actually get started until after 2:30PM. This could have been quite an unpleasant afternoon but it has been cool and overcast on my usual side of the mountains for two weeks now and it seems the other side of the mountains is staying somewhat cool as well.

The land actually starts off seeming rather flat. At first the hollows are no more than a bit of smoothed rock in a small fold.

A bit of eroded rock shows where water often flows, at least when it rains.
Eroded rocks show where water flows, at least when it rains.

Looking back over the first half mile or so of the hike.
Looking back over the first half mile of the hike shows the rather flat land, the high tension wires that it'll take quite a while longer to get away from, the stand of planted pines, and eventually the mountains between here and LA.

The low rolling of the hills on upstream.
Okay, the land doesn't get all that much less flat on the way upstream. Alders and darker bushes mark the location of the creek.

The cut of the water shows off the variation of the land.
Downstream, the rolling hills are interrupted by the rocks the stream has had to cut through and beside in order to continue on its way.

The trail continues climbing into and back out of these folds along the way and they get bigger as the land climbs higher. Each one is different.

A rare oak forms a hallow in a particularly sharp fold.
An overhanging oak forms a little hallow of shade as the trail traverses a particularly sharp fold in the mountains.

It seems to be getting late in the season for flowers, but from time to time there would be another burst of a few different kinds.

A flowering white sage reaches accross the trail.
A flowering white sage reaches across the trail, covering everyone who passes with its scent. Behind are more flowers.

Some shaded yucca.
A slim but solid bit of trail passing by some yucca clinging to the rocks.

Green still reigns in this fold.
The green of this little valley hints that water might stay here longer. The sycamore hints that if you dig deep enough, there still is water.

Recently well watered grasses hang over the trail.
Looking back, the grasses here were trying to take over the trail but only managed to hang out over it. What was well watered is now drying out.

Sliding hill leaves a narrow trail.
One of the spots along the trail where the hillside is somewhat unstable, but the trail survives as a narrow track. Actually, it didn't look quite as narrow as the game trail it appears to be from afar when actually on it.

Little cactus.
A little cactus on the side of the trail looks like it started to flower, then dried out.

As the valleys got larger, the trail increasingly seemed to climb up them leaving small hills between it and the creek far below taking a longer route around the ridge.

The valleys are flattening out.
One valley where the trail goes up along the side instead of around the edge of the mountain.

A bit of rocks where water flows.
Another valley nearing the top of the trail's climb. A scattering of quartz could also be found.

Horned toad digging into the trail. Horned toad looking up from diggin.
Along the way I found a lizard I don't usually see trying to dig into the trail. The horned toad stopped to be invisible when it noticed me. It stuck its head up after I passed by.

Eventually I was standing high on a saddle. The wind was growing all while I was climbing and was whipping through the saddle quite hardily. I had steadily climbed high enough to see far out over the land not blocked by either of the peaks the saddle sat between.

A new view on the other side of the ridge.
The top of the climb along the ridge is the first saddle the trail comes to. It gives a view of a new area and the promise of downhill (and uphill coming back).

Looking back over the hills the way I came.
Looking back, the near obscuring the taller stuff far away and distance obscuring the stuff even taller beyond.

And so I started down the other side. This side is more sheltered from the heat of the summer sun.

A few trees, short, bent, or broken.
A little more shade in summer means a little more trees, although these all seem to be short, bent, or broken. A game trail matches the people trail on the other side of the little valley.

A bit of wood from the last fire.
Evidence of a fire quite some time ago, or at least nearing 10 years. It doesn't look like the area has burned all that recently.

The route of Alder Creek around the just climbed ridge.
Looking around the corner as I come down the other side of the ridge, I can see the route Alder Creek took. The long way around looks rocky in places.

Houses in the distance.
Houses in the distance denote the descent toward some vestige of civilization. This may be the ranch or one of their few neighbors.

At the bottom, the trail comes near where there might be water. I didn't hear any over the breezes in the trees and I didn't see any. The flow far below wasn't all that much, so up here it would be all the less. There were a few camping spots around the place. The trail that had shrunk slightly at the saddle seemed to shrink a lot more here. Some spots of the trail were marked by where the rushes were thinnest, but it was still easy to follow.

A bit of yellow.
Getting to the north-ish side of things allowed a few more flowers to show up but getting back to the stream found a lot more vegetation and with it many more flowers.

Burned out trunk.
There was also more evidence of a burn.

The place's namesake.
A few trees that are the namesake of the creek.

A bit of trail overgrown with grasses.
A bit of trail overgrown with grasses and some of the taller vegetation that can be found near the creek bed.

I sketched and snacked and wasn't particularly set on actually getting to the ranch. It was likely no more than a mile on, but that would get me back well after dark. Maybe another time. I turned around (and got back as twilight was coming on as it was.)

Some green trees.
A stand of alders by the hillside.

Some broken tree and poison oak.
Some alders, larger fallen alders, and poison oak with tiny little leaves starting to turn red already at the very bottom.

A flowering cactus.
One cactus flowering and doesn't appear to have flowers that dried out before they could open.

I made it back up onto the saddle in just about the same time it had taken to get down from it. As always, it looked steeper going down than going up, and it hadn't looked very steep going down. The houses and power lines were all out of view leaving just nature when the sherrif came by in a big green helicopter. It had been fairly sunny though not too warm all afternoon, but as I came down I noticed the clouds were spilling over from the other side of the mountains.

Clouds coming in low over the mountains.
The clouds seem to have piled up too high on the other side of the mountains and now they're spilling over. It'll be cloudy again once I get back.

Manzanita with lots of 'fruit'.
The manzanita were full of fruit.

Spiny poppy looking things.
Some more flowers along the way.

The stand of small trees near the start.
The light is fading a bit as I get back to the stand of small trees. Perhaps they're not quite all the same age. They still really seem planted.

Some little purple flowers.
Some purple flowers found next to the trail.

Back to the one and only stream crossing.
Back to the stream. A different view since the trail doesn't quite meet up on either side of the water.

A few flowers on the rushes. The whole bush of yellow flowers.
Back to wild bursts of yellow on what seemed very like rushes near to the stream.

Even more spillage of clouds over the mountains.
Finishing up, there was even more cloud spilling over the mountain.

Once down off the trail in the twilight, I still had a quarter mile to go up along the road to get to the car. Perhaps I'll park at the end of the utility road which doesn't look all that bad if there is a next time. Cut off half a mile instead of adding a quarter. Everyone else had already gone on home so the only people I saw the whole time were the ones parking about the same time I did who were soon off in another direction.

Sun setting over the 2.
The sun setting over highway 2 on the way back.

©2009 Valerie Norton
Posted 16 June 2009
Updated 17 June 2009

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