26 June 2010

Idlehour (day 1)

Angeles National Forest

Locate the trailhead.

26th | 27th | 28th

Eaton Canyon is a local hike with hundreds of people headed up to the first falls on a daily basis. The falls themselves and the area around them offer no way up to the top. Apparently you can get there for another waterfall, but that one completely blocks all progress of the hiker. Most of this canyon cannot be seen unless you've got a very long rope. I've poked around Rubio enough to know that there can be a lot more waterfalls up there. I've been meaning to take the Idlehour trail but had been told it was somewhat hard to find once (not true). I realized that it was getting late in the season and I'll never get another chance, so if I really want to go up there, I better go now.

I decided to make it an overnight, or rather two night. Grab the tent, but now the rain fly since the average rainfall for this month is in the hundredths of an inch. I decided to pack it all up in the ultralight and forgo the stove. I'm not sure the ultralight is really that great when fully packed. I once had a replace a hip belt and the only one I could get was twice as heavy but four times as comfortable and made the pack feel lighter than it had ever felt before with the same load. The ultralight carries oddly once loaded with the recommended weight and the single stay numbs my tailbone a bit. On the other hand, it's got really good ventilation.

I poked around for information about the canyon above the falls. I found this on the stretch from Idlehour down to the falls first. According to it, as a hiker, I can get down to the first feeble bit of good stuff and no further. Then I found the matching site for the canyon from the top down to Idlehour. I could do the whole route of that, if I cared. I decided to try to hike in, set up camp, and poke around down stream the first day, since I wouldn't be able to get far. The next day, I would poke around upstream then hike out the next morning.

I didn't get started until almost 10 AM, once the care and feeding of the cat had been arranged. There was a nice marine layer cooling off the day while I hiked up the south facing roadway. It burned off at the top as I started passing boy scouts. I stopped into the museum since it was actually open while I was there. The county firefighters were enthusiastic to get me to sign a fire permit even though I didn't have my stove so didn't need one, even claiming it was a camping permit as well. Had to pull teeth to get the last one (at Red Box) and this one is foist upon me. Mostly the firefighters were concerned with what educational program they would be putting on for all the boy scouts. Three or four troops were already up there.

It was noon, so I nibbled a bit of lunch while at Henninger. The fog had burned off just a little before I got up there. I packed it back up and headed out, leaving the boy scouts behind. Everywhere I looked, tufts of yucca flower were springing up. There was a bit of wildlife, especially butterflies. Dozens of butterflies at any one moment.

A hillside popping out with blooming yucca.
Yucca all over the hillsides. It was especially noticeable along the ridge edges which would be lined with stalks of flowers.

A very cute lizard.
A small bit of wildlife.

Hillside of yellow monkey flower and such.
The floral displays along the way were rather stunning from time to time.

The backdrop for the hike.
The backdrop for most of this hike. The local mountains are covered in green with the occasional freshened fire break while the further ones are an ash grey from more than distance.

purple flowers
But still the nearby backdrop was covered in flower.

bud bloom and dry
Some more flowers, showing each stage. A bud to the right, blooming brightly in the middle, and withered and shriveled to the right.

county firefighters experimental tree farm
The Los Angeles County Firefighter's experimental tree farm at Henninger Flats. They have a fenced in area for planting, but there are clearly plantings all up the hillside between the fence and the road where I am. There are all kinds of odd trees for the location in here.

Climbing the hill above Henninger was sunny, but not too bad. This whole summer has been very mild so far. I climbed passing butterfly filled flowers up to a second road to a helipad and around down to the overgrown road and trail lined with telephone poles which apparently were there because there was a telephone in the parking lot at the end of this trail. This is one route to Idlehour, and the shorter route, but I left it alone because there is not trail all the way along. Some old stones marked a structure from when a toll was required although it would have been paid at the bottom. From there, the road curved around to a slope facing sufficiently north to have trees and shade. It was pleasant all the way to the trail, easily spotted on the first switch back. Although without any information about the destination of the trail, it was signed with a plea to pack out what I pack in and a note about fire regulations.

butterfly and ladybug on flowers
One of the most numerous butterflies. There were a few other kinds, but most were like this one. There were a few ladybugs, too.

Some structure along the side of the road, surrounded in yellow monkey flower.
The road curving around the mountain, past a lot of monkey flowers that are choking some old bit of masonry.

at least fifteen butterflies on one plant
A plant busting out with at least fifteen different butterflies. (Larger.)

The trail started off across a small bridge and climbed a little bit more to get over the far side of the canyon it started in. It went gently downward, for the most part, with a little climbing here and there, then descended down the side of another canyon. One of the larger canyons on the way had a dribble of water running down it.

last look back
A look back toward the flats. The road out to the helipad is visible, but the tree farm is lost behind the hills.

another sort of butterfly
Another butterfly, but very few of this kind were about.

the mountains
The burned mountains in the distance. They are growing back some.

two butterflies
A few more butterflies on a new flower.

A cut on the uphill side.
Looking up, undercut roots in a very sharp valley.

and the dribble downward
The trail was built with concrete and stones on the side, and out the bottom of the build dribbled a bit of water.

some purple flowers on stalks
Purple flowers on stalks reached their way into the trail a little bit.

funny white flowers
These flowers seemed to have spots all along the stem that had flowered, but were only ever flowering at the ends.

different funny white flowers
These flowers were always in tight bunches seeming like they were just about to open into tiny, fluffy flowers but none of them was ever open like that. A few were even more tightly closed.

A couple butterflies on a twig stretching out over the trail.

butterfly butt
One of the butterflies didn't bother to move as I came around to the back side of the branch, showing off the colors on the underside.

old butterfly home
The broken chrysalis of one of the many butterflies roaming the hillsides.

piece of the craigy mountain
A bit of rock and tree on the other side of the valley showing what the landscape is like in spots.

butterflies in flight
Some more butterflies clustering on white flowers and one in flight.

quail in the grass
I spotted a quail in the grass. As usual, they love to run and can't stand to fly. She flew a few feet but then just ran along some more.

quail and chicks on the trail
She had a whole bunch of chicks with her running along as well. I don't think I've ever seen so many and so small chicks with a quail.

red painbrush
Another flower along the way.

red painbrush-like
A very cute little red flower along the way.

little blue-purple thing
Another flower along the way.

bottom of the canyon
Down to the bottom of the canyon with little purple flowers that are like butterflies themselves.

Once the trail got to the bottom of the canyon, it followed it down very shortly to Eaton and turned up that canyon. Very quickly, it came upon the campground. Two sites were visible from the trail and a third was down a narrow trail from those two. I never found the fourth that is supposed to be there. I set up in the site out of view of the trail as it seemed to have the best spot to pitch the tent as well as being out of sight. The campground had a really good crop of poison oak.

welcome to Idlehour
The mark of the campground. Welcome to Idlehour. Remember to clean up after yourself. If only people actually did. Still, it's not so bad as a roadside campground. Four sites (supposedly), stoves (allowed), campfire rings (forbidden), no toilets.

the streambed near the campground
The stream runs at the bottom of a short cliff from the campground, but there is easy access to water above and below the camp.

stove and canteen and sites
The sites that were visible from the trail, one of the stoves, and a canteen someone left. The cement under my stove was marked with the various identifications of the people who put it in and dated 1976. The chimney was starting to get holes rusted through where it was welded to the main body.

Once set up, I poked around the stream a little. Up and down, it had poison oak all over the banks. I decided against trying to proceed downward without touching the stuff. I would have to boulder hop down the stream, which would occasionally have drops. I was a bit tired, too, since it has been a while since carrying so much stuff in my pack. I settled for a bit of reading and listening and got out the mostly-DEET against the bugs. It took care of the biting brown flies as well, I should have got it out much earlier. Most of listening was the sound of the steam. It was really quite loud going through that section.

The tent in green.
A sketch of the campsite with stove and tent. The rocks mark the edge before the short cliff on this side. The other side is a high cliff. The area looks like the stream somehow managed to carve down from the top of a hill.

continued on day 2...

©2010 Valerie Norton
Posted 2 July 2010

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