31 August 2011


Sketches for the month.

The stoves at Little Jimmy Campground.

The cabin at the top of Mount Islip.

Somewhere up Bear Canyon a ways.

The remains of a sea wall past Goleta.

Smoke from a dry lightning strike.
We watched it get up out from the mountain top.

A few bristlecone relatives with very little bark left at the top of the mountain.

Roots that come through the rock.

28 August 2011

the Grotto

Circle X Ranch Mountain Recreation and Conservation Authority

Locate the trailhead.

I had read about a trail to a place that was full of funkyness and a good place to go on those hot days as the destination is shady and has pools of water and water flowing around, at least after the rains. The general plan for hot days seemed to be hike down and wait until it is cool while playing on the boulders then hike back up. This was a hot day and I really wanted a hike, but it wouldn't be expected to be flowing very well. I decided to try it out anyway.

I had errands to do before hiking, so didn't get started until the middle of the afternoon. I had a bit of an extra drive getting there because the directions missed a turn. Even the gooogle maps directions missed a turn. Something about being on two roads that are actually the same, then a third joins and one of the original roads continues while the other two turn... Anyway, my directions said to be on the one that continued, then turn onto a road that I never saw because it was actually a quarter mile further along after making the turn. I figured it out and got to the Circle X Ranch where the trail starts.

Parking is at the top and a short way down a dirt road. Since it was late and the lower lot has a gate that is supposed to close at sunset, I decided to park at the top. The road goes to a campground and on the far side of that is the actual trailhead. After that, the trail is a well established path headed generally downhill. As I went down, a few of the last people already down there were coming back up.

rolling hills with rocky tops at the edges of a grass field with the trail running down it
Starting off down the trail while someone comes up from the grotto below.

red hanging flowers
Some flowers that were hanging over the trail.

27 August 2011

Mount Baden-Powell

Angeles National Forest

Locate the trailhead.

Mount Baden-Powell is not the highest peak in the local range. That is Mount San Antonio (Baldy) SSE of it. After that, a few of the peaks around Baldy also top out higher than Baden-Powell, but rising over 9000 feet is sufficient to dwarf the nearby peaks and be generally higher than a lot of people ever get to while being able to freely look around and feel the wind in their hair. The Pacific Crest Trail passes near it and a spur trail finishes the journey to the very top. I took the quickest route, catching the northbound PCT as it travels southward through Vincent Gap. The trail switch backs for nearly 4 miles up the north side of the mountain before continuing on the generally western traverse of the San Gabriels. Over the elevation gain, the trees dwindle from a lush forest full of ponderosa and its usual neighbors to a few limber pine populating the nearly bald top.

Vincent Gap is obvious if you know what to look for, but it didn't seem to have a sign for eastbound traffic. The road drops down to a wide and low pass through the mountains. A huge lot is on the south and some dirt roads head off to the north. The lot had quite a number of cars in it, but it also has quite a number of choices for hiking, with the gulch, a mine, the mountain, and whatever is north along the roads or the southbound PCT, although those are likely considered routes between interesting things like the Devils Punchbowl below (one road goes there) or the Blue Ridge (where the PCT goes). The trail up the mountain starts next to the biffy on the west end.

mileages to a few of the potential destinations along this trail
There's a big sign and a lot of information at the parking lot. After passing that, there's this more traditional trail sign. It says 3.7 miles to the mountain, 9.4 to Windy Gap, 9.7 to Little Jimmy Trail Camp, and 11.8 to Islip Saddle where the trail hits road again.

The switchbacks start immediately. After the first mile, there is a bench. It is a nice bench with a nice view, but it felt like a rather short mile to me. After the second mile, there is a spring. I saved the spring for later and continued on. There were a few camping sites after it. After the third mile I realized that, in general, switchbacks aren't still going after the third mile. I was getting a bit tired. Throughout, I was swapping places with a couple who were hiking faster, but resting for long periods while I simply kept going but at a slower pace. I was getting a lot slower as the last mile up wore on and their rests were getting more frequent. At one point I mentioned to them that it was less than half a mile to go (and it was) and it seemed to help them along although I was still feeling quite slow.

tree covered hills to the northeast and the desert beyond
The trail very quickly offers views of the surrounding country which are better with each turn on the switchbacks. So that's something to look forward to.

14 August 2011

Rustic Canyon

Will Rogers State Historic Park

Map the trailhead.

It seems it is about time for another Rustic Canyon hike for Hike the Geek. Apparently some people hike down from the road into the canyon and call that the Rustic Canyon hike, but the geeks, or particularly the leader, like the hike I've done before for its variation in terrain type. The hike starts off at the tended green of polo fields, then climbs up to the Backbone trail for a little way before dropping down into the canyon. The canyon starts off wide and lush and narrows into a stony V, but is still rather lush.

I got there very early, so sat down by the polo fields where they were actually playing polo. Horses running up and down the field and then at the half, the folks in their summer dresses and wedge heels came out onto the green, champagne in hand, to stomp divots. There was also a contest to find a cork hidden beneath a divot. Someone won and the folks meandered back to the side for the entertainment to start. That was a fellow with trained horse and rope tricks. The horses had quite a rest before the next bit of play.

blue vs. black/white on horseback
Actual polo actually being played on actual polo fields of Will Rogers State Historic Park.

Then when folks showed up, we took off up the trail. We took the small trail instead of the fire road right or left. This got us to the fire road again very quickly and soon after, to the Backbone trail. This route was much shorter than the fire road to the right, but much less of the barns could be seen. We made fairly quick time up the Backbone trail. We crossed the bridge and climbed the hill and looked back to see all kinds of fog rolling in although it was plenty warm where we were.

bridge along the Backbone Trail where the ridge becomes too narrow
Looking back to the fog rolling in past the bridge along the Backbone Trail.

13 August 2011

Switzer Falls and Bear Canyon

Angeles National Forest

Map the trailhead.

I can't say that I miss Switzer in between going there. It is crowded and has a section of trail that is a ledge some 100 feet up a cliff and the stream crossings can get to be a bit much in the wetter times of the year and you can never have the waterfall to yourself. But it does have a bit of variation and is really quite pretty most of the way. I also keep seeing claims that it is even prettier further down the Bear Canyon trail, which goes down Arroyo Seco a little before heading up Bear Canyon to connect Switzer with Lowe. All the times I've been up Switzer, I have not headed up this way. The trail that comes up from the bottom near JPL that I have hiked is the one that joins the trail to Switzer up on the canyon wall. Abbie was saying it was about time to go to Switzer again, so I waited for her to be able to come to go.

We looked for a spot at the bottom, but had to settle for a spot halfway down. It turned out we were really just a few minutes off, because about 3 opened up at the bottom as we got out of the car. We hung up the Adventure Pass and said "howdy" to the ranger adding a ticket to the car beside our spot. We walked down the steep and twisty road. It seemed to have been redone and was fresh and black and absurdly hot to walk over. The shade of the picnic area was welcome. The amenities at the picnic area seem to be new too even though it did not burn. Strips of the hillsides above did, but not down in the canyon. It was nice to see all those big trees standing tall and green since it had certainly sounded like the place went up in a puff of smoke.

We headed down the canyon. The crossings were quite easy since the summer has been on for some time now. We quickly found ourselves down to Switzer's old camp. We turned off the trail to visit the big rose, which has no flowers on it at the moment, and Abbie had a nibble while I walked the trail ("Danger! Go back!") a little further on that side of the stream. It gets to an overlook of the falls and a lesser trail continues on to a built overlook from a previous era, but probably very little else. Some folks were rolling rocks down the very top falls to build up the pool below while a father and son were preparing to rapel down the much larger falls below.

plump raspberries in red and black
There's always raspberries, or blackberries but it's really a gradation, along the trail. They're getting ripe.

butterfly alight on a flower
The butterflies were out, of course. They like the poodle-dog bush, which is apparently a thing that stays dormant until some fire wakes it and then there's all kinds of it. Also, poisonous like poison oak.

07 August 2011

Mount Islip (part 2)

Angeles National Forest

Map the trailhead.

This is Mt. Islip to Crystal Lake campground by Islip Ridge, the first part is Crystal Lake campground to Mt. Islip via Windy Gap.

the foundation of an old fire lookout
Concrete pillars to mark where people once watched for fire on the nearby mountains.

the high desert
Looking out north over the flat Mojave desert.

Mount Islip

Angeles National Forest

Map the trailhead.

This is Crystal Lake campground to Mt. Islip via Windy Gap. The second part is Mt. Islip to Crystal Lake campground by Islip Ridge.

Not even a full cycle of the moon later, I really did climb up Mt. Islip again, this time by a trail that was quite a bit longer. Since Dan Simpson's writeup of the shortest route describes alternate routes with their vitals, I knew there were actually two routes from Crystal Lake. I thought I might do these as a loop while seeing what this mountain was like in the day time and maybe even stopping by the spring along the way. He also noted (and for this hike the datum was only a week old so likely acurate) that the roads were not open above the visitor center, so the larger lot near the proper trail head was inaccessible. Third, he notes that the ridge route is not on the topo.

I grabbed my printed up piece of incomplete information from USGS and headed for the visitor center. I grabbed the last spot in the lot behind it, dodged a batted tennis ball playing at being a cricket ball, and walked in. I asked them where I should park for hiking up Islip and the ranger said he wasn't sure as it was his first day back in 15 years. However, they did have a map drawn such that the mountains are smaller than the campground area that included all of the trails close at hand. Between my exact topo segment and my entirely absurd projection, I had a good idea of where the trails were once I found the common "here" point. Since the campground was closed off, the visitor center was the closest spot.

Well, I had it almost figured out. Once I got to the place that seemed to be where the trail took off, it wasn't quite there. The details were slightly off on what I could see. I headed up one road that should have been the far side of the trail then saw something trail-like a little further along. Going to it, it was a trail. Checking the sign back at the start, it was even the right trail.

Trail starting in the campground and heading up.
Here is the start of the trail and the start of the first segment not on the USGS topo. It is 2.5 miles up to Windy Gap and no mention of Islip by either route. The campground bathroom might be handy sometimes, but it is in the same state as the campground.

The trail through the campground areas is nicely shaded. It looks like the area can have significant flooding events and there are washes on either side. It quickly comes to and crosses a fire road, coming to the start of the trail according to USGS.

more trail and another sign to help us out
It's getting a bit sunny as the trail makes its first crossing of the fire road to S. Mt. Hawkins. Now it is only 2.1 miles up to Windy Gap.

The trail climbs slowly up the valley, swishing a little to make it even slower. It crosses a tiny stream of cool water. I was feeling warm, so I dampened my shirt and a scarf to make the further hiking a little cooler. I had already noticed I'd forgotten my hat in the car and was getting suspicious I'd be a little sorry about that. I wasn't after the stream. Once it dried, I was high enough to be out of the heat.

burned, living trees among orange flowers beside a stream hidden by the growth
Burned (living) trees among flowers by the stream.