31 October 2013


Sketches from this month...

A star fish on the beach.

The lake from up on Camino Cielo.

A piece of the ridge with the Castro Motorway passing through it.

Whiteacre Peak, I think, from near a random benchmark near the edge of the forest.

28 October 2013

San Gorgonio: High Meadow Springs to South Fork

San Bernardino National Forest

San Gorgonio Wilderness

Locate the trail head.

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3

It was a cold night. Sometime early on, wind had found its buddy fog and together they froze an amazing among of ice onto the south facing side of everything, thicker as it gets higher. Chunks of ice lie around my little roof, having been shaken from the trees by that same wind. The ice doesn't look in the mood to melt, but my water hasn't frozen inside my shelter.

trees plastered with ice on one side
The view from under my shelter out into the stiff wind and fog shows trees heavy with ice on the south side.

27 October 2013

San Gorgonio: Limber Pine Bench to High Meadow Springs

San Bernardino National Forest

San Gorgonio Wilderness

Locate the trail head.

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3

The night was cold, the morning is cold. The camp is devoid of the sounds of people getting up, but I'm pretty far from the other two groups. The water in the Platypus isn't frozen and I eventually get up to turn it into breakfast. The new pump refuses to add any pressure to what is already in there, but the stove goes just fine after four matches fizzle and a fifth lights. After breakfast, the last layer of washing water left in the pot freezes to it. I'm wondering if it could actually be getting colder as the sun gets up when the sun finally starts hitting the camp. Once it gets to me, the neighbors who got it first finally emerge. The sun instantly heats the place to the point I don't need my jacket anymore.

Limber Pine Bench
Some of the area of Limber Pine Bench with one of the rock walls that grace the south face of the numerous flat spots.

The big group is a bustle of activity tearing down their camp as I pass. I get some more water at the spring before heading further up. The day is clear. There's a small spur trail to a view that I can't help but take.

Forest Falls below and the mountain far to the side
Looking down the ridge on the Forest Falls side to San Gorgonio.

26 October 2013

San Gorgonio: Forsee Creek to Limber Pine Bench

San Bernardino National Forest

San Gorgonio Wilderness

Locate the trailhead.

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3

Wanting to hit the initial points near one end of the San Bernardino Peak Divide Trail and San Gorgonio Mountain at the other, I decided on a loop starting at Forsee Creek and finishing at South Fork. With the last bit of walking to connect the ends, it looks like about 35 miles of travel. I didn't like the way the second day was working out when insisting on camping by water, so settled on an easier four day plan giving much more time for wandering up all the peaks and searching for all of the initial points. Most of the hiking is in the San Gorgonio Wilderness, so I stop by the Mill Creek Ranger Station on the way up to get a permit. They have quotas to limit the number of people in the wilderness, implemented mostly by campsite for backpackers to keep the sites from overflowing. My desired sites are all available, so getting the permit is painless. Stoves are currently allowed, unlike in the local forest. Excellent, because it's cold out and I want some warm dinner and breakfast. The road up to the trailhead from Jenks Lake Road is signed and a touch on the rough side.

fall colors on the black oak
The black oaks are showing off their fall color.

San Gorgonio Wilderness Boundary sign
The wilderness boundary at 7000 feet.

The mountain has a dusting of snow remaining from the first storm through. The black oaks stand out sporting yellow foliage among the evergreen pines and cedar. The trail starts at 6920 and climbs quickly to the San Gorgonio Wilderness Boundary, then splits to climb to the ridge on the left or contour and climb to Johns Meadow on the right. Heading right on the smaller trail gives a rolling walk through the thick trees. A few more yellows join the black oak leaves.

lots of yellow spots out in the valley to the north
Fall colors in the Santa Ana River valley.

22 October 2013

Townsend Peak

Angeles National Forest

Locate the trail head.

It's cooling down, a little anyway. I decided to head over to Townsend Peak in the Los Padres administered area of Angeles National Forest. The peak itself isn't much, but there's plenty of trail behind it to check out, including quite a bit that was removed in the 1995 Whitaker quad leaving mostly fuel breaks. There isn't much for destinations unless one hikes through to Lake Piru, but I picked out a few monuments of various sorts to try to find. I'm sure I'll find something nice to look at along the way. Unfortunately, the printer insisted on rendering my map badly into black and white, leaving out the red, to increase the challenge.

Access off the 5 is simple. Just get off at Templin Highway and head to the old bit of 99 on the left. A left on the Golden State Highway doesn't leave a lot of road, but there's a strip of dirt after the "end" sign. Let the water tanker pass and then head up it a short way to the gate and park without blocking it. Why is there a water tanker? To supply the sprinklers that are running behind a little hill. Ask a silly question... the driver of the green truck a little down from a second water tanker probably knows why a little bit of dry forest land needs to be watered. There's another sprinkler head in a turnout next to the gate, but it looks like someone parked on it. Tread marks continue past the gate, but so do quite a few footprints. The footprints show a wide variety, it's not just one person coming up from Castaic on evening hikes. It is surprising to see so many, but it is hunting season so a lot of footprints can be found in surprising places. There's actually a couple flowers in bloom at the edge and a pull tab Royal Crown Cola can somehow still dressed in blue. (I missed that one on the way down, if there are any collectors.) It's a smooth climb to a tight corner where the view opens up down Canton Canyon and the tire marks turn around. Hill after hill after hill stretch out into the distance. The land gives an impression of being soft even as it stiffly holds steep drop offs.

Whitaker Peak on the other side of Canton Canyon
Across Canton Canyon, Whitaker Peak rises just a little higher, from this viewpoint, than the surrounding prominences. When I hiked to it, I first went up the ridge on the right, then to the end of the road and followed the ridge from one of the communications sites behind it.

hill after hill after hill building to mountains
Row after row of hills building to some tall mountains. The land isn't all steep.

13 October 2013

Castro Motorway

Malibu Creek State Park

Locate the trail head.

After the morning hike, I decide to go up to Upper Solstice Canyon where I can finish off the last bit of a loop I started in 2009. Going past the entrance to Lower Solstice Canyon, I am reminded that it is actually a part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area by the locked gate across it. Some of the users of the overflow parking don't seem to realize the road does go somewhere and present minor obstacles to passage. Up at the end of the road, there is plenty of parking, so a grab a spot and start up Castro Motorway, the continuation of the road. At first the views are quite tame, but once up to the top and the north side opens up, they become excellent, if a little difficult to see.

southeast along the ridge
The Backbone Trail passes through the parking lot heading over these rocks to the southeast and should head along the motorway, but it has to reroute down into the valley instead.

view into the valley below
Looking into the valley to the north.

the fire road as it curves around the top of the ridge
Lovely rocks litter the top of the ridge.

Rustic Canyon

Topanga State Park

Locate the trail head.

Although not officially a hike of the group, a number of the LA chapter of HIKE the GEEK collect themselves on a street corner in Pacific Palisades to hike into Rustic Canyon from the Sullivan Fire Road with a few extras who were actually organizing the hike. Coming in from the fire road gives a little easier route than the usual from Will Rogers State Historic Park. When we're all good and ready, we start down the fire road past a gate and dodging a few cars on their way to the boy scout camp.

overview of the area up the canyon from where we start
The area up Rustic Canyon from near the start of the hike. Sullivan Fire Road curves its way along the upper right of the canyon.

After a short while climbing slowly along the fire road, there's a whole in a fence where there might have once been a gate. Turning, there is a short bit of trail, and then a long flight of steps. The steps are short and shallow and, of course, without handrails as they drop very nearly to the bottom of the canyon. The vegetation grows up higher as we descend lower, removing the view out over the canyon for a close tunnel of chaparral.

long stairway back to the road
Endless steps, or so it may seem when climbing them.

08 October 2013

Camino Cielo

Los Padres National Forest

Locate the trail head.

Heading back to the Ventura River Preserve, but this time to the Oso Trail Head, gets me into the prime location for hiking Camino Cielo, at least as far as it has been cleared. This one is a little harder to find, with a small sign by a small opening in a gate. Other signs warn the gates will be locked at 7:30 PM until October 31, after which it will be even earlier, and I'll just have to wait until morning if I'm too late back. We don't make our mini lions fast every Thursday like the zoo, so it seems like a good idea to get back before their tummies get to too much rumbling. Anyway, it's not Thursday. Packed up, I pop through the fence and onto a bit of trail. Following the signs for Rice Canyon, I jog over to the right where a road crosses the dry river stones and climbs out the other side. On the far side, this ends in another road that is blocked to the north. Heading south, it quickly splits to cross a blocked and mildly dangerous looking bridge with a fill bypass. Thinking about how building during the draught tended to ignore the creeks, I have to check. There is no pipe under the fill for the creek to go through during the next rain. Chuckling, I head the other way and finally realize that the stand of well ordered dead trees on my right is the old orange grove that will be removed eventually. A few more twists past more constructed items and over a walled creek diversion, I finally get to a sign for Kennedy Ridge.

many dead trees all in a row with natives starting up around them
Wilted leaves on a half dead tree are distinctly orange like. The other trees stand as cracking skeletons in their rows. The natives are taking over in between I had already passed a healthier tree with two sad, small oranges on it before this, so wasn't being all that observant.

preserve signage
Finally a new route to follow: the Kennedy Ridge Trail.

Kennedy Ridge is a smaller line of peaks in front of the main ridge. An old trail runs along it and along the canyon behind it, giving access if the roads to it are accessible. (See the Matilija 1995 7.5' USGS quad.) A line like a fuel break extends down the south side and the current access roughly follows this up. After a short walk along the light red dirt of the well maintained Rice Wills fire road, I start up this trail past a kiosk. The trail is off limits to horses for the safety of the horses. It seems passable to the second picnic table and dried road apples and a few horse hairs show people have taken their horses up it, but it will not hold up to horse travel. Actually, some of the switchbacks need a bit of work to hold up to people travel. Climbing the trail that initially seems unsure that it wants to climb rather than wander soon gains good views out over the Ventura River and Wills Canyon.

Wills Canyon
The easy hills around Wills and Rice Canyons. A little of the light red road is visible.

07 October 2013

Honda Valley

Santa Barbara city park

Locate the trail head.

The city has a few large open spaces kept as parks. One such park is the just over 20 acre Honda Valley. Oddly, the city web site does not list it under the open spaces, but it is signed as such. The park is open from sunrise to half an hour after sunset, although there are no gates to enforce that. It runs much of the length of the valley, with many areas shaded by oaks and eucalyptus. It is much less used compared to the other open spaces, at least in my experience, and can harbor actual wildlife. I found a fox on my first visit.

open space signs and trail
Entry to Honda Valley directly from Carrillo is along a narrow, undulating path and is signed.

Entering from Carrillo near the top of the hill puts one high on one side of the valley and gives views of the mountains and some of the homes that ring the edges, mostly right at the top. The narrow and well established trail passes through ice plant, then into native vegetation. It gets into some oak trees, then a short switchback brings it down to the main trail, a wide road, coming from Miracanon. It continues under oaks, then eucalyptus.

nice, big oaks around the road
Big oaks cover the hillside and line the road.

03 October 2013

Thorn Point

It is time to leave for Grade Valley, where I will meet with a group of volunteers to help cut through the nine trees that are currently on the trail to Thorn Point.  Well, I would be, if it weren't that volunteers are not free.  Even when the forest has been cash strapped for so long that they now have well trained volunteers to wrangle their volunteers, volunteers are not free.  While we are working, we keep dispatch up to date on our status, but the skeleton crew at dispatch need to focus on the skeleton crew of fire and law enforcement left in the forest.  While we are working for them, the Forest Service insures us on their own self insurance.  If we get hurt, it is a new bill to the Forest Service, and they are not allowed to run up new bills so they can't take the chance of having us work.

Ecological Staircase to the Pygmy Forest

Jug Handle State Natural Preserve Click for map. I noticed an Earthcache that looked interesting as it asks for study of an area wi...