29 November 2015

Combs Peak

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

The third day of peak bagging with the Hundred Peaks Section hikers finds us carpooling down a pretty good dirt road to a widening at a crossing of the Pacific Crest Trail. I did not drive, so as I take stock of my pack at the trail and notice my camera missing, I cannot just walk over and grab it. There will be no pictures. We gather beside a sign where the destinations are the county line and the highway beyond. We will not get as far as either of those. Our destination along the trail is just the next saddle.

We head north and curve around the hills. Some snow remains here, but only behind the most sheltering of steep northern slopes. There are quite a lot of dog prints in the snow. We start to climb, but it is at a very easy pace. The peaks to the east must be some favorite ones for some of my fellow hikers because as they become more visible, there is talk about this bit of ridge and that bit of climbing. They seem to be Villager and Rabbit. I remember them talking about the same pair when we climbed a different peak that also happened to be called Rabbit. Then and now, it sounds like these are peaks that people are particularly proud to have ticked off their list. As we head further north, nearer peaks hide parts of those two distant ones, bringing a little disappointment to at least one hikers.

The trail gradually gets more serious about climbing, but it is still a pretty easy grade right up to the saddle. We gather again in preparation for leaving the trail, then continue a little way further down the trail before starting to climb. There is a cairn to mark the spot, left either by the peak baggers or those who have used a small campsite beside it.

A few more steps and the easy climb is over. We turn to the peak to be climbed and start chugging up it. There are some small attempts at wiggles in the route, but ultimately we are charging upward in a fairly single minded manner. Most of the slope has some rocks in it, but is mostly dirt. We have one small rock chute right before the top that slows the group to a crawl, but one by one we make it out the top and to the peak.

The details of Villager and Rabbit that were most interesting to those who have hiked it have reappeared with the climb. My eyes are drawn more by the mountain they called Toro yesterday. I have had a different face of it each day. It is about the only thing locally that still has visible snow, although the snow line has moved upward quite a bit. The other thing with obvious snow is San Gorgonio, but we are not sure at first that that is what it is since it is towered over by nearer peaks. The white head of the tallest peak in southern California is on one side of a much nearer point and a long dark shoulder of peaks is on the other. As I squint at the distant shapes, I realize that I do know that profile from marching over them one by one from San Bernardino and its initial points. Only the shoulder, though, the snow covered head still awaits climbing by me. The day really is stunning. The clarity of the air is wonderful.

Of course, while I am on the top, I have to look for the benchmarks. The station is being sat on at first, but eventually easy to spot. There are two reference marks pointing at it, after all.
After snacks, we head down again. The short chute is slow, but the rest of the hike is quick. We gather again upon hitting the trail before heading back down to the cars. Most are going on to Oakzanita, another peak a fair distance south, and need to hurry on. I got into the car of people who would rather let that wait until more time can be given to the area around it. We head back to the parking instead.

©2015 Valerie Norton
Posted 7 Dec 2015

28 November 2015

Beauty Peak and Iron Spring Mountain

Beauty Mountain Wilderness Area

For the second day of peak bagging with the Hundred Peaks Section hikers, I head a little bit south and down a maze of paved and dirt roads to a spot a certain distance from the last corner that provides sufficient parking. Both sides of the road are a wilderness area preserved by the county. The only thing that is distinctive here is the gate and road traveling to the north, but we are not going that way. There is a second road to the north a little way up the road, but that is not our route either. Instead, we backtrack from our parking area a couple hundred feet and turn down a third road road heading southeast that is hard to even notice after many years of abandonment. I can sort of imagine where the road was, once, but the occasional fading pink ribbons in the bushes are much easier to follow. It does not last long anyway as we turn off in our own direction.

people gathering at a brief high
Plunging into the chaparral along use trail.

We head down into a canyon and up again. The route is steep, then flat, then steeply down, and flat again, and steep up and into a wash. Once in the wash, we stick near the bottom, but there are sudden jaunts up the side and back down to get around vegetation and rockfall. It gets easier as we go and we eventually find we have walked over a wide saddle. It is a short and twisting, easy drop down to an earthen dam.

rocky wash
Looking back down the rocky wash as we clamber up.

27 November 2015

Ken Point

San Bernardino National Forest

Santa Rosa - San Jacinto Mountains National Monument

Three days in a row of outings planned in the same general area inspired me to come out and join a group of Hundred Peaks Section hikers, AKA "those crazy peakbaggers", for a few distant hikes. (Their outings are open to the general public, not just to members of the Sierra Club.) It is cold, somewhere around freezing, and the very last flakes from last night's snow are still fluttering down as we collect in the dirt lot next to the Pacific Crest Trail. A blanket of a few inches covers the ground but the roads and trails are just wet. Ignacia is worried there might be more behind it since it was supposed to be finished by now. The clouds to the north do look imposing, but to the south there is a patch of blue. As we fret, the blue increases and we all decide to trust the weather. Packed for the day hike, we head off. Peter is still worried about the higher elevations, but there is no accumulation left from previous storms in the area.

trailhead under snow
Starting off into the snow, we are warned about trail closures due to fire just ten miles ahead.

a peak
A peak dusted with snow from the night before.

21 November 2015

Alder Creek Trail

Los Padres National Forest

We meet in Fillmore and travel up to Dough Flat with a simple goal: to place signs along the trail marking the Sespe Condor Sanctuary that the trail travels through. It is a quarter mile wide corridor through an area that is otherwise closed to the public. We have a few tools to make sure the area around signs is clear, a tool to establish a pilot hole the signs will go into, and a second to drive the signs into the ground. The clearing tools are just loppers and a pick mattock, but the driver is some 26 pounds and the pilot is another 35 pounds. We also have to carry the signs, but only in one direction.

crew climbing with tools
The group sets off lugging the tools. The orange block is one of the drivers.

A little way into the sanctuary from the parking lot, we get a demonstration of how to use the tools. It is a simple procedure with a slight hiccup when an underground rock strikes the first placement attempt. We split into two groups, one that will drop signs as we go to the end, then start back driving them in, while the other sets to driving in the first ones. This way one set of tools should not need to be carried more than half the distance of the other. I grab five signs for my part of the load and we are off.

White Acre Peak
White Acre Peak still looms above, tempting.

10 November 2015

Alder Creek (Juncal Road and Franklin Trail)

Los Padres National Forest

I was wondering what the state of the part of Franklin Trail that was never closed was and thinking that since I hiked the newly reopened part, I should finish the job. Dreading the step at the end of the pavement, I kept putting it off. I was informed that it has been improved, though, so there were no excuses. I heard rain drops on the roof last night, so was worried the gate might be closed. I checked it online, but found no problems. Still, I made a contingency plan and started the long drive over the top of the mountains and down to the river on the other side. The step was not large, the gate was not closed, and the parking is even more clear than it was before. Today is the day for the rest of the trail, then, so on with the shoes and off onto the easy stretch up to the reservoir.

Santa Ynez River
The Santa Ynez River is wide and flat and devoid of water. Of course, the dam a short way up helps with that.

sycamore in the river bed
Sycamores give a bit of color.

Finally, after nearly two miles, there is a significant climb as the road gets near the dam in big, lazy loops. It looks like some shortcut the gentler road by taking the route next to the water pipe. That route is full of poison oak, so I do not go for it. At the upper end, it becomes very steep and a rope has been left to help with the climb. The dam comes into view after another lazy turn over the top of a hill. The road already seems higher than it, but keeps on climbing gently.

Juncal Dam
Just about level with Juncal Dam, which is still far away.

03 November 2015

Happy Camp Canyon


I have wondered if the areas south of 126 could be hiked. Many areas certainly look like they would allow some rambling. Well, there is at least one area called Happy Camp Canyon Park. It sounds mildly menacing somehow. I am planning to do a loop and the park has a canyon trail and a ridge trail that connect toward the far side, so that is easy to do. I want to do the ridge first, which should be on a trail off to the right. Not finding a map near the parking, I head off on the best trail off to the right I can find, which cuts across the local golf course. This must be a perfectly okay place to walk since it elicits no reaction whatsoever from the course with someone playing every hole. Horse prints are along the route traveling in the other direction, and none of the golfs seem to have a horse as their golf cart. This soon connects with the trail from the eastern parking area and satisfies my irrational need to be on a trail heading off to the right to satisfy plans, but does not seem to be climbing up onto the ridge as expected.

kiosk at trail start
At the western trailhead of Happy Camp Canyon Park with the golf course below and the ridge with a trail behind it.

road runner
The least skittish road runner I have come across, but still ready to scamper.

It takes a while to get past the golf course and I am still in the canyon when I finish. The trail loops around to rejoin the other and other trails climb the canyon to the other side. Things are just not as expected until I get to a second kiosk that does have a small, faded local area map in the corner. The loop is actually a bit of a lollipop that splits just ahead to climb the ridge to the right or continue along the canyon bottom to the left. Now I can finally start climbing up the ridge.

east trail/road
The east trail curving around to meet the west trail.

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