29 December 2015

Burton Mesa Ecological Reserve

Vandenberg Village

I returned to the reserve. These photos are from walking around the area north of the highway.  There are various entries at the edge of the village.

flat and short
As with the area to the south, there are large meadow areas of short, leafy ground cover.

oaks sporting French beard
Stands of short oaks sport Spanish moss.

23 December 2015

Las Llajas Canyon and Chumash Trail

Marr Ranch Open Space

There seems to be quite a bit of hiking to the northeast of Simi Valley. For another foray into this territory, I have chosen another long loop with elements of canyon and ridge. This time, I am starting with the canyon so have arrived at the locked gate of the Las Llajas Trailhead at a break along the edge of a small house farm. There are a large number of other cars already here. Disappointingly, the road is paved. It drops gently down into the canyon past another paved road entering from the west. The pavement stops, for the most part replaced by mud, at the bottom before a second road enters from the west.

trailhead signage
Information and rules at the trailhead.

hilltop perch view
Surveying the canyon ahead from a small hilltop beside the road. Trail up the hills seems to be public, but connects behind a "no trespassing" sign on the gate below. My route is up the canyon to the right.

15 December 2015

Bouquet Canyon

Angeles National Forest

Every once in a while, I hike a little bit more of the Pacific Crest Trail. I got a few more miles of it recently and decided on 0.25% more of it for today. Well, actually for yesterday, but the weather man said today would have a few more hours with the air temperature above freezing. The plan is to make a loop with fire roads. As much as I like a loop, it does come with some bad: about a mile along major roadway to close it. No road signs mark the trail here, but there is a crest on the south side and a large turn out to park in. The sun is giving serious thought to rising as I climb out onto the gravel clearing. The surface is solid under my feet, held together by the last rain which sank in a little and froze.

dawn light over Bouquet Canyon
Already a half hour past dawn on this very short day.

Behind the crest, a sign notes the distance to Mexico. Just 465 miles to go for any southbound travelers. There is no listing for Canada on the other side although that is the direction most traveling the trail will go. That is my choice too. There is a water cache, the open bottle dated in October, and some extras for any who might be on the trail at this late date. This area has some pretty famous trail angels nearby; Agua Dulce is just 10 miles south as the backpacker hikes. My legs are cold and I need to get moving to see if they will warm up.

northbound sign
Heading out "northbound" on the PCT.

footsteps in frozen mud
The evidence of those who passed just before the freeze will last a little longer than usual.

10 December 2015

Mesa Peak

Corral Canyon Park

Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy

The whims of a day settled on another peak, but one much closer and lower and probably a bit warmer than the last few. Suspecting Scott, a geocacher, might be happy to go along with that whim, I sent him an email. He sent out another email for two more that might be similarly inclined and we ended up three strong standing at the side of highway 1 ready to climb nearly every foot of Mesa Peak's 1844 foot height.

trailhead sign
The sign at the trailhead tries to give credit to all the agencies involved. Parking is in a fee lot or one of a few spots beside the highway, but public transportation is convenient.

The trail quickly divides, but it just loops around so all trails lead "up". We head left, which is the slightly longer way around. This takes us past some garden variety yucca and then the remains of the home that went with the garden. The foundation is not evident, but the chimney still stands tall. After that, it is a gentle, but very steady, climb up the side of the canyon.

brick chimney beside maple
The simple remains of a home.

tree covered canyon bottom
Lots of trees in the canyon bottom.

canyon side trail
Just a little, long, steady climb.

06 December 2015

Bighorn Mountains

Bighorn Mountain Wilderness

We drive a little further into the maze of dirt roads, including along the extra hiking length, through sand traps and up to a spot a little short of where the road deteriorates. This is our start to a high point that the Hundred Peaks Section lists as "Bighorn Mountains". I dump the dead weight of my camera without any charged batteries and we continue along the road on foot. It does not seem bad at first, as it drops down through a wash and up again. Then it drops down much more steeply past a fallen tree where it looks like some slip just a bit. On foot, it is fine.

After a few twists, we start climbing the mountain itself. It is an easy and steady climb interspersed with sudden, but short, steep climbs. For the most part, it is just a long wind through hills. Barren, tan hills. We are regaled with a story of meeting a few cows including a long horn along this route before. Prints on the road today show some cows have been by not too long ago.

After a long climb, we seem to come out on a large flat. This is definitely one of those mesa. In a move uncharacteristic of the HPS, they all walk right past the high point in the area. The road drops a little and climbs again to a second high point, but they are not interested in this one either. Further along, the road splits and we keep left to get to a third high point a little lower than the other two. This one has a great view to the north and is the one that they are interested in.

In a move completely characteristic of myself, I go looking for the benchmark, but cannot find it. This is odd because there is surveyor trash all over the place. I gather an ally in the search and we try to triangulate based on where the wires were anchored. There is not much area there to search, but we cannot find it. He pulls up the map on his phone and down under the marked path, I can see a little "x". The point was surveyed, but no monument placed. I have to be content with the view.

The view is spectacular. The flat desert stretches out many miles with random bumps. In the distance, lines of mountains can be seen. Gradually, our attention is taken not by them, but by a grey triangle even further out, seen between the sloping sides of two distinct ridges. Could it be Telescope Peak? It would have to be quite tall.

Our time is also taken up with celebrating Mary's list finish. There is a lot of food that appears from nowhere and starts getting passed around. This time, nothing fizzy, though. After a few minutes of celebration, though, the group cannot help but notice the pair who helped shepherd her through the final pieces of her list have suddenly turned their attention to two others who are getting near. It seems a bit quick, but is hard to blame them for being more interested in someone else's first list finish than their own xth list finish.

Gradually, the pressure of the coming darkness gets to us and we head down. It is not so much the possible walking in the dark by lamp, but the driving that we worry about. It really is easier to do it in the daylight. So we follow the road back down.

©2015 Valerie Norton
Posted 13 Dec 2015

Meeks Mountain

Bighorn Mountain Wilderness

The second day of peak bagging with the Hundred Peaks Section hikers begins with a more through maze of dirt roads just a little bit north of the ones from yesterday. The first hint that we are about to have a somewhat longer hike than advertised comes when our leaders, who are driving an unfamiliar car, are discussing if the junction we have arrived at is the one they mean to park at. Whatever the answer, we are parked and start off down the road on foot. After a flat and easy mile, we have our answer when we come to the usual parking area. We continue on on roads for a short while before deciding to cut across the desert for a wash and a little more direct climbing than can be found on road. And as the view opens up, the camera proves to have managed to drain its battery overnight even though it was off. The backup, which has not been charged since June, is quite flat as well, so there are no photographs for these Sunday hikes either.

We clamber across the wash and follow it up to meet the road again. In a bit of humor, someone has moved the "open route" sign from the road to the rocky entrance to the wash below it. We allow the road to wander on to whatever old prospect it was built for and continue climbing. The way gradually gets steeper. There is discussion that the route on the left is very slippery while the route on the right stays fairly easy. We seem to be splitting the middle. It is not slippery from scree, but there are a lot of big rocks to navigate. The complicated route tends to slow us down.

Gradually, things flatten out, but the elusive peak keeps being just a little bit further. The route, just one of many marked by cairns, gradually turns into a trail as we get near the top. The top itself is a flat area big enough for a helipad, but naturally that way. I can find both reference marks and the station easily, although some look more like "EEKS" than "MEEKS". Fallen trees form a rough ring around the edges of the flat and the group has generally found a place on that ring to enjoy one bit of view or another.

Feeling pressed for time, partly from the extra mile, we head down after a short time. We have a different leader for the downward trek and this time keep a little more to what is now our left where the route is supposed to be easier. This misses just about every big rock replacing it with a gradual hill slope. This really would have been an easier climb.
As the slope flattens out, we once again find the road. Just as before, we leave it to follow the wash, crossing it once more, then cross country to the road we came in along. We go quickly down the flat extra length anticipating lunch and the next peak.

©2015 Valerie Norton
Posted 13 Dec 2015

05 December 2015

Chaparrosa Peak

Pioneertown Mountains Preserve

We backtracked out of the minor maze of dirt roads and down another dirt road past only one unsigned intersection to a well graded parking lot to start the second peak of the day with the Hundred Peaks Section hikers. This one is a little longer a hike, but entirely on trail. It is curious how much a difference this makes even on terrain that is simple to cross. Some make use of the facilities before we start the experiment to see how much of a difference it makes between the routes to the peaks today.

plain at the start
The trail starts from the south side of the overflow and bus parking area.

trailhead for Chaparrosa Peak
And we are off. The sign spells out the entire mileage for those who find math very difficult.

We start off on an easy, flat trail, then flirt with an old driveway and drop down steeply into a wash. There are two more quick, steep, and seemingly arbitrary crossings of the wash before we start a steady climb to an old road. A long line of spires to the south grows as we climb further along the road.

line of volcanic rock
A line of hard volcanic rock.

Black Mountain

Bighorn Mountain Wilderness

It is the season for peak bagging, at least if not too high up, so I headed down south again to join the Hundred Peaks Section hikers for another weekend. Today we navigated a minor maze of dirt roads to a seemingly random spot on Bureau of Land Management land surrounded by scattered inholdings. I am glad to not have been trying to navigate my little car over the last quarter mile or so and especially glad not to be trying to get into the parking with it. We are surrounded by shrubs, little road, and no trail. We simply set off in a rough direction toward higher things to the east. In the desert, the plants cannot grow very densely, so this is just a matter of choosing a path of many. Preferably, not too close to the cholla.

hikers in the desert
Setting off into the morning sun. Just pick a direction.

The hills ahead, which almost entirely hide the mountain.

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