30 April 2016


Not too many again.

A few of the rocks and a pine while on a short trip along the ridge named for both.

A piece of the Pacific Crest Trail that is quite well maintained just south of San Francisquito Canyon.

San Francisquito Canyon

Angeles National Forest

It is quite a nice day as I arrive at the bottom of Jupiter Mountain before basically deciding that the stars are not aligned for that hike and heading over to San Francisquito Canyon to hike north along the Pacific Crest Trail. The first through hiker of the day thinks I might be stopping for him. They are getting too coddled if they expect a car joining three other cars at a trailhead is stopping for them rather than for its occupant's own selfish reasons. The humans are not aligned for traveling north. It can be hiked up to Grass Mountain, but is closed after that. There is no forest order posted, but it is due to the Powerhouse Fire. Oddly, the last order for that seems to have expired in October last year. I grump with the through hiker about forest closures for a bit. He asks about my camera since his own dSLR was the very first thing that went home. Eventually I give in and head south instead of north. It will allow me to finish off the tiny section I did half of in December.

San Francisquito Canyon
Looking down San Francisquito Canyon.

How far is this little section anyway? It is well signed, so that question is quickly answered. Just 13 miles. Since I did 6 or 7 in December, finishing it is just another 6 or 7. The trail climbs out of the canyon at an easy grade.

tracks in the chaparral
Looking across the canyon, the trail climbs upward toward Grass Mountain while the higher road takes a much more direct route.

At the top of the canyon wall, the trail meets a fuel break. There is a little green metal sign on it pointing south. It is just a symbol without any words and stands mysterious. Perhaps it goes with some ranch that is easily reached via this route. Or maybe someone just likes climbing the little peak. The other direction looks like it gets more traffic and goes to a higher peak. After a short debate, the spur to the peak is added to my unplanned hike. There is a set of fresh prints on the otherwise smooth track. Someone else thinks this is a worthwhile place to go too.

24 April 2016

Vasquez Rocks

Natural Area Park, Los Angeles County

I decided to join a bunch of geocachers in a celebration of life by going on some interrupted plans made 5 years before. The destination is one we all know although we probably do not realize it. No one pays quite as much attention to the landscape stars, but this particular landscape has been seen on screens of all sizes and continues to be. They can even be found in animated form. Today, there are quite a lot of folks enjoying them in park form. We stop by the interpretive loop for a brief geology refresher (and the earthcache) before heading off on a spur filled loop around the place.

those rocks
The most climbed rocks of the day are right next to the parking lot.

the line returns to the flat
We only climb a little way up and then return.

22 April 2016

Simi Peak

Lang Ranch Open Space

Oakbrook Regional Park

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

Woodridge Open Space

The original plan was a shuttle hike along the Albertson Fireroad, but the instigator of that plan decided against hiking today after all. By bending the route around, I could get the peak, so I went for much of that original plan anyway, just removing the need for a shuttle. There is plenty of parking at either trailhead and a packed dirt path connects the two. I choose to start at Oakbrook View Trail, which comes first along the road. The sign is offset from the road, but it is still easy to find at the start of some park areas.

Oakbrook View Trail
An open space across from a park where a line in the grass leads to an information sign. I will start here.

The trail starts climbing through oaks up a little hill. Houses built on a few different plans stand in neat curves below, but not for very far. Grassy hills surround the neighborhood. A light mist lingers in the gentle valleys.

houses below
Little boxes in the valley. Good thing there is so much yard around them because they do not seem to have any yards of their own.

19 April 2016

Rocky Pine Ridge

Los Padres National Forest

A warm day is a good day to head up the mountain. It is a little cooler up there. I went up to the top of Gibraltar for a short, mild scramble of a hike out to Rocky Pine Ridge. There are other ways up, but this is the easy one. To prove it is easy, I fail to find the correct trail at first and have to make a second attempt. Once on the correct trail, the way might still not be obvious. The surface is shale and there are plenty of apparent routes through the brush. There have also been many people out here recently and the path they walked is obvious by the shapeless footprints. A little higher, as the track winds up a northern slope, the brush closes in and makes losing the route impossible. The sloped shale makes uncertain footing.

La Cumbre and Cathedral
La Cumbre topped with a decaying fire lookout and the tooth of Cathedral start the march of peaks to the west.

It seems to finish climbing and then starts wrapping around the little peak. Soon my destination is laid out before me. The crest of sandstone pillars supports a spattering of coulter pines. The surface below my feet changes too, becoming the much more stable sandstone.

Rocky Pine Ridge
A stand of coulter pines hangs onto the rocky crest ahead. This is Rocky Pine Ridge.

There is a well established trail up to my left that has been rocked off. Fresh prints continue the way I am going, but no prints can be seen on the other. It seems no one wants to go to the peak. I do and so take the turn and mar the perfectly clean path.

top of the peak with a sign
Someone has placed a sign at the top. "White Mt. elev. 3804'"

12 April 2016

Devils Canyon

Los Angeles County Trail

Oat Mountain seems like a place to go to see some flowers and Devils Canyon looked like a fun and challenging way to get there. The first challenge is where to start since the trailhead seems to be within a gated community. The geocachers have a suggestion, so I took it and parked in a small dirt lot beside a larger, fenced lot. There is a trail up and around the side of the fence and an old road down into the canyon. Both look, at first glance, to be well used. My impression when looking before was that the trail stays high, but the canyon is lush and tempting, so down I go. The road bed twists steeply down and has not fared well as a road, but is still an excellent path. Someone is thinking of building here and there are strings strung up between stakes. I walk down between the phantom houses and into the bottom of the canyon and suddenly everything is green and wet and bird song.

old road
A tiny canyon ahead and a fading road to get to the bottom of it.

purple sage
A blast of purple sages.

10 April 2016

MYOG: alcohol stove

I realize I posted a cat can stove before, but that one did not last all that long.  All the parts are good and strong, but I stopped using it after the loop from Cuchuma Saddle.  Even when I swapped out the chimney piece, it would not reliably simmer.  The surface the stove is on is never perfect enough.  So I decided I did not need something so complicated after all and played with a couple candy tins until I got something I liked.

This is everything in the kit that I put together.  Most of it has been in use for a couple years with well over a month's worth of use days.  I experimented with other stoves when car camping, but now I just grab this one for everything.  So, what is in the kit?

1L Snowpeak titanium pot.  Pot is 101g, lid is 65g.  This pot comes in a set with a 0.75L pot.  I boil 20oz of water for morning and evening and it can, just barely, fit in the smaller pot with much greater boil over risk while cooking.  I have never used the lid for a frying pan like it claims to be usable as and should trade it in for something lighter.

Aluminum foil windscreen.  16g.  This is just a folded over piece of heavy duty aluminum foil from the cupboard.  Holes were added with a hole punch.  It was meant to be temporary, but it has not failed yet.  The height is dictated by the height of the pot that it sits inside.  The length is enough to go around the pot plus a little to get a half inch or more room.  It has a small paperclip to hold the ends together.  It needs to be short enough to clear the pot handle when in use and tall enough to get an inch or more up the pot when it is on the stand.

Candy tin, ~2.5 inches, lidded.  Bottom with fiberglass is 12g, lid is 9g.  Hinged candy tins are much easier to find, but the hinges are holes.  With this one, I can see that it is brimming over before it is actually spilling.  With hinged tins, it just spills out the side being wasteful.  It is filled with a piece of fiberglass (Pink Panther, but long since lost the pink) insulation cut to size.  This is meant as a wick, but also serves to make it hard to pour or spill the fuel.  The lid may be extra, but I keep it and put it on when warming stove and fuel by hand in the morning.

Titanium Esbit (or similar) stand.  14g.  It holds the stove and the pot up.  It would probably burn more efficiently with more room between the stove level and the pot level, but it works and it is solid.

Light My Fire toddler spork.  8g.  It stirs and it shovels and it fits in the pot.  Apparently this is luxury, because when something stole my spoon, I was able to get by without it.  I much prefer having a spoon to eating with tent stakes and granola bar wrappers.

8 oz drinking water bottle.  209g filled to the brim.  Not sure what it is empty, there is stuff in it.  The stuff is Klean Strip denatured alcohol from a local hardware store.  (This stove has been used enough to burn through 1 gallon already.)  It is roughly 50/50 methanol and ethanol with a little bit of even nastier stuff thrown in.  Methanol will go through the skin and has a low LD50, so it is best not to come into contact with this.  (Low LD50 means it is deadly in small quantities.  Gossip in the lab held it at a few mL, but it looks like it might be more like 5mL/kg when ingested orally.)  This is usually enough for at least five nights out, at least for me.  You would think that such a bottle would not last long, but after some initial attempts to use a collapsible bottle, I piked this one up quite early on in use, and it is well over a year old now.  Maybe I should replace it.  The poor thing shrinks and bloats with elevation and temperature.  It is not showing wear particularly.

Scoop.  2g.  It came with some creatine powder for free.  This one is 6cc.  I had one that was 9cc out of a different brand and this is what I learned how much fuel to use with and I do not seem to be adapting well.  I need 3 scoops for every 2, that should not be very hard.  The old one melted when I did something very stupid.

Exotac PolyStriker.  14g.  The fuel needs to be warm enough to get enough gas over the top to light with sparks.  It usually is plenty warm at the end of the day, but mornings can require warming by hand.  Some people sleep with their fuel bottle to keep it warn enough to light.  (I do not.)  If the air is still enough, enough alcohol gas will build up in a minute even when the air is near freezing.  Matches are lighter and do not need the fuel warmed for use, but they run out.  I used to have some cardboard matches in a tiny ziplock with my set, but they vanished.  I think they thing that stole my spoon stole them too.

Heat shield.  0g (does not register).  This is a new addition.  I think it is the foil from the top of a nut container.  People tell me I need one.  I have my doubts.

Hot pad (bandanna).  31g.  Honestly, I have rarely had a use for this.  It is nice to keep between the pot and myself when I am eating.  Sometimes I am foolish enough to put the handles of the pot or lid downwind and they get hot enough to need it.  In full disclosure, when I came down with a cold out in the wilderness alone for days, this one became my snot rag.  (It was washed by hand and twice through the washer after that.)

Bag.  12g.  Probably not needed.  It came with the pots and it keeps the lid on when everything is packed up.

All together: 287g without fuel.  Everything fits in the pot.

Safety: Never, ever add fuel to the stove when it is lit.  The fuel will ignite before you finish pouring and Bad Things will happen.  Stay with the stove as long as it is lit.  No, do not go off and set up camp while the water heats up.  It can wait five minutes.

I basically heat water for breakfast.  I heat and cook for dinner.  I make a guess at how much fuel I need based on temperature and elevation.  Lower temperatures need more fuel since you will need a certain amount per degree you want to heat the water and the water is also at a lower temperature.  More fuel is needed just to change water from ice to liquid even before it starts to warm, if that is how cold things are.  Higher elevations need more too.  I suspect it is just that inefficiency coming back to haunt me.  When I camped at 12,600 feet, I needed a bit more fuel than when bouncing around the local forest that tops out at 9,000 feet.  The little tin works great for heat and cook meals.  As the fuel burns down, it burns lower, so it burns high when bringing things to a boil and lower when just keeping them there.  It is out long before the 10 minute cook time is up, though.  That is alright, the pot can be left to sit and cooking will continue just fine with the residual heat.  This is the time to get up and set up camp.  I do not have a cozy and usually that is not a problem.  If I am really worried about things getting too cold to cook, I can just toss in another scoop of fuel and light it up again.

Some forests are starting to ban alcohol stoves.  I have been told that people have been known to kick the things over.  Personally, I have never come close to kicking a stove over, but then I have this belief that I need to be a responsible human being for the time that a fire I have lit is burning.  I have been told that it is some worry over having the fuel in a bowl.  This seems silly when it is just enough fuel for one burn and it does not spill with the fiberglass in it.  I have tried to pour a full tin back into the bottle.  I got a single drop out.  The fiberglass holds it in place.

I have used the Esbit tablets that came with my stand and quickly found out I could not stand the things.  I tried one of another brand and found that it was even worse.  Maybe if I used them as much as the candy tin, I would get to know them and love them.  I doubt it.

So that is my current and cutest stove.

(Since I mentioned the creatine, I will say this: Whatever it is you want to try creatine for, that is not why I use it.  I have no opinion about its efficacy for energy or bulking up muscle or sharper mind or whatever else it is supposed to do.  I take about 1/2 teaspoon a day.  It does seem to have a side effect of causing my muscles to cramp more easily.  When I finally read the Wikipedia entry, I found it interesting that this specific side effect was mentioned to claim it is not real.  I did try it in the higher quantities suggested for bulking up and it physically wired me in a funny way which I did not like.  I did not try it like that a second time.)

03 April 2016

Last Chance Mountain

Death Valley National Park

After another downright delightful night at the edge of Death Valley with the Desert Peaks Section group, it is again a short drive up to our start point, although a fair bit rougher than the drive on the previous day. The start is a cluster of mines in an area where there are quite a few mines. This one has many holes that look to be in quite good condition, one big enough to drive into. They are probably all the more dangerous for looking so safe. Holes in the ground are not our target anyway. We are heading north to a nice, high peak. And so we take off up an old mining road into a wide valley looking to gain a ridge and keep on walking. The road ends, for the most part, quickly at a set of large cairns. There is evidence of someone trying to find the way along it further up, but even that would not gain us much.

truck around the end of the road
Plenty of mining went on to give us our access point.

a little road walking
We get some pinon pines along the side of the short road walk.

The old road turns off into the valley again, but we continue to climb. This one is a little steeper than yesterday, but still gives pretty steady footing. There is almost a trail under our feet, but it is nothing that has ever been maintained.

the uphill portion
And we climb and we climb. Out of the valley and its mine road system.

02 April 2016

Sandy Point

Death Valley National Park

It is a good day for a Desert Peaks Section hike. The national weather service had predicted low 40s overnight and I did not wake up in frost for once. Well, I did not expect frost because desert air is good, dry stuff, but in this case it actually is in the low 40s. We are expected at the start point right around sunrise, so we rise ourselves into the pleasant dawn light. After some breakfast and checks and a short drive, we gather for the ceremonial signing of the liability waiver and general summary of the day's activities. The short version is we will walk along a ridge, tag a small bump on the way out, then continue on to the main attraction high above the Eureka Valley sand dunes. We then walk along the road a short way and, picking a spot, strike out into the wilderness.

head of the group heading out
Roads and trails only go so far. Sometimes you just have to pick a direction and walk.

gentle climb
This is easy travel country. For now, anyway.

It is a long, gentle slope ahead of us. Elsewhere, the desert is covered in flowers. Here, they are few and far between, but bright and colorful when they come.

purple with yellow deep in the center
A sudden burst of purple.

01 April 2016

Eureka Valley Sand Dunes

Death Valley National Park

I spotted a Desert Peaks Section (part of the Angeles chapter of the Sierra Club) outing included on the Hundred Peaks Section calendar and thought it looked fun and interesting. A little investigation showed that they still do not put any of their routes online like HPS does, but the schedule actually is there. Fine time to figure that out as the season for doing these is winding down and there may not be any for a while. As with HPS, you do not need to be a DPS member or even a Sierra Club member to join the outings. I signed up and even found a carpool for the long journey. It would require starting the drive at midnight to get to the traihead on time, so we are actually up the day before and looking about. It is a little warmer and not so windy on this trip to the sand dunes, but then it is the start of spring, not the start of winter.

Eureka Sand Dunes
The sand dunes with nothing whatsoever to help understand the scale.

human at the top
Well, there is the little black dot at the very top that represents a sitting human, but now all the markers to indicate the range of this photo have gone. It does not help much with scale.