30 April 2016

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.

ranch in the next valley
A peek into the next valley. Jupiter Mountain rises behind it.

on the fuel break
Following the fuel break trail over the tops of the hills brings a few extra mountains into view.

There is a higher peak after just a little dip and the trail is just as strong leading to it. Of course I have to continue.

Grass Mountain
Feeling almost level with Grass Mountain which is 500 feet higher.

From the top of the higher peak, tracks extend along as far as the eye can see. Admittedly, it is a little bit of a hazy day. I could do that. There is always the road below it to retreat to. I was there just a few months ago, I should recognize where I need to drop to the road to return along the PCT. In a moment of don't-try-this-at-home foolishness, the spur turns into a loop.

ridge line tracks continue
More ridge line route continues above Leona Divide Road.

The track divides and drops steeply. One connects with the PCT below, the other heads out to the road. Just before it, there is a slapstick claiming I may take my jeep along this, but not my bicycle. I jog to the side where it looks like the route continues up from the road. This climb is a bit harder than expected. Each foot placement needs to be tested before it can be trusted. It starts to look like this is not any route people take, but the climb is a short distance with an easy walk at the top waiting. I attempt switchbacks as I work upward slowly. It helps a little. Abruptly, the slope does end in easy walking. The track is not well used at first, but just past apparent benchmark debris, it hits a motorcycle track.

windmills in the distance
There are windmills out there in the haze.

motorcycle track
The motorcycles come up here. Sure, the fences make it clear they are not supposed to, but the fences are not strong enough.

scarlet bugler
One of a few scarlet bugler that brighten the dry ridge. There is also ceanothus still in bloom that can be seen in the background.

puff ball
A puff ball as big as my open hand next to some buckwheat that is about ready to bloom.

There are some choices in route along here, but I just keep to the ridge line that is closest to the road. It drops steeply to a fence meant to keep traffic from choosing this route instead of the road, then climbs again steeply. It climbs again, almost as steeply to a new set of peaks. Halfway up, the sound of an engine alerts me to one of the more liberal minded users who does not care about fences if there is a way around and I scoot out of the main path in plenty of time for him to pass. The hard uphill again yields to a more easily traveled top.

horny toad
Plenty of horny toads (I am a lizard!) out today.

flat desert
The desert is almost entirely flat just a couple miles away.

There is hill after hill, each ever so slightly higher than the last. At the high point, there is indication of a benchmark. Investigating, it is not debris this time. It is a 1932 benchmark called Burn. The reference marks have not fared quite so well as they are numbers 4 and 5 from 1968 and have been renamed Sleepy Valley B1. I expected there was once a benchmark somewhere up here. I was not really expecting it to be intact.

Grass Mountain
Still below Grass Mountain and topping out 50 feet short of it.

burn benchmark
The high point for a few miles around has a benchmark. It seems to be offset slightly from the bulldozer paths and well protected.

road junction below
Things look a little familiar as the road junction comes into view.

From the benchmark, there is another fuel break heading south to cross the trail where it also jogs a long way south. I could take this one back, but stick with the most recent plan heading to the road junction. It is again a steep downhill to get there although none of the slopes quite compared to that initial one up from the road. I skip the ridge route over one of the bumps on the way, taking the road instead, but grab it again for the last. It certainly is a quick way down compared to the road. Once at the junction, it looks very familiar. The downhill stroll to the trail is quick.

PCT crest
The crest ahead signals I am almost to the end of the short road walk.

The trail is very easy travel compared to the ridge. It has been carefully maintained so no brush reaches out, no rocks try to trip, there is always plenty of flat area to place a foot. It only very very slowly drifts upwards or downwards, preferring some very long excursions north and south instead.

wild cucumber
The (poisonous) wild cucumber around here is also quite large.

big oak along the trail
One big tree along the trail which happens to have a bench and a sign for the winners of the Leona Divide 50 under it. The last one was on the 16th. Maybe this explains the couple of cups at the side of the trail.

canyons with trail halfway up
Looking back, the trail winds through the canyons.

bumps ahead
On ahead, the trail bumps into the other ridge line route. The trail is in wonderful shape.

lots of trail lines
The trail winds along the hills ahead. The road makes a bolder line above it as it does the same.

There is a completely different collection of flowers and growth at this lower elevation.

The deep blue of some delphinium.

oak gall
Oak galls hang like bright red apples.

tiny white flowers
A small section of a tall stalk with tiny flowers.

coyote bush flowers
Coyote bush is just starting to burst.

A few thicker clouds gather above. There is still blue in places, but the small threat of rain resolves itself into a spattering of drops. It is just enough to notice, not enough to actually wet anything.

shovel sign post
A discarded shovel becomes a sign post.

chia blue
Chia by the side of the trail.

stormy over the canyons
A glimpse of the hills south of Bouquet Canyon, which will have to be hiked some time too.

It feels a whole lot longer winding along halfway up the hills than it did to cross the tops of them. A second through hiker passes me on his determined way north. Besides those three, the trail held a few runners in the morning and a day hiker that tried to tease me about being "almost there" after mistaking me for "one of them". Do I have the funk? Surely, I do not have the funk. My half flattened 28 liter pack does look big because it is tall and narrow. I find myself by the silly little metal sign again. It is all downhill and known from here.

bee on physalia
A bee finds something good in the phacelia.

Back at the start and the sign.

©2016 Valerie Norton
Posted 1 May 2016

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