30 June 2016

Cone Peaks: Templeton Mountain

Inyo National Forest

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4

(Day 3 of 4) Templeton, the original impetus for this trip plan, sits serenely across a short meadow and a random little hill. Should I get to a "better" position to start up it, or just clamber right up it and that little hill for good measure? Packed up, I go searching for that elusive trail, but there really is no certain sign of it. There is a funny looking post on the far side of the meadow that looks to have trail beside it. Maybe. And maybe that is a line there. As I hit the creek, there are a couple rocks set out to help hop it without getting my feet too wet, although the meadow plants are doing a good job of wetting my shoes already. The post turns out to be another location poster with an unfamiliar format, but this one is only about 7 years old. It is at the edge of dry land and points to something right by the creek only 51.6 meters away. I look, but nothing is obvious.

location poster
Location poster at the edge of the meadow at the foot of Templeton Mountain. You watch, I will regret not actually going and looking for this one.

It seems like a bad place to put something and the grass is wet. Still, so close. Keeping to the dry wins. However, it does not appear that there is any more trail here either. Clamber wins too. Up the hill, up the mountain. It is a rocky expanse dotted with trees and very little short stuff to hinder any route. Some of the rocks are quite interesting.

bubble filled layers
Bubble filled layers in the metamorphic rocks.

Templeton Mountain
Templeton Mountain, the goal for today, is just over the little hill.

29 June 2016

Cone Peaks: Brown Mountain

Inyo National Forest

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4

(Day 2 of 4) With the wet ground and falling temperatures in the night, there was a fair bit of dew. As the sky brightens, a moo drifts across the grass. Ah, wildlife. The mist hangs over the meadows, especially around the river, but it increases and moves as the sun rises and warms the wet ground. I thought I was well situated to get some morning rays, but it just takes forever to get over the mountains.

Monache Meadows
Mist on the meadows in the morning.

Eventually, I realize the sun actually is glowing up there in the sky, however what was a sky full of stars has somehow turned into a sky full of clouds. There is no telling how long it will take the sun to come out, so everything will just have to be put away wet. Since I ignored the road to find water and then camp last night, I have to go find it again in the morning. This is easy, it is right where I left it. Then I have to try to navigate the many junctions to the trail through Hessian Meadows that I want to head north on. This is a little more difficult. This is harder since I seem to have oriented myself a bit away from the true directions. Deep down I must really want to climb Olancha rather than little Brown Mountain and I keep trying to go too far east. It might help if the signs made any sense. They just say "dead end" when they are not just pointing out what is another 100 feet along.

Olancha Peak
Olancha Peak still sleeps. It really is more interesting looking and rises another 2200 feet.

I cross the South Fork Kern River barefoot in the sandy ford. It is not particularly cold and the sand is smooth. Now I am spared the confusing signs by having no signs at all except a couple showing the designation. Harrison does not thing road or trail designations are important, so none of these are helpful in fixing my incorrect orientation. I pick one and it slowly curves away from where I am going, so I yield and return. Another try gets me past a spring, which would be nice if not for the big cow turd in the middle of the pool, to some cabins and a trail. It is not the one I want. I try again getting to Monache Creek, which has some very lovely water coming down it, and a couple more trails. Mime is the one on the left past an unexpected administrative site.

more meadow
Wandering the meadows, but not so badly as the cows.

28 June 2016

Cone Peaks: Monache Mountain

Sequoia National Forest

Inyo National Forest

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4

(Day 1 of 4) I left Templeton Mountain unclimbed almost two years ago and decided to try for it again. The impetus to climb this silly looking nearly perfect cone of a peak was to look for a benchmark that is on the 1905 Olancha 30' map. There are others, so I decided to add a few more to the trip to make a big loop with a return that may as well visit Jordan Hot Springs again. I stopped by the Blackrock Ranger Station to self issue a wilderness permit then got up to the parking lot just after hitting the breaks to avoid hitting a bear. Seeing the bear makes me really want to get rid of food trash and maybe food before leaving the car, but there are no trash cans or bear boxes available. So it goes. There is a beautiful hazard tree central to the lot. So it goes.

To avoid walking the same trails as much as possible, I decide to head over to Monache Meadows via motorcycle trail and jeep road. This is decidedly not the short route for getting the goals for the day, Monache Mountain and a benchmark west of it, but I am not concerned with the distance. First, I have to find a short bit of jeep road that heads out from the parking lot, according to my map. I eventually find a piece of long gone road going in the right direction. There are a lot of big trees to climb over before a trail, not on my map, comes in from the left and continues down the old road bed. The motorcycle trail, decorated with direction signs and stop signs, is easy to find and actually rather pleasant to wander along as it twists into valleys and out to views.

granite knobs reaching upward
Granite knobs in the distance, one of them probably even called Granite Knob.

Olancha Peak
Olancha Peak sure looks like a sleeping giant in the distance.

The heat of the day is coming on quickly, but as it gets to be too much, the clouds start offering good shade. This trail is luxury. It has bridges over the little creeks, and the first even has water running under it. A few more decaying roads and motorcycle trails come up to it. Only one is on the map. I can hear a motorcycle in the distance, but none come along the trail.

26 June 2016

Yucca Trail

Gaviota State Park

Gaviota State Park seems to be out to get all its trails back. There was a while when there were about twice as many on the map as on the ground. Exploring one of these reworked trails is most easily done starting at the park entry by Las Cruces. I picked up a couple sisters from by the old adobe stage coach stop and after having a look at that, proceeded to the gated end of the road and the start of the hike. It is a little warm although I can just see the fog hanging above the break in the rocks made by the pass. We start off down the fire road and quickly come to a trail junction. Before, this junction was easily missed and only one trail showed at all. Now it has an information kiosk and trail signs marking the Ortega Trail that follows near the creek and the Yucca Trail that climbs along the ridge. Both easily found and followed. After a brief discussion, we head up the Yucca Trail, the one that was previously invisible. It climbs quickly.

fog bank through the gap
Looking down along the gap made by the Gaviota Creek. There is a little fog low out there.

park on the east side
I can pick out the trails in the park that are often hard to find on the east side of the freeway, too.

The trail starts off steep enough and then gets steeper. There are a couple short sections that are steep enough to worry about grip on the trail in the dry summer conditions of the day. It progresses directly up the hill a lot of the time and the few storms we have had are already showing why that is a poor choice for trail construction. But is is quite open and easily traveled and is clearly being enjoyed by plenty hikers and bikers.

11 June 2016

Burnt Peak

Angeles National Forest

It was starting to get hot as we finished climbing back up from Atmore Meadows, so it is nice to grab another thousand feet or so and start up Burnt Peak. Again, we are on bicycles. This one starts off downhill and has some steep uphills before more downhill.

Burnt Peak
The objective: Burnt Peak.

Sawmill Mountain
Getting low and looking back at Sawmill Mountain.

Looking west, I can just make out the road down to Atmore Meadows.

The final climb starts off steep, but then levels off to a typical road slope. We slowly twist our way to the top.

Atmore Meadows

Angeles National Forest

The line on the map has intrigued me, so now is an opportunity to check it out. The road from the saddle is easy enough for high clearance, but the road down to the meadow is marked as closed and unsafe to travel. Without a gate to close, there are plenty of tracks past the sign anyway.

start here
The end of truck travel. Take the left fork for the meadows and the right for a closed gate in a few feet.

Tehachapi Mountains
It is clearer today. Looking to the Tehachapi Mountains to the north before heading south.

We take the bikes although the road looks fine from here. Although mostly downhill, we have to ride generally uphill to get over a shoulder before getting to the business of dropping to the meadows below.

10 June 2016

Maxwell Trail

Angeles National Forest

The Powerhouse Fire closure may be expired, but there are still a few closed roads in the area. We decided to take advantage of one for a ride. It will be interesting to see what the fire has done, but most of this one did not actually burn. Finding the bottom to set up a shuttle is difficult as it looks like it is just some driveway in the middle of the town at the north end of Lake Hughes Road. There is some truth to this impression. The road does go to a home, then becomes a washed out mess on the way to the locked gate. There is plenty of room to leave a car there for a shuttle before heading up to the saddle by Burnt Peak to start. The air is a bit hazy today, reducing the views just a bit. We start off with a bit of climbing.

northeast view
A break to the northeast allows a view in that direction. The solar panels look like lakes out in the desert today. The road is getting some travel by those with keys.

Even more ridges to the south. Somewhere out there is Warm Springs, but I cannot pick out the fire lookout skeleton today.

Burnt Peak
The "monument" at the top of Burnt Peak stands in stark white.

The road is nice and smooth and seems to be getting some travel by people with a key to the gate. There is some slow climbing at first, but it is soon enough done before the views seem to open up more and there is a bit of downhill.

05 June 2016

Sunday Peak

Sequoia National Forest

We climbed Sunday Peak with our backpacks weighed down with #10 cans of peaches and things out of the kitchen to get the feel of a weighted pack before going out for a three day trip. It was probably meant to shake out whoever might have signed up for a backpacking unit even though they should not have. I remember it being a sunset hike and we all had a grand time, so there was no actual shaking. I probably hiked it again in a similar way before going out on a five day trip another year. The camp is gone, but the driving directions still say to park near the sign for Camp Mountain Meadows GSA. I am rightly suspicious the sign is gone, but it has simply been replaced with one for the trail so that it is still easy to find. The area could be confusing with a motorcycle trail running past and the old camp road heading down to the meadows the camp was named for, but there is a second sign a little deeper in that makes the correct route clear.

Sunday Peak Trail sign
This way to go to the top of Sunday Peak so long as you have not got a motor.

We start the climb among the trees. The elevation has helped reduce the heat some something comfortable and the trees give plenty of shadows to help even more. They also block the view of the surrounding land for most the way up.

trees blocking most the view
Just short of the signed "photo op", as it turns out.

Bohna Peak

Sequoia National Forest

We stayed the night at Cedar Creek Campground, which is also a good starting point for climbing Bohna Peak. The road up the creek through the campground continues past the last site to what could almost be called a parking area and a trail continues after that. The creek quickly becomes a stunning thing of ledges and cascades. It is quite surprising after seeing it as the overtrampled flow of water over jumbled rocks and dirt that it has inevitably become within the campground.

Cedar Creek
Cedars and cottonwoods along Cedar Creek.

cottonwoods in the thin canyon
A thin canyon with tall cottonwoods.

spots of purple line the creek
Many flowers are blooming along the creek.

The trail crosses the creek often and sometimes gets very nearly into the creek. As I edge along a rock wall trying to keep my feet dry, there is suddenly an odd hole in the side. Very square and very deep and very consistant, it must be an old mine.

04 June 2016

Black Mountain and Split Mountain

Sequoia National Forest

I signed up for another Hundred Peaks Section outing, this time bringing along another geocacher who is not at all worried that there are no geocaches to get along the way. The planned early morning start got earlier when the weather for the weekend became known. The high for Kernville, somewhere down the hill a bit, is expected to be 104°F. Up here, 3000+ feet higher, that translates into something that is on the correct side of body temperature but still very hot. Twenty minutes after sun up, it is not yet hot, but it is certainly not cool either. I have dropped in three bags of water at 2.5 liters each to try to make it through the 12 mile or so day without drying out. I find a half liter a mile is a minimum on days that hit 90°F when on trail and these will be off trail miles. The water is heavy, but the pack is riding better than usual with the extra weight as we start up a thin track in the grass, climbing steeply up the hill.

right up the mountain side
Without a trail, it is easy to fall into the most direct way to climb the mountain in front of us.

little flowers
Blankets of purple show to be a carpet of low growing flowers when up close.

The track splits as we go, but we pick our way ever upward. Directly upward. A steep and unrelenting climb upward. Winding through the trees and curving our large rock outcrops, upward. Then, suddenly, there is a summit block. It is after a lot more effort than the distance traveled would seem to indicate.

next peak
Already looking to the next peak through a view obscured by trees.

summit block
The summit block of Black Mountain. This is the taller of the peaks today, but the view has some obstructions.

After a little time at the top, we head down again. Down is steep too. Actually, down might be steeper. We veer north to catch a ridge that will take us to Split Mountain. There are tracks here, but they are not left by previous peak baggers. The tracks keep turning away from where we want to go, and then we drop steeply again. One short and particularly steep climb gets us onto the ridge top.

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...