31 July 2016


I got a new sketchbook after finishing the last one.  It is another Canson Field Drawing Book like I've had before and quite liked.  The last book was a little on the small side.  I still have a few pages in the watercolor book that hadn't been touched in almost a year and that got the most use.  It should have gotten a little more, but chatting and fish photography happened instead.

A falling cabin corner beside reliable Movie Stringer (my hero) after climbing Templeton Mountain.

The rest stops in Glenwood Canyon have trails and I wandered up Grizzly Creek while waiting for a space for the Hanging Lake.

First night at the flats on top of the Flat Tops.

Second night under the cliffs near the biggest of the Flat Tops.

Fourth night with a distant view of the biggest of the Flat Tops.

29 July 2016

Williamson: Anvil Camp

Inyo National Forest

Manzanar National Historic Site

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4 | DAY 5 | DAY 6

(Day 6 of 6) The sun gets up appropriately early when camped out around The Pothole. My bear canister seems inappropriately empty. Apparently I did not quite figure out that I needed one more breakfast than supper. There is no breakfast for me in there. Ralph has about a pound of oatmeal he has not eaten yet, so there is plenty to eat. But where are the raisins? Where is the cinnamon? Oh, are beggars not supposed to be choosers? I dump the last of my blueberry juice infused cranberries (surprisingly yummy) into the mix and it is good, but it really needs a mass of cinnamon. Allspice can be nice, too.

We pack up for the last time and head down passing a couple groups coming up from Anvil Camp. Add to them the trail crew staying there and it must have been a little crowded there last night. There are indeed a lot more mosquitoes down in the more common camp area. The trail crew is back on the job at the bottom of camp. Most of them are far above the current trail because they have decided they will have better luck keeping a trail up there. To me, it looks like they are sticking it at the bottom of a funnel, but maybe I am not seeing the big picture. They have a bit of tread in, so I go up and try it out. It is a long way up.

As we descend the switchbacks into Mahogany Flat, it is getting hot and I am getting hungry already. I stop under a good tree just a few feet from where we camped and quickly come upon the one big wildlife sighting of the trip, or rather it comes upon us. A deer comes out of the growth at the side, nibbling on various things. Almost exclusively, she is going after the seed filled stalks of a plant that looks parasitic. They must be delicious. I munch and she munches for a while. She is watchful of us as she crosses the trail to find more of the red-brown stalks and continues into the growth again.

deer on sleep pad
A wary deer wandering through a small open space someone has probably used for sleeping in Mahogany Flat. Photo by Ralph.

28 July 2016

Williamson: Williamson Bowl

Inyo National Forest

Sequoia National Forest

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4 | DAY 5 | DAY 6

(Day 5 of 6) Another morning by the lake and still no fish are jumping, but we are going fishing. Just not here. We pack it all up only to drop it again just the other side of the rocks. Dave has decided that it will be easier to get to Big Sur for a family weekend if he walks out today and Devon likes that hike a little better than the one over the trailless rocks, so they are both bailing on us again. We wave them off while we unload our packs, the start the first navigational challenge.

next level down
Looking down on the lake at the next level below. Williamson Creek gets its start here. We are heading down to it and over the lip to the next one. Photo by Dave from above us.

This is where I want to grab my camera and thumb to a photograph of the area we will be hiking down to remind me of the route. Reconnaissance photos are really the only thing with enough detail to help with a route in a difficult area. Yesterday I decided to walk with the cliff at my left and I should not find a cliff at my feet. Otherwise there is likely to be a short and scary climb. Ralph gives into the urge to lose some elevation, but since I am staying high, he stays a little high and does not have to climb up much when the cliff comes. I come to a ramp that is a little steep, but decidedly not a cliff. At the bottom is a long scree slope to the outflow of the first lake. There seem to be footsteps in it coming out of or going into the rocks where we did. As we drop, we can see ripples and then fish jumping in the lake. This one certainly does have fish in it.

27 July 2016

Williamson: Mount Williamson

Inyo National Forest

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4 | DAY 5 | DAY 6

(Day 4 of 6) This morning, I pack up most my stuff into various bags to leave at camp. We will be coming right back here in the afternoon, so no need to carry it. My worries about the weather coming later cannot hurry anyone else and the bright blue sky overhead does nothing to help my case. Climbing back out of the bowl of the lake to what is a bit like a ridge running through Williamson Bowl is just as hard as coming down. There are some things that look like trails, but they finish as soon as they start. At the top with many miles of Owens Valley visible, some realize they can call their spouses to say that they can stop worrying about what might have happened yesterday and start worrying about what might happen today. I realize that we want to go down to the lakes below tomorrow and take the time to scrutinize the route. It seems like all routes cliff out except the highest one. Counter-intuitive, but easy to remember.

people among the granite
Giving all the cliffs of the routes down along the other side a good glare while Ralph makes it known that nothing horrible has happened to him yet. Photo by Dave, who is texting instead.

26 July 2016

Williamson: Shepherd Pass

Inyo National Forest

Sequoia National Park

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4 | DAY 5 | DAY 6

(Day 3 of 6) The morning sun comes up directly down the canyon and I go for the camera to take a picture. The camera promptly does nothing at all. I check the settings and it is on and everything looks right, but there is not even a complaint of a low battery when I press the shutter. I left it on when I tucked it into my pack last night and it probably spent the night trying to focus on the inside of the pack. The action was to protect it from dew I knew would not manifest and indeed did not. Battery failure number two. I did that once before with dire consequences for any chance at picture taking, so at least I am not in a panic that my expensive camera is now broken, but I should have learned. Of course since the battery will last for weeks, short of egregious operator error, I do not have a spare. With the telephoto and tripod, this means over 10% of my pack weight now might as well be a rock except that I would have no problem dumping a rock. I grump about it for a little bit, then get on to the morning camp routine. There will be plenty of time to grump about it later every time I want to capture a scene.

people near tree line
On the trail again and getting ready to leave the tree line behind. Photo by Dave.

25 July 2016

Williamson: Mahogany Flat

Inyo National Forest

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4 | DAY 5 | DAY 6

(Day 2 of 6) The White Mountains throw a long shadow, so the peaks above get light a lot sooner than we do. The others are not in much of a hurry to get out and have a bit more to take down anyway. I looked at the weather and then looked around at various nearby and far areas and eventually decided to believe the National Weather Service although I am usually reluctant to do so for more than three days out. According to it, there will not be the slightest chance of rain, so I left out tent or shelter or even bivy sack. I grabbed the wind breaker and left the rain gear. It is a very nice weight savings. Not as much as expected versus what I carried in Colorado, though. Got to figure that out, that did include rain gear and shelter. Meanwhile, everyone else has and is using a tent. I guess it helps tone down the moon brightness.

bright peaks, dark sage
Morning has broken up high, but down in the sages is still quite dim.

Ralph and I are slow hikers and happy to be so. Dave and Devon are a little more into the speedster camp of hiking, so we arrange a meeting place and let them run. It all starts off easy, wandering along the side of Symmes Creek with a few crossings. Encroaching willows have grown up and been hacked away only to repeat many times. For now, there is plenty of clearance. The walls all rise steeply away. The ridges do too and the walls get taller. There is a lot of up.

John Muir Wilderness
Entering the John Muir Wilderness.

24 July 2016

Williamson: Manzanar

Manzanar National Historic Site

Inyo National Forest

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4 | DAY 5 | DAY 6

(Day 1 of 6) Ralph said he wanted to go up Mount Williamson, but he wanted to start the hike at Manzanar. I have been past Manzanar many times and usually given it the hairy eyeball as I went. It is a place I did not want to visit as though visiting would somehow condone the actions that led to the building and populating of this place. After the Japanese hit Pearl Harbor, the American people did a few irrational things out of fear. The west coast states gathered up more than 110,000 people of Japanese descent, most of them fellow citizens, and interned them within 10 camps. The feeble excuses for doing so could just as well be applied to Germans on the east coast, but somehow no one worried about them. Now Ralph wants to retrace, in a sense, the steps of the Manzanar fishermen. You see, in spite of the eight guard towers with armed military police, there were a few who escaped under cover of darkness and crossed the desert into the mountains to fish and, once or twice, climb the big mountain. All but one would risk the return as well, and that one died on the mountain. Ralph had to do a lot of extra planning for the start because he cannot just leave the car at the site. Luckily, he also got an offer to move the car and bring it back, even if it was needed at a rather inhospitable hour.

monument at Manzanar
The monument at Manzanar stands in the cemetery outside the square mile that was the compound. Strings of paper cranes glisten in the moonlight and headlights.

19 July 2016

Buffalo Mountain

White River National Forest

We have Tuesday morning off, so I picked another mountain to climb. A little easier than Quandary this time. This one is a couple hundred feet short of 13k instead of a couple hundred feet taller than 14k. There is trail all the way up to facilitate that climb with a time limit, but it is only 2.6 miles long. I will not have to hit the trailhead at 6AM this time. I was aiming not all that much later at 7AM, but lost a half hour somewhere. I did a looping hike around it two years ago. Now I will climb it. First to find the trailhead. The roads are not straightforward, but I hit it on the second try. Actually, the trail off the end of Royal Buffalo Drive would probably have worked too, but the parking situation is not as clear.

trail sign
Signs and kiosk at the start of the Buffalo Cabin Trail.

The start is familiar, past the clear cut of "defensible space" and into a rather dense and young forest. There are tents scattered in the trees just past the wilderness sign and then a junction. The trail is well trod and as wide as the trees will let it be.

purple flowers
The clear cut does make a bit of meadow now that it is getting old.

clear cut
Clear cut in the morning light. It is still scattered with little forlorn stumps.

17 July 2016

Flat Tops: Shingle Peak Trail

White River National Forest

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4 | DAY 5 | DAY 6

(Day 6 of 6) I wake to find there is a mosquito inside my barrier and when I squish it it bleeds. Well, one is better than the multitude that undoubtedly tried. I look out on the meadow are more elk. Half seem to be hanging out by a small pool that is more mud than water. This group is different from the larger group yesterday. This group all have antlers. The mosquitoes are forgotten as I move quietly to the edge of the trees pulling on my coat. I hang back just a little bit and they do not seem to notice me.

elk group with antlers
Elk on the meadow.

The elk have gone again once I have eaten and slid everything back in the pack. I am not going to climb Turret Peak this trip, so the only climb left is about 80 feet to finish getting out of the creek below. It is all downhill from there. Every last step. One of them passing the only sign of bear for the trip, a rather large print in the dried mud.

getting started going downhill long
Getting started on a long downhill.

far and lower hills
Grassy lands below.

16 July 2016

Flat Tops: Derby Peak

White River National Forest

Routt National Forest

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4 | DAY 5 | DAY 6

(Day 5 of 6) Dawn breaks through a blanket of clouds after another mild night. There is no excuse that I am at a lower elevation this time, this is my highest camp of the trip. The ponds seem decidedly sterile and there have been no mosquitoes up here. It sure is nice.

bright orange in the clouds
Enjoying breakfast wondering if the sun is high or not.

Today should be an easy day, but it might be a little long. I want to get down to the last water shown on the map before the long dry section on the ridge to the trailhead. That should leave just six miles downhill for tomorrow so that it will be super easy to be out by noon. Just have to wander around the bit of rock and ponds and onto the good trail to follow it on down. At least until it is no longer good trail.

lots of flatish grass
A long way to go across the flat tops.

around Bear River
Somewhere down there is Mosquito Lake. Maybe they named it that to hide that it mysteriously has no mosquitoes or maybe it is just like the other lower lakes.

15 July 2016

Flat Tops: Lost Lakes and Peaks

Routt National Forest

White River National Forest

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4 | DAY 5 | DAY 6

(Day 4 of 6) The night was quite mild and I used the quilt alone, but the morning is cool enough to keep the mosquitoes at bay almost long enough to have breakfast. Just the elevation change is not enough to explain the warmer temperature. A number of lakes, including the Lost Lakes, lie ahead, and then a climb up to the slanted flats above and eventually to the intersection my proposed cutoff would have got me to quite a bit earlier. The map indicates that it is quite dry up there until the finish, but there have seemed to be lakes nearby so far. I am starting with a little more water than I have been just in case it is true. It certainly does start off passing lots of little ponds as indicated. When I get nearby, I will see how I feel about doing a benchmark and a peak.

rocky edged lake
The ponds seem to have multiple geological origins. First one that results in a basin of broken up rocks.

Long Lake
Along with the ponds is another named lake: Long Lake.

gentle folding
Another pond form results in a gentle and regular basin.

It seems it is a good day for wildlife. Well, a few large forms, anyway. It starts off with a few ducks.

ducks take flight
Some ducks take flight over East Lost Lake.

14 July 2016

Flat Tops: Flat Top Mountain

White River National Forest

Routt National Forest

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4 | DAY 5 | DAY 6

(Day 3 of 6) There is the tiniest bit of frost around again and it does not seem to want to leave until the sun hits it. That will be a little longer than I want to wait. It sure is easy to get up before the mosquitoes when I already have my warm stuff on. The plan for today is to head up the high point of the mountain range, then suffer the indignity of shortening my trip because I just do not seem to be moving fast enough to do the whole loop.

sun hitting Derby Peak
Sunrise in the shadow of the biggest flat top of them all.

With the sun nearly upon me anyway, I head off away from the lake with its few fish and horse skeleton. (There is all too often a horse skeleton somewhere.) The trail seems good enough, but it actually leads to two routes to get to the lake. The map shows it heading south an unnecessary length before splitting and going north, but I decide to skip that bit in a moment of hope as it fades out under my feet anyway. Somehow, the other trail is much clearer and easy to catch going north.

trail through the meadow
A fine trail, but it vanishes in the meadow. If you can see it up on the hill, aim for the cairn. Once it is needed, it will be hiding behind the curve of the land.

waterfall on Derby
A waterfall coming off Derby Peak that was hidden in the shadow yesterday evening.

As usual, good trail turns bad quickly. There are creeks to cross and a little bit more. Someone has helpfully placed a piece of orange tape at just the right spot to enter the head high willow, or at least what might be the currently sanctioned spot. The willows are growing in a bog what has some tricks. I take careful steps in it and as one foot tries to land, the dirt bobs downward. I pull it back quickly. How can a little piece of land be floating? Actually, there are ways. Unfortunately, that looked like the only safe spot. As I ponder, I become aware that I am actually on a timer. My other foot is sinking slowly. I really should have ignored the trail and kept to the side of the valley to work up toward the peak. That is where I want to go anyway. I go for something next to a willow hoping it holds better than it looks. I am certain there will be no way through without a muddy mess, but somehow it works out.

a very green valley
It might have made sense to just head up the valley coming off Flat Top Mountain rather than try to keep to the trail, or it might have its own murky dangers hidden away.

13 July 2016

Flat Tops: Island Lakes

White River National Forest

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4 | DAY 5 | DAY 6

(Day 2 of 6) The air is cold, but I am sweating as I wake. I made a new quilt that just barely tops a pound and am expecting it to be good maybe to 45°F on its own and hoping it will be warm enough in freezing temperatures when wearing the other things I might have along on such a trip. It has not been properly tested, but so far has been too warm on its own for a couple very mild nights. Whatever the temperature is now, it is not cold enough for quilt, puffy pants, and a jacket. I expect it is somewhere above freezing, but as I look around, bits of ice beg to differ. The top of the bear canister has a lovely layer of the stuff and once I leave the quilt, it ices over too. Actually, things seem to be quite actively freezing as I get my breakfast together and keep it up until the first rays of sun hit.

red topped Shingle Peak
The top of Shingle Peak starts to glow as the sun thinks about hitting it.

tiny pink bells
These bells are so small, I have to get right to the ground to have any hope of hearing them ring.

My speed yesterday has me worried I cannot hit both the high point of the local mountains and go searching the Lost Lake Peaks for a benchmark called LOST. I spent most of the day just getting to the supposedly five day loop leaving just four days to get around and back again. Well, four and a half because of the extra meal I grabbed. Okay, I did not think too much about the extra miles, somewhere north of fifteen, added on to this loop by taking the shorter drive. The high point seems more important than the silly benchmark, so I will keep to the plan for now. The weather is not the least bit threatening, but for now I will simply get somewhere close so I can go up it in the morning tomorrow. Somewhere. The main route goes past lakes marked no camping, but I will find something. First order of business is to try to follow the trail along the top of these flat tops that is randomly good or absolutely invisible.

good trail and cairn
Starting off on good trail passing by one of the largest and most visible rock cairns. The trail does fade in and out, but here there is always a dip to follow and more trail beyond to see.

leftover snow beside a pond
Still a little bit of snow left to melt in the middle of July.

The initial trail that is easy to follow past a big cairn changes quickly. It is often well established if it can be seen below the thick, low covering of willows. Then it passes a patch with different soil characteristics and very little is visible. It keeps dropping down to edge around some little pond while my instincts are to try to stay high. Whenever I have to play at guessing where the trail will be, I get over a hill to see a tall cairn or stick marking a route off to my left where the land is lower.

12 July 2016

Flat Tops: Turret Creek

White River National Forest

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4 | DAY 5 | DAY 6

(Day 1 of 6) For a third year in a row, I have an excuse to go out to Colorado with the opportunity to backpack. I decided to check out the Flat Tops Wilderness this time and found this Boy Scout oriented route suggestion. They can get a patch for doing a 50 mile trip and this one is designed to fit the bill. Of course, I cannot just let someone else plan my whole trip for me. Looking over my Trails Illustrated map, Flat Tops seems to have four main entries with good roads to them, one each for north, south, east, and west. There are quite a number more with rougher entries, but one for each cardinal direction seems quite convenient enough. The western entry (Trapper Lake) even has an opportunity to be the first to find a geocache, but was part of a large burn in 2002 and requires a long, slow approach. The eastern entry (Stillwater Reservoir), which is the suggestion, is 70 miles from the interstate. The southern approach (Sweetwater Lake) is only 20 miles from the interstate and has at least three different and distinctive trails to choose from to connect to the loop. That sounds inviting. The last quarter mile is a 4WD road, but there is a second parking area for cars and trailers before that. Researching either the trailhead or the nearby campground found that they are having a little bit of bear problem in the area and ask that food be stored in a hard sided vehicle or 10 feet up a tree. Maybe it is the bear that is little. That is not sufficient height for a bear bag. I added in the Bear Vault as heavy marmot protection. Marmots are real, as well as evil militant ultralight enthusiasts, after all.

After playing the afternoon away on other trails, I needed a place to stay. There is private property lining the road and no camping at the trailhead. I was going to pay my $8 at the campground even though all I wanted was a quiet place to sleep. I opened the door to find some trailer running something, maybe air conditioning, just 10 feet up a hill. Really, I just wanted one thing. Instead, I went to the trail parking and hiked in a little way under the bright stars, just past more private property the trail passes through before really getting started, to get a jump on the morning hike. It would have worked, to, except in the morning I decided I had forgotten a couple small items and wanted an extra supper and breakfast. I was planning five full days and have a deadline for getting out again, but will still need a place to sleep the night after and really do not have to be out until noon on the sixth day. Easiest just to hang out a little longer in the backcountry. After walking the road, I knew I could drive it. The car parking was a half mile before the end and the rougher quarter mile is a steep hill that could get quite tough for a little car in inclement weather.

Hilltop Trailhead has plenty of parking at the top and almost as much below, especially considering there is only my small car in any of it. It has a lovely kiosk to explain Leave No Trace principals and the wilderness regulations beside a map. Beside that is a gate across the old road and a sign advising all to stay to the road through the next mile of private property. The gate is to keep the rancher's horses in so must be kept closed. This section of road is unused now, but a new road quickly joins it from the ranch below and it clearly does get used. The 1 mile measurement must be an average, because the route quickly splits at a sign with the road continuing through the property for longer than that while a trail pops over a hill and out another gate after only half a mile and splitting again. These two trails are my planned entry and egress. The left trail follows a ridge while the right follows a creek giving maximum distinction for the paths in and out of the trailhead. My original plan was to start with the ridge, but is is long and dry and the creek looks much more attractive with a freshly loaded pack.

Turret Creek
The trail following Turret Creek, still shrouded in deep morning shadows.

It is some nice, well established trail. Roses do reach for me in spots, but they are easy to push away with my poles when they get too enthusiastic. It is nice not to have to be route finding right out. Turret Creek roars below, well out of easy access, but a wide stream crossing the trail has quite enough in it for anyone in need. Rocks and a stick mark some thin trail as I make my way along it to the creek below. Maybe a campsite someone thinks is quite nice. It seems a little early.

Turret Creek
Turret Creek is big and swift white water through here.

And then the route finding begins. People have pushed up the side of the creek, but it is soon clear that is not the way. Looping back, it looks like there is a little bit of trail just slightly downstream of where I hit the creek and as I follow it, it becomes more clear. That is the trail. Across the cold, swift, white water with not even the slightest thought of stepping stones or a bridge across it. The morning is still cold and I have no desire to cross it. Not only that, I do not think I should have to. Pulling out the map, it shows a route that stays a little higher and keeps my feet dry. This is a connector to Nellie's Nipple, although the map seems to have used the length of the trail as an excuse to shyly omit the second word. There is another connector back across the swift cold water, but it seems much safer and much more comfortable to climb back up and look for the trail I missed rather than plunge in at least knee deep to the water roaring past. It should have been just past the wide stream crossing, so that should make it easier to locate.

11 July 2016

Hanging Lake

White River National Forest

The best way to get to Hanging Lake in the middle of the day is probably to pick one of the other parking areas and come in along the bike path, especially if you have your bike along. There is one two miles away and a couple four miles away. Getting to Hanging Lake well after lunch, there was no longer a line for parking spots nor the tan uniformed people enforcing a first come, first served policy. There were just enough spots for everyone as I come in until some twerp behind me decided to go against traffic and grab the last one. I had to circle back around and wait thirty seconds for a much closer and shadier spot instead. Still a twerp. Who gets a Nelson laugh.

Glenwood Canyon
The Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon. The river is even bigger here as it is just upstream from a hydroelectric dam, but the waters still seem to churn powerfully waiting to suck down anyone foolish enough to go for a swim.

This parking lot only gets me closer to the trailhead than all the others. It is still a half mile along the paved bike path to actually begin the hike. I walk to the side of it, but the walls of wild rose keep pushing me back off the dirt. A delightful sign at the start informs me that this was once maintained as a city park by Glenwood Springs. Perhaps that explains why the only exit to get here is eastbound and the only entry from here is westbound. People were meant to just come out here and then go back home.

Start hiking here, and there are lots of rules and common sense suggestions. Much of the later seem to be ignored by the typical hiker in the area necessitating frequent rescues.

The route that was flat and smooth wastes no time getting steep and rocky once I turn off the bike path. One woman is wearing flip-flops as she climbs it with a small child. I fear for her toes. There are people who look like they have a daily run and in equal measure there are those who look like they have a daily check to make sure their clothes are still in fashion. The crowd is really diverse, too, which gives me hope.

rocky trail into the canyon
There is the trail, right up the middle of the photo through the rocks. There are a couple humans in there to help mark it.

Grizzly Creek

White River National Forest

Glenwood Canyon... what a place. The "jewel of the interstate system", it says so right there on the signs. It is probably true, too. I was giddy approaching Hanging Lake. It might actually be early enough to get a parking spot! One of the dangers of being too lazy to reach over and give the clock one click to be set correctly just because it will take another eleven clicks to set it again in two weeks is that it is later than I think. Since I am listening to radio episodes of Lights Out, the speakers keep reminding me that it is later than I think, but the actual fact only sank in as I stacked up behind a line of cars that stretched almost to the entry. Never mind. I turned around and dealt with the most pleasant bit of being forced into one lane for construction in the nation before popping out again at Grizzly Creek. This is a huge rest area with more than enough parking. The Colorado River flows fat beside it and there is a pull out for rafters. Most of the parking is along the south side of the interstate beside the river, but there is a little lot on the north side and this is where the hiking trail is found.

Grizzly Creek
The first taste at the end of the canyon.

There is an informative sign about the history of diverting water from this creek to nearby No Name Creek to supply Glenwood Springs with sufficient water. There is a second sign to note in no uncertain terms that you will not get to Hanging Lake following this trail. The trail itself is an old road, or at least it has an old gate on it. There is a cute log picnic table and many use trails make their way to the water. Even with the diversion three miles up, it is quite enough to make most southern California rivers jealous outside of a winter surge.

wooden gate
A gate. How quaint.

flow of the creek
Taking a peek at the creek along a use trail that access it.

There is no need to sneak along the use trails to see the creek, the proper trail brings that into view soon enough. Any resemblance to a road quickly vanishes as it makes its gentle climb into the narrow canyon. Besides views of the creek, there are also views of the walls and trees stretching for the sun and trees trying to climb those walls.

09 July 2016

Big Laguna

Cleveland National Forest

Picking up my little sister after she has gotten rid of her rental car, we are on another geocache hunt. Today the primary prey is not just the oldest in the county but the oldest remaining in the state hidden in September 2000. Stopping off by the side of the Sunrise Highway, we are joining at least forty other cars of those who are also out to enjoy the area. The area boasts interpretive signs, a kiosk, port-a-potties, and a trash can that is clearly serviced next to a sign noting there is no trash service. The forest is really gearing up to be compliant with the latest ruling on the Adventure Pass in the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area. Many active at their cars are pulling out road bikes to continue along the highway. More are fiddling with mountain bikes for a trail. We head over to the start to find a map of an elaborate trail system and various other bits of information, then head on in.

dirt path in the meadow in the trees
Meadow with sparse pines and very clear, wide dirt paths offer very little navigational challenges.

The trail quickly splits. One side allows bikes and the other does not. We are not sure which way we want to go; we knew there would be multiple and either would be fine. There are a lot of bikes, even some of those narrow tire road bikes, so we turn to where they are prohibited. The Sunset Trail winds away from the meadow into somewhat thicker trees and gains a few views off to the west. This would certainly be a place to watch the sunset.

meadows below
Wandering over to where the land drops away means views of lower meadows and distant western reaches.

northwesterly peak
Closer peaks to the northwest.

To my delight, the milkweed is in bloom. The flowers are so intricate and seem to be built under the pressure of arbitrary restrictions like some piece of origami.

08 July 2016

Eagle Rock

Warner Springs Ranch

Heading down to San Diego to be there in the morning, I could not very well pass up using some of the day for a hike on the way. But what to do? I decided to do something silly. I would go and see this rock that is claimed to be the most photographed on the Pacific Crest Trail just because it looks like an eagle. The thing is, it is not the passing resemblance from just the right angle one typically finds with the various edifices named "Eagle Rock" scattered around the world. This is an animal that flew around in the time of the titans until it was frozen into stone as it landed. Or maybe it was a victim of a trick by a jealous Raven. However it came to be, the bird still rests about forty feet off the trail and I will go see it in person. The trail crosses road often in the area, so it is a reasonable day hike going northbound or southbound. I find my way to the Warner Springs Fire Station, which makes an easy landmark for finding the trail for the shorter southbound approach. Stepping out, it is hot. Even the mad dogs and Englishmen have ducked away somewhere in the post-noonday sun. Words like "riparian" are used to describe the trail from this side, but I am suspicious it is by people who do not know what it means. There are a few drying oaks that will provide some shade, but it is hardly riparian. Still better than out in the blazing sun. The sooner I get started, the sooner I am under their bows. I have not yet eaten, so gobble down a cherry turnover I had grabbed earlier rather than a proper lunch before cracking a couple windows and taking off with extra water.

trail gate to keep in the ranch lifestock
The trail passes through private ranch land in this area, so the gate had better be kept closed.

reflecting trail and dryed oaks
The trail reflects the sun for that double heating but there is something like a stream bed on the other side of the cactus from the trail.

The pools of shade under the oaks are pleasant enough, but it is not even the hottest part of the day yet. The trail seems flat at first, so it does not take much effort to proceed. This is replaced by an ever so slight upward grade as it curves around some tiny dry canyons that serve as tributaries to the dry wash below. Dry and eternal buckwheat serves to provide a color slightly different from brown among the grasses. Still, the brush and trees, though clearly also feeling a bit dry, continue to wear their various shades of yellow-grey-green. It is certainly summer.

gentle climb on the trail
Passing buckwheat as the trail climbs gently.

Up ahead is a tree that does not fit in with the rest of the scene. Wide, bright green leaves and thin, white bark set it apart from the greyer oaks with dark, tough bark. The wash has thinned to a stream. Glancing down, there seems to be green grass growing in the bottom. There seems to be water somewhere. A little further and there it is, a thin line that reflects the light flows below. Well, dribbles. As I walk, it is small, but constant.

03 July 2016

Tequepis Canyon

Los Padres National Forest

My little sister is in town and has some strange desire to find geocaches that were set in the first year after the signals from the global positioning satellites were unencrypted. As it happens, the first in the county meets that criterion and is conveniently located just off Camino Cielo. The road has deteriorated quite a bit in that area since I drove it in my Scion, but I can certainly get within two miles of relatively flat walking of the location. That was the plan until the Sherpa (Scherpa) Fire closed the road to all but firefighting equipment. Change of plans. It is also located a hop, skip, and a jump away from the top of the Tequepis Canyon Trail. Easy for me, but my sister has been living in a place where the 2400 foot climb would leave her floating in the air. She is wary of the eight mile round trip length and current temperatures. With assurances of sufficient shade and an easy grade, but mostly with the determination of someone who has been socializing with geocachers too much and decided to fill in December 2000 of her Jasmer matrix, she is willing to give it a try. The approach is becoming a curious mix of small, unwelcoming signs and large, overly welcoming signs before we pull into the marked dirt parking lot just before the gate to follow the signs along the main road through camp. Another group starts to gather as we pull out our stuff. It is already busier than when I came before, but that was on a Tuesday.

starting off
The sign at the second gate on the way through camp. We just have to walk on through.

It is nice and shady through camp, as promised. There are a couple caretakers, but it is otherwise empty today. Past this is a cutoff to another camp and a few driveways. The few driveways are helpfully marked as not trail in one way or another. Searching for and signing little pieces of paper in the woods slows us down a lot and the other group is outpacing us in spite of kids and dogs. They were not going as far, though, as we find them returning just short of the waterfall. I ask if that is where they went, but they do not know about it. How unfortunate. If there is energy later, we will go for the waterfall, but we skip it for now and climb the old road increasingly deteriorating into trail. Our views open up to the north as we climb, but it does mean that our shade is getting a bit more patchy.

a few mountains
There are mountains out there. It looks a bit like pointy little Cachuma Peak to the right.

license to operate
The old oil company claim is always a fun find and this time comes with a geocache at which we can be "first to find".

red-orange barked trunks in a circle
The first madrone stands tall in its thin red-orange bark.

There are a few steep spots, but they do not last long. Mostly the climb is an easy grade. I had been waiting for the lake to fill to repeat this trail, but now it is even lower than before. Thick lines of stark white stretch longer as we climb, then low flats of green become visible. The different parts of the lake are changing in different ways.