15 May 2017

Hickison Horse and Riding Trails

Hickison Petroglyphs Recreation Area (BLM)

Click for map.

Following the mysterious trail north past the lone rock covered in petroglyphs is easy, but it goes on for a surprising length. It passes a hitching post for horses and keeps on going. It is so well established, it must go somewhere good. Maybe there are more petroglyphs to see.

long and flat area
The vastness of basin stretches to the east. These are the vistas that can make one confused Nevada with "flat".

low and gentle hills
Some gentle hills although one seems to have an interesting structure to it.

Hickison Petroglyphs Interpretive Trail

Hickison Petroglyphs Recreation Area (BLM)

Click for map.

The historic marker at the top of Hickison Summit on US-50 told me about the petroglyphs nearby, but the giant sign with "Petroglyphs" in very oversized letters would have probably been enough to get me to turn. My planning, such as it was, had focused on wilderness areas in the National Forest rather than spots the Bureau of Land Management thought were worth emphasizing. It is a nice surprise. There are no brochures in the box for the self guided tour and I cannot find an online copy, so I could not learn as much as I might like, but the numbers for the brochure will help call out where to look for the petroglyphs. There is a rough map showing the short loop. Even with the spur to see the view, it is less than a mile. All the trails seem to be marked as accessible, but they are not paved.

rock face through the trees
As with the pictographs, a bit of rock cropping up between the trees is a signal the destination is close. Here it is just a lot closer to the parking.

The trail is wide and fairly flat, but the packed surface has a bit of gravel over the top. The upward slope is fairly easy. It may be handicapped accessible to some as it reaches the rocks with the first grouping of petroglyphs. It is a series of panels along somewhat sheltered rocks. Each is distinctively different.

thin lines in desert vanish
Hundreds of thin lines cut through the desert varnish at the first panel.

14 May 2017

Toquima Cave

Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest

Click for map.

A sign pointing down a long dirt road had the word "cave" on it, so I turned down it. Another historical marker beside it elaborated that the cave up ahead was small, but would contain pictographs and was located "East of the summit, north of the highway," whatever exactly that might mean. FS-001 probably is not considered a highway by many, but the long, straight, flat section across the Big Smoky Valley does allow some pretty fast speeds on the dirt. The roads marked "hot springs" on the way were tempting, but I managed to keep to the road for the cave. There were no other indications of it, but when I got to the summit, there was a handy campground on the north side. That was certainly handy just when I needed one, so I turned in. A short way in is a little "trail" sign and a big information sign for Toquima Cave. The trail drifts off east and north from the summit, just as indicated on the sign below.

mostly trees blocking the view
Not much to see from the trail as the pinon pines and others grow thick and tall.

dirt path among the trees
The trail is easy to follow through the trees, even in some late hour and overcast murk.

Ophir Canyon and Murphy Mine

Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest

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My trip to Ophir Summit came up short when I encountered and bothered to read a sign just before a junction explicitly forbidding sedans and 2WD pickup trucks. While that does not exactly include my vehicle, it certainly does get to the spirit of it. Besides, below that it classes jeeps as "not recommended". It looks like better road than that ahead of me, but I backed the little car into a shady spot next to an old mine and parked anyway. There is one other vehicle and the guy down in the creek doing some preliminary prospecting that goes with it pops up at the sound of my motor. Asked if the road is really that bad, he says he started up it and turned around when things got too narrow for his taste. The historic marker down at the start of this road talks up the ghost town of Ophir somewhere up there, so I know there is still something to see further up. The creek looks like it will not present a problem to cross, but vehicle fords do tend to lead to wet feet. He does not know how far up, but I have a few downloaded USGS quadrangles for the area on the computer. A little squinting and thumb wiggling leads to an estimate of three miles to see the ruins. A nice little afternoon jaunt. I go for it.

jeep road not recommended for jeeps
Sure looks like good road to me as it passes the "jeeps not recommended" sign into the canyon.

looking back
Looking back out the canyon to the snowy peaks across the Big Smoky Valley.

South Twin River

Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest

Click for map.

For some reason I have thought of Nevada as a flat land, maybe because there was a vast sea here once. I decided to break myself of this thinking through practical experimentation. Look at a map and there is a bit of green in the middle like some sort of bear scratch. That is some of Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and it sits upon islands of mountains, many of them a bit too tall to go visiting without extra gear for a few more weeks. The forest claims to be the largest in the contiguous states, but that is a little misleading since it is scattered in chunks all over Nevada and California. It was becoming clear that if everything is planned, there will be no time left to do it, so I took off with only a scaffold of a plan to hang everything on.

First on my list of places to be is Arc Dome Wilderness. The mountain itself is one of those that is tall enough to have a bit too much snow on it for a casual climb until next month at least, but it has low trails as well. I could even find trip reports for the area. I decided to try South Twin River. Looking for NF-080, I found it more clearly marked with "South Twin River" instead. The dirt road up is narrow, but smooth. The trailhead has a bathroom and an information sign that is specific to the wilderness including a rough map of trails and trailheads. This trail is part of the Toiyabe Crest National Recreation Trail. The trail starts right behind the sign and climbs quickly although there is also obvious trail following a long gone mining road along the river. After the first steep hundred feet, there is a sign nearly blank with age forbidding motor vehicles to reassure me that this is the correct route.

South Twin River vanishing into the basin
Reflections in the morning sun show where South Twin River flows into the basin.

panorama of the east side of the range
North along the east side of the Toiyabe Range and across the Big Smoky Valley.

06 May 2017

Owens Peak

Owens Peak Wilderness, BLM

Link to map.

The scheduled Hundred Peaks Section hike was hitting in a sweet spot weather wise between far too hot the day before and a storm rolling in the day after and I was wanting to get a bit further afield than I have been getting recently, so I signed up. It does tend to mean a far too early meeting in a remote parking lot after already driving nearly two hours and then another few hours to get to the trailhead. The road up cannot be too bad as the Subaru made it. Watching it get there, often with a wheel floating a foot in the air, was certainly entertaining. A large rock leaving nearly enough road to get around right at the end seemed the most difficult obstacle, but was only a problem for the vehicle with the longest wheel base. It does not seem like a very early start as we collect at the marked trailhead.

Indian Wells Canyon
Looking back down the road up Indian Wells Canyon. Plenty of desert out there, but we are already up in the pinon pines.

The trail is really the old road blocked off where it hits the wilderness. It contours around, then drops down near a creek and continues up for a while before abruptly ending, or at least it did in 1952 when the surveyors put a benchmark at the top of the peak. They called it a four hour pack, but we have further to go and will be taking our time. There is one spur off to the left that goes a short distance to an old mine. Fire came through here some years back and there are a few trees across the trail. Otherwise, travel is pretty easy.

thin water sheet over a granite boulder
A little waterfall is found on along a stream just below the old road.

Now the old road vanishes shortly before it gets down into the creek. The remaining bit of trail vanishes under a tangle of fallen branches soon after and there is nothing but a use trail for the remainder of the trip. The use trail is getting rather distinct. For now, there is water in part of the creek and we slip a bit through one muddy spot. Mostly the area is rocky rather than muddy and we make our way along the middle twisting our way up the sides when obstacles appear.

goose berry
The mud comes with ripening goose berries.

big rock in the route causes a detour
Getting very rocky indeed and we twist to the left.

Gradually, it gets steeper. A thin, ducked trail heads off to the left in a small meadow, but we keep right. The other route might go up to the Pacific Crest Trail for access to Mount Jenkins. The creek bed seems to fizzle out as things gradually get even steeper. It does not look possible there was a road through by the time we get around the area the surveyors might have parked.

steeper and rockier
A lot more effort required as the slope increases, but still little enough slope that the dirt stays under out feet.

old yucca blooms on the rocky mountain side
More to climb and just working through whatever is in front of us.

The distinct line of the PCT carves a route along the slopes of Mount Jenkins to the south. It finds a saddle between, then vanishes to the other side. We slowly climb above its level onto a section of boulders, then a section of slabs. These slabs are particularly slow. Much of the rock is smooth enough to slide along, but there are spots of good texture for grip to encourage the casual climber to try the next step with insufficient testing. The biggest problem is the loose gravel and rocks over it all ready to come down on all below at the slightest touch. In some spots, even just slightly shifting weight sends a shower of pebbles down on the unlucky.

cut of the Pacific Crest Trail on the next mountain
The cut of the PCT on the side of Mount Jenkins looks like a road today.

steep rocks on the way out of the valley
Getting higher means more view.

steep and slick granite slope
Variously slick or sticky and covered in loose stuff, the slabs take some care.

We lose a couple hikers to the nuisance of the slabs. They are worried about how difficult it will be to get back down and decide they have come far enough. With one turning back early not feeling well, the group today seems to have a rather high attrition rate. The rest of us are greeted with easier terrain as we continue toward the peak.

Five Fingers and a granite ridge
The granite ridge line that dominated our north for the first hour and more is now below us snaking its way to Five Fingers far below.

Owens Peak almost
A burst of red from a paintbrush as we are almost to the top.

North and west and some south opens up upon hitting the top. There are a lot of clouds obscuring the very highest reaches to the north. We expected a bit of wind, but it is really quite pleasant. The summit register is passed around among the twelve that made it as we take on the important task of looking around.

into the Sierras
Looking north into the mighty Sierras. Perhaps one of those snowy things is Kern Peak? One far one looks about right.

flat valley below
The west contains an unexpected collection of farms and ranches.

Clouds keep moving in, especially in the north. A cloud moving over the top of us is making us especially cold. We get a little time at the top before deciding it is cold after all and turning back to face the slabs once again.

careful down the slopes of rock
Tiptoeing carefully down the randomly slippery slabs of granite.

Facing the slabs is a bit difficult. So many rocks are coming down in one section, we decide we can only do it one at a time. The rest of the hill sure seems a lot longer and steeper than it was coming up. I do take some time to stop for the flowers on the way down. It is still spring.

giant yucca just starting to flower
Most are just starting to send up their flower stalks, but one yucca is starting to bloom.

tiny flowers on a giant yucca
Most the flowers are closed up tight, but a few are open. The yucca is giant compared to the familiar form, but the flowers are tiny.

Eventually that steep slope lets up and we are back in the creek winding our way around downed trees and boulders. The light is quite exquisite as we get back into the open valley.

granite dome above grass and sage hillside
Back below the granite ridge line with its occasional little dome.

stiff yellow flowers
Flannel bushes were blooming near the start.

wide bed with a trail into the wide valley
The return to the wide valley of Indian Wells Canyon.

The return is marred somewhat as I notice the absurd notes of a car alarm and marred a bit more once at the cars and becoming aware of the unfolding saga of the disabling car alarm. Consulting with the original brochures, various internet sites, both dispatchers and tow truck drivers of the folks AAA called for us, and even one person's step dad who has a similar vehicle and works on it comes up with over half a dozen possible incantations to make the vehicle happy, but somehow the whining just keeps arising anew. It is quite late by the time we return to the problem of getting the long wheel base vehicle around the huge fallen rock. It is not symmetric and turns out to be a somewhat more difficult problem from this side. We end up driving a lot of it out in the dark exactly like we did not want to do. Still, that road cannot be that bad because the Subaru made it back out just fine, too.

©2017 Valerie Norton
Posted 8 May 2017

30 April 2017


Just two nearly bookending sketches for the month.  They even seem to have been along the same theme.

The lines of rocks below Matias Trail.

The lines of rocks starkly left after the burn at El Capitan.

Romero Canyon

Santa Barbara front country

I found my way up Romero Canyon Road and down Romero Canyon Trail for the lower loop. Of course, that means passing by the little waterfall just above the second creek crossing on the trail. It is a lovely thing with smoothed chutes and travertine forming.

The waterfall along Romero Creek.

Otherwise, the trail was much as it has been before.

©2017 Valerie Norton
Posted 30 April 2017

29 April 2017

Bill Wallace Trail

El Capitan State Beach

Link to map.

The Sherpa Fire burned through much of the foothills around El Capitan almost a year ago, but the area is open to hike the Bill Wallace. I park on the dirt lot at the entrance to Ocean Mesa Campground. There is a sign that points around the corner along a bit of campground road out to the hills. From the road, a slot has been mowed through the tall mustard to the old sign saying "easy" to the right and "hard" to the left. The fire did not quite get everything.

Bill Wallace Trailhead
The start of the Bill Wallace Trail.

red winged blackbird upon mustard
A red winged blackbird sits atop a bit of mustard as I near the trail split.

This time, I turn toward the "hard" side. We shall see just how hard that really is. It winds upward on the hill. The trail is narrower and the mustard is joined by thistle, but mostly just far enough that I can avoid getting stabbed. Both tower over my head. The trail gets narrower up higher and waist high star thistle joins in on the stabbing game. Tiny needles, but at least they only hurt when actually in contact. Rocky sections offer some relief as they are covered in grasses and morning glory. Near the top of the hill is the "1 mile" sign I missed on my first hike. This time, the GPS will mark off the same miles as the signs, if any of the rest still exist, rather than a half mile short after taking the "easy" way.

thistles and mustard above
The thistles and mustard are as high as an elephant's eye and it looks like it is climbing clear up to the sky.

28 April 2017

Hot Springs Canyon

Santa Barbara front country

Heading up to the old Hot Springs Club hotel site like quite a few other Friday evenings with the Sierra Club social hike. Al generally takes the road up and back, but I very much like the trail, especially when it is light and the water is flowing. I tend to mutiny and take the trail. It seems to have become official at some point because when they brought out the new signs, this one was marked with the rest. Today, there is one more sign added to the collection.

new kiosk at the split
A huge sign has been added with a trail map on one side and history of human habitation on the other. The local area trails map is useful, but the area overview map with relief mountains is too cartoonish and incomplete to be useful. The history seems rather cartoonish too.

The creek does make a lovely sound as we wander upward. The poison oak is not too bad along here, it must be getting plenty of traffic. We stop by the little waterfall to watch the water cascade and the frogs swim. Judging by the sounds around us, they are very thick around the big pool at the bottom.

four tier waterfall
It is quite a pretty little waterfall.

27 April 2017

San Ysidro Falls

Santa Barbara front country

I headed out for a quick trip up to see San Ysidro Falls again. It has been very nearly two months since the last time and I am expecting a little less water over the top.

pool of water with a spigot of cascade in and quite a bit of poison oak around
One of the little pools along the way. There is still some water coming down the main creek and quite a good crop of poison oak.

13 April 2017

Channel Islands University Park

Link to map.

This area was formerly Camarillo Regional Park, but was transferred from the county to the state with the provision that the state would take on all the use requirements for the area. One of these requirements is that a publicly accessible park be maintained. Apparently this does not preclude a parking fee because the general $6 per day fee for the university applies here too. Areas outside the gate would allow a bit of free parking, but has been marked "no parking". There is some free parking on Lewis Road, nearly a half mile away. Being with my mother, she chose to pay the fee rather than walk the extra mile. There is no toilet, the only amenity gained for the fee is a dirt parking lot.

grassy bits heading up to low, rocky peaks
But it is a pretty spot.

01 April 2017

Matias Trail

Los Padres National Forest

Link to map.

The trail just wanders through some beautiful country and an approximate plan was hatched quite some time ago to see it. Putting the finishing touches on it, I dropped off my bike at the crest of the road by La Cumbre Peak and parked the car at the top of Arroyo Burro. The bike will take care of most of the paved road walking very well and extraordinarily easily. The Glass Factory is already booming with a large variety of explosions from five or six groups of target shooters. Slow and measured or fast and finishing off a clip, there are all kinds of shooters. About two people notice me as I walk past behind them with my fingers in my ears against the sometimes painful level of noise. Happily, no one is set up on the road or up the hill next to it. There is relative calm past the gate and around the hill as the view quickly opens up. Being up high sure is good for views.

northern mountains
A view dominated by Little Pine Mountain with some taller things behind it. Sage Hill is on the left, but hard to distinguish against Loma Alta behind it.

I start down the fire road somehow not even noticing the trail until it is a cut on the next ridge. This is fine since I am not looking for it. Matias only gets as far as the road. The prickly phlox does not seem to be as abundant as it has been in the past. There are a few blooms of it, bush poppies, and a very crimson paintbrush along the edges. Far down in the valley, I can see the thin track of Matias winding through the bushes and grass. It seems to be most of the way down to the river.

Arroyo Burro Road
Slowly wandering downward on the road.

crimsom paintbrush
A bit of paintbrush dipped in a particularly deep shade of red.

31 March 2017


Waterfalls and mountain peaks and all the flowers along the way seem to have characterized this month.

The long time dry Tangerine Falls has a nice sheet of water.

Also long dry, I went to see the Ventura River. The pond past the preserve has been moist, though.

Celebrating the colors of the mountain at the top.

And celebrating more water from the top of Sage Hill.

28 March 2017

Sage Hill

Los Padres National Forest

Link to map.

Our forest is gaining fees for practically everything. Picnicking and trailhead parking are going to be $10 a day once all the infrastructure is in. Aliso Canyon will be one of these fee areas, but does not quite appear to be yet, although the Sage Hill Group Campground fee station makes no effort to point out the difference between it and the trailhead parking. (And, considering it designed for large groups, the posted fee schedule for "single" and "double" sites makes little sense.) Somehow I am at least four times as annoyed at the idea of paying $10 to a private company to use these public lands as I am to pay $5, with the option of a pretty cheap yearly pass, to the actual stewards of these public lands. (There are some hints about an annual pass, but at least a few of the avenues to obtain it are dead ends.) As such, I already have a plan for free parking in a lovely and very large turnout on the side of the main road that includes a little bit of the trail beside the river. Since there actually is a river to take in today, that is where I parked.

Sage Hill behind bits of river embellishments
Sage Hill from the Santa Ynez River flood plain. The remains of the bridge seem a little substantial for the "footbridge" marked on the map.

There is a bit of old road below the turnout, but this does not go far before dissolving into vegetation choked area with a cliff below. Walking down the road a short way is a much better way down, then cut across the day use area to the river. Exploring along the side, there are no rock hopping opportunities. It really is quite wide at the moment. I just pull off my shoes for the crossing. There are a few deep channels to avoid, but otherwise it is only up to my knees and not particularly swift. The rocks are sharp under my bare feet in a very slow moving section that is more like a shallow pool than river. Tadpoles even line the side of the slow water. The river trail on the far side is easy to find and follow around to the trailhead in the canyon.

Sage Hill
Sage Hill, the main target for today. A few spots of orange for poppies and yellow for invasive mustard.

My objective for today is to climb Sage Hill and I wanted to get to it while the flowers are plentiful, especially poppies. Clearly it is just a matter of picking a slope and walking up. Some slopes are better than others. First, though, I head for the canyon.

Aliso Canyon
Starting up Aliso Canyon late in the morning for lots of light. There is a little water here still.

California poppies
A small patch of California poppies in the canyon. These are the flowers that might be finishing up in a few weeks.