10 November 2017

Rose Valley and Howard Creek

Los Padres National Forest

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I have never hiked with the Ventura Sierra Club and thought I might when I noticed they were planning a hike including Howard Creek, a trail that has so far escaped my stomping. They arrived punctually in another part of the parking lot for the carpool, but eventually the two of us who were misplaced got found and everyone was piled comfortably into three cars. Upon arrival at Howard Creek Trailhead, we dropped off one car and continued a little less comfortably to Rose Valley Campground. Hiker parking is just outside the campground gate. Even down in the valley bottom, views already look good in all directions. But it is cold. All these campgrounds tucked into the north side of Nordhoff Ridge seem to be good cold sinks.

Rose Valley Campground entry with the falls above
The day looks good as we start up the road through the campground and out of Rose Valley. The waterfall looks like it might be a little wet or maybe just a little shadowy.

We keep right as we walk through the camp and quickly come to the locked gate and the start of the climb. It is hard to tell if we warm more from getting out of the cold pocket that is the bottom of the valley or from the work of the climb, but everyone who was dancing and shivering when we started is now stripping off any extra layers to get more comfortable. We have to dodge one car coming down as we climb. The road may be locked, but there is a set procedure for gaining permission to pass through and a few fun campsites at the top that people like to stop at.

Rose Valley Campground
Looking down on Rose Valley Campground where there is most of the fall color to be seen today.

04 November 2017

Mount Lukens

Angeles National Forest

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I came out to join a group of peakbaggers from the Hundred Peaks Section hiking to the high point of the City of Los Angeles. I thought that when I crossed into the city way out at the 5 and 14 split, I would not be out of it again until late afternoon, but I seem to be standing in the City of Glendale as everyone gathers up. I expected a large a-lot because it is Bill's birthday, but there seems to only be a small a-lot of just over 20 for the hike. Bill says he met his wife hiking this peak, so now we know why it is special to him and why he wanted to mark year 70 here. He is a bit of a romantic. Getting everyone together, waivers signed, introduced, and starting down the trail seems to get done fairly quickly. We hit the trail and start climbing just three minutes after the meet time. Admittedly, it was a very easy meet time to make.

Verdugo Mountains
Hang a left and start to climb. Quickly gaining city views and the 210 and the Verdugos with their antenna hair and fresh fire scar on the north end.

wide Dunsmore Canyon
Take the switchback and we overlook Dunsmore Canyon, which looks like it handles huge amounts of water in sudden bursts.

Mount Lukens
Our destination ahead. Mount Lukens has a little antenna hair also.

After a short climb, our trail suddenly turns downward and tucks into a narrow canyon with a clear liquid flowing down the middle of it. The mythical water that has a 20% chance of coming down on our heads. Most hop across but some splash through it. There is a brief moment when the trail is carved into a cliff as we climb out the other side. It is more daring than we had expected! As we continue, there are a few small slides on the trail and overgrown bushes above the trail set to see if they can get us off and down the side at a few choice steep spots. The group piles up a little at a couple, but nobody pauses very long for any of it.

31 October 2017

20 October 2017

Middle Sespe for fall color

Los Padres National Forest

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I could not help noticing a bit of fall color as I drove up the 33 last week. I had sort of been wanting to do Middle Sespe once some water gets flowing, but decided bright yellow cottonwoods might be a good excuse to come see it too. It keeps escaping my notice because it seems to parallel the Sespe River Road, and what would be the point of hiking that? I find a turnout about 250 feet past the nearly unmarked trail, or at least 250 feet from the coordinate I have for it. It would have taken a lot of looking without the GPS, especially in the dark. I decided I should treat light like it is important to me and get to the trail as the dawn was breaking. It is a little earlier than planned, but that just gives me time to get my shoes and sunscreen on. There is just barely enough light to walk by once I am ready to hit the trail. I head back down the road to the waypoint. Dirt and rocks have been piled up on the old road down into Beaver, disguising it as just another bit of road edge. Between the piles, a slapstick marker has been placed with an arrow and the words "TRAIL MIDDLE SESPE". Behind it is pavement. There is even a curb on one side.

yellow trees below, clouds above
A long exposure fortuitously held steady shows a bit of the color I am coming for even if it is not quite light enough for my eyes to see it with certainty.

brightening sky
A more accurate representation of the light level as the sun chases a bright planet up into the sky.

Clouds are rolling over the mountains to the north. Much of the area well past them is expecting a storm today. I am hoping it will bring cooler air, but promises of low 70s for the high today made last week turned into low 80s as the day got closer. I was only slightly cold as I got out of the car and am quite comfortable now that I am moving. I threw two water bags, ten pounds of water, into the pack to try to be prepared for what the trail has in store for me. Presently, it is more piles of dirt and rocks on top of the pavement with a route around the side. On the far side, the road has turned to gravel. The trail does not rejoin it, but crosses and drops down a hill beside it. It looks like it skips the old campground that used to be its western terminus now.

15 October 2017

Three Pools behind Seven Falls

Santa Barbara front country

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I was wanting to go up the canyon again but also thinking it is more of a social hike when I noticed it was also about the be lead by the local Sierra Club. Perfect! I can just show up and wander up with them. I was a little worried that it might still be a red flag day. It was Friday evening and those of us who noticed had an extra mile to hike up the road while those of us who did not came back to find the CHP had plastered warning stickers on everything a little after 7PM. The sign warns of towing, so it could have been worse. Today is not so bad except for the usual crowds. I get lucky because everyone is passing up the spot on the end because it looks too small. I go ahead and try it with the dinky car and it fits with a few feet to spare to let the Florida plates in front of me get out. Others are stuck walking a half mile up anyway, mostly because the turnout that is big enough to take cars head in is entirely parked parallel. Ah, life at the Tunnel Trailhead.

Of course, since Tunnel Trail is actually Tunnel Road, but behind a gate, we still have most of another mile on pavement before we get to some dirt. We turn left on the catway to get up to the start of Jesusita and finally a little bit of trail. We are only on it to the bottom of the creek when we turn off the official routes and start in on the heavily trafficked use trails.

dry rocks sitting white in the shade
Mission Creek is so dry. There has not even been a lasting mud puddle for a while.

We should have one more coming who said he would "catch up" after going to park. We wait a while (well, I wait a while) but eventually the leader says he has too many people to keep waiting. I am fairly sure that is not how hiking with a group works, but the mistake was probably made at the start when we let someone try to catch up. Now everyone else has gone on ahead and our missing hiker, who at least does know the local trail system, will not get to come up to the pools because that is the part he does not know. Looking back over the trail as we climb, I still do not see him.

big rocks overhead
The canyon is quite full of big rocks.

We keep to the spine of the ridge for a short way, then take the flatter trail at a junction near a lookout rock. The other trail can be taken to climb all the way up to the peak above. We have a much daintier destination. The level trail drops and climbs in short, steep spurts as it decides it should have more character. Much of it seems to be chipped from the rocks although there is not supposed to be a built trail here. There are some mildly precarious moments as we cross above the Seven Falls and then drop into the creek. I had sort of wanted to try coming directly up the falls, but that was not the plan for today.

Old Mission Stud. theol. & phil. 1903
Graffiti in the canyon. There are supposed to be three of these, one on La Cumbre Peak and one in the hills above Flores Flats. There is not much patina in the letters, but there is not much on the rock either and the letters are a different color than Tim's addition.

10 October 2017

Munson Spring from Chorro Grande

Los Padres National Forest

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When I first hiked up Chorro Grande, I found myself crossing a road and as I climbed further I noticed it was quite obvious and fairly clear and generally not falling off the mountain. I checked my map and there it was. The far east side stops near a spot that simply says "spring". Ever since, I have been meaning to check it out. Years passed, a fire burned the lower section closing it shortly, another couple years passed. It is certainly about time that I actually did it. Not only that, it seems like a while since I have done something exploratory. I did get disheartened when I saw a geocache log saying it would be a long time before anyone followed that road again, but there is an easy plan B to be had: just stop by the Ortega benchmark and try to work up from there. So now, I am once again at the bottom of Chorro Grande, but only meaning to go up halfway.

the sign is here today, but has not been gone for a while
The bottom of Chorro Grande Trail. The road sign is not placed to be easily seen from the road.

The trail looks pretty good for something that got hit by fire. They do not seem to have closed it for very long, so it would have continued to have feet on it. That generally helps as long as the feet are good about staying on the trail. There is quickly a section with a bit too much slope, but then it settles back down again and stays nearly flat. Where there is brush, it creeps in from the sides, but nothing is difficult to pass. It is the same trail it always was minus the few things that were slightly taller than myself.

rocks upturned and leaving a drop
The band of upturned light rocks remains picturesque, though visible from more places, and the waterfall they create is still quite dry, though water will come.

burned scrub oaks
The black is falling away from the burned scrub oaks as they regrow from their roots.

08 October 2017

San Jacinto Peak

San Bernardino National Forest

Mount San Jacinto State Park

August 1992

camp patch
Camp Mountain Meadows, up near Isabella Lake, had a wonderful backpacking program, but I had already gone there for two of their backpacking units. Probably as a change of pace, I decided to try out a new camp. Camp Tautona should have a good program as it was one of the many organizational camps on the north side of San Gorgonio with access to the wilderness in a drive of approximately 5 minutes. There were only four of is at first and we were collected in with the CIT unit for general stuff since they were our age. There were an even dozen of them. They were given an option to join up with us and we got two or three more from that.

The camp was different from the others I had been to. We had concrete platforms with roofs that we could put the metal cots on in bad weather, but would usually had them out under the stars. At Mountain Meadows we only had our backpacking equipment and at Tecuya we were told to bring tarps to throw over ourselves if it rained, so that was fancy. We had bears in camp because the trash was not well kept. (They were working on it.) Dinning was outside and we were to be careful not to drop anything down through the deck because bears would come. (See, they really were working on it.) Dining was a bit more like the boys camp we stopped at at the end of the hike out of Forks of the Kern, except we had a leisurely hour. After eating, the dishes all got washed and slid into a drying bin that was dipped in rinse water and then in bleach and then set into a wooden bin along the back of the kitchen to dry. And then they got locked up because bears. At the other camps, we brought out clean dishes and sent back dirty ones, so that was less fancy.

We probably learned some map reading and compass work. We definitely hiked around a bit with our packs weighed down with kitchen supplies. I more remember learning a working rain song on the wide steps up to the deck where we would sit and sing camp songs until the kitchen was ready. That had real consequences whereas I had already learned my way around a map and compass. It definitely worked. At least the whole camp singing it with glee was answered by a bright blue sky collecting a few clouds right at the end. Consequences. Singing later was answered with a few puffy clouds turning dark and starting to look threatening and it kept building to rain. We moved our beds in under the roofs that night. I already knew that I could, once in a while, snore sufficiently to wake the dead, but that next morning when my throat felt rather like I should believe the accusations being leveled at me, I learned that it can be very difficult to wake me. With the close quarters, quite a nasty consequence for my neighbors.

The next night was the night before leaving. We slept in the smaller indoor dining space for some reason. We might have been getting up early to leave and did not want to disturb the CIT girls when we got up or we might have just wanted to make sure our gear stayed dry before heading out into the wilds. Oh, and I tried sleeping on my stomach to try to prevent my snotty nose from becoming a disturbance to all again because someone had said they had heard side sleeping and especially stomach sleeping prevents snoring. It worked, beginning a campaign to learn to sleep on anything but my back.

In the morning, we packed into a big van and headed out not to San Gorgonio next door but over to San Jacinto. Specifically, we headed for Fuller Ridge, the north side of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) as it passes by the mountain.

paths around San Jacinto
Area map and estimated route. The map is a piece of the San Jacinto Peak 1996 7.5' USGS topo. This old map is more recent than the trip.

Click for general location.

As best as I can recall, this was a four day trip. I figure that because I distinctly remember three camp sites although where exactly the second one was I am not certain. Unfortunately, the photographs are at least a little out of order and someone tossed out the film so I cannot use that to sort them. (The last one was in the middle of a bunch of big water from an entirely different trip after going to Monterey. I suspect those are from the following spring break when we had exchange students, so the film had plenty of time sitting exposed in the camera. There is no Instagram filter being used here, this is all the natural patina of abused film shot with a Vivitar point and shoot.)

Day 1

The plan was to hike Fuller Ridge to Little Round Valley. We arrived with no fuss at the trailhead to start down the PCT. While I had known the John Muir Trail (JMT) as a ~3 week extravaganza by this time, this may well have been the point when I noticed the PCT existed outside of the Sierra and was actually a rather long trail stretching from Mexico to Canada. It was some time in high school that I realized this and that there were a few people each year who hiked the entire length in one go. There were 33 people who completed it in 1992 and recorded their effort with the PCTA. I wanted to do all of the JMT at this time. Perhaps it was Fuller Ridge that helped snuff out any spark of desire to do the PCT from end to end.

view from Fuller Ridge
A view from Fuller Ridge. (Probably.) It was sunny again. I think the camp promised not to sing the rain song while we were out.

30 September 2017


Just the one, but it was fun.

Peaks and trees along the view to Cucamonga Peak.

Tunnel Trail work

Santa Barbara front country

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It is National Public Lands Day and that means there are many volunteer opportunities all over the forests, parks, and even BLM areas. Oh, and probably a few conservancy areas as well as city and county parks. It is also a fee free day on federal lands and whoever else is participating in fee free days. The gas to get to anything charging a fee and participating in the fee free day that is seems a bit silly to try to enjoy just one particularly crowded day once there. So, I am out to join a volunteer effort. Our Wednesday night sojourns up Tunnel Trail have shown that the brush is getting quite tight, so I went for the closest one which would set about fixing that.

down the canyon
The typical Tunnel Trail view down the canyon and over the city. I can see the hill behind the house from here!

Today, city and county parks seem to be in charge. We do not have any advantages in getting parking today, but once at the gate, we do get to hop into vehicles and go on up to where the catway splits just short of where the trail starts up as a single track. It is nice to skip the paved mile at the bottom. After a safety talk, we grab tools and head on up. There are only about 20 today, so we split into 2 groups to tackle the brush and tread of this trail.

cutting brush and scraping tread
A couple volunteers tackle the brush while one takes on the tread. Gordon has been improving trail all week, but is still out here on his day off!

I have to admit that I tend to think the tread of these front country trails is a lost cause. There are places where you are walking up through a 4 foot deep ditch along these. Those spots are rather unimprovable, but above and below them there is often something that can be done. Jesusita Trail next door had some new drainage carved out just before the last rains and they seem to have worked wonders on it. Certainly we can try on Tunnel too.

spray marks on the trail in a semi-circle
Marked for deletion. Trail paint in a semi-circle marks a spot to add drainage to a bit of trail that is currently catching water. We do not want this to become another 4 foot deep trench.

trail side and grasses knocked out
Perhaps not so noticeable from this angle, but the grass and berm on the outside has been knocked away and a semi-circle dip carved out to gently encourage the water to flow off the trail instead of down it.

Even with the rather drastic needs for better drainage, we can not ignore the tight brush. We have a couple gas powered trimmers to go after the grasses and small brush around the trail, but mostly is is cut with loppers.

trimming grasses and dead sage
First cleaning out the little stuff with a gentle and noisy sweep. Somewhat a before picture for the next, but I forgot where exactly I had done the first.

trail clearned of side brush
A bit of trail that is basically done. The sumac was reaching into the tread and now it has a few feet clearance.

For my part, I get to take a few cuts at the trail. Mostly, I end up tossing huge piles of cut brush off the trail. Gordon has brought along a very nice geared lopper and can get through stuff I would need to get out the saw for, so it is just sensible to clear it out so he can cut more of that. It actually seems to be the majority of the stuff along the side.

paragliders drifting downward
Some paragliders to watch as the day turns to afternoon. We saw 4 (only 3 pictured), including this one that is drifting a bit close to the rocks.

Down at the finish, we do actually get a sort of payment. There are big sandwich, chips, cookies, and soda to be had.

©2017 Valerie Norton
Posted 3 October 2017

24 September 2017

Fir Canyon - Davy Brown Trail

Los Padres National Forest

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The weekend comes with an offer of led hikes by the Sierra Club for all who show up at the Bank of America at State and Hope by 9 AM, except for the occasional missed day or early meet time. (The hikes are listed here, here, or here.) I decided to take them up on the offer. Today is an early meet time because the drive out to Figueroa Mountain is a bit long, but it is not so hard to get out somewhere by 8 AM. The group numbered 10 as we headed out and still did when we got to the trailhead in the tough part of Davy Brown Campground. It is so tough, in fact, that we were asked to park in a somewhat different spot by the current occupants of the last camp site so they could use the parking area instead of the road as an exit route. They did not like their chances with the road, which was surprising considering the cavernous clearance the pickup had. We reparked and they were happy and so we could head out down the rest of the increasingly rough road to the creek where it vanishes except for one last indication in the form of a gate on the far side. We slip through it and there is clear trail ahead.

Davy Brown Creek and Trail
We crossed Munch Canyon and walk up along Davy Brown Creek. It has a nice little flow today.

rock outcrop with ribbon shapes
Interesting rocks high up the canyon show in an open spot.

The trail is a little high on the side of the creek, so it is hard to notice what happened to the water. For a bit, it is quiet. Parched rocks are visible in one spot.

21 September 2017

Mount Hillyer

Angeles National Forest

San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

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I hung around the area to go climbing one more peak in the morning. Very early in the morning, I noticed my stars vanishing, and by sun up they seemed to be doubly gone with the slightest bit of moisture coming down. The weather has changed. Traveling to my planned hike, there was a moment looking out over the clouds, which was quite nice, but then I was back in them. At the trailhead, I seem to be under them ever so slightly. I live in hope as I stuff puffy things and the emergency poncho into the pack in case things get quite cold and wet. Maybe this peak is high enough for that over the clouds view.

Silver Moccasin Trail
Signage at this trailhead in the middle of the Silver Moccasin Trail. This is not the shortest route to the peak, but it is the shortest drive.

The trail gets on with climbing quite quickly with a few switchbacks. What I can see of the view is surprisingly colorful, full of all different reds and greens surrounding grey rocks. All too quickly, I plunge into the cloud above.

rocky surroundings
Manzanita, buckwheat, pine trees, and coyote bush all add their colors to rocks that are not entirely without color themselves.

well worn trail
The trail in this section is quite well worn.

20 September 2017

Mount Akawie

Angeles National Forest

San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

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There is still enough light left for something, at least for a silly little thing like Mount Akawie, AKA Buckhorn Peak. It rises a little above the campground and is most easily accessed by a road east of Cloudburst Summit and west of the picnic area. It does not seem to appear on maps and is blocked by a thin yellow gate. The spot has a huge parking area for those times when there is a grand party up on the peak, I suppose. For no good reason, I want to go up the little peak west of the main peak as well, so although the road is wide and easy and clearly the main route, I scramble upward to follow the ridge.

taller mountains through a gap
Getting high for a view, a peek at peaks east through a wide gap. They do tend to be taller over there.

In the small saddle before the little peak, there is a scattering of weathered planks. It looks rather like there was once a simple structure in the somewhat flat area. A scattering of random planks is not all that unusual. The peak itself is a rocky outcrop in the trees. It has no views except down its sides where there is quite a bit more evidence of old buildings that were less simple.

scattered wood and some foundation stuctures
Some anchors of concrete and stone and metal beside another rock outcrop down the north side of the little peak.

Will Thrall Peak and Pleasant View Ridge

Angeles National Forest

San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

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A new day and new peaks to bag, but this time I will join a planned outing of the Hundred Peaks Section for some company. I have been really wanting to do the traverse of Pleasant View Ridge from Burkhart Saddle to the other side of the closed bit of the Pacific Crest Trail, especially if there is going to be a car shuttle. Unfortunately, this is not that. This is heading up to the saddle and then turning the other way to grab a couple nearby peaks. Still, it gets me into an area I have enjoyed visiting before, then out to some new spots. First, it is a little over a mile downhill on well used trail to Cooper Canyon, past various falls and with the sun thinking about getting down into the depths of the canyon.

end of Cooper Canyon
There is a lot of vertical to the land as Cooper Canyon empties out into Little Rock Creek.

Past the Cooper Canyon waterfall that marks the end of previous exhibitions in this direction, the trail just drifts downward above the creek. Eventually it gets down and crosses water is flowing the wrong way. We were following down the creek, but suddenly we have been going up the creek. It is just Little Rock Creek after Cooper Canyon joined it not too long before. On the far side, a slapstick with a PCT crest points up the creek along a deteriorated trail. It follows Rattlesnake Trail past Rattlesnake Spring, which has been temporarily closed for since Dec. 2005 to protect mountain yellow-legged frogs. The Forest Service teases us with plans of this opening again, but the current Williamson Rock Area Closure Order goes until Dec. 31, 2018. The rock climbers seem to be the most disappointed by the ongoing closure as Williamson Rock is apparently an absolutely lovely piece of granite with all levels of exciting routes up it. It is probably a rather low point in the PCT hiker experience as well. We have hit our lowest point in a more literal way and start to climb continuing on Burkhart Trail. There is something a bit nuts about the canyon we slowly pass by.

textured areas in the hills
The light is not yet right to really take in the landscape, but the textured bits are interesting.

We hike deep into the folds of the mountain as we climb, sometimes in the wrong direction. At one ridge, some discuss the route up to Goodykoontz Peak. It is a steep and crumbling mess. I wonder why they would want to go up that and get told that it is better than coming down it. I have to give them that. That is for next week. One crease looks like it was once a good place for cedar trees, but the large shapes stand dead now. A change in water or passing of fire? I am suspicious it is the first although the second would not have helped. We keep on climbing to the saddle and new views.

trees and a little bit of view
The view of the desert from Burkhart Saddle is somewhat obscured by trees.

19 September 2017

Cucamonga Wild: Ontario and Bighorn Peaks

Angeles National Forest

San Bernardino National Forest

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DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3

Although 2000 feet higher, Kelly Camp was not much cooler than Commanche Camp the night before. I pack up and tuck my gear away. This place does not have anything like the traffic at Icehouse Saddle, so I am not as worried about getting it totally hidden. Heading up the old camp steps along the trail gets me out of came and climbing to the ridge. In between is an area where burn and regrowth has left a trail that circles about in ridiculous ways.

mountains seen through the remaining trees
Looking north to Timber Mountain and Mount San Antonio.

At the top of the ridge, it shows an advantage of saving these peaks with a similar view for a new day. It is a whole new world down there today compared to yesterday. The city grid stretching far west and east is now gone in favor of a sea of clouds with a few islands.

Santiago Peak in the mist behind the junction sign
There were vast connected cities here before and now there is just Santiago Peak in the distance.

Trail at the top follows near the ridge east and west. I turn west for Ontario Peak. The trail follows through more of the burn, but now plots a typical ridge line path. It stays generally to the north side just a little and avoids going up and over the biggest bumps on the way.

fog filled valley
Even the spaces to the east, seen through Icehouse Saddle here, are covered in fog.

18 September 2017

Cucamonga Wild: Cucamonga and Etiwanda Peaks

San Bernardino National Forest

Angeles National Forest

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DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3

The night was about as cool as my sleep system could go without a little help, but I did not have to sacrifice my pillow for the warmth of the jacket within it. Bright stars shone through the breaks in the trees when I looked. Today, there are mountains to climb and then a stop at Kelly Camp before climbing some more. I expect the established camp probably has a spring associated with it, but there is certainly no water source to be seen on my map. The rangers at the station googling were able to find the suggestion this may be true and that it was dry in May. For a stream, that would be damning, but springs run on their own offset schedule. Not knowing where to find it, I really need to get water where it is known. That means either here and carry it up 2000 feet or from a spring on the other side that is out of my way, but only 1000 feet below the saddle. The 30 feet of surface water making lovely music beside me wins out. One bag for hiking, one for camping, and one for hiking again. Just 15 pounds of water. Glad I did not need to add in things like rain gear or a tent for this trip.

small water pool
A little bit of quiet water between musical dribbles in this brief moment that it rises to the surface.

The trail up from beside the water is not so hard to follow in the day. It simply has some bushes reaching across it. I break a few of the larger branches as I pass. After about 200 feet, there are more flat spots and these have fire rings. I was very nearly in the camp after all. Past Third Crossing, the trail had seemed a bit less used. The same holds here. There are more spots with brush reaching across and quite a few fallen logs, some with rather awkward routes around them. Everything seems to turn green and there is a larger sound of water after a quarter of a mile, so I did have another chance for it. There does not seem to be any established route to get down the last few feet to this water, though.

bits of tall green
Trees as things become a bit of a jungle.

a creek dry like bleached white bones
The creek above is so dry it resembles bleached white bones in the desert.

17 September 2017

Cucamonga Wild: Middle Fork

San Bernardino National Forest

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DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3

It is beginning to look a little cooler out there and I decided I would brave the weather down south, at least up high in the San Gabriel Mountains. There are plenty of peaks up around Icehouse Saddle that I have not bagged yet and it is an extra nice hike, so I decided I would do that. I also have a memory of one early May many years ago when I came out to backpack up Icehouse Saddle and out to one of the two campsites within two miles of it, however when we got to the ranger station, we were told that the trail was mostly clear up to the saddle, but everything else was under two feet of snow. It is funny how a lurking memory of unrealized planning can motivate one. Still, in the name of going for something new, I decided to come up to Icehouse Saddle from the east instead of the west. In researching that route, I found that someone has put two night caches along the trail between Third Crossing and Commanche. That is quite a curiosity, so I planned to be getting to Third Crossing around dark to try to find those.

It is a little harder to get up to Icehouse from the east than the west. For either way, a permit is required to enter the Cucamonga Wilderness even for day hiking. On the west, day hikers can use a self issue system, but I believe backpackers must get something from the ranger station which is only open on weekends until 3:30 PM. On the east side, permits must come from the ranger station, but it is open Thursday through Monday until 4:30 PM, so it is easier to find the ranger station open. Once the permit is obtained, the road is difficult to find. I saw South Fork as I entered Scotland, but not Middle Fork. Coming back, I did find it. It looks like an ally serving about four homes and the sign is up against some bushes so that it cannot be seen going the other way, but it was the next one after South Fork. This road is generally a very nice road at the moment, but it has a couple spots that are so bad the ranger coming out felt the need to stop me to tell me it would be a very bad idea to drive up in my car up and I would have to park in a lot off to the side just past a gate which is only about a half mile up. She also noted that they had had to tow out a Mercedes "with like four inches of clearance like you've got" that hit the oil pan and bled out until the engine seized. Oh, and once I do get up the road, it is still two miles further on this trail than the one from the west to get to the saddle.

I got up to the little lot, only about a half mile in and more than 1.5 miles short of the trailhead, and continued on. After all, the road was still looking quite good. Well, there are quite a few sharp rocks that do not look healthy for my tires, but one can generally avoid them. A bit more than a quarter mile later, it did not look so good at all. It looked downright nasty with plenty of parking at the side in a big turnout, so I parked and started walking. Three brown lines on the road told the tale of the exact route the Mercedes had taken.

Middle Fork
Looking downstream along the Middle Fork.

wide wash and misty mountain layers
Looking upstream and into the sun and the mountains. There is a thin stream of water coming down that wide wash below.

Cave of Munits and Castle Peak

Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve

El Escorpion Park

Click for map.

I expected it to be a little warm today, but there is a thick, grey blanket overhead keeping things cool. Victory Trailhead is not the closest to the cave and is the only one with a parking fee, but it comes with some signs and picnic tables and a truly disgusting bathroom. It claims to be open sunrise to sunset and has sufficient gating to make it difficult to pass should those get closed. I was able to save the $3 by parking along the nearby street which probably added a quarter mile to the start. Most seem to do this while some go ahead and pay the minor fee.

picnic tables and signs
The very well used Victory Trailhead.

Starting off, there are a lot of trails to choose from, but only one heading north toward the cave. I turn right to follow it up a short way and then down a long and gentle path. There are many small use trails off to the side going up canyons or ridges. The cave comes into view quickly as the largest of numerous vertical dark spaces in the rocks further north.

wide and easy trail north
Following wide trail at the edge of the open space, so some of the views are not entirely open and free of industry. Castle Peak is at the right.

31 August 2017


Sketches for both July and August. I seem to have neglected these last month. I was thinking, "Well, there is only one," but there was actually three.

Resting by Twin Lakes and watching the waterfalls.

The peaks that attracted my attention the most while planning.

Just wandering the local trails, this being the view from along McMenemey Trail.

Watching the water flow: Evolution Creek.

Enjoying the forests underwater and overhill from Trout Farm Campground in Malheur National Forest.

View of the mountains as we bed down, ready to get to the best spot for watching a total eclipse.