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.

20 March 2017

Redrock Mountain

Angeles National Forest

Link to map.

Redrock Mountain really catches the eye when viewed from the west side where its deep red heart is on display. Since I have plodded along on a few trails that do this, the mountain has eaten into my consciousness. The area around it was once quite popular among hikers and each excursion I have done around its base has shown me new reasons why. Today, any entry into the area requires first a mile along paved roadway before getting to a trail that can get one to the good stuff. It tends to weed out anyone who is not looking for a long hike. Today, I am looking for a long hike. I will head up Fish Canyon and climb that mountain, then return via Redrock Canyon and (Old) Telephone Road. A previous excursion that returned via Telephone Road lead to a bit of disappointment in being only able to see some of the beauty around me because it was already getting dark. Timing for off trail travel is uncertain, so I could end up in the same situation today. An early start would guard against that and that is why I am starting down the paved road as the sky thinks about brightening.

glowing Fish Canyon
Not much of a color show as the dawn breaks.

There is light. There is a glow from the power plant and from the many cars of people arriving to work at it. Very low clouds do not promise much of a dawn show. As I walk, there seems to be another glow developing deep within Fish Canyon that slowly swamps all else. Light reflects from the creek. I can hear Castaic Creek below me but cannot see water in it until the bridge. What is running through the gauge does not seem very substantial, but it is much more than I have seen before. It must be about sunrise by the time I start up Fish Canyon, but there is little clue of it from the sky. Things just sort of get brighter more and more slowly.

Fish Canyon flow
Fish Canyon seems to have a nice flow through it, but not nearly so much as the willows appear to have withstood recently. Some of the hillsides are golden with poppies. The color will be even brighter once the flowers actually open up for the day.

truck trail in good repair for now
Entering the canyon. The sycamores have only started to leaf out.

15 March 2017

super bloom

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

The super bloom going on around Borrego Springs and in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is expected to reach its peak in the middle of March, so the Hundred Peaks Section planned a rare outing without any peaks to climb for the ides. Looking at just the cost of gas, the price of admission does seem staggering for a single day looking about. Still, this is supposed to be a 1 in 20 years level event, so I decided to get up in the early dark and get myself down there to see this bloom.

Henderson Field
First stop along Henderson under Coyote Peak.

Our first stop is along Henderson Road, but we have been seeing flowers for a while at this point. At first glance, there are only about three types of flowers in the field. Most noticeable are masses of yellow of desert sunflower. Big floppy white flowers of the dune evening primrose are quick to catch the eye. Big puffs of purple of desert sand verbena complete the initial colorful impression.

dune evening primrose
Dune evening primrose in the sun.

desert sunflower, dune evening primrose, desert sand verbena
Sunflowers standing over desert primrose and desert sand verbena. There are quite a few green stems that are not yet flowering, too.

13 March 2017

Franklin Trail - phase III

Los Padres National Forest

I have gotten on various mailing lists for trail work volunteers and today it means hitting "phase III" of the Franklin Trail without having to walk up to or along the various utility roads first. Our entry point was surprising to me, but the final parking is exactly as expected. With a safety briefing, we take off in two groups to do some trail work. I am with Mike who is cutting away the brush to bring the trail up to specifications for hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrian users. The last requires quite a bit of clearance. We head up a little over a mile to where we are starting work. The trail looks a lot different from when I was here before.

tread work
There has been a lot of tread work on the trail now. When it was just a "p-line", it was just clear enough to let the odd archaeologist or biologist through.

sea of fog lapping at the hills
There is very little city below because the ocean is topped with a sea of fog.

Santa Cruz in the fog
Down the valley to Carpinteria and Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Islands.

07 March 2017

Oso Ridge and Chaparral Crest

Ventura River Preserve

I headed off to the Riverview Trailhead of the Ventura River Preserve to see the Ventura River. It is, as far as I am concerned, a mythical thing. There is certainly a space for it to fill and the water wells within the preserve hint at some underground flow, but it has always been parched white rocks when I was there. Not even puddles in some deep pools. I will then have to cross it to have a nice hike through the preserve, so I tried to figure out what that would mean. I found an online gauge for the river that indicated about 44 cubic feet per minute going past. The crossings are very wide and the area quite flat so it is not flowing past quickly. Maybe that is a lot. Probably not? I have socks and shoes for hiking, but as I set off I am only in some minimalist trail runners I have used for river crossing in the past.

Santa Ynez Mountains
The far east end of the Santa Ynez Mountains and Kennedy Ridge back the flat of the Ventura River Preserve.

These days, there are signs at every turn. I simply follow the ones pointing out Oso Ridge and work my way toward the river. This leads me past a long dead vineyard and scattered oaks among the green grasses. There is a thin creek, probably a diverging bit of the river, and then there is the thing itself.

posts to prop up grapes
Ghosts from the past show what the flood plain was once used for.

03 March 2017

Tangerine Falls

Santa Barbara front country

Off to another waterfall and with an even later start. The light is just better for this one in the early afternoon. Parking is even harder at Cold Spring than it was at San Ysidro and finding a spot means sloshing through the ford a couple times. And it is proper sloshing! There is some childhood recollection of this trail every time I start from the west side trailhead. It just looks right with its stencil letters cut through the metal sign. I always get the sense that this is the proper side to start although it quickly crosses over to the other trail starting on the east side of the creek.

Cold Spring Trail starts here.

round pools along the creek
Perfect pools along Cold Spring Creek. Also a bit of destruction from when the water rose higher.

Today, the crossing is a big pool. It does not take very much walking downstream to find a good spot to rock hop across. The turn for the west fork is a little more obvious than usual. It seems like the area has been cleaned up of undergrowth even above where the high water flowed. The crossing here has had some stones set for hopping across and while a group coming the other way pauses to work up the courage to make a big hop on one set, I just detour a few feet downstream again to take an easier set of rocks.

water falling
At just three feet, does it qualify as a waterfall?

east fork
Such perfect water coming down the east fork!

28 February 2017


The ink this month even included a little watercolor.  It is a little lighter weight for backpacking.

Another while wandering through the Arcata Community Forest.
Mushrooms are plentiful in the forest.

Cut here and there, but I found a nice tree on the sand spit.

On the third day backpacking, the trees stood out on the distant snowy mountains.

A side trail is needed to find the Boy Scout Tree, which may be the biggest in the forest.

Again in Arcata Community Forest with the brush pens.

Wandering up San Ysidro after checking on the well flowing waterfall.

San Ysidro Falls

Santa Barbara front country

Back to my home stomping grounds and between all the rain that has been falling down and the more cascade-like waterfalls I have been visiting, I want to see what some of the local creeks jumping over cliffs are doing. Also, I am a little suspicious we have gotten about all the water we are going to get, so now is the time to see the waterfalls. First up is San Ysidro. This waterfall never quite dried out although at some points you had to walk up and touch it to be sure. A thin film of water kept a vertical garden lush and green, but a cascade of green leaves is not what most people are looking for when heading to a waterfall. I get a late start in order to hit the waterfall around noon when the sun is most likely to be shining on it. It will likely be crowded with a lunch crowd then, but the light is all important. Parking is certainly getting hard to come by as I start.

a sign where there are no turns
The Montecito Trails Foundation has a few extra signs to help direct travelers where there are no options. One a little further up and pointing left might be useful.

The trail changes very little here. Up between a house and a nursery, then left at the private road above. Many walk the pavement, but they are not really supposed to. There are dirt trails beside it for hikers. The road turns to dirt utility access road and this shows some wear and tear from the recent storms. There are small land slides and thin cuts through it by water. It is rockier than usual. Down below, there is the roar of water. The crossing to McMenemy takes a little more skill now, although it does look like there are good hopping stones in place. Long dry tributaries are flowing again, but pose no difficulty in crossing either.

San Ysidro Creek
Water, lovely water, coming down San Ysidro Creek.

23 February 2017

Mount Diablo

Mount Diablo State Park

Knowing I would pass through the very general area twice and figuring I should stop and do something along the way, getting to the top of Mount Diablo was at the top of the list of possibilities. I go out of my way to try to find random corner markers, so the initial point for most of the surveys of California is a must visit. There are also all the reasons this was made the initial point, namely that it can be seen from all directions for miles around. This translates into views in all directions on a clear day. Putting it on the southbound leg of my trip means there might be more wildflowers and there are definitely fewer tolls. The mountain can be a drive up. I am sure it is a very pleasant, winding road up, but I want to climb it. As hinted by the myriad of markers on the map above, there are a lot of choices on exactly how to climb this mountain on foot. I decided to build my route on a popular loop visiting area waterfalls. This has the advantage of getting to pass by those waterfalls if there is time and free parking. One probably should not live by the free, but when there are other advantages to avoiding tolls and using the free parking, live it up.

muddy road through green grass
On a muddy fire road heading for a mountain. The hills sure are green and the valley oaks are just starting to leaf.

Two city streets come steeply down hills to stop just short of the bottom leaving room for creek and trail to pass between, although the creek actually takes a culvert. It is an odd visual. Access trails drop down from both sides. A thin city park follows the creek to the north and the state park starts at a sign to the south. In the time it takes me to pull on my shoes, a pair have gone out to have a look at the trails and decided against a run. I pack in my puffy jacket for greater enjoyment at the top of the mountain, then, on a whim, pull on my rain jacket because something about the morning air just is not warming up. The sign has a map, which is good to review the turns I want to make to get to the top of the mountain. A map in hand is always better, but I have not got one for today. My plan for the route up is Back Creek until it ends at Meridian Ridge, then Bald Ridge and the North Peak Trail to the top. I set off. At first, all routes are muddy roads past the lush grass. One peak to the west is cut with the distinctive giant steps of a quarry.

grassy hills with oaks
Oaks among the grassy hills. Oh, and there are some houses visible.

22 February 2017

Table Rock

Robert Louis Stevenson State Park

I am expecting it to be dry as I go south, but it has been almost constant rain. There was even rain as I climbed the tight hairpins of SR-29, but as I pull on my shoes the clouds are clearing out as quickly as they can. I seem to have gotten here at just the right time. The air is crisp and my breath comes out in giant puffs. Hail from earlier is gathered in a few spots and pointedly sticking around. Across the road, the trail starts up to Mount Saint Helena. The peak bagger wants to go up there, but I suspect this other trail is nicer and there are only a few hours until sunset.

start of the trail
Sign at the trailhead.

A couple short switchbacks on the trail bring it up to an old road along the ridge. Trees crowd in tightly around giving very little view. Small break show pieces of what is out there. A sudden break to the left gives a huge viewpoint for the first real look around along the trail. There is a tree down across the trail to it, but I have to go for it.

peeking through the trees
With dense little trees lining the trail, the view can be hard to make out.

Mount Saint Helena
A larger break gives a look back to Mount Saint Helena.

rock outcrops
An interesting assortment of rock outcrops on display near the large viewpoint.

19 February 2017

Elk River Trail

Headwaters Forest Reserve

I almost got away with showing the northwest coast of California without rain in winter, but with my days growing short and the weather feeling uncooperative for one last hike, I am out in the rain. The weatherman claims there will not be all that much of it and it should stop pretty soon. Perhaps it will be good to see if my rain jacket is still any good. There is no one in the parking lot as I arrive a bit late in the morning. The rain is coming down harder than I expected and looks settled enough to keep on doing this all week. I just pull on my rain pants and jacket, outfit the pack with its cover, and zip the camera in under the jacket and go. The first mile of this trail is paved anyway.

paved path and detailed signs
The first mile is a paved trail past detailed interpretive signs and a citizen science project.

The climb along the trail beside the river is imperceptible. Redwoods are sparse at first, but increase quickly. This is all second growth with a scattering of gargantuan stumps about. Big signs along the way describe the town of Falk that once housed loggers here. Logging, area plants, and the ultimate effort to conserve the area are all subjects along the way. A second set of tall, thin signs identify a few of the local plants and ask visitors to record the state of it, budding or flowering, in a booklet. Some have soggy protective bags that seem to be meant to hold the booklet, but none actually has a booklet. Most the plants are either leafed out or dormant right now. The weather seems to have won out over this citizen science project for now.

tall sign to record nature
Big leaf maple looking pretty dormant behind a sign asking the public to "help keep a record of nature".

14 February 2017

Trillium Falls

Redwood National Park

There was just enough time for a quick trip around the loop to see Trillium Falls and the old growth before sunset as I passed, so I stopped. I had a plan to include climbing the Berry Glen Trail to the Lady Bird Johnson Grove with this for a longer day of trees but suspect I will not actually get to it. And when I finish, it should be prime time for spotting elk in the nearby meadow, which is even an official viewing spot for such wildlife. For now, I head down the paved path.

start of the trail
Picnic area at the start of the trail.

The parking and picnic area and meadow were once the location of a mill and mill yard harvesting the trees. It was restored to something like its natural state before the trail was opened. The nearby old growth appears to have been left as a show piece.

creek within alders
A once buried creek gurgles down between young trees.

A dirt trail soon splits off the side of the paved path next to a sign with a detailed map of the trail. The sign shows the waterfall is very early in the 2.2 mile loop. The trail climbs easily upward into the tall trees.

view through trees
A bit of the meadow through past the edge of the trees.

Boy Scout Tree Trail

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

Getting out of the car at the trailhead, there is the sound of a fog horn just at the edge of hearing. It is so quiet that maybe I am imagining it. Perhaps I am homesick. This is certainly not a place where the sea comes to mind, but these are coastal redwoods and the coast is not too far away. It is not a day to think of fog either. Bits of blue can be seen above. I stand within the old growth and reflect upon the differences between this forest and the second growth of the Arcata Community Forest I have walked through a few times. These trees are certainly a lot bigger, but it is more than that. This forest grew up under a previous generation of big trees striving for a bit of sun in that shade. This is a much more open forest.

tree tops
Looking up from beside the road. There is some blue up there.

trailhead sign
A marked trailhead to start from.

In spite of the name of the trail, it does not go to the Boy Scout Tree. It passes near the tree on its way to Fern Falls and there is no sign to point out where exactly. There were no cars as I pulled up, but that changes before I have sorted the things I want to take day hiking from the things in my backpack. This is a popular trail.

forest of giants
Winding through tall, well spaced trees.