12 July 2017

San Guillermo Mountain

Los Padres National Forest

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As it turned out, quite a few others were also wanting to do San Guillermo Mountain after Lockwood Peak. There was supposed to be a vote on if we would, but we seem to have missed that step and just proceeded to Pine Springs Campground. The thermometer in the car says it is 89&def;F out there. I find that hard to believe. I could take that kind of heat when I lived in Pasadena, but I have gotten soft again with the luxury of a marine layer to keep things mild. A few take a moment to partake in the facilities only to find that they have been nailed shut with added "Keep Out" signs. I wonder what the excuse for that is since they did not seem unsafe last year.

We step over the wire fencing meant to dissuade any wheeled vehicles from entering the Sespe Wilderness that surrounds the area and wander our way past bushes filling up with toilet paper. Really, there better be a good excuse for nailing the pits shut. Also, how much toilet paper visible does it take for people to realize that stuff is not going anywhere and needs to be packed out? It seems even the legged travel is not typically very far from the campground and the bushes clear up quickly. We drop into a rocky creek bed, where we lose the trail, and eventually climb back out to find it again. After that brief bit of down, we get to climbing.

The view opens up quickly and is, to my mind, better than the one from Lockwood Peak already. My hand swings through empty space as I set up to take a photo of the long lump that is Lockwood Peak, the further slightly more rugged side being the high point. Thus is the discovery that I left my camera in the car. It seems I cannot notice the absence of two pounds of camera hanging around my neck unless I am thinking about it. A brief thought of going back for it flutters through my mind. We are not that far up yet, but I am with a group. That would be rather rude. I turn to climb some more.

The realization that it really is hot seems to be coming to most of the group as we get high enough for nature to provide us with a wonderful cooling wind from the west. There are multiple noises of welcome directed toward and about that breeze as we climb the last bit before turning north along the ridge. The ridge comes with a second luxury: a shade tree. Someone has even cut away the lower branches so that more can comfortably partake. Below us, the badlands west of the mountain are revealed.

We give the last folks up a minute or two to have some shade too, then make that turn to the north. This requires losing a little elevation. The north slope is occupied by the cheery purple flowers of the dreaded poodledog bush. This fire follower has not quite vanished again to wait for the next burn. There is enough room between them to pass without touching and risking the itch worse than poison oak.

One last climb puts us on the top and experiencing a little better view. This is the better peak. If I had to forget my camera on one of these, it would have been better to do so on the other. It is still quite smoky. There is a spot in the far west where the grey seems to not just hide the landscape, but to replace it. The shapes of things look right to call this area Cachuma Lake. It even has a tooth shaped mountain just north, but the one I generally see near there should be well hidden by a taller mountain that is itself hidden by a taller mountain from this vantage point.

We take a little time to try to take it in and then there is another call for a group photo even though it is the exact same group on the same day. It is not the same mountain! There is also a call for a couple packs to help stabilize the hiking stick monopod contraption as that wonderful breeze is still blowing. I kneeled in the front for both photos, but the sand is uncomfortably hot through my trousers only for this one.

We head down again and back up carefully avoiding that poodledog, then take another stop under the shade tree for a while. Heading down finally, there is a brief movement toward the wrong ridge, which would probably just result in a wider circle to the campground, before the head of the line gets suspicious and we all move back to our original line for climbing. Now it feels too hot. That is probably the first time that climbing felt nice enough to the downhill feels like too much exertion will bring on heat stroke. Happily, it really is not that far.

We try a slightly different route as we get down toward the rocky, dry creek bed. It does not end up saving us any movement over the rocks in the bottom, though. We climb up out on another trail that hops over a different section of cable near the cars and finish the hike. All seem to have weathered the heat well enough as we do. The car thermometer is reading 105°F as we leave and holds steadfast at that the whole way back to the main road.

©2017 Valerie Norton
Posted 15 July 2017

Lockwood Peak

Los Padres National Forest

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I realized that those peak baggers in the Hundred Peaks Section would be about as much in the neighborhood as they get as they headed for Lockwood Valley to bag Lockwood Peak. Honestly, it looks like an inconsequential bump to me. It is only on my radar because it is on the list, but I am perfectly capable of finding my own inconsequential bumps to climb. It is near a second listed inconsequential bump that should be on my radar because it is the basis for the name of the map quadrangle it occupies. The best guess for the weather seemed to be low or mid 80s, which is hot, but not quite too hot. The hike is short enough to deal with that. I decided to do it and the short hike up San Guillermo Mountain and sent an email off to the head leader, Bill Simpson, with somewhat less than my usual one week lead time. I got in and found out they would be doing an even shorter route that is more convenient to going up the second peak. We met at the end of Grade Valley Road and traveled just past the end of the pavement to the Pianobox Loop, then off the end to Yellow Jacket Trail.

sign snowing difficulty of the trail for motorcycles
The start of an motorcycle trail marked "more difficult" is also our start for hiking. There is a gate to keep anyone wider out.

We find ourselves facing off against an intermediate level motorcycle trail. The day is a bit into getting started and not particularly warm yet, but we all make sure there is plenty of water in our packs. The shade around here is not what it was before the Day Fire in 2006. It is starting to look like most of the standing dead trees have now fallen. We head down along the variously sandy or rocky track among the dried grasses. There are still a few bright flowers in the mix and only half of them are various types of buckwheat.

blackened trees in the dry grass
Blackened by the fire, but still living. For the most part.

low and easily eroded hills with sparse trees
Low hills that grow suddenly to Mount Pinos.

meadow or playa
Many spots look suspiciously like playas like this still somewhat green meadow.

We follow the trail over short and easy ups and downs for about two miles before coming to a spot somewhat below a gully coming off the mountain to the southeast of us. Somewhere up that mass is our peak.

two creases in a land of brush
Almost to the turn off. We will go up the deeper gully to the left.

There is a cairn and a faint trail near it. We follow this up a little bit excessively. After all, the trees have not been removed from this cross country route so we have to allow for going over or around them instead of where the old trail might lead. These hillsides seem to have had a particularly hard time in the fire, but we do manage to find a tree or two to offer shade along the way.

a few hikers in the crease of the land
The surrounding ranches become visible as we climb the gully.

At the top of the gully, we make a left and begin climbing toward where there is no more to climb.

gentle top hills at the top of the gully
Looking back to the gully we climbed.

Forest Service benchmark from 1942 labeled LOCKWOOD
The Forest Service has kindly labeled the peak for us.

We take some time for snacks and the views. That second bit is a little hampered by smoke. Today's fire is the Whittier Fire, which seems to be burning the bits that the Sherpa Fire last year saw fit to fizzle out and leave. We try to pick out the lookout on on Thorn Point, but nothing looks quite right. Further out, the coastal range is a grey shape in the smoke.

Frazier Mountain blob
The large grey form to the east with a fire lookout and distinct fuel break is Frazier Mountain.

smoky mountain ranges stretching from the south to the west
The particularly smoky things to the southwest. The furthest range back there, by the shapes, is Nordhoff, Chief, and Topatopa Bluff.

fields in the lower flats
Lockwood Valley stretching out below.

There is a demand for a group picture from someone prepared enough to have his hiking stick turned into a free standing monopod so that everyone can be in it, so we collect up for that. The newsletter needs to be fed, after all. Then we collect up ourselves and head down. As usual, it is steeper on the way down. How does it do that? The effect seems particularly strong today. Still, we hit the easier slopes of the motorcycle trail without even the worry of an incident and then head back to the cars.

a few more trees on low hills
Poor forest. Hopefully it is a healthier one now after the thinning by fire.

©2017 Valerie Norton
Posted 15 July 2017

05 July 2017

Grant Grove

Kings Canyon National Park

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I cannot pass up stopping by the big trees when we are so near and somehow Martha has never seen them. My original desire was to head up to the Garfield Grove, but the extra day for that is not working out after all. Considering how today is shaping up, it would have been a bit hot for the hike. My father seemed relieved to a surprising extreme to not have to find a different ride to the airport, so it works out for everyone to cut off a day of adventure. Instead of that remote grove that we might have all to ourselves, we head over to the paved and fenced Grant Grove, which we will have to share with tourists that arrive by the busload plus those in dozens of cars. It was once part of the General Grant National Park, one of the first four national parks, but is now a part of the much younger Kings Canyon National Park. Importantly, it has sequoiadendron giganteum, and some of them are quite large ones.

fenced sequoia towers around 300 feet tall over people on paved walks
The grove has a paved walk past trees generally nearly 300 feet tall and one fallen log people can walk through and which housed some of the first white settlers.

Signs tell us cultural history and bits about the trees. I expect to see something about fire on one of the first two, but it takes quite a few signs to get around to it. On the way, there is plenty of evidence of fire.

tall tree with black holes showing, especially toward the center of the height
One tree showing burned out spots all the way up, but it still stands and sprouts green.

After we pass the log, which is so unenthusiastic to decay into the ground that it looks much the same now as when it was housing soldiers who were the first park protectors, there is the massive Centennial Stump which is 24 feet across. This one was cut in 1875 for exhibition and was confidently called a hoax by those in the east. Past that is the cabin those first white settlers built when they tired of living in a fallen tree. The thick redwood is still standing strong and solid. They were cattle or sheep herders, depending on if we read the old or new sign, and tried a little timber as well. Finally, there is General Grant himself.

sequoia, top to bottom
The General Grant Tree is the third largest tree in the world by volume. (Click for zoomable presentation.)

General Grant has quite a crowd. A sign points the way up a hill, which the park clearly does not think is accessible but has an electric wheelchair navigating it anyway, to see the general's fire scar. Other signs give a lot more information, some of it in very silly ways. It is the third largest tree known in the world, by volume and the widest known sequoia. That width is 40 feet and the height is 268 feet. It is a very big tree.

upper surfaces of General Grant seem to be white
The upper surface area of the tree seems to have bleached in the sun. The very large branch is 4.5 feet across according to the sign, but it sure looks bigger to me.

We take some time to marvel as the tree silently towering over us and read all the honors that have been bestowed upon it over the years, certain that the tree does not care, then finish the stroll around the loop past a few more sequoia.

another rather large tree
Another tree fading to white high above, seen through a window between the other trees.

©2017 Valerie Norton
Posted 13 July 2017

Jennie Lakes: Weaver Lake

Sequoia National Forest

Giant Sequoia National Monument

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DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4

(Day 4 of 4) I am up at the first hint of light. It is easy to get up in such mild weather. Martha has not taken it as quite so mild, so I let her have the neoprene socks for the early morning foot soaking. I did mention I was overpacked. We collect ourselves together and head up the little bit of trail to the crossing to finally give it a try just as it gets light enough to see into the water. I feel like it got quieter about halfway through the night, but the water level really does not look any different. We drop down to the crossing with smooth running water consistently across a wide section and cross. It does not seem to pull much at my legs as I go. Somehow the snow melt is not even cold. Much ado about nothing.

little falls and pools
A bit of blur as the camera gathers enough light in the dawn. The trail crosses in the crescent below the broken log with much of the water funneled into one spot of fast and deep water. The higher log is a lot like our previous crossing, except uphill. The pool between might be a nice swimming hole.

The next crossing is marked "Boulder Creek" with a sign on a tree, although it is very hard to read. This is the outflow from Jennie Lake and we splash on through. The last crossing requires a little climb and then we can splash on through it too. I finally find the campsites I expected to see around the creek around it. Not such a bad spot. It should get some morning sun, unlike spots down in the canyon. We stop for a bit for breakfast and to allow the day to properly begin, not to mention to think about having dry socks again.

surging water of one more branch of Boulder Creek
Still dim as we come to the last of the big lines on the map to cross the real thing.

granite sloping quickly into a great hole in the ground
Not more more than 200 feet climbed out, but the canyon is already a hidden hole far below.

Once we have gained some morning sun, we turn to gain a little more elevation, too.

bulges of granite dotted with trees
The hills of granite, including the point south of Jennie Lake.

The trail starts to level out a bit after another couple hundred feet as it slides between the bulk of the mountain and a long point of rock. I have the distinct impression it is missing a rather good viewpoint, so take the excursion out onto it. Others have agreed that this is a spot to head to, even leaving fire rings along the way. Some of what is out there is Kings Canyon.

spires of rock emerging from trees and quite a lot of trees
Acrss the canyon where we started down yesterday. Many rock spires abound.

valley leads to deeper valleys
North along Boulder Creek to the deeper canyons beyond. (Click it for the zoomable panorama.)

We reconnect with the trail and climb gently higher and descend again past glimpses of meadow and a pair of teasing bearing trees. They stand facing each other and pointing at each other with a combined distance that is only slightly further than the distance between. In the middle, there seems to be no marker. There might have been a large cairn beside the trail, but someone has kicked it over and probably not even noticed the bearing trees marking it as a surveyor mark. Or maybe it is under the fallen tree, but it looks like it was fallen already in 1986 when the signs are dated.

bits of grass seen past thick trees
Peek-a-boo meadow.

I can spot a little of Shell Mountain visible through the tops of the trees. The trail up to Weaver Lake is marked by a sign as the size of the trail balloons. We make this last little climb to see the lake. It was probably at least as crazy as Jennie that first night, but now there is only one group way off on the side that is only heard a couple times.

Weaver Lake behind some trees, one with a sign to say so
Weaver Lake on the approach, with a helpful sign in case we are wondering.

Weaver Lake
Panorama of Weaver Lake.

It is a good spot to rest a bit and poke around and even try to circle, getting my feet quite wet through a swampy inlet and where rock hopping stones across one bulge are not quite complete. Still, rock hopping across a bit of lake is silly enough that it simply must be tried even if a few of them are underwater.

clusters of simple white flowers, one occupied by a blue butterfly
The azaleas are in bloom on the south side of the lake.

Shell Mountain behind Weaver Lake
Another viewpoint of Weaver Lake with Shell Mountain behind it.

Soon enough, we head off again down the rest of the trail. It is like a roadway for much of the way, this part gets so much use. For now, it is quiet enough to startle a couple deer drinking at a creek crossing.

mule deer
One mule deer watches, waiting for us to pass before coming down to the creek again.

As we get lower, the temperature seems quite oppressive. There are a few day hikers coming up, and they are clearly feeling it. A family with two little tykes backpacking seem more chipper, but we are in the shade of the trees by Fox Meadow as we encounter them. There is even a pair on horseback now that the weekend crowd has dwindled.

distant snow covered peaks
One last view of the distant snow covered peaks.

slabs of granite with gentle rolls
Back into views of slabs of gently domed granite.

three wide open mariposa lilies
I somehow missed the mariposa lilies on the way up, but they are all over now.

blue butterflies in the sand
Blue butterflies taking a drink beside the creek.

The bridge still reeks as we cross it. There are only a couple cars left in the overflow parking with us. Otherwise, all the parking areas are completely empty except the two closest to the trail. There is another family with a couple little tykes getting their backpacking gear together as we pass. The lake certainly seems like a reasonable little trip for a youngster.

©2017 Valerie Norton
Posted 11 July 2017

04 July 2017

Jennie Lakes: Belle Canyon and Rowell Meadow

Kings Canyon National Park

Sequoia National Forest

Giant Sequoia National Monument

Click for map.

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4

(Day 3 of 4) It was another mild night, but the mosquitoes very nearly vanished early on into it. The sun comes quickly here and the morning golden hour is really quite something. I enjoy it with breakfast and happily the mosquitoes seem to be slow to wake up.

morning sun on Ball Dome
Our northerly view from near camp: the morning sun as it hits Ball Dome.

Ranger Lake
Morning over Ranger Lake.

We head out to the trail again and wander gently downward, still high above the valley bottom. The air seems a lot clearer today and the snow on the far mountains is much more defined.

distant peaks with snow spots
The snowy distances.

over Crowley Canyon
Across Crowley Canyon to the far edge.

water flowing thin and fast across granite
Through the trees, water sheets over the granite.

As we start to circle around the uninteresting end of the Ball Dome outcrop, there is the trail to Lost Lake. A half mile up (and down again) and some miles to get. I decide against going although we have not been able to see it from above anywhere along our route. Some backpackers come down after us stating that it is definitely the most beautiful lake they have been to in their lives, so perhaps it was the wrong decision to forgo just half a mile and some climb.

little water past bright daisies
A thin stream through a meadow of aster or daisies.

carpet of yellow flowers below the trees
Carpets of flowers burst out in seemingly random spots.

Upon reaching Sugarloaf Creek in Belle Canyon, it is clear that all my fancy footwork to stay to rocks and such above water instead of it in has just run out. The creek makes its lazy way through a meadow and there is nothing for a while in either direction to offer a crossing. The only question is do we stop to take shoes off or just plunge right through. My shoes have dried rather well when I accidentally dipped a toe and it is plenty warm, so I elect to plunge.

Sugarloaf Creek looking like a pond
Sugarloaf Creek looks lazy enough to actually be a pond and there are plenty of little fish swimming around to help with the image.

Just across the creek is a trail junction and another choice. My original plan was to continue down to Comanche Meadow, then turn north toward Williams Meadow and swing west to Kanawyer Gap. This is all trail on the old 15' map, but has been dropped from the 1993 7.5' Mount Silliman map, so there is some worry about finding it. Harrison does include it. It will also add something like 4 miles to the route, which it is looking like I do not get to do. We turn up Belle Canyon instead.

purple and yellow flowers that otherwise look the same
The carpets of flowers sometimes are multicolored.

Shortly after is another junction, this one to go up to Seville Lake. This one has a second trail in that would drop us off almost at the top of the pass we are climbing anyway and is only a half mile extra. I am more enthusiastic to go for this one, but cannot get any interest from Martha. At least we should be able to look over to it sometime on the high up.

tiger lilies
Humboldt lilies! Or probably some more common, smaller relative since the Humboldts supposedly do not grow this high.

This area has had a recent big burn killing off numerous trees and leaving just a few islands living. There are a lot of trees to jump and nowhere that feels safe to stop. The group coming down from Lost Lake had mentioned a lot of trees down going to Comanche Meadow making it quite hard work to walk that trail. Perhaps it is just as well we did not go that way. The rocks behind the burned trees do suggest the canyon is well named.

Belle Canyon
A little of the decoration for Belle Canyon, partly hidden by the remains from a severe fire. New little pines are rising to take the place of the old ones.

minute white flowers covering the ground
Plenty of flowers are filling in the spaces.

trees on the trail
New fallen trees joining a few already cut from crossing the trail.

Eventually, we do get trees again as we climb. We never do get to look out to Seville Lake, so it is another one we do not know at all even after being so close. It certainly looks like a nice spot on the topo. We never see the trail up from it either.

green frog the size of the thumb knuckle
We do get to see a couple little frogs including a red and white one and this green one.

There is not a lot of down to get to Rowell Meadow. Lots of trees and meadows and little streams make for a pretty stroll on the way to the next junction. Wet feet? Maybe a little, but they are already wet now.

lumps of snow in the wet meadow
Just a little snow left in lumps about the place.

looking up to a high canopy on a big pine
Found a rather large tree. Not nearly so large as some nearish, but it would still take a friend or two to help hug it.

The junction at Rowell Meadow has no signs, just posts, but is very clear. The trails are all lined by large trees and cuts for at least 100 feet around it. We turn left for Boulder Creek, leaving behind the last chance to go sprinting up the Jennie Lakes Wilderness high point. The route has some very non-wilderness surprises. First we get an actual bridge over one larger creek, then there is a tall cabin used for snow surveys.

tall snow survey cabin
The snow survey cabin, which has some details for when the snow gets particularly high.

Rowell Meadow
And the view of the soggy Rowell Meadow from in front of the snow survey cabin. Quite a nice view. Marker 226 for making snow surveys is to the right.

We get no more bridges as we continue toward Boulder Creek, although they would have been appreciated. After the stomping through the 3rd or 4th creek crossing, my shoes have started to feel slushy and it takes them 10 or 20 minutes to quit it.

Gannon Creek
Crossing Gannon Creek, which has really grown from when we saw it near the pass.

six yellow, waxy petals with small dark spots so numerous they touch often
But first getting distracted by a small flower that is probably a type of lily.

We have one more little climb before a longer down into Boulder Creek. Signs posted at the start warned that this one could be a little dangerous, so we will probably stop at the creek to wait to cross in the morning, when it should be lower. We actually have four crossings coming up, but my guess is the second one will be the hardest, but also have some flat areas nearby.

Boulder Creek
The trail down to Boulder Creek is a narrow thing along a steep hillside. The high white rocks above it are the backdrop to Jennie Lake.

stocky trees on the steep slope
Looking up at the big trees that sparsely populate the slope. We have a few across the trail to hop over, too.

There are two little streams along the way, but neither of these are one of the crossings expected. I ponder stopping at the first for water since I seem to have run out and it is hot, but it is not long before we stop and the hill is steep and the trail is just wide enough for my foot. I may as well get to the hoped for flats. I cannot quite see the joined creek below as it rages behind a layer of trees. There is just a vision of white water.

purple trumpets of the floral kind
The first little stream has a few flowers to decorate it.

The first of the crossings is a bit large and full of white water, but there is a tree bridge. It is a bit rounded and slanted for confident walking, high above the thrashing water, but free of bark and easy enough to shimmy downhill on using hands to steady. The second crossing does look a little tough and is just after a little used, but quite suitable for us, campsite, so that is where we tuck in for the night, surrounded by the roar of Boulder Creek. There does seem to be an alright crossing spot below the trail for our travels in the morning.

rocky white water trail crossing
As the trail crosses, there is one spot that is just a little too far for rock hopping and beside it, the water is deep and rushing.

Continue to the next day >>

©2017 Valerie Norton
Posted 10 July 2017