19 November 2017

Big Rabbit: Rabbit Peak

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

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DAY 1 | DAY 2

The night was already colder than expected when we went to bed, so we were slightly worried. Somehow it did not get much colder and was already getting warmer by our sunrise wake up time. Pudding again for this morning, in "special dark" chocolate. The shaking elicits an, "It's loud," from my neighbor with just a touch of animosity, so I yield to the thought of pulling on my shoes and going back to the top of the mountain where the sunrise will be better. Such is life. We are out just about on time for the four rolling miles out to Rabbit Peak.

three hikers starting down off Villager Peak with Rabbit in the distance
Good morning star shine, it is time to boogie.

people picking their way down a rocky ridge
Shedding a bit more elevation before the higher peak.

18 November 2017

Big Rabbit: Villager Peak

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

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DAY 1 | DAY 2

The hikers gathered at just the right crossing of Truckhaven and S22, the latest coming in at midnight, to camp and get a mildly early start in the morning. Who would have thought the state park would allow dispersed camping? Just have to keep it within one car length of an established road. I give my banana pudding* a nice, long shake and put it aside in the cool morning air to refrigerate before carefully examining my foot for even the slightest glimmer of pain. No motion seems to set it off, so I get to wear my trail runners. It makes me feel safer to have a bigger range of movement on a wild "trail". I get some hot chocolate together to go with the banana pudding and scarf down half of it before getting a rather loud full signal. I head over to the actual meet point. We get signed in and extra sure that everyone has enough water. My brain keeps grunting that this will be a particularly heavy pack until a change of perspective. I have often gone out into the Sierra with 20 pounds of food about about 5 pounds of water. Swap those and it is about what I have today. Nearly 20 pounds of water and about 3 pounds of food. This is a perfectly ordinary pack and this weight will disappear faster.

dispersed campers and the mountain to climb
Folks camped out one side of the other of Truckhaven Road. Ryan came over to say we would be going up that smooth ridge on the left to start, but the rest is hidden.

We start off across the flat desert on a well established and initially very sandy use trail. It is glaringly devoid of the slot canyons I was hiking past yesterday and was expecting to see more of. The scattered rocks look rather volcanic. There are more hints we are walking over different geology as we pass by ocotillo that is bursting out with enough leaves to hide the wicked thorns along their towering branches. We cross a wide and shallow wash just before we start our climb among granite. That is definitely different from the sedimentary rocks yesterday.

long stems of ocotillo reaching for the sky and clothed in leaves
Is it the season for the ocotillo to green? Travelers Peak is probably the slightly higher and slightly further point on the right.

ocotillo bloom, a stem with a row of red barrels
A few ocotillo are even in bloom.

17 November 2017

Calcite Mine and halfway to Travelers Peak

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

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I signed up for an overnight backpack way down south and since getting there involves driving halfway to Phoenix (well, 20 miles short of) and then turning right to drive some more, I decided to leave at a time that might not have as much traffic and could give me time to hike at the end. Just a few tens of miles of slow curd around the 405 and one complete freeway stoppage later, I have arrived at the start of a road to an old calcite mine and a good approach to climbing Travelers Peak with an hour and ten minutes to sunset. It is plenty of time to check out the mine, but probably not enough to head up the peak. I had rather hoped this would serve as a shakedown for how my injured foot* is doing and if I can get away with wearing my soft trail runners instead of my immobilizer boots for the overnight. Getting into the scramble up the mountain would be better for that than the road walk to the mine. Of course, maybe I can drive the road.

Calcite Mine Road
An interpretive sign about calcite use in gun sights marks the beginning of the road to the mine. Travelers Peak rises up behind a bit of the local badlands.

Heading down to the wash and less than 400 feet down the road, it is clear that had I started down it in the car, I would just be backing right back up it to park beside the sign. There are three guys coming down the road on the other side of the wash. This is odd as there were no other cars parked near me. As I get to the wash, they have climbed into a Jeep with big grippy tires and plenty of clearance that is parked in it. Just one big bump and they give up? Up the other side, there is a little more plateau to walk along toward the mountain.

ocotillo above a wash and a long plateau before some distant mountains
Out among the ocotillo and looking back over this plateau broken by a few washes.

A road heads off to the right with a little sign next to it. Palm Wash. There was a well used track heading off in the bottom of the wash, but it looks like this road is official. I follow past the Calcite Mine sign instead. As it starts to climb, the immediate scenery gets quite interesting.

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.