05 August 2018

Kratka Ridge

Angeles National Forest

San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

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My second little hike of Hundred Peaks Section listed peaks for the day is actually the high point of a ridge. The usual approach for this is from Vista Picnic Area or the old ski resort east of the high point. Not for me, though. I once went exploring up a mystery road just slightly east of the Buckhorn Campground to find use trails climbing both ways on the ridges once at the saddle above. I liked the spot enough to paint it later. I later explored the road further to find myself at the top of Waterman Mountain for the sunset. Today I will explore those ridge routes with a little more idea of where I will end up. First off to the east to grab the ridge high point then off to the west maybe as far as the Waterman benchmark. (This is not quite as far as Waterman where the benchmark reads "Twin".)

crushed thin gate
Something about this gate makes me think this road has been very thoroughly abandoned by everyone except hikers and bicycles.

Everything is almost as I remember it. The road curves off to my right to where the map claims you can find Buckhorn Spring and use trail continues up to the saddle. Bits of metal on the way hint at another bit of road existing once near the saddle where there is a short flattened area. Very strong use trail heads west from the saddle, but there is not a lot of indication of travel to the east. That way has lost its allure? Although HPS does not use this approach, they do have a yearly Waterman Rendezvous where groups approach the peak from 3 or 4 different routes, usually including one traversing Kratka Ridge. This year it did, so some 8 or 10 people must have come down this just a month ago. Their passage is not particularly obvious now. I look very closely and decide I can almost imagine footsteps heading up the side, tending to the north where the vegetation is not so thick. Southerly toward the edge of the ridge, the trees start to have brush below them. It is a sensible enough route, so I follow it.

saddle view to SR-39
The view from the saddle. I painted this view once.

A little way up, old road becomes quite visible as it rounds the ridge northward and upward with a worn path along it. A route for me? The ridge line route still looks mildly overgrown and steep and this is meant to be an easy little hike, so I guess so. It does seem to be going my way and if it stops that, then I can just make a new way.

slapstick indicating wilderness
Pacing beside the edge of the San Gabriel Wilderness. The ridge is not all that brushy and would probably allow fairly easy travel.

Mount Lewis

Angeles National Forest

San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

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Speaking of list padding, next up is Mount Lewis. Okay, so apparently it is the high point of the Pleasant View Ridge Wilderness, but it is also a brief jaunt up from the road at Dawson Saddle. Trails from the same area climb south a bit longer and a bit higher to Throop Peak. I was up on Throop once upon a time feeling thankful I threw in an extra dinner (but that story has already been told) and not noticing the peaks to the north of it particularly. I made plans for three little hikes to grab three more Hundred Peaks Section listed peaks while I was in the neighborhood and this is the first as determined by being the next one along the road. There is a big turnout and a couple little ones to provide parking near the saddle. The only official trail is near the east end of the big turnout, but there seems to be a second trail heading south nearer to the saddle. The unofficial trail up Mount Lewis starts just west of a large shed.

Caltrans shed beside the road
The trail starts next to the propane tank, of course, and climbs steeply.

The trail up is well ground in and well steep. Plenty of people do this, more than just the peakbaggers keeping up with their list. Maybe it does have something going for it after all.

looking into the sun at the bigger peaks
Looking into the sun at the bigger peaks to the south including Mount Baden-Powell.

Throop Peak
South to Throop Peak. We of Caltech still remember our Throop roots.

In little time, I am at the top. It is not much more than a quarter mile, if even that, and the constant, determined slope mellows out once close.

flat top with a big tree
The biggest tree around occupies the very highest point.

Vincent's Cabin

Angeles National Forest

San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

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I thought I'd spend the night over by Vincent's place. The cabin is supposedly built by a Civil War veteran, so it has some years on it and I will certainly not be staying in it. It is a little way down the Mine Gulch Trail, one of the five trail routes and four road routes to leave Vincent Gap. It is not the hardest to find. That one goes northwest and is a National Recreation Trail, so should get better treatment, but currently has not so much as a sign. The Pacific Crest Trail wanders through from the northeast to the southwest (for the northbound direction) and gets quite a lot of traffic going up Mount Baden-Powell. I ignored that and skirted a permanently locked gate on an old road headed south. A short way down, it is signed for Big Horn Mine along road on the right and Mine Gulch along trail on the left. I hung the left. The right is quite a popular destination and I could hear people along the old wagon track above.

bumble bees in oportunistic growth in a wash
Some nice big bumble bees along the trail.

The trail goes all the way down to Heaton Flat along the San Gabriel River on the other side of the Sheep Mountain Wilderness, if one is so inclined. I turned off on a well worn path atop a fading road bed. This actually passes above the cabin. A second well worn path shortly after goes more directly to it. Along the way are some dark berries that look tempting and a spring with just enough water to turn the trail muddy.

cedar trees
I also noted quite a few cedar trees beside the trail.

cabin from the back
First view of the cabin following trail down from the higher road.

The cabin is a curious thing. The inside seems to have many cans folks have gathered and a few beer bottles they brought. The chimney has collapsed, so the fireplace is unsafe to use. It probably would be anyway. Many of the beams seem to still have bark on them. I rather doubt anything over 100 years old would still have bark on it, but I greatly suspect folks have put quite a bit of work into preserving it over the years. I recall seeing something to the effect of a call to join a work party once. A bag of screws has been left above the door and a few can be seen in use about the place. There are other boards grey with age that are rough hewn and a little more believable.

its bones showing in the cabin
A look within Vincent's cabin.

04 August 2018

Pine Mountain, Dawson Peak, Wright Mountain

San Bernardino National Forest

San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

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I seem to be on some sort of kick to climb a bunch more Hundred Peaks Section listed peaks. I signed up for an official outing to climb three peaks clustered north of Mount San Antonio, better known as Baldy. The section will let anyone come along, free of charge, although they do like to know something about you for the harder hikes so it is best to sign up for something easy first. This one mentions some "loose and exposed Class 2 terrain" as a reason it is "not for beginners", so probably counts as a harder hike. But they know me by now. At some point years ago, I had taken note of Pine Mountain, the North Backbone Trail that crosses it, and the Blue Ridge Road and put them in the list of things I wanted to experience, so an outing doing Pine Mountain and a few others seems like a perfect way to do it. Meeting at the turn to Blue Ridge at 6:30AM to beat the heat a little is just early enough to find a parking spot before if fills with photographers trying to get pictures of the runners 9.4 miles into the Angeles Crest 100, which seems to be today. It runs 100.2 miles from Wrightwood to Pasadena along the crest. We spot the first one before heading down the road. The Pacific Crest Trail, which is the race course along here, crosses the road repeatedly making the drive to the trailhead slightly challenging.

passing the wilderness sign
A short and steep downhill puts us into the Sheep Mountain Wilderness. Angeles administers this piece of San Bernardino.

hikers on the steep
And then it is up, and we really do mean up.

There are 22 total, participants and leaders, today. Kind of a lot, but it is all on trail. Well, for certain values of trail. Why did I put the North Backbone Trail on the list of things to experience? Because I hear how scary the Backbone Trail is even in summer but have not noticed it myself. The North Backbone is supposed to be more so as it follows a knife edge ridge across the tops of a couple peaks to Baldy.

sharp ridge line
The ridge line is sharp, but the rocks are not quite hard enough for a real knife. The trail follows the very edge and it is dangerous enough in winter.

hikers on the edge
The climbing. A spot down there did greatly encourage the use of hands to get up, which is the requirement for Class 2.

21 July 2018

Upper Sisquoc trail work

Los Padres National Forest

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I signed up for a little more trail work, this time along the trail I bailed along when it got just a bit cold and snowed on me. At the time, I hopped over, around, and even under quite a few trees in just a few miles. Since then, there have been a lot of work to clear them all out. They said 300 trees have been cleared. Surely it was not quite so much? Then again, maybe it was. Another 20 remain and that is what we are out for today along with plenty of brushing and a little tread work. (It isn't that I have any influence. I'm just lucky to have hit the trail shortly before the work was done.) We drove the 20 miles behind the locked gate up to Bluff Camp for the night yesterday afternoon, so had a few miles drive still to get to the trailhead at Alamar Saddle. Safety talk and tool grabbing is quick with a group that mostly has been around and done this sort of thing. So we head down with a plan to make the trail nice from Upper Bear to Lower Bear. The tread above Upper Bear will have to wait.

trailhead sign and register and more signs
Checking the register and getting pictures with the sign displaying plenty of bear sign as we start down the hill for the day's work.

The trail down to Upper Bear is narrow, but not that bad. It feels steeper than I recall. I was at the end of a longer day with a heavy pack then. Surely it should feel easier now that I am hitting it fresh in the morning. Maybe the urge to get down out of the wind and exposure in the freezing temperatures then was working in my favor.

narrow tread through skinny oaks on the hill side
Following the trail down. The tread is narrow, but clear enough while walking it.

There are a couple bushes in need of a trim on the way down to Upper Bear, and I go for a few just short of it, but it really is very close to the delineation between work needed and not. Beyond it, we get into areas where the big trees burned in the Zaca Fire and died and now let in the light for the little scrub. Oh, yes, and they fall.

blackening from fire reaches high on the trunk of a living tree
Scorching from the Zaca Fire on a survivor. It sure was reaching high up through here.

cutting wood
This tree may not even challenge a horse, but it still has to go. Besides, nothing says "trail is here" in the indistinct grass like a cut log.

19 July 2018

Garnet Peak

Cleveland National Forest

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Garnet Peak, not to be confused with Garnet Mountain, is sandwiched between the two hikes yesterday and is the rather peak looking thing in the near distance of both of them. It is the last of the Hundred Peaks Section listed peaks for this trip and has its own trail up, but approaching via the Pacific Crest Trail gives me a few PeakBagger bumps to grab on the way. Also, I suspect Penny Pines, a place where water is available, to be easier to find. It does have a sign, but it is far enough off the road to miss in the dark. The paved pullout is just south of a big orange snow gate and cattle guard, so that can provide a landmark to find it, too. There is no indication of where the water is, but two trails head off marked as PCT. I grab the north one since I want to head north from here. It is just the longer route to actually join the PCT on the other side of a low hill.

Penny Pines trail start
The long way from Penny Pines to the PCT passes the donor and memorial board. Someone has been very diligent about leaving bagged dog leavings. Surely they know that is not how it is done?

At the junction, there is a sign to indicate water is along the shorter route back. Not too far past the junction, there is an old fuel break and the first peak a short way off in roughly that direction. The down side is marked restoration area, but up is fine. I go for it, but it only goes a little way up to a little flat. Except for the beer bottles, it does not look like many people come this way. No trail has formed, but the brush is easy enough to walk through on up to the top. The PCT is following me upward about 200 feet to my right. Maybe I did not need to leave it quite so early.

fuel break flat for a view
The fuel break stops at a small flat with a nice view south across Storm Canyon. Foster Point at the left, Hays Peak hiding Monument Peak, but not its towers, and Stephenson Peak with its ball are all on the left.

The top is a nice view spot easily obtained. Nested cans next to a rock man contain a map printed off Caltopo of the local area. The back has one entry from a few months ago, so I add my name and refresh my memory of the possible approaches to the other bumps. I have seen no other cans, so suspect that this might have been an old register cleaned out by the Cedar Fire. A bit odd that it took nearly 15 years for someone to drop something new into it.

rocky top and more bumps in the distance
At the top of the first PeakBagger bump. A register is beside the rock man. Garnet Peak is at the center. The other bumps are the minor one close to the left and the other extension out toward the desert to the right.

18 July 2018

Garnet Mountain

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Cleveland National Forest

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With a few hours of light left in the day, I have plenty of time for the short hike up Garnet Mountain. It is easily accessed from a sliver of land between Cleveland National Forest and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. There are a couple folks enjoying the view at the end of the road as I start and one more coming up the old road bed that hosts the Pacific Crest Trail looking like he is chugging through a chunk of it. He is quite a picture in plastic slip on sandals, hauling an army duffel with pack straps, and cradling a gallon of water in his arms. He adds to it all a greeting of, "Beautiful country, isn't it?" with so much glee underneath it that there is no mistaking that he is really enjoying being on this trail. But it is, so there you go. I follow behind him a short way.

sign for the state park
Entering Anza-Borrego Desert State Park with Garnet Mountain above.

low lands full of very little from a distance
The shape of old greyback, that is San Gorgonio Mountain, is just visible in the thick air over the desert now. It is clearing a little.

Soon enough, it is clear I should be climbing through the brush rather than wandering along the trail. Both slope and plants are easy enough to travel, so I just wander upward to find the end of a road. I should have just hiked up the gated road next to the trail. There is still 200 feet past the road to get to the peak, but it is even easier than the 250 feet that got me to the road, so that is no bother. That was practically a drive up.

sensor on a stick on a peak
Some sort of solar powered sensor at the top of Garnet Mountain.

Monument Peak

Cleveland National Forest

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After being in San Diego for unrelated nefarious reasons that only slightly involved being a bit of a jungle gym for an enthusiastic child aged 1 year and 2 days, I headed out to the Laguna Mountain Recreation area to go after three peaks listed on the Hundred Peaks Section peak list, each very near a segment of the Pacific Crest Trail. My first target is Monument Peak. It has a few named peaks nearby and someone has marked a few of the minor bumps that just happen to have a poorly surveyed elevation on PeakBagger. Except for Stephenson Peak, they are all near to the trail and look easy enough to get to. Signage on the road is lacking, but my first guess at the right bit of parking contains interpretive signs referring to Storm Canyon, a boardwalk overlook, and steps down to connect to a well established (but unmarked) trail winding its way through the area. This is probably the right spot.

Storm Canyon overlook, plastic boardwalk extending somewhat into the canyon
I doubt the boardwalk helps to get a better view at the Storm Canyon overlook, but it provides a unique object to identify the place.

The day should be a bit cooler than it has been thanks to the remnants of something tropical moving through the area. It comes with some drawbacks. In the time it takes for a quick run back 0.2 miles to the car too actually lock it, the canyon fills with cloud taking away all views. The trail climbs up as it gets out of the canyon and I seem to get out of it as I continue. More chunks of cloud envelope me as I go, alternating views on the right of dying trees up on Laguna Mountain and views on the left dropping far down to the Anza Borrego Desert with white outs of 100 foot visibility.

gooseberries with spines as long as the fruit is thick
Yum? I am not feeling brave enough to try the gooseberries with all those thorns protecting them.

clouds dispersing from the canyon top
Leaving the canyon with the clouds and wondering what the building a little way above the trail is. Probably the Sierra Club lodge on the map.

The first bump along the way, at least according to my GPS, is about 5 feet off the trail and occupies the edge of a ridge where there is a gentle upward slope leading somewhere else. This is even supposed to be one of the named spots. I dutifully tag it, although I am mostly looking for any reason to perceive it as a peak. I tag a higher point that can be gotten to without ever going downward from the marked spot, too. It is also about 5 feet off the trail, so no challenge.

well used trail
A stretch of trail that is definitely not in the vicinity of a peak.

30 June 2018


I found I have really been neglecting my colors. Also, Pentel water brushes cannot keep their lids on well, so are not a good choice. They have a less packable shape, so I do not have many of them anyway. Just enough to see if they do long term ink holding better than the Kuretake brushes that are most my collection. They do not.

The patchwork of burn and green north of Ortega Peak.

18 June 2018

Santa Cruz: Santa Cruz Trail

Los Padres National Forest

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3

Click for map.

The map has reminders that when I have thought about being here at Santa Cruz Station in the past, I had wanted an extra day at least to explore. Down the creek, it claims there is a cabin to be found. Up the creek are waterfalls. The register box has a note pad and someone noted not just the waterfall (which they liked), but some rather large trout up there too (and they liked as well). I decide to note that someone should come down the fire trail with a chain saw. Or at least some flagging. Especially for the flatter areas. After a little more poking around, I am off. Had I not been planning to go out by the trail already, after coming down the road, I would have changed my mind. So that is via the trail.

sunlight on the nearby peak above metal trail sign and register
The trail junction. I went north yesterday, now west briefly before heading south.

small cabin guard station
The old Santa Cruz Guard Station is kept locked up tight when volunteers are not using it. I should have poked around earlier if I wanted to wander inside.

camp site
The nearby camp site. Plenty of tables to go around here and stoves from after the ice can era.

Down the creek, there is a sign pointing out trail as it turns a corner to cross the creek. There is no worry losing the trail where the sign is (possibly because the sign has been there long enough, the trail is overgrown to the creek anyway), but there is trail down the side of the creek and the trail on the far side splits. I am certain the one going downstream before crossing is wrong, but not so certain about the other side. I choose the one on the left which heads back upstream, but also up the hill. Passing through a hole left by a gate in the old fencing around the guard station, it does seem to be the correct one.

wideer creek with plenty of trees and a few cat tails
Plenty of water in Santa Cruz Creek right now.

17 June 2018

Santa Cruz: Santa Cruz Peak

Los Padres National Forest

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3

Click for map.

The morning is thick and grey, but I expect that will be gone by 10AM. It is higher up this today, so I can see actually the land around me. I get to see the outside of the barn now. It is a simple building and not very barn-like. Poking around the rest of the camp areas is nice, but it sets off one volunteer's dog. I like a spot a couple down from the station where a big oak has fallen and now it is nice and open over the table and camping area. Even next to nice big creeks like this one, I am starting to get wary about large oak limbs. I weigh down my camp gear so it stays where I put it and pack up and take off as the others start to fix breakfast, joining the mowed trail by the register and starting to climb along a tributary out to those meadows I saw in the gathering gloom yesterday. On the other side of the canyon, I pick out the trail going the other way, climbing in easy switchbacks below the steeper road.

bush with berries
Lemonade berries and some flowers to make more.

grassy spots
Romo Potrero up Black Canyon from Santa Cruz Station.

There is a small tree across the trail. What are these volunteers out here for? (Digging the new latrine hole.) Further along, the trail skirts around some narrow gullies that get quite deep just below it, but the trail is holding. Past that, it all becomes meadow. The trail here has had enough travel to distinguish itself from animal trails, at least generally. The most obvious trail eventually puts me next to a trail sign and a metal wilderness sign at the south end of the "fire trail".

Romo Potrero all in dry grass and a little green of mustard
Romo Potrero from near the edges where the trail travels. The green spot turns out to be mustard.

grass and ridges and Old Man Mountain
Looking back over the meadow toward Santa Cruz Creek. Old Man Mountain in the distance looks like it might have little touches of light.

The signs indicate nothing about the direction I want to go. By them, this is just a wilderness entry that happens to also point out destinations in either direction. My trail is not particularly apparent except for a track of pressed grass leading off directly up the hill to reach the ridge line above. It is not a very pronounced ridge line. I follow it and just before the top, it swings to the left where the shape of an old bulldozer track is just visible in the slope. At the top, I quickly lose the trail among the brush. A little experimentation shows there is something a little more like a trail a few feet to my left where things are easier to push through. I was hoping thinking I might find something a little more clear. I thought I saw a fresh line of dirt up on Santa Cruz Peak from the north but whatever cut it had not come from the north. It clearly did not come from the south either. I do not even know how it would connect with the scraped road on this side. The brush releases me onto grass again and I can easily follow the trail until it runs into some more brush. I push through along what looks like it could be trail, find a stopping point, adjust to the side, and push through again. Rinse and repeat and repeat and repeat.

16 June 2018

Santa Cruz: Santa Cruz Station

Los Padres National Forest

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3

Click for map.

I am not looking forward to the miles of this day, but I still want to go up Santa Cruz Peak and I do not particularly want another go at McKinley Fire Road so soon. Besides, there is still the old guard station south of it that I wanted to check out. It should be a fairly reasonable hike in, mostly on lovely Santa Cruz Trail, for about 10 miles. The Rey Fire burned out the crib wall at a particularly unstable shale area and later rains made it even worse so that now it is considered impassible. I might try it on the way down, I will see what it looks like from Alexander Saddle. I will not be trying to get up it. Instead, I have to take the road for about 15 miles. But wait, there is more, as the late night infomercials like to say. First Crossing is closed, so I have to park a bit more than 2 miles from the trailhead. The parking around there is day use, so I am not certain how my car might be treated by authorities. There are gates on the lot that might be locked when I finish. Besides, I am not particularly keen to spend $30 on parking, especially not to a concessionaire that was sprung on the public quite suddenly. So there is a little more to be in a nice, big, free dirt turnout by the side of the road. At this point, it is about the same to walk over and through Aliso Canyon, so I guess I will. It gets a little bit of the day on trail. I will probably come out on the road because it will be the end of a similarly long day (but downhill, sort of) in the dark and I probably will not want the extra hill. Total miles expected for the day: 18. Total I seem to be able to do while playing with my camera and listening to the birds: 12. Total until my feet get uncomfortably sore: 15. This should be "fun".

lots of room by Rancho Oso
Just past Rancho Oso is a small turnout on the right and this big one on the left for easy, free parking. Not much to see of the canyon in the heavy overcast of the early morning.

The heavily overcast is drooping so low that I could nearly call it fog. The wild turkeys are out on the road and they have lots of little turkeys in tow. I have never seen little turkeys, just big and bigger and on display. They run off reminding me of very oversized quail, but only a little. They are less jaunty in movement. It is a bit further than I remember to get around to the ford to the canyon. The ford is dry, but there is a big puddle with frogs behind it. Sage Hill Campground is nearly full with some huge groups in the sites. A bunch of people are up and looking industrious as I pass. The hiker parking at Aliso Canyon is $10 per day according to the forest service, but there is not a single fee area sign and the information at the campground entrance, a quarter mile back, is specific to the campground. It looks free to me.

dry ford and wet river bed
The ford, the puddle in the river, the campground, and the canyon behind it all.

I was walking in some camp/river shoes because I was not sure what the ford would be like. Now I pull on my boots. Usually it is trail runners, but I did something to my foot (in the home where most accidents happen) and so it is boots for this trip. It actually takes some tape to stop hurting, so that goes on first. The heavier footwear can only make the miles feel worse. It is possible I only need the tape, but, well, injured foot equals boots go on. A pair of day hikers park and head in while I am messing with my feet. I follow them in after a couple minutes. The canyon is dry. The grass is dry. Most the flowers have gone. Although I like the loop trail better, I stick to the canyon because it is a little shorter. The climb out of the canyon is not as bad as I remember it when last coming down.

sage and grass covered hills
Looking down into Oso Canyon from Aliso Canyon as a bit of blue becomes visible in the sky.

Although cool under the cloud cover, it is starting to feel downright muggy to me by the time I reach the top. The sky in the distance is already promising to replace this with simple hot. The new trail around the slides coming down into Oso Canyon seems to have settled in nicely. My trail finishes in a trail coming from the empty camp. I turn the other way, where the trail soon crosses the thin creek and ends again, this time at the dirt road that will be the route for most the day.

tiny purple flowers in a big bunch
Not all the flowers have fled. These tiny purple ones are looking good.