27 March 2018

Grass Mountain

Angeles National Forest

Click for map.

I have been thinking I will hike Grass Mountain for a few years now. Today is the day. The trail crossing is already familiar from previous visits, but this is a new direction. Guess I will add a few more miles of PCT to my done pile, for what it is worth. It is still too early for the ~3600 through hikers starting from Mexico this year. This is northbound mile 478.2 by Halfmile's current reckoning, so it will not be quite that many when most of them turn here to find out the secret of Case de Luna down the road in Green Valley. For now, there is just one set of footsteps visible in the otherwise clean dirt of the trail ahead.

pines and a crest at the PCT crossing
A spattering of pines at my start on the PCT today. The trail will not be hidden under pine needles in another month.

trail on the far side of the canyon
The trail climbs the far side of the canyon. The pines are just around the fire house and the rest is manzanita and chamise.

The trail hits a utility road and I turn west along it because that is the way the trail is going. I do not even consult the scrap of map I have to help me in finding some section markers later. It would not help anyway, the utility road is not on it. After a quarter mile when the road turns back toward the fire station below, there is still no sign of the trail. Backtracking to when I hit the road, there are some clues. A little further the other way, there is a pole with long faded stickers that may have once had a crest. The single set of footprints go that way, too. Around the corner, a little past the pole and hidden behind the road carved rocks, is a very obvious trail climbing again.

utility road, trail, fire road above
The trail is hard to miss once past the hiding rocks. The cut of Leona Divide Road is visible above.

And so I continue upward. It feels like a gentle climb to me as the trail carves long wiggles around the ridges. The view quickly opens up down the canyon and across the range traversed by the PCT. The sights are somewhat familiar. I have already tucked away the miles between San Francisquito and Bouquet Canyon in two separate loop hikes as well as climbed Jupiter Mountain to the southeast.

Green Valley, canyon, and local mountains
Green Valley spread out below. Behind it is Juno, the slightly shorter next door neighbor of Jupiter Mountain.

19 March 2018

Rocky Peak

Rocky Peak Park

Indian Springs Open Space

Click for map.

I am not entirely sure how it happened, but we finished planning the outing for yesterday with plans for today as well even though there was never any question as to where or when the other would be. It is a much smaller group today with just Scott, who was generally the instigator of plans, and Linda, who decided to hike just today. Linda brought along Milo, who should be good for sniffing out geocaches and better be a good hiker because we should come out around 10 miles again today. She says that he is. I joined up because this hike swings past Rocky Peak, which is on the Lower Peaks Committee list and has a county line marker up on top. It should be a little harder to get to than the one I nearly tripped over by Random No. 2, but a bit easier than the one up on top of Dome Mountain. Scott has been before, Linda seems so disinterested that she forgets a peak was mentioned within seconds. Milo seems ready to get to wherever is "ahead" first. Although where and how we will come out seems a bit of a mystery, we get the cars set up for a shuttle between the ends of the two motorways and start by the big, beautiful sign for Rocky Peak Park. Onward and upward and into the rocky.

sign and gate at the south end of Rocky Peak Motorway
Getting started up the Rocky Peak Motorway in Rocky Peak Park.

rocks thrust up out of extensive city
The expanse below. Lots of city and more peaks popping up among it.

18 March 2018

Whitehorse Canyon and Conejo Ridge

South Ranch Open Space

Conejo Ridge Open Space

Click for map.

The Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency has offered up the 2018 Open Space Challenge, asking the public to "experience" a selection of 10 of "our best trails" with a prize drawing at the end for those who do so and report it. The local geocacher community contains a few avid maintainers of COSCA trails, so they set out to complete the challenge by including each listed trail in a series of approximately 7 mile hikes and inviting geocachers at large to join them every other Sunday. The challenge runs from March 1 to May 31, so there is plenty of time. Each route was put together by the fellow who built the Ventura County Trails web site, so there is practically professional trip planning. (He is also a local geocacher. There are clues scattered around the site.) Still, looking at the suggested route superimposed on satellite imagery, it looked like we might want to have it in at least one GPS just in case some of it was hard to find. He is not coming along to point the way. This particular hike was planned as a car bridge, but once we met up at the end point, it was decided that there was no reason for it to be a car bridge instead of a lollipop (except that sending a group of geocachers down a trail with no geocaches is a good way to gain a few) and we all proceeded to the start point leaving no cars at the end. As the start is not the most straightforward place to find parking, comedy ensued while all but one went somewhere else, that one looked around and assumed he must be in the wrong place since everyone else was not there, and finally all managed to to sort it out in another 10 minutes or so. We head out across the bridge to the trailhead nine strong plus one extra. (I refuse to call anyone a "muggle" just because they do not feel like signing logs in a "global treasure hunt".)

start of a utility road beside a gated community
There is no parking next to the gate where the trail starts to wind its way up beside a gated community.

There is a sidewalk to get across from the parking to the bridge, but we miss it. The bridge crosses a wide wash with a couple of puddles in the concrete below it, but otherwise dry. The trail is really a utility road behind a car gate. It drops almost as deep as the wash and there is finally a sign identifying it as it starts to climb again on the other side. Birds are singing enthusiastically as we take the gentle climb. It seems odd, but most of them are on the side of the gated community, but I suppose there are more and bigger trees there. We at the front are getting up some good momentum when suddenly there is discord from the middle because we walked right past the first cache on the trail. We double back the few feet, but the middle is perfectly capable of finding it without us. The next one is a little way up a spur trail, and most the group heads that way, then further up the spur on to some more that enjoy some nice views of the local lake and Boney Mountain.

houses in the valley and chaparral on the hills
Getting above the gated community we were walking behind before. My eye is drawn to the peaks that look mildly isolated from here.

Boney Mountain
A distant Boney Mountain across Lake Sherwood.

We head off on another little spur on our spur to find that, after going over a nice rock outcrop, it reconnects with the main road. The recent storms have dropped snow on a few things that would not normally see it and way out north is a mountain I should probably know covered in the stuff. It is a bit distracting trying to figure it out. It certainly does not look like Pinos. Pine Mountain? What should be north from here?

15 March 2018

The Playground and little excursions on West Camino Cielo

Los Padres National Forest

Click for map.

Next up is poking around some rocks! There are quite a few rock outcrops up on Camino Cielo, but the Playground might be the largest of them. Others are closer or offer more solitude. A random scattering are popular with climbers. The usual parking is empty as I come up. This is surprising for such a sunny day even if it is a weekday. From the parking, use trail rolls down the hill with little ups and steep downs to a cluster of oak and bay beside tall rocks full of small caves. From there, the trail splits and splits and splits again to roam over, around, and through the rocks as people have seen fit. It is quickly clear why this is the Playground.

tops of sandstone popping up above the vegetation
Looking down to the rocks below.

path beside the sandstone
One trail as it curves around the base of the rocks.

short and wide, double decker caves above
A couple caves in the rocks above.

I follow a track around to the right. It is large, but still seems to drift into nothing as options present themselves to climb up into this set of rocks. Working downward, there is more trail again. Crossing below the rocks, there is quite a lot of view to view.

rocks poking out everywhere
An arm of rocks extends down what I can see as the east side of the playground, but there are probably more rocks beyond.

Goddard Campground and Picnic Area, ruins on Camino Cielo

Los Padres National Forest

Click for map.

Something about the air on Wednesday just seemed to scream out to me, "You must come to the mountains!" Yet, as I looked to the Santa Ynez Mountains themselves, they were entirely crowned in clouds. The stunning air over everything else did not quite extend high enough. After another evening of rain, the morning air again seemed to shout of what a grand time it would be at the top of that ridge, but this time the ridge line supported it. Outside of my plans, but inside of what was possible, it took a little time to convince me, but I finally relented to the arguments and took to the mountains for some small explorations I have meant to do. The first is a pair of barricades across long decayed road, both of which have "no motor vehicles" signs and a break in the middle for walkers to pass. There is no indication of where walkers may pass to as I pull into the turn out next to the barricade, but there is a narrow and distinct path through the thick vegetation. Walkers certainly get somewhere.

entry to Goddard Picnic Area
What was once the road into the Goddard Picnic Area.

The hole through the brush is a narrow rectangle and seems to be a doorway into a new place. On the other side, the old road is obvious for a bit, but has been buried under a large amount of cut brush. A clear path continues on the very edge. There are glimpses of a snow covered cliffy mountain partly obscured by a grassy bump to the north. Big Pine and West Big Pine behind Little Pine. I try to get a better view of them, but it seems like this whole section of the mountain just wants to look at the ocean.

tiny view of snowy mountains
Just enough view to the north to know that there is some amazing beauty going on over there, but not enough to really witness the snowy Big Pine Mountain and the rest.

Ahead, the old road plunges back into thick vegetation. It is difficult to discern as it reaches the top of the hill and whatever it was that was here before. Most recently, that was the Goddard Picnic Area. Before that, it was some sort of Buddhist retreat built by Dwight Goddard, who seems to have gone off as a missionary to China but found something he liked better there. The first and most obvious indication of anything is a water tank, but look a little harder and there is more. The path comes to a low concrete wall that is vanishing into the forest litter. It traces out a rectangle the size of a large room. Behind the tank is a larger wall, and scattered about are more small concrete foundations. A row of lilies still grow where the gardens were and there are rock walls that must also have been part of the gardens. Other flowers that commonly mark old cabin sites sprawl across here and there is even a thing that looks like an old well, although probably decorative.

concrete wall
The rectangle of low concrete wall has a cut off corner. A doorway position perhaps?

06 March 2018

Bald Mountain and Hurricane Deck

Los Padres National Forest

Click for map.

I have been meaning to get to Bald Mountain next to Hurricane Deck for no other reason than that the USGS 7.5' quad is named for it. Of course, I checked it out for access after I camped at the top of Hurricane Deck three years ago. I sort of remember there being a spot along the way, toward the top of the deep cleft of Bald Mountain Canyon, where the brush between the grassy bald across the front of Bald Mountain and the Hurricane Deck Trail was only 20 feet thick. Or maybe 30. Or 40. But really, not all that thick. The difficulty looked like the top, which is not bald. With that in mind, I arrive at the parking for the Lower Manzana Trailhead, just short of NIRA on the road, a little after sunrise and sign into the register in the new register box at the trailhead and start on the 5 or so miles of trail before the mile or so of figuring it out.

high trail down to Potrero Camp
Up on Manzana Trail as it winds high above the creek to Potrero Camp with a bit of Hurricane Deck in view.

light reflecting through pine needles
Up the Manzana and into the morning sun. The light reflecting through the pine needles is quite something.

The creek is noisy below. I cannot tell if it is a bit higher after the rain on the weekend. It might be. Potrero Camp looks about the same as we left it after the hazard trees came down. There is practically a road bed of rocks to cross over the creek to get to the junction on the far side. This is my turn, so up I head.

dirt rut among grass and brush
Potrero Canyon Trail and Hurricane Deck peeking through the gap.

05 March 2018

MYOG: tent free tent setup

Most tents these days seem to have a "fast and light" setup with just the footprint and fly. My Eureka Flashlight copycat tent (Alps Mountaineering Mystique 2) is not one of those. As something on the "inexpensive" end of the backpacking tent spectrum and a few years old, it weighs in pretty near 4.5 pounds and nearly half of that is the tent. It turns out, it really is not that difficult to do a "fast and light" setup for this tent. (Incidentally, the only slightly changed obnoxious orange ones they sell today still do not have a "fast and light" setup. Current minimum weight is 4 lbs 9 oz.)

Mildly lopsided, but that does not seem to be a problem. All set up sans tent.

Required material:
~25 feet of guy line, but the more the merrier

I used "yellow nylon draw cord 1/16th inch" from Outdoor Wilderness Fabrics. This is strong and has no stretch to it whatsoever. Also, quite obviously, it is nice and bright. It is suitable for use at guy line.

The poles need attachment points on the fly. As it comes, there are four Velcro loops that attach around the poles, but these are not strong enough to use. Take four pieces of line long enough to comfortably tie around the poles. Sew these through the base of each Velcro tab. When tied, these lock down the Velcro around the poles.

Line pulled through the base of the Velcro tabs.
Tied to lock down the Velcro tabs around the pole.

On their own, the poles will spread wide. They need something to pull them in toward the middle. The solution is more cord. For the head side, take a length of cord 10-12 feet long. This is long enough to go across the entire width of the tent and vestibule area plus some room for knots. Tie two loops, each about 31 inches from the center. The loops should be just big enough to pass over the ends of the poles but not big enough to pass over the pole itself.  Tie a loop at either end with a slip knot to take a stake. (A rolling hitch is typical for the end of a guy line.)

For the foot side, take a length of cord 6-8 feet long. Tie loops in it about 21 inches from the center as before for the pole. Tie loops at either end as before for stakes.

Pole end stabilized by cord.
I just used an overhand knot to make the loop.
Cord to keep the poles placed and tensioned.
Head end too.

Loops for stakes are needed around the edges where the fly would have been connected to the tent. Take foot long lengths, thread them through the loop the buckle is attached to and tie it. I just used big loops, but more traditional guy line modes would be fine too. Presumably one could take a hammer or saw to the clips to remove them if one never wanted to use the fly with the tent again.

Just need a little guy line.

Set up:
Expand the poles and lock them into the Velcro attachments. Tuck the cord loops over the ends.

Start at the head end and place two stakes so the front is tight enough. Place the front pole as desired. Pushing it up toward the front will make the fly higher for more air flow while sliding it back a little can lock it down tight. Place the back pole. Without letting go on the tension holding up the tent, place the two stakes at the foot.

Place the stakes around the side so that they hold both the fly edge and the end of the pole cord.

Ready to keep off the rain.

Fly and all guy lines: 1.55 lbs (705g)
Poles: 0.78 lbs (352g)
Stakes (8 of those provided with tent): 0.27 lbs (122g)
For a total of 2.6 lbs (1179g)

Tent left at home: 1.76 lbs (797g)
Note: the loops that I have added at either end of the fly are due to its tendency to sag onto the tent in everyday use. Those are not needed for this setup.

It seems very forgiving of getting things placed a little lopsided. It is pretty solid standing and still quite solid with the doors open. It is a rather comfortable space on the inside, if a little short, and the vestibules give a lot of elbow room. One might even be comfortable using it as the two man space the tent was designed to be. Admittedly this is only the second time I have set it up this way. Testing up on a ridge in a minor storm was the first. Yes, it probably was foolish to head out without actually checking that it would work, but I had a clear vision and managed not to forget anything. There was enough wind to keep things ventilated, but not too bad, and it did not care. It rained a couple times (that I was awake for) and not one drop hit me.

Yes, I can keep the bugs off with my bug net hung from the pole.

Hope that is understandable to anyone with this or a similar tent and wishing it was lighter, but not wanting to spend loads of cash. Also, I hope people with other tents without a "fast and light" setup might find my procedure to develop this setup helpful.

04 March 2018

MYOG: bug net for sleep and wear

Bug net set up to protect a cowboy camping sleeper from biting insects.

This is another super simple piece of equipment. It is suitable to fair weather, but bug infested, trips as well as tarping with bugs. With spring coming, so are the bugs, so it is a timely moment to talk about it. I got it together nearly two years ago and have used it with very satisfying results on a few trips since then. I remember being particularly happy I had this along for the last night in the Flattops.

Nice and airy when worn.

What is needed:
2 yards mosquito netting
8 feet cord
~1 inch grosgrain

For the netting, I used Nano NoSee-Um netting from Dutchware. It is 2/3 oz per square yard and 54 inches wide, which is minimal but enough. The cord is "yellow nylon draw cord 1/16 inch" from Outdoor Wilderness Fabrics. It is strong, but there is no great strength needed to hold the hiking stick in place. I tie knots rather than use tensioners.

Find the center of the netting. Cut the grosgrain in half and attach it to the center so that it sandwiches the netting. Attach the cord at its center to the grosgrain. This can be the full extent of work. (Indeed, I have been using it like this.)

Attached cord.
Netting laid out: just a flat piece with an attached cord.
To reduce unneeded bulk and weight, trim away the excess from the middle. Fold the mesh the short way and cut off the corner at the fold by following a diagonal from 4 inches away from the attachment point to 1 foot down from the fold. Do this on both sides and then attach the resulting edges together. Something like this was the plan the whole time, but I finally did it today. I used a thin strip of 2/3 oz per square yard nylon to help get the fiddly mesh sewn and to give the thread something more solid to dig into. I stacked the layers up and sewed, then folded them on themselves and sewed again, much like a flatlock seam is often done.

After shaping and sewing, showing the cuts.

This looks much the same in set up and worn:

Finished item as I have done it comes to 1.83 ounces. Before the shaping, it was 2.10 ounces. Besides the (slight) weight savings, the lighter one is more comfortable to wear because it has less bulk.

How to set up:
For sleeping in the open, tie the mesh to a collapsed hiking pole or found stick. Place the pole end in the dirt just above the head and stake it so that it leans over where the sleeper's head will be. Anything around that is handy to tie to like trees or rocks can be used too. Place stones around the edges. The most important stones pull the far edge out so that the mesh does not rest upon the sleeper. (See the placement of the bricks for reference.) For getting in and out, one of these stones will need to be moved and replaced. Do so by picking up the stone rather than pushing up the mesh to prevent ruining the mesh.

For sleeping under a tarp, there may be locations within to tie to rather than using a hiking pole. I have used it with my tarp by tying it halfway up a hiking stick that was supporting the tarp. Again, stones need to be used to hold down the edges.

For wearing, it is used with a brimmed hat. Tie it on around the crown, then loop it down from the back and tie in front to close in the bottom. It can also be tucked into clothing. For eating, let it hang loose for a mostly bug free existence. It can be finicky to wear, but I find head nets stuffy so this is far superior. For hiking, the back must be stuffed into clothing so that the pack does not pull on it.

Possible future adjustments:
Length may be excessive for the back/above the head, so one side could be trimmed.

An attachment point on the top middle of the quilt would be nice.

Ecological Staircase to the Pygmy Forest

Jug Handle State Natural Preserve Click for map. I noticed an Earthcache that looked interesting as it asks for study of an area wi...