Hiking Mt. Baden Powell, July 16, 2017 9,399 ft (2,800 ft +/-) 8 Miles RT

Hiking Mt. Baden Powell, July 16, 2017 9,399 ft (2,800 ft +/-) 8 Miles RT

I think when you grow up in Pennsylvania it’s in your blood to hike.  I can remember most of what I did when I lived there besides riding my horses was hiking the local trails and spending time in the forest.  In my 20s I drove to Virginia and hiked on the Appalachian trail along the Blue Ridge mountains in Shenandoah National Park.  It was beautiful.  This weekend my husband and I drove back up to Wrightwood to hike Mount Baden-Powell, a peak in the San Gabriel Mountains named for the founder of the World Scouting Movement, Robert Baden-Powell.  It’s also one of the highest peaks in Angeles National Forest standing at 9,399 ft.  Mount San Antonio aka Old Baldy or Mt. Baldy being the highest at 10,064 ft.  The trail begins at the Vincent Gap parking lot and follows along a section of the Pacific Crest Trail for a total of 8 miles out and back.  The only wrench in our plan was that Highway 2 has been closed since June because of a sinkhole, so we had to park at Grassy Hollow and walk almost 3 miles down the road just to get to the trailhead.  The Mt Baden Powell trail has an elevation gain of 2,800 ft. and a series of 41 switchbacks which begin to climb as soon as you start the hike.  But once you reach the top the views are sublime.  Another reward of this climb is once you’re at 9,000 ft. there’s a grove of ancient trees called limber pines, some of which are 1,000+ years old clinging to the slope.  It’s an amazing spectacle and well worth the work you have to do to get there.  If you click below on “read more” you can see some of the photos I took along the trail.

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PCT: Inspiration Point from Lightning Ridge, Grassy Hollow to Jackson Flat Campground + Vincent Gap, Wrightwood, CA, (500 ft +/-), 6+ miles RT, July 9, 2017

PCT: Inspiration Point from Lightning Ridge, Grassy Hollow to Jackson Flat Campground + Vincent Gap, Wrightwood, CA, (500 ft +/-), 6+ miles RT, July 9, 2017

We started our hike today 2 miles west of Big Pines at Inspiration Point.  This hike can be made shorter by parking at the Grassy Hollow Visitors’ center, but we wanted the extra mileage so we parked at Inspiration Point and picked up the PCT trailhead located just behind the restrooms and up to the left.  Our destination was Jackson Flat Campground with an elevation gain of 500 (+/-) ft.  The walk along the PCT from Lightning Ridge immediately offered stunning views of Mount Baldy and Mount Baden Powell.  You can also see the Mojave on a clear day.  When you reach Grassy Hollow you can take a photo of the sign for the Pacific Crest Trail that shows arrows pointing to Mexico 373 miles south and to Canada 2,277 miles north.  There are switchbacks and and lot of up and downs so it’s not a steady climb the entire way.  I found this trail to be moderate.  Definitely not difficult and you also get a nice trek through the forest in the shade for part of it.  We reached the Jackson Flat Campground fairly quickly which is just up the hill and to the left of the first sign pointing to Jackson Lake.  We decided to continue along the PCT for another few miles almost to Vincent Gap.  You can also add another 2+ miles to this hike if you veer off the PCT and take the trail by the next sign pointing to Jackson Lake at the switchback.  We plan to do that next time.  On our way back we stopped at the Jackson Flat Campground to sit for a moment and enjoy the peace and quiet before continuing on.  When we started our hike in the morning it was cool and cloudy.  But by the time we started walking back, the sun was coming out and I started to see a lot of butterflies.  At the campground a pale swallowtail landed right in front of me on a pine tree. It held still for a while so I was excited to be able to get some nice shots.  There were many swallowtails in this area along the trail.  Lots of butterfly plants too including California Buckwheat and other wildflowers.  I also saw a good number of Painted Ladies flying up and down the slope just before reaching Grassy Hollow Visitors’ Center.  I’d say our hike today was about 6+ miles give or take.  I saw many butterflies on the way back between the Jackson Flat Campground back to Inspiration Point.  Definitely some good butterfly habitat in this area and a very pleasant hike.

Here is a list of some of my sightings:  

Gray Hairstreak
Hedgerow Hairstreak - still need to ID
Painted Lady - Was not able to get a clear shot but pretty sure on the ID. 
Marine Blue
Acmon or Lupine Blue - Still need to ID
Pale Swallowtail

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Angeles National Forest, Grizzly Flat, July 3, 2017

Angeles National Forest, Grizzly Flat, July 3, 2017

Today was an exciting day on the Grizzly Flat trail.  I photographed my first Metalmark; Mormon Metalmark, Apodemia mormo!  

Here’s the list of what I saw today along with some photos.

Checkered White, Pontia protodice, Male
Pale Swallowtail, Papilio eurymedon
Gray Hairstreak, Strymon melinus pudica, female
Duskywing - I think this is Funereal.  I always have a hard time distinguishing the Funeral from the Mournful.
Hairstreak - Only one shot and too far away.  I think maybe a Hedgerow.
Bernardino Blue, Euphilotes bernardino - Saw lots of these.
 

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Big Pines to Blue Ridge, Wrightwood, CA, (1,100 ft +/-), 4 miles RT, July 2, 2017

Big Pines to Blue Ridge, Wrightwood, CA, (1,100 ft +/-), 4 miles RT, July 2, 2017

Blue Ridge Trail is a 4 mile, moderate out and back trail that lies on a high divide of the San Gabriel Mountains near the town of Wrightwood.  The trail is mostly shaded and winds through a dense coniferous forest of pines, firs and oak.  This trail gives you a really great perspective of the back country of the San Gabriel Mountains.  It's a really enjoyable hike.
 
The trailhead is actually located across the street from the Big Pines Ranger Station.  Look for the sign near the restrooms.
 
Once you cross the wooden bridge, the trail begins to rise on a moderate grade slowly switching back up the mountain.  At about the one mile mark, you’ll pass a wooden bench.  This is the half-way marker to Blue Ridge.  At this point, you’ll still have more than half of the elevation gain to go.  The trail continues to climb steadily and you’ll continue to negotiate a few more switchbacks before it levels out at the junction of Blue Ridge and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) at the Blue Ridge Campground.  You'll also see the Mountain High Ski Resort.
 
 
The elevation averages about 7,500 feet and once you reach the campground, you’ll get some really pretty views.  From there you can either continue on to the PCT or you can return back the way you came.  On this day we decided to return and stop for lunch at the Grizzly Cafe in Wrightwood, which I highly recommend.
 
This is a really beautiful trail and I was happy to get some photos of butterflies (California Sister and Swallowtails) that were flying along the way.  

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Angeles National Forest, Grizzly Flat, June 25, 2017

Angeles National Forest, Grizzly Flat, June 25, 2017

This weekend my husband and I were supposed to be in Joshua Tree, but with the soaring temperatures, we opted to remain local.  This morning we took a very short hike up Grizzly Flat Trailhead.  It was 92 degrees by 9 am, but we managed to get in a quick trek up the slope and I snapped just a few photos along the way.  There were swallowtails circling down and back up the summit, but they were too far away to get an image.  I did manage to catch a Bernardino Blue, as there were many on the California Buckwheat and also what I believe is a female Lupine Blue who appeared to be ovipositing.

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Welcoming Summer, Descanso Gardens, June 24, 2017

Welcoming Summer, Descanso Gardens, June 24, 2017

We've now reached the peak of the solar year.  The wheel is turning and the days, although warmed by the power of the sun will gradually become shorter as it begins to wane.  For those in tune with nature, we hear her whispering her promise to return to darker days.  But there is plenty to celebrate at this time.  The natural world is full of activity.  Butterflies and bees grace our blooming gardens and the earth changes her colors to shades of golden yellow, bright orange and soft, sable brown.  Summer is in full swing and there is much time to be spent outdoors enjoying the warmth of the sun by day and gazing at the endless stars in the night sky.

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A Butterfly Habitat in Angeles National Forest, Hiking Grizzly Flat, June 18, 2017

A Butterfly Habitat in Angeles National Forest, Hiking Grizzly Flat, June 18, 2017

This was an exciting weekend for me.  I experienced for the first time the natural butterfly habit that exists right here in Angeles National Forest.  It was incredible if not a little overwhelming.  Around 8 am we arrived at the trailhead and began our hike.  The weather was already heating up due to the current heatwave, and as we began our ascent up the slope we started to see all the activity.  Along the trail was an abundance of California Buckwheat which is both a host and nectar plant for many different species.  It was covered in different butterflies; Bernardino Blues, Hairstreaks and Chalcedon Checkerspot to name a few.  It was breathtaking seeing so many different butterflies all together in their natural habitat.  After I stopped “ohhh-ing and ahhh-ing” I did my best to get some images.  Photographing butterflies can be a real challenge unless they’re still warming up or they’re preoccupied sipping nectar.  I was so enamored “chasing butterflies” I hardly noticed how hot it was getting in the beating sun on the slope.  I could have stayed up there for hours observing and looking for different species.  It was the most amazing and educational day!  

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A warm morning at Descanso Gardens, June 17, 2017

A warm morning at Descanso Gardens, June 17, 2017

I arrived just after 8 am Saturday morning at Descanso.  I was going to walk to the promenade and into the rose garden since I hadn’t been there in a while, but changed my mind and decided to walk the grassy meadow at the edge of the oaks instead.  I’m glad I changed my path.  I wasn’t there longer then 5 minutes and saw a California Sister warming its wings in the morning sun.  It was a lot warmer then usual this morning and that made it a great time to be able to see some butterflies!  Most of the time I’m in and out before it warms up, and the butterflies are just waking up as I’m leaving.  Today was an exception.  After spending time watching the California Sister, I headed along my usual path up the hill and into the California natives section.  Along the trail I noticed some silk on thistle.  I recently learned that the Painted Lady caterpillar spins silk, so when I stopped to observe, sure enough there was a caterpillar inside.  It’s so exciting now that I’m learning more about butterflies, caterpillars and their natural habitats what I’m able spot.  Before taking an interest in all of this I would have probably walked right by not even noticing.  It was a beautiful sight to see that caterpillar munching away inside the silk backlit by the morning sunshine!  As I continued along my journey I stopped by Cleveland Sage to observe Duskywings.  I didn’t get a photo, as they weren’t still for very long so I just enjoyed watching.  A few feet away I saw a very tattered Cabbage White.  I think this was a male, as it appeared to only have one spot.  Next, I walked down the hill and stopped for a moment by a red fairy duster that I’d walked past a million times never really giving it much attention.  But after learning what a butterfly magnet this plant is and also picking one up for my own garden from the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants, I decided to stop and see what I could observe.  The red fairy duster was full of bees and tiny Marine Blue butterflies about the size of my thumbnail.  There was a lot of activity going on here.  I managed to get a few shots of the little Marine Blues when they were busy nectaring.  By this time it was about 9:30 am and more people were starting to arrive, so I decided it was time to head out.  Nature never ceases to amaze me with how much there is to constantly see and learn about her.  No matter how many times I visit Descanso, no two days are ever the same.  There is always something new to see, to learn and to observe.  Nature is constantly changing.  It was a wonderful morning.

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Angeles National Forest, Charlton Flats to Vetter Mountain 3.8 miles RT (525 Ft +/-) & Silver Moccasin Trail

Angeles National Forest, Charlton Flats to Vetter Mountain 3.8 miles RT (525 Ft +/-)  & Silver Moccasin Trail

Angeles National Forest is practically in my backyard.  I’ve visited a few times in the past, but it wasn’t until recently when I discovered the work of David Horner, a Santa Monica based photographer who specializes in wild butterfly photography (solardarkroom.com) that my interest was piqued.  His California Butterfly Project (over 10 years in the making) includes over 100 species that he photographed in the wild from sea level to 10,000 ft. from the border to Sonora Pass in the Sierra Nevada.  I took notice that many of his sightings were located right here in the Angeles National Forest.  About two years ago, I started a butterfly garden, Since then I’ve become somewhat of a butterfly enthusiast mostly observing them in my backyard and on my visits to local public gardens.  When I saw the number of different butterfly species we have here in California on David’s website, I was inspired to revisit Angeles NF not only in the hopes of viewing butterflies in their natural habitats, but also to take advantage of the multitude of hiking trails.  Years ago when I lived in Pennsylvania, I did quite a bit of hiking on solitary trails surrounded by nothing but the birds, the trees, the wildlife and peace and quiet.  But now that I’ve been living in a big city, I didn’t really think too much about what else was available here aside from the overly populated locations such as runyon canyon or hiking up to the Hollywood sign.  This past weekend I recruited my husband as my hiking partner (since you should never hike alone) and we ventured into Angeles NF.  The drive alone up the winding roads offers such spectacular views.  I’d planned ahead and decided our destination would be to hike from Charlton Flats to the top of Vetter Mountain.  As we climbed up the trail, I was able to see first hand some of the damage done by the 2009 Station Fire which burned more than 161,000 acres.  I also noticed lots of poodle dog bush which is a plant that causes skin irritation similar to poison oak if touched.  Much of this was located within the burn area perimeter and as I later learned, it’s usually found in nearly all habitats that have been burned.  Winding up the mountain, the trail was nothing less then spectacular with breathtaking views and wildflowers.  We detoured off the main path to do an out and back trek along the Silver Moccasin trail which traversed upward and down through oak-lined canyons and high ridges.  One day I’d like to take that trial a little further, as I didn’t want to get too side tracked since our goal was to reach the top of Vetter Mountain.  After getting back on the main trail, we continued our journey until we reached the top of the fire lookout at Vetter Mountain.  There we shared friendly conversation with forest rangers who were happy to answer our questions about the location.  These people stand guard daily over our beautiful forest with nothing but a small shelter.  The actual lookout tower was burned in the Station Fire.  I have to give them credit for being up there all day watching out for us with the wind and colder temperatures on the 5,903 ft. sumit.  We then climbed to the top of what remains of the old lookout and stood for a moment to enjoy the 360 degree view of the San Gabriel Mountains.  With mission accomplished, it was time to head back.  Round trip with our Silver Moccasin detour we did about a 7 mile, 2.5 hour hike.  My hope for the day was to possibly photograph at least one wild butterfly.  My wish was granted by a little common branded skipper who I saw fluttering along the trail as we got closer to where we started at Charlton Flats.  It was a great morning and I will definitely be visiting Angeles NF more frequently to take advantage to all that it has to to offer including butterfly sightings and more hiking adventures.

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Wild Flower Hill at the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers & Native Plants, June 10, 2017

Wild Flower Hill at the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers & Native Plants, June 10, 2017

Woke up to a very cloudy morning with some slight drizzle.  I’d already planned on going back to the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants to pick up a few more items for my butterfly garden and also take another trek up Wild Flower Hill.  Along the nature trail all the plants are tagged with their names, so it’s a It’s a great way to learn about them.  After a short hike up the hill, I spent some time in the nursery contemplating what additions to add to my garden.  I came home with a few selections:  red fairy duster, aster chilensis 'point saint george' and verbena lilacina.  I’m sure the butterflies are going to enjoy them!  Here are some images from my short hike today.
 

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Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, June 4, 2017

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, June 4, 2017

This weekend was the weekend to celebrate native plants!  On Sunday, I visited the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.  This garden is the largest largest botanic garden dedicated to California native plants.  It also hosts a butterfly pavilion.  The grounds were full of wildlife activity, the buzzing of bees and the melody of birdsong as I explored the winding paths through desert, chaparral and pine forest.  At 10 am the butterfly pavilion opened up. (Butterflies sleep in until the sun gets warm… smart!)  There I was able to view close up and personal some of the many butterflies of California such as our state’s insect the California dogface.  Here are some of the images from my visit.
 

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Wild Flower Hill & the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers & Native Plants, June 3, 2017

Wild Flower Hill & the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers & Native Plants, June 3, 2017

This past weekend I visited the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants.  It’s a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and use of California native flora. The Foundation preserves the lifetime work of Theodore Payne who was a horticulturist and conservationist.  He is considered to be the founding father of the native plant movement in California.   
 
At my home I have a garden dedicated to butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.  One of the biggest complaints I’ve had since starting my garden is that it can be difficult to find native plants at the local garden center.  Nowadays plants are bred to be showy.  They look lovely with their double flower heads and sound charming with their fancy names, but these varieties have been cultivated by breeders and you would never find them growing naturally in nature.  Tampering with a native plant can comprise the benefit it has for wildlife.  For example, a flower that has been cultivated with a double flower head will make it difficult or perhaps even impossible for a butterfly or bee to get to the nectar or pollen.  The Foundation was the answer to my problem!  The retail nursery at the Foundation has the largest selection of California native plants in the region. What a better way to sustain my butterflies, bees and hummingbirds then with the beautiful native California flora!  
 
After perusing the nursery and purchasing some great additions for my garden.  I made my way up Wild Flower Hill.  You can gain access to this ¾ mile nature trail from the nursery.  The trail takes you on a journey through the common plants we have here in our area, and it is also home to an abundance of wildlife and birds.  Here are some of the images from my trek.  
 

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The California Natives Garden, Descanso Gardens, June 3, 2017

The California Natives Garden, Descanso Gardens, June 3, 2017

Spring and Summer are my favorite time of year to explore the California Native section of Descanso Gardens.  This garden was designed by Theodore Payne, an English horticulturist, landscape designer and botanist.  The California Natives Garden hosts the majestic Matilija poppies as well as sticky monkey flowers, sacred datura, California poppies, woolly blue curls, California buckwheat, and Cleveland sage just to name a few.  There is always something new to learn and discover here.

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Turtle Encounters and a Monarch Waystation at the Los Angeles County Arboretum, May 20, 2017

Turtle Encounters and a Monarch Waystation at the Los Angeles County Arboretum, May 20, 2017

This weekend I visited the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden.  My favorite part is their abundant herb garden which also serves as a pollinator habitat.  Each time I visit I'm in awe of all the hummingbirds, bees and butterflies I see.  It also hosts an impressive display of scented pelargoniums.  You can imagine the wonderful fragrance walking through.  On my walk today I came upon a turtle warming himself in the morning sun.  It's not often I come upon a turtle and lucky for me, he was content to continue enjoying the sunshine while I snapped a few photos.  

I was also super excited to see that one of the butterfly hubs is now an official Monarch Waystation!  Monarch Waystations are places that provide the necessary resources to help sustain the monarch butterfly population.  I have a butterfly garden of my own and so it's was very inspiring.

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The eve of Beltane, Descanso Gardens, April 30, 2017

The eve of Beltane, Descanso Gardens, April 30, 2017

Tomorrow is Beltane and we are now about halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice.  I was missing the desert, so I took a little walk around the cacti in the California Natives section.  The Desert Marigolds were blooming and also the Sacred Datura which I saw a lot of in Joshua Tree last weekend.  The California Poppies and some wildflowers are still blooming and now the matilija poppies have started to open.  There is a lot of wildlife out and about, and I took a few photos of this squirrel enjoying some breakfast in the sun.

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