Mount Islip, 8,250' (1,690' +/-) 7 miles RT, August 13, 2017

Mount Islip, 8,250' (1,690' +/-) 7 miles RT, August 13, 2017

I’m really beginning to enjoy these higher elevation hikes, and the trek to Mt. Islip had just the right amount of work to do in order to enjoy the views once you reach the peak.  We started this hike from Islip Saddle on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)/Silver Moccasin Trail on the south side of Angeles Crest Highway 2.  It was about 6:30 am and the air was crisp with a cool breeze -- just perfect for hiking.  The trail starts off climbing up steep switchbacks and you’re immediately submerged in a beautiful landscape of white yarrow, golden rabbitbrush and a view of the great pines that will soon be providing you with shade for most of the hike.  At this hour, the sun was still coming up over the mountain as we trekked along, and I was able to get some beautiful photographs of its golden rays peeking through the trees.  As we approached the Little Jimmy Campground, the trail leveled out and we began to smell the fine aroma of campfire and coffee mixed with pine and forest making this hike even more pleasurable.  At the campground, we stopped for a snack and sat for a bit to take in the beauty of the forest before continuing on.  I should note here that there is a spur trail that leads to Little Jimmy Spring, so you actually have to walk through the campground and past the outhouses to find the Mt. Islip Trail that will lead to the peak.  Once on this trail, we began to climb again and we started to see some of the damage done by the 2002 Curve fire.  As we continued higher and higher with the trail hugging the slope, we came around a bend that suddenly opened up to even more spectacular views then the ones we had been enjoying the entire way up.  Finally, as we reached the summit, we saw what remains of an old, stone fire lookout.  On the peak, you will also find a register box where you can sign your name to make it official that you’ve climbed another mountain.  We spent some time up on the summit enjoying the 360 degree views and had our lunch before returning the way we came.  It was a very pleasurable hike today!

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Grizzly Flat, Angeles National Forest, August 12, 2017

Grizzly Flat, Angeles National Forest, August 12, 2017

I was curious about what would be flying at the closest “butterfly hot spot” to my home, so I took a quick trek up to Angeles National Forest and hopped on the trail.  It was HOT (which I knew it would be), but continued on.  The California Buckwheat is turning brown now and the landscape is looking as it should be for this time of year.  I saw some activity, but not nearly as much as the last time I’d been here.  I was happy when I came across a California Sister who fluttered around me then perched high up on a leaf to pose for some photos before flying away.  I continued my trek just a little higher up the hillside, then stopped in some shade to listen to the quiet before turning around.  On my way back down I spotted several Mormon Metalmarks nectaring on the Buckwheat.  These guys sure are characters. They seem to pivot around in all directions as if they’re making sure you get their best angle.  It was a short but sweet day for butterfly watching.
 

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Solstice Canyon: Rising Sun Trail to Solstice Canyon Falls to Sostomo Trail to Deer Valley Loop to Solstice Canyon Trail, gain 1,100 ft. Approx. 7 miles RT, August 6, 2017

Solstice Canyon: Rising Sun Trail to Solstice Canyon Falls to Sostomo Trail to Deer Valley Loop to Solstice Canyon Trail, gain 1,100 ft. Approx. 7 miles RT, August 6, 2017

So far our summer hikes have been at the higher elevations where it’s usually cooler.  But this weekend we opted to head towards Malibu and explore Solstice Canyon.  I knew this was a popular spot with some of the trails being on exposed hills, so we got there early before the crowds and the heat.

We arrived just before 7 am and there was still plenty of parking.  Our options were to head straight to the falls via the Solstice Canyon Trail, an easy walk down a paved fire road, or to head up the stairs to the right and take the Rising Sun Trail which climbs upward on more rugged terrain.  We opted for the later.  Just a few feet in we were already getting some nice views of the pacific.  The morning light was gorgeous and it reflected a beautiful golden hue on the summer wildflowers along the trail.  It was still early in the morning, but the exposed hills had us working up a good sweat.  As we reached the crest, the first view of what remains of Tropical Terrace mansion became visible down in the canyon. This mansion was built in the 1950s, but it burned down in 1982 in a wildfire. As we began to descend down into the canyon towards the ruins, we could hear the waterfall and the vegetation became noticeably greener.  

We spent some time exploring Tropical Terrace and the small but very pretty Solstice Canyon waterfall.  Afterwards, we walked south along the paved Solstice Canyon trail for a quick minute to pick up the Sostomo Trail.  The Sostomo Trail took us straight up on a less maintained more difficult trail to some very pretty views of the whole canyon and the pacific ocean.  We passed the ruins of a few more cabins along the way, dropped down in the the canyon and rock hopped over the creek a few times and eventually reached the junction of the Deer Valley Loop.  The Deer Valley Loop took us up even higher where we were able to get a birdseye view of Point Dume.  There were some parts of the loop that leveled off and opened up to meadows full of golden wildflowers and also beautiful Oaks.  This area was covered in white butterflies.  I believe they were Cabbage Whites, but they kept us company almost our entire time on these two trails.  I should note some of the other butterflies I saw here which were Swallowtails, Skippers and Marine Blues.  

After finishing the loop, we met back up with the Sostomo Trail and headed back the way we came.  It was about 10:30 am and now the crowds were starting to arrive.  We passed a few sweaty hikers who asked us if the climb was worth it.  It was actually pretty hot by this time, so a few of them decided to turn back.  

Once back down, we finished the hike on the Solstice Canyon Trail. (I actually don’t have any photos from this part of the hike because when I was downloading the images, some of the files got corrupted.  Not sure what happened there, but thankfully the rest of the photos were fine.)  

Overall, I really enjoyed this hike and the change of scenery.  I would definitely like to come back and do this one in the spring when everything is green, as I’m sure it would be full of different species of butterflies and the hills would be even prettier.
 

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Descanso Gardens, Oak Woodland, August 5, 2017

Descanso Gardens, Oak Woodland, August 5, 2017

These days I’m finding myself being drawn more to the native California landscape.  Since I’m from the east coast where gardens are much different, and because I also love the look of the English style cottage garden, I was constantly trying to replicate some smaller version of that at home.  But but this year I switched gears.  I started to incorporate native plants,  spend more time learning about them and introduce them into my garden.  The Oak Woodland and California Native Garden at Descanso have a completely different kind of beauty and I am seeing it through different eyes.  I recommend taking a walk through them and I guarantee you will fall in love with our California landscape.  
 

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Charlton Flats - A Picnic with Swallowtails & the Lost Wolf Tree Nature Trail, July 30, 2017

Charlton Flats - A Picnic with Swallowtails & the Lost Wolf Tree Nature Trail, July 30, 2017

 

After our hike to Cooper Canyon it was just early afternoon.  My husband and I drove to Charlton Flats to have a picnic and take a short hike along the PCT and the Silver Moccasin Trail.  As we walked along the trail we were enveloped in the delightful fragrance of Poodle Dog bush flowers.  This is a poisonous plant, but I personally think the smell is divine.  To my delight, the blooms were also covered in swallowtail butterflies!  I’d never seen so many in the same place before.  It was a nice opportunity to observe them and practice photographing them in flight as they danced upon the flowers.  

Another point of interest I’d wanted to see at Charlton Flats was the “Wolf Tree Nature Trail”, but I wasn’t exactly sure where to find it.  While I was busy obsessing over the swallowtails, I noticed my husband was admiring a very vintage, very damaged looking sign just a few yards away.  I walked over to see what he was looking at and he had found the sign at the beginning of what was once the Wolf Tree Nature Trail.  We walked along it for a short distance until we couldn’t go any further.  It must have been a very pretty little trail it its day, and it makes me sad to think of how much damage the fire caused.  I found an article written about the trail in 2007 that described it as being shaded by conifers.  It mentioned a 100 foot tall Coulter pine that was once called the “wolf tree” which was the dominant tree of the forest.  Not much is left now besides some old wood, the old tattered signs and a lot of Poodle Dog bush.  At any rate, it was a nice little side adventure before we headed on home.

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Cooper Canyon Falls, July 30, 2017: Buckhorn Campground, Pleasant View Ridge Wilderness, Burkhart Trail to Cooper Canyon Falls, Little Rock Creek (776 ft. +/-) 3.7 miles RT

Cooper Canyon Falls, July 30, 2017:  Buckhorn Campground, Pleasant View Ridge Wilderness, Burkhart Trail to Cooper Canyon Falls, Little Rock Creek (776 ft. +/-) 3.7 miles RT

This is a very pretty, very green trail that starts at Buckhorn Campground and leads you into the Pleasant View Ridge Wilderness via Burkhart trail down to Cooper Canyon Falls. This is an upside down trail, so if you do it as an out and back you'll gain your elevation on the way back going all uphill. The falls were just a trickle, but it was a beautiful hike and fun to explore the creek at the bottom of the canyon. 

We started our hike around 07:25 AM from Buckhorn Campground on the Burkhart Trail leading into Pleasant View Ridge Wilderness, 26,752 acres of protected land.  You do not need a permit to enter this wilderness.  The moment you step onto the trail, you are engrossed in a forest of lush green.  Oak, Douglas Fir, Jeffrey Pine and Incense Cedar offer a canopy of shade along almost the entire journey.  As you walk, you can see and hear Little Rock Creek far below.  It’s very peaceful with only the sounds of flowing water and morning songbirds.  Aside from the campground which was very full, the trail itself was quiet and we had it mostly to ourselves the entire hike.  The trail makes a steady descent downward into the canyon.  It’s an easy grade and not too steep, although as you get closer to the falls, it can get a little rocky with some loose gravel.  It's nothing too difficult, just watch your step.  Along the way we crossed over two creek beds which were nice for photography.  We took our time to explore the area and did a little boulder hopping along the creek.  

It seemed we’d traveled a bit further then we should have to get to the falls, and we still hadn’t seen them.  I got out my map to take a look to see where we were.  As suspected, we had actually passed the area where they were supposed to be.  At this point we headed back the way we came, and I found the use trail which is a short, but steep scramble to get to the bottom of the canyon where the falls would normally be had it not been summer.  At this time of year, however, they were just a trickle of running water on mossy rock which is why they were so easily missed.

Although there wasn’t a rushing waterfall to see, we were not at all disappointed.  This hike was beautiful.  Satisfied that we’d reached our destination, we now continued our ascent all uphill now back to the trailhead at Buckhorn Campground.  We took our time to enjoy the scenery and peaceful splendor of the wilderness.  

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In the spirit of Lughnasadh, Descanso Gardens, July 29, 2017

In the spirit of Lughnasadh, Descanso Gardens, July 29, 2017

As the wheel continues to turn, August 1st marks the halfway point between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox.  At this time of year, my home garden is full of blooming flowers and an abundance of butterflies.  It’s a beautiful time of year and I’ve been blessed by the nature spirits with a modest, but healthy wildlife habitat for hummingbirds, butterflies and other critters who have been enjoying the garden.  With Lughnasadh only a few days away, I paid a visit to my favorite magical garden, Descanso.  I walked down the promenade and made a quick pass through the rose garden.  But I spent most of my time in my favorite section, the native plant the garden.  Here is where you can best appreciate the warm tones of summer with the buckwheats starting to brown and the intoxicating fragrance of sage.  I also found many spider webs nestled in the trees.  It is this time of year when I usually begin to see more intricate webbing in the oaks.  They know the days are slowly beginning to shorten, and although it is still hot, the summer will soon be coming to a close.

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Under the Milky Way... Joshua Tree National Park, July 22 & 23, 2017

Under the Milky Way... Joshua Tree National Park, July 22 & 23, 2017

I love spending time in the desert.  Even in the middle of July.  If you take it easy, bring a lot of water with you and use common sense, you can still enjoy the park despite temperatures that are usually in the 100s.  This trip was all about shooting the night sky.  I have been wanting to get a halfway decent photo of the Milky Way for as long as I can remember.  It took some researching, but I was ready.  I even went so far as to purchase a good tripod and with my shooting style, I do NOT like using a tripod.  For night sky though, it is a must.  

We arrived at Campbell House, my absolute favorite place to stay when we’re in Twentynine Palms, a little after noon.  We checked in, packed plenty of water and headed into the park.  The temperature fluctuated between 90 and 108 depending on where we were.  I had decided to take advantage of the park being less crowded and see some of the more popular sites.  The first stop was Hidden Valley nature trail, an easy one mile loop.  There’s a passage through the rocks that open to a “hidden” valley enclosed by these incredible rock formations. It’s said that this area was once used by cattle thieves to hide their stolen cattle. As you walk along the trail, you’ll also see some beautiful pinyon pines.

After Hidden Valley, we drove to Keys View to take in the panoramic views of the Coachella Valley, Salton Sea and the San Andreas fault. At an elevation of 5,240 ft., it was about 10 degrees cooler (90) and there was a nice breeze. There were also a lot of bees flying around looking for moisture under the cars from the a/c. 

After Keys View, we stopped at Cap Rock, notable for being the place where the stolen corpse of singer, Gram Parsons was set on fire in 1973.  I took some photos there and we headed back to get cleaned up for dinner.

When in Twentynine Palms, we always have dinner at the Twentynine Palms Inn.  My husband always orders the prime rib, and I always get the lobster tail.  It never disappoints!

It was getting close to sunset so after dinner we headed back into the park.  I decided to go back to Cap Rock to settle in and get ready for the show and an evening of stargazing and Milky Way photography.  As the sun went down, it provided me with a surreal kaleidoscope of color; magnificent golds, yellow, orange, magenta and hypnotic blue.  Then, as the light faded away, the first stars began to appear.  Magic!  It was just after 9:30 when the Milky Way became clearly visible.  I was super stoked to be able to get some images.  I had timed this trip so we’d be there on a dark moon and we had a perfectly clear sky.  Mission accomplished!

I slept so good Saturday night.  The Campbell House is so cozy it’s like being in your own home.  I actually sleep better there than I do at my own house!  It’s so peaceful and quiet.

The next morning I decided to sleep in.  That would be 6 am for me.  I usually get up and drive into the park to see the sunrise, but the cottage was just a little too comfortable and I woke up just as the sun was starting to come up.

Around 7:30 we went to the great room to enjoy coffee and breakfast.  They always have something delicious and this time it was Tres Leche French Toast with Dulce de Leche on top!  Wow!  Supurb!  

After a very enjoyable breakfast, we stopped by the Oasis of Mara.  All the times I’ve been to Joshua Tree and I’d never been there.  I’m glad I did because I was able to photography my first Western Pygmy Blue.  According to my field guide, it is the smallest butterfly in North America and also one of the smallest in the world at 3/8 - 3/4 inch!  

This was a really wonderful trip.  I came home with exactly what I wanted, a beautiful image of our fascinating Milky Way galaxy and an extra bonus of some new butterflies to add to my photographic collection!
 

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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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