Mt. Pinos 8,831' & Sawmill Mountain 8,819', Los Padres National Forest, 8 miles RT, 1,437' +/-, July 15, 2018

Mt. Pinos 8,831' & Sawmill Mountain 8,819', Los Padres National Forest, 8 miles RT, 1,437' +/-, July 15, 2018

We headed into the local mountains on Sunday for a nice easy day of hiking in the Los Padres National Forest.  We did a short 8 mile hike to Mt. Pinos and Sawmill Mountain.  We did these peaks in May of this year and at that time we also added Grouse Mountain which completed the 3-2-1 challenge.  (Check out  mymountainchamber.com for info. on the challenge.) .  It's a lovely area to explore.  This time around the weather was much warmer then the last when it was cool and cloudy.  I got to see some butterflies and the highlight of my day, a horned lizard.  He blended in so well with his surroundings that I could barely see hime when looking through my camera lens.  After reaching Sawmill Mountain and taking in the views from there, we decided to head back before the day got too hot.  This was a nice hike to ease us back into it after an incredible 3 days spent in the Eastern Sierra.

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Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, Methuselah Walk, 4.5 miles RT, 10,183' max elevation, 1,000' +/-, July 11, 2018

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, Methuselah Walk, 4.5 miles RT, 10,183' max elevation, 1,000' +/-, July 11, 2018

On Wednesday morning we drove up to the White Mountains/Big Pine area to spend a day exploring the land of the ancients at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest where a 4.5 mile hike journeys through the oldest living trees in the world. This is a high altitude hike starting out at over 10,000’ feet where the gnarled and twisted trees that look like something out of a Tim Burton movie cling to steep, arid, rocky slopes. The trees thrive in this severe environment and usually survive for over 2,000 years. Incredible! The trail makes its way down a canyon and into a grove of the ancient trees. As you hike down the south facing slope, you’ll note a dramatic transition where there is a wider variety of plants including sagebrush and mountain mahogany. Eventually you will enter the Methuselah Grove. This is where Edmund Schulman in 1957 discovered the Methuselah Tree which is over 4,600 years old. How amazing is that?!

Methuselah’s exact location is not disclosed to keep the tree protected from vandalism, but if you ask the rangers they’ll tell you that the best place to hide something is right in plain sight so you will walk right by the Methuselah Tree along the trek, but you may never figure out exactly which one he is. After the hike we stopped into the Schulman Grove Visitor Center to get some souvenirs and check out the interpretive exhibits. Ranger Dave gave us an informative talk about the Ancient Bristlecone Pines and I am pretty sure I learned more about trees in that 30 minute chat then I ever did when I was in school! I highly recommend stopping in if you want to learn more about these magnificent ancient trees.

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Cottonwood Lakes, 14 miles RT, Max elevation 11,384', 1,660 +/-, Inyo National Forest, Eastern Sierra Trip, July 10, 2018

Cottonwood Lakes, 14 miles RT, Max elevation 11,384', 1,660 +/-, Inyo National Forest, Eastern Sierra Trip, July 10, 2018

I woke up at 4:30 am excited to get started on our new adventure. We had a hearty breakfast and soon were on our way up Horseshoe Meadow Road to the Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead at 10,000’. I took my compass bearings, geared up and we were on our way by about 7 am. The trail enters the Golden Trout Wilderness and starts off on a leisurely stroll through the big pine trees. As we went along we started to gently descend. We followed along side a beautiful creek and made a few water crossings. The mosquitos were out in full force, so I was sure to break out the bug spray before becoming their early morning breakfast. We passed by lush green meadows dotted with wildflowers, corn lily and incredible views of large granite cliffs. Soon we entered the John Muir Wilderness. There was another creek crossing and more lovely meadows to enjoy before we came to the switchbacks. As we began to ascend our pace was slower than usual due to the high altitude. I did not mind stopping to take a few breaks so I could enjoy the views from above and take my photos. As we approached the top of the switchbacks, we could see some peaks coming into view. We passed a junction for Muir Lake and started to see the playful marmots poking their heads out waiting to see if we were going to give them hand out. The trail gently meandered through the meadow with a flowing stream and had incredible views of Cirque Peak and Mount Langley. It wasn’t long before the Cottonwood Lakes came into view. They were stunningly beautiful. We took a moment and sat in the shade to take a break, have a snack and enjoy the scenery, peace and quiet. We made our way to lake #3 and followed along its shore to a short climb up some switchbacks. On the other side we reached lakes 4 and 5. We felt a light breeze and could see the summer storm clouds rolling in closer, but I didn’t hear any thunder. We thought it was a good time to start heading back. We had quite a ways to go before reaching the end of our journey. As we made our way down the switchbacks we enjoyed another marvelous view of lake #3 from above. We passed a man with his two sons who were fishing, but he said they hadn’t had any luck. As we made our way back to the trailhead, I could feel some light precipitation. The cool raindrops on my skin felt refreshing after a long day and the smell of summer rain mixed with the pine was intoxicating. We got back to the trailhead around 3:30 pm and clocked about 14 miles. It was my first time hiking for that long at such a high altitude and I was both tired and exhilarated at the same time. It was an incredible experience. The Eastern Sierra has so much to offer. I have fallen in love.

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Alabama Hills, Georges Fire, Horseshoe Meadow, Mobius Arch, Eastern Sierra, July 9, 2018

Alabama Hills, Georges Fire, Horseshoe Meadow, Mobius Arch, Eastern Sierra, July 9, 2018

Our original plan for our trip was to hike the Mount Whitney Trail to Lone Pine Lake, but I learned the night before a fire which was caused by lightening strike had closed Whitney Portal Road at Hogsback and there was no access to the Whitney Portal Trailhead.  Upon arrival, we stopped at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitors Center to talk to the rangers, pick up some additional maps and decide on our best "plan b" options which we gathered the night before.  I had several ideas in mind, of them being a nice, long day hike to Cottonwood Lakes which was then recommended to us by the rangers.  So Cottonwood Lakes it was!  We already had the maps for that, so I picked up a visitor's guide and a whole slew of other maps for future trips and we were on our way to do a little sight-seeing before the next day's trek.  Our first stop was the Alabama Hills where the rock outcrops frame incredible views of Mount Whitney.  From here we could see the Georges Fire burning, and the smoke was pluming towards the north so the air quality seemed to be okay at our location.  I took some photos and then we headed off to check out the trailhead for where we'd be hiking the next day.  From Whitney Portal Road before the closure, we turned onto Horseshoe Meadow Road which is an adventure unto itself.  The paved road switchbacks up the mountain 6,000 feet from Lone Pine's desert floor, all the way to an elevation of 10,000 feet with its terminus at Horseshoe Meadow.  We drove around to scope out the area, make note of where our trailhead would be and then stopped off at the day use area to have a picnic lunch before heading back to check into our hotel.  It was later in the afternoon by now and we could see the gray clouds forming and hear the soft sound of rolling thunder off in the distance.  The threat of storms are very common in summer.  If there's one thing I know about mountains at this high an elevation, they make their own weather so you have to be prepared for anything and know when to descend.  It was very peaceful up there as we listened to the soft booms that were farther off in the distance.  I pulled the maps out of the car to check out the terrain so we could get an idea of what to expect along our destination the next day.  Later that evening after stopping in Lone Pine for a bite to eat, we head back to the Alabama Hills for a quick little stroll to Mobius Arch, a natural arch that is formed in the rock formations.  A lot of people like to take photos through the arch because it frames Lone Pine Peak quite nicely.  I didn't make take the classic shot at the arch since there was another photographer there who had his equipment set up and I didn't want to disturb him.  Instead I walked just around the side of Mobius and found Lathe Arch and took my shot there.  As the sun was setting we could see the embers from the fire burning.  It was a lovely sunset, but we needed to get back to the hotel so we would be well rested for our hike to Cottonwood Lakes the next day.

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Red Rock Canyon State Park, On our way to the Eastern Sierra, July 9, 2018

Red Rock Canyon State Park, On our way to the Eastern Sierra, July 9, 2018

Red Rock Canyon State Park is a nice place to stop along Highway 14 if you're headed up to the Easter Sierra.  There are a few hiking trails here that meander through the dramatic Red Cliffs.  If you're into geology, this is a place you'll want to stop!  I wish we could have explored the area, but it was over 100 degrees.  It was a nice, scenic place to stop, get out of the car and stretch our legs before heading up the 395.  There are also some vault toilets here as well. 

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Eaton Saddle to Muir Peak 4,688', 9.5 miles RT, 1,358 +/-, July 4, 2018

Eaton Saddle to Muir Peak 4,688', 9.5 miles RT, 1,358 +/-,  July 4, 2018

Today we started out with a plan to do “just a short hike”.  Well, by now I should know that it rarely ever works out that way.  We didn’t feel like driving too far so we decided to stick closer to home and take a ride up to Eaton Saddle.  We hiked up the Mount Lowe Road, through the Mueller Tunnel (which I think is absolutely amazing) and reached Markham Saddle.  At that point we had several options to climb the peaks that we’d done before; Mt. Lowe, Mt. Disappointment, San Gabriel Peak or we could continue on the Mount Lowe Road.  I pulled out the map to see where it would take us.  It looked to be a little over four miles to reach the Mount Lowe Trail Camp and Inspiration Point (which we’d also been to before, but never from this direction).  We decided to give it a go.  What a great route!  I’m so glad we did it.  This area has so much history.  Not only was this a very low stress, no cliff hugging ledges kind of hike, but it also had a lot of butterflies.  After reaching Inspiration Point, we continued along the fire road past the crowd of people until we reached the junction to summit Muir Peak.  I knew we’d have the peak all to ourselves along with the views to boot.  My husband and I hung out up there for a while.  I chased around the Chalcedon Checkerspot butterflies trying to get some photos while my husband talked on his HAM radio.  There was a lot of California Buckwheat up on this peak, hence all the butterflies.  I even got one to sit on my finger.  The surrounding views were terrific; Pasadena and the city below, Mount Wilson, Occidental Peak, Mount Harvard, San Gabriel Peak, and Mount Lowe to name a few.  After we were done enjoying having the place to ourselves, we started heading back.  By this time it was getting pretty warm and much of the morning shade we had earlier was almost gone.  Thankfully, we always come prepared with plenty of water and there was a nice, refreshing breeze every now and then to help keep us cool.  As we hiked back, the road was buzzing with butterfly activity.  There were plenty of Blues, Swallowtails, Chalcedon Checkerspots, Hairstreaks and I was also able to find and photograph the elusive Great Basin wood-nymph.  As always, it was another great day to be in the mountains!

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Grizzly Flat Trailhead, 2N79, Hoyt Mountain, 4.32 miles RT, 3,904' Max Elevation, 912' +/-, July 1, 2018

Grizzly Flat Trailhead, 2N79, Hoyt Mountain, 4.32 miles RT, 3,904' Max Elevation, 912' +/-, July 1, 2018

Today we did a short hike in the front range from the Grizzly Flat Trailhead past the locked gate along 2N79.  2N79 splits off and you can continue northwest to Grizzly Flat or you can follow it north and then east as it makes a turn towards Hoyt Mountain.  The later was our destination.  We’ve hiked this trail many times before because it’s a hot spot for several different species of butterflies.  This was the first time we followed it all the way to Hoyt Mountain.  The trail continues to climb until it reaches a saddle after just a little over two miles.  Here there’s a split to continue on a rugged use trail up to the summit of Hoyt, or you can continue onto the very overgrown Telephone Trail which descends to Clear Creek.  We climbed up on the use trail about halfway to the false summit and decided it was too overgrown and steep to continue.  I was actually more interested in going back down to photograph all the Chalcedon Checkerspots that I saw at the base of the mountain.  I photographed Chalcedon Checkerspots near this area last year, but this year there were so many that they were practically landing on me as I took my photos!  It was about 9 am and the sun was really starting to warm things up.  We decided to descend before it got too hot and finish up the hike with a visit to DISH in LaCanda for some hot coffee, eggs, bacon and my favorite... pancakes!

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McGill Trail, Los Padres National Forest, 7.8 Miles RT 1,588 +/-, June 24, 2018

McGill Trail, Los Padres National Forest, 7.8 Miles RT 1,588 +/-, June 24, 2018

This Sunday we hiked the McGill Trail to McGill Campground in Los Padres National Forest.  We started out at the north trailhead just off Cuddy Valley Road.  The trail climbs a little over 1,500 feet in 3.5 miles at a moderate grade.  As soon as we started up, I immediately began to see Coronis Fritillary, Speyeria coronis butterflies.  There were tons of these bright orange beauties fluttering along the sides of the trail!  There were also many different species of Blues, the tiny thumbnail butterflies that most people probably walk right by without even noticing.  It was a warm morning, and I tried to catch a few shots along the trail without zapping my energy by spending too much time in the hot sun.  It’s very easy to get caught up trying to get that perfect butterfly shot and forget the sun is blasting down on you.  Plus we still had a lot of mileage to cover to reach our destination.  We wanted to make it up to the campground before my husband’s HAM radio club would be wrapping up their field day weekend at 11 am.  As we got higher in elevation, the wind picked up and helped keep us cool.  I believe it was around 10:30 am when we made it to the campground.  We said our hellos to the radio club and then took a nice, long relaxing break at one of the picnic tables before heading back the way we came.  The McGill trail is a beautiful trail.  It’s also popular with mountain bikers, and on this day we passed maybe a handful of riders who were very courteous of us and let us know how many others would be coming along the trail.  This was our second visit to the Los Padres National Forest.  It’s a very lovely area that we will continue to explore and I really enjoyed this trail.

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Waterman Mountain West Ridge, Winston Peak, Map and Compass Navigation Practice, June 17, 2018

Waterman Mountain West Ridge, Winston Peak, Map and Compass Navigation Practice, June 17, 2018

This weekend we had a fun field day practicing our basic navigation skills with a good o’le map and compass. We recently had taken a class at REI and wanted to practice what we learned in the field. We decided to hike to the West Ridge of Waterman Mountain. This would give us a chance to do some minor cross country route finding on an unestablished trail. We started the hike at Angeles Crest mile marker 54.10. We followed the road to a fork in the trail and headed southeast. The trail is wide at first and easy to follow. Eventually, we came to a junction with a watercourse and a very faint use trail that would fade in and out as we made the steep climb up to the wilderness boundary on the ridge. It was a nice challenge and we completed the task successfully! After making our way carefully down the slope and back to the parking area, we decided to drive to the nearby Winston Peak and climb to it’s high point where we could see the surrounding mountains and use them as landmarks to practice triangulation. The hike up to Winston Peak is steep, but short. From the top we could see Will Thrall, Pallet Mountain, Mount Baden-Powell and Cucamonga Peak to name a few. It was a great spot to put these basic navigation skills to good use. In this day of modern technology, we have so many fancy electronic gadgets readily at our disposal. But it’s always good to go back to basics and also an extremely valuable skill to have. It was another fun day in the mountains!

Waterman Mountain West Ridge, 4 miles, 1,125’ +/-

Winston Peak, 2 miles, 495’ +/-

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Boy Scout Trail from Jackson Lake to 3N26 to the PCT, Jackson Flat and Jackson Lake Trail. 10 miles RT, 7,532' max elevation. 1,585' +/-, June 10, 2018

Boy Scout Trail from Jackson Lake to 3N26 to the PCT, Jackson Flat and Jackson Lake Trail. 10 miles RT, 7,532' max elevation. 1,585' +/-,  June 10, 2018

Today was a good day to brush up on our navigation skills and search for butterflies. The whole reason I started hiking to begin with was because I wanted to be able to photograph butterflies in the wild and not just the ones in my garden. So we did a leisurely loop hike from Jackson Lake to the Boy Scout Trail, then 3N26 to the PCT and returned along the Jackson Lake Trail. I had seen a lot of butterflies around some of these areas last year and wanted to see what was currently flying. The lupine was blooming and I saw many Boisduval's blues. There were also plenty of swallowtails, both pale and western tiger nectaring on the western wallflower at the Jackson Flat Campground. I also saw Pacific Azures. In addition to my search for butterflies, it was also a nice day to pull out the map, practice navigation and acquaint ourselves with the surrounding terrain. It’s been exactly one year since we started hiking and the more I hike, the more I realize how important it is to really know your paper map along with a compass and not just your electronics. Not to mention, having these skills opens you up to a world of other places to explore and not just the more popular routes. It was a day well spent.

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Mount Pacifico 7,134', 2,398' +/-, 14 miles on the PCT from Mill Creek, June 3, 2018

Mount Pacifico 7,134', 2,398' +/-, 14 miles on the PCT from Mill Creek, June 3, 2018

I’m always looking to escape weekend crowds and find new trails to explore. This Sunday our hike was to the top of Mount Pacifico in the northern part of Angeles National Forest. We planned to start the hike at Mill Creek and follow the PCT which runs through this area. It looked like the trek would be around 12 to 14 miles depending on whether or not we did an out and back on the PCT or did a loop. The day was going to be hot, but I figured since we were heading up to a higher elevation, it might not be so bad on the ascent. If it got too hot, we would descend and save it for another time. The trail was very beautiful. There were many wildflowers and so much ceanothus (California lilac) which made for a very pleasant fragrance along the way. There was lots of wildlife activity too; squirrels, chipmunks, songbirds, bees, insects and butterflies. As we climbed higher, we started to see beautiful, tall pine trees. Much of the area was burned in the 2009 Station Fire, and we could see the effects of that as we hiked this route. But the area looks as though it’s been recovering nicely. Eventually, we reached a junction where we left the PCT and headed southeast to a jeep road that took us up to the summit. There are outstanding views of the surrounding mountain ranges along the way making the road more interesting. After about a mile or so we reached the summit. Mount Pacifico Campground is also here. There are picnic tables, a fire ring and vault toilets. That’s quite a luxury to have up on a summit! There are also a lot of very interesting rock formations to explore. There wasn’t anyone here today, so we took a good long rest and relaxed and enjoyed the peace and quiet. Soon it was time to head back and get ready for the heat as we descended to a lower elevation. We opted to come back the way we came on the PCT for a more scenic and enjoyable route. Both of us had been keeping well hydrated throughout the trip and we had no problems with it being so warm. We were even gifted with an occasional breeze as we hiked back down the mountain. I found this trail to be very nicely graded so although it was long, it was very pleasant. A very enjoyable hike!

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3 Peak Traverse: Mt. Baden Powell 9,406', Mt. Burnham 8,996', Throop Peak 9,137' via Dawson Saddle 10.4 Miles RT, 2,900' +/-, May 27, 2018

3 Peak Traverse:  Mt. Baden Powell 9,406', Mt. Burnham 8,996', Throop Peak 9,137' via Dawson Saddle 10.4 Miles RT, 2,900' +/-, May 27, 2018

We wanted to try out a different route to Mount Baden-Powell, so we decided to start our hike from Dawson Saddle.  It adds a little bit of extra mileage, but there are really great views along the route because much of this hike follows along the ridge once you reach the junction for the PCT.  It's also less heavily trafficked then the route up from Vincent Gap.  Since Baden-Powell was added to the Six Pack of Peaks Challenge, it's become increasingly popular.  We actually only planned on hiking to Baden-Powell, but we had the time and decided to go up to Mount Burnham and Throop Peak which were close by.  I should note that all of my photos were taken with my Android phone today.  Somehow I managed to forget my camera which was a big disappointment because I love doing my photography along the way.  I really enjoyed this route and trying out a new trail.  After the hike we drove into Wrightwood for a bite to eat.  On the way we passed by the trailhead at Vincent Gap and it was mobbed with cars!  I couldn't believe how crowded it was.  I was grateful we didn't go up that route today.  Looks like we'll need to save the Vincent Gap route for a weekday when it's less busy.  Baden-Powell is a lovely peak.  It's also nice to say hello to the 1,500 year old Wally Waldron limber pine that sits on the ridge just below the summit.  I'm sure he was pretty popular for photos today!  It was another great day to be in the mountains!

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Mount San Jacinto 10,834', 11 miles RT, 2,437' +/-, May 25, 2018

Mount San Jacinto 10,834', 11 miles RT, 2,437' +/-, May 25, 2018

I took the day off on Friday so we could revisit San Jacinto Peak.  We were thinking about hiking up from Marion Mountain, but first I wanted to try it again from Long Valley, so we made a fun day out of it by taking the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway way up to start the hike out at 8,516'.  Just as I remembered, the San Jacinto Wilderness was absolutely breathtaking.  Also, just as I remembered, the altitude kicked my butt!  It was a slow and steady climb for me today, but with the beautiful forest and the amazing scenery I wasn't complaining about taking my time.  As we approached the summit, the trail disappeared into the pile of boulders that I had been so nervous to climb last time we were here.  This time, knowing what to expect, I had no problem.  It was actually a lot of fun climbing up those rocks this time!  We spent some time at the summit, had some lunch and enjoyed the expansive views.  Hardly anyone up here today.  It was so pretty with all the fluffy clouds passing just below the peak.  After we were done soaking in the views, we began our descent and I made sure to take plenty of photos to remember the day.  We hope to be back again sometime before the year is over to try this one from Marion Mountain. 

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Mount Baldy, 10,064', out & back on Baldy Bowl/Ski Hut Trail, 8.39 miles RT, 3,980' +/-, May 18, 2018

Mount Baldy, 10,064', out & back on Baldy Bowl/Ski Hut Trail, 8.39 miles RT, 3,980' +/-, May 18, 2018

We were due for a visit to the top of good old Mount Baldy, so I took the day off on Friday to do it. This was our 3rd time to summit this mountain, and it’s always a nice challenge. We took our usual route up on the Baldy Bowl/Ski Hut Trail with a short break once we arrived at the Ski Hut. Then on we went through the Baldy Bowl boulder field and up through the steep switchbacks making our way through the pine forest and the short reprieve at the saddle. Then it was onto the manzanita maze of use trails to find our way to the top. Thankfully, the markers are all still intact since the last time I was up in December which made finding the trail easier. About a half a mile from the summit we stopped to chat and take a breather with a fellow hiker named Karen and her beautiful chocolate lab, Frankie. For the rest of the way, Frankie became my hiking buddy as she went back and forth between Karen and I. I could feel her nudge my leg with her head from time to time as if to say, “Come on lady! Hurry it up!” Soon enough, my husband who was ahead of us reached the summit and I was not too far behind along with Frankie and a moment later, Karen. No one was at the top but us! It was beautiful! The weather could not have been more perfect; sunshine and a nice breeze. I wandered around the empty summit taking my photos then sat for a bit to have a bite to eat and and chat with Karen and a few other hikers who had arrived. Eventually, all of them including Frankie headed down the Devil’s Backbone. Octavio and I were the only ones on top of Mount Baldy for a while. How cool is that considering the amount of traffic this summit sees! Soon it was time to begin our journey back. Instead of going down the Devil’s Backbone which has been our usual route, we opted for a change of scenery and decided to head back on the Baldy Bowl/Ski Hut Trail. We’d never seen it in the opposite direction before and although it’s quite steep, we wanted to give it a go. So down we went. The trek down was much harder than it was going up and definitely much steeper then going down the Devil’s Backbone. Thankfully, the scenery is so beautiful, it kind of takes your mind off your aching knees! We slowly made our way down trying as best we could to be careful not to slip on the sections of loose rock. We also had to be mindful not to lose the trail going through the manzanita maze just before reaching the saddle, as I’ve heard stories of people going off trail here and ending up in the bowl where there’s wreckage from a plane crash and then they had to climb their way back out. Finally, we made it back to the ski hut. We took a break here to rest our legs. As we sat, a very bold Stellar Jay came up pretty close to me to scope out my food situation. What a bum! You can tell the birds and also the chipmunks up at the summit are spoiled from so many people hiking here and feeding them their snacks. After our last rest, we began the final descent. It felt so good when we got back to Falls Road and I looked back up at the mountain we had just climbed. I wondered, as I often do, how we even make it up such a steep climb. I guess somehow you just do! It was another wonderful day on a most beautiful mountain!

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Liebre Mountain, 5783', 7.3 miles RT, 1,877 +/-, May 13, 2018

Liebre Mountain, 5783', 7.3 miles RT, 1,877 +/-, May 13, 2018

I was super excited to explore a new part of the Angeles National Forest this past Sunday! One of the first hiking books I’d ever purchased was “Trails of the Angeles” by the late John W. Robinson. This hike is hike #1 in his book. In addition, Casey Schreiner of ModernHiker.com, recently posted a trail report about this hike, making it sound even more appealing.

The trailhead is about an hour and 20 minute drive from our home and is in the northwestern section of the Angeles NF. It starts off on the PCT, and we did pass a number of thru hikers headed to the Sierras as we ascended the mountain southbound.

The first part of the trail took us up switchbacks that were surrounded by blooming ceanothus (wild lilac) as well as patches of yerba santa. As we made our way up, we had wonderful views of the Antelope Valley, the Ventura mountain ranges, the San Andres rift zone and the Tehachapis. It’s a very interesting contrast considering the mountain we were hiking on was so lush and green.

As we continued, we passed through an incredibly beautiful pine grove filled with purple lupines. Various wildflowers were numerous along the entire route. As we climbed upward, Liebre mountain turned into a sprawling oak savanna and the clouds began to roll over us as they made their way across the mountaintop. We reached a junction where the PCT headed east, but continued along the trail (which was now more of a fire road then a single track) to reach the highest point of Liebre Mountain. To find the high point which is marked with a wooden stake and a pile of large rocks, we had to leave the road and do a little searching. We stopped here to relax, have a snack and enjoy the scenery. We also did a some exploring around the top of the mountain before making our way back taking our time as we did. As we descended, the temperatures had warmed up a bit and there was more wildlife activity; lizards warming themselves in the sun and insects enjoying the wildflower blooms. I stopped for a while to get some photos of a Clearwing Hummingbird Moth nectaring on the yerba santa at about 4,300’. It was quite a sight! I’d never seen one of these before! This was a lovely hike and another great day to be in the mountains!

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Los Padres National Forest: Mt. Pinos 8,846', Sawmill Mountain 8,819', Grouse Mountain 8,582', 11 miles RT, 2,051 +/-, May 6, 2018

Los Padres National Forest:  Mt. Pinos 8,846', Sawmill Mountain 8,819', Grouse Mountain 8,582', 11 miles RT, 2,051 +/-, May 6, 2018

It was a beautiful overcast day in Los Padres National Forest. The weather at this higher elevation was a nice break from the warmer than normal temperatures we’d been having back home. Our plan was to hike to Mt. Pinos then Sawmill Mountain with the possibility of also climbing up Grouse Mountain if we felt up for it. We got to the trailhead just before 7:30 am and got started. The hike to Mt. Pinos took us through beautiful pine forests and wide open high elevation meadows. I can imagine how beautiful it must look here when more wildflowers are blooming. Mt. Pinos is easy enough to get to since it’s mostly hiking up a gentle fire road. At the top, there are some radio towers, but the views are great. It’s said that the Chumash Indians thought that Mt. Pinos was actually the center of the universe. Interesting that now we have a radio tower up there. After Mt. Pinos, we continued on the road to the Condor Observation Site. We didn’t see any condors today, but the views continued as we hopped on the single track Vincent Tunamait Trail and headed to Sawmill Mountain. The trail starts off with some long, gently graded switchbacks that make the descent quite enjoyable. You’ll be able to take in the surrounding views as you make your way down. Eventually that nice easy grade changes and the trail becomes steeper as you continue downward into the forest where it levels out again. I really enjoyed all the bendy Limber pines and also the vanilla scented Jeffery pines throughout this whole hike. After reaching the saddle, the trail climbed steeply upward and we eventually reached the spur trail for Sawmill Mountain. We made our way up to its wide, flat summit where there’s a really big rock carin with prayer flags that have been tattered by the winds. It was quite windy today making it a little chilly, but the views were incredible! We could see all the way out to the Sierras and could even spot Mount Whitney! Amazing! After Sawmill, we headed back down into the shelter of the forest and decided to continue on to Grouse Mountain. The trail descended again and eventually, we crossed the junction to Sheep Camp and a few other trails. Before long we found the spur trail heading up to Grouse Mountain. (The Vincent Tunamait Trail keeps on going and heads downward.) The spur trail to Grouse was steep and the trail was covered in soft pine needles, but it was easy enough to follow. At the summit, there’s a register hidden in the rocks that you can sign if you so choose. It was a lovely, peaceful place to break for lunch. After our break, it was time to start heading back. We knew we had a lot of up and down climbing left to do to get back to the car. It was an extremely relaxing day in this peaceful scenic forest and a very enjoyable hike.

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Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, April 29, 2018

Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, April 29, 2018

Desert Adventures, Day 2 consisted of a visit to the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve which is easily accessed from the 62. You wouldn’t expect there to be so much green in the desert, but surprise! There’s lots of green here! This is because there’s a fault that runs through the canyon which causes water drainage from the surrounding mountains to form a marsh habitat. There are all kinds of birds here too; 254 species! If you’re a bird watcher, this is THE place to be!

There are trails here that are suitable for everyone. The Marsh Trail is an easy boardwalk that winds along the stream. It’s shaded by beautiful cottonwoods and willows. Yes shade! In the desert!! Lots of wildlife activity can be seen and heard here. The Yucca Ridge Trail takes you up to a higher elevation and is more exposed. From here you can look down into the preserve’s wetlands to appreciate just how green and lush it is. You’ll also have wonderful views of the surrounding peaks of Mount San Jacinto and San Gorgonio. If you have time and are looking for a longer hike, you can take the 9.76 mile round trip Canyon Trail. We didn’t have time to do this today, but I’d love to go back and try it when the weather is cooler.

To get an overall perspective of the preserve, we did a loop around it - Desert Willow Trail to Yucca Ridge to West Canyon Trail to Mesquite Trail and a loop around the Marsh Trail. There are maps and information at the kiosk at the trailhead. We saw so many critters en route, including a snake crossing over the trail. There were also many wildflowers in bloom. It was an enjoyable and relaxing way to wrap up the weekend.

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Mojave National Preserve, Kelso Dunes, Amboy Crater, Joshua Tree National Park, April 28, 2018

Mojave National Preserve, Kelso Dunes, Amboy Crater, Joshua Tree National Park, April 28, 2018

Our desert adventures started with a trip to the Mojave National Preserve to hike the singing sands of the Kelso Dunes.  

The hike starts out on a sandy track that heads straight.  As you hike, the terrain is mostly flat until you get closer to the dunes where you’ll begin to cross many smaller dunes before arriving at the base.  There really isn’t an established trail because the wind is constantly shifting the sand, but you can make out footprints where others have made their way up.  Just keep heading towards the highest point, and try to avoid stepping on any vegetation.  As you begin to ascend, hiking becomes more strenuous.  Your feet sink into the deep sand and for every step you take forward, you’ll slide two steps back.  It’s no easy task, but getting up to the top is totally worth it!  Once you’re on top, follow the sandy spine all the way to the peak where it levels off.  You’ll have a great place to sit and enjoy the surrounding views.  

Now for the best part… When you’re done taking it all in, you’ll can slide your way down!  If conditions are right, you’ll hear the dunes boom or sing and feel them vibrate underneath you.  This phenomena is caused by sheets of sand cascading down and rubbing against the stationary sand below.  It’s really something to experience and there are only 30 other dunes in the world that can do this.  I was elated that we were able to hear them sing today!

Our next stop was Amboy Crater National Natural Landmark, just off Route 66.  The crater is a cinder cone type of volcano that last erupted about 10,000 years ago.  To get to it, you hike through a lava field and then up and into the crater where you can walk around its edge.  It’s about a 3 mile round trip hike.  Sadly, we were unable to hike all the way up today because the temperatures were already a scorching 90 degrees.  It was still fun to see and it’s on our list for when the weather cools down.

After the Amboy Crater, we made our way down to Twentynine Palms where we spent the night.  We had some dinner before heading into Joshua Tree National Park to relax and watch a gorgeous desert sunset before retiring for the evening.  

It was a great day!  I’m really looking forward to exploring more of the Mojave National Preserve.  There’s so much to see!

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Stoddard Peak, 4,324', 6 miles RT, 1,145' +/-, April 22, 2018

Stoddard Peak, 4,324', 6 miles RT, 1,145' +/-, April 22, 2018

We thought we’d try one of the other hikes in the Mount Baldy area this past Sunday, so we choose Stoddard Peak. This hike starts off as an easy hike along a scenic fire road, but once you arrive at Stoddard Flat, get ready to do some bushwhacking, rock scrambling and climb over two false summits to get to your final destination.  Once you reach the peak, the views are awesome. We had a perfectly clear day and a spectacular view of our majestic Mount Baldy. Being this is not one of the more popular hikes in the area, we only saw a few other hikers along the way and had the peak to ourselves. It was a fun day!

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Strawberry Peak via Redbox, 7.5 miles RT, 1,752’ +/-, April 20, 2018

Strawberry Peak via Redbox, 7.5 miles RT, 1,752’ +/-, April 20, 2018

Strawberry Peak is the tallest peak in the front range standing at 6,164’. It’s easy to spot along Angeles Crest Highway because it’s shaped like a Strawberry. We took the trail from Redbox, but there’s also a mountaineer’s route with a class 3 rock climb that you can access via Colby Canyon. We opted for the “easy” route. This was a fun hike which at times tested my fear of heights. Steep rock scrambles are more of a mental challenge for me then a physical one, so I had to push through some fears getting myself up there today. The expansive views as you hike along the ridge and make the steep climb to the top are absolutely worth the effort. And who knows, maybe someday I’ll work up the courage to do the mountaineer’s route! It was a fun, challenging and exciting day!

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