Sandstone Peak 3,111' and the Mishe Mokwa Trail 8.3 miles RT, September 10, 2017

Sandstone Peak 3,111' and the Mishe Mokwa Trail 8.3 miles RT, September 10, 2017

Sandstone Peak is the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains at 3,111’.  We got to the trailhead before 6 am and had planned to do the Mishe Mokwa 6.1 mile loop and then summit Sandstone Peak.  But since the sun was rising and it was just so pretty, we decided to hop on the 3 mile out and back trail leading up to the peak, summit and then come back down to enjoy the Mishe Mokwa loop, another 6 miles, respectively.  

Along the trail to the peak, the views were nothing less then stunning.  The warm winds were blowing off the ocean and the sea air was filled with the scent of coastal sage.  No one else was on the trail yet and we were able to enjoy a peaceful sunrise over a picturesque view of endless mountains.

As we continued onward and upward, we eventually came upon a set of steps with a sign pointing to Sandstone Peak.  Before the steps, we saw a series of steep use trails leading to the same destination.  We took a look at them and opted for the steps.  After the steps ended, we had an easy scramble to the top of the first mountain where there is a cell tower.  From here, we could see the actual peak off in the distance noted by a plaque dedicated to W. Herbert Allen.  Allen was a donor of land to Boy Scout camps and also Camp Circle X nearby.  From this point we were on our own to find use trails and make a challenging scramble to the peak.  I had to put my camera in my pack because I needed use of my hands to finish the climb so I didn’t get many photos during this part of the hike.  Once we made it up, we signed the register located under the plaque and started the very steep ascent down.  I have no shame in admitting that I did the butt slide most of the way down, as I picked the steepest, but most direct way to get back.  

Once down we could have hopped on the Backbone Trail and then picked up the Mishe Mokwa Trail, but we wanted to do it “by the book” and complete the whole thing start to finish.  We went back to where we came from and started it from the beginning adding extra mileage to our journey.

Being that it’s the end of summer, I knew the day would soon be heating up.  But since we’d gotten there so early, we still had some time to enjoy our hike without the blazing sun.  Much of this trek is exposed and you’ll need a lot of extra water to stay hydrated.  The trail was challenging, but there was a lot of different scenery to keep us busy.  At one point it dropped us down into a riparian grove which was a completely different environment then what we had experienced so far.  Had it not been summer, there would have been a flowing stream here.  In this grove near the appropriately titled Split Rock (which is exactly that), there’s also a solitary picnic table.  It was a welcoming place to take a break and fuel up with a sandwich before continuing on to complete the loop.  

In retrospect, I’m really glad we decided to summit first.  By the time we completed the loop, it was hot!  It was sometime after 11 am and on our way down to the parking lot, we saw a good number of sweaty hikers just making their way up.  I’m not sure how they could do it in the heat.  My best advice would be if you are going to attempt this trail in the summer, suck it up and do it EARLY!  You can always take a nap later, which is exactly what we did!  It’s totally worth it!

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Acorn Trail, PCT, Wright Mountain, 9.1 miles RT, 8,505', (2,227' +/-), September 3, 2017

Acorn Trail, PCT, Wright Mountain, 9.1 miles RT, 8,505', (2,227' +/-), September 3, 2017

This Sunday we left the unbearable heatwave looming over Los Angeles and headed to the higher altitude of the mountains in Wrightwood to hike the Acorn Trail and summit Wright Mountain. The Acorn Trail is a 2.1 mile trek with a 1,500’ elevation gain that leads to the junction of the PCT.  It starts off on private property at the end of Acorn Drive in Wrightwood, so you’ll need to park your car before the private property sign (there’s a turn out just before the sign that fits two cars) and hike about 3/4 miles up the steep Acorn Drive.  It’s a nice way to warm up those muscles and prep for the steady climb you’re about to take on.  Once you get to the proper trail, it climbs steeply through a shaded forest of oak and pine.  Some spots of the trail can be a bit precipitous, but no worries.  Take your time and keep on trekking.  At 2.1 miles you’ll reach a junction with the PCT.  Turn left (head east) and follow it, but keep you eyes peeled for the use trail leading up to the summit of Wright Mountain.  We missed this trail the first time because my original directions told me to hop on the Blue Ridge Truck Trail which parallels the PCT.  The truck trail does not lead to the summit, but it still has some outstanding views of Pine Mountain, Mount San Antonio and the Sheep Mountain Wilderness.  After we’d been walking for awhile with no indication that we’d be going up anytime soon, I pulled out the handy Tom Harrison map.  It showed that the truck trail would soon end, and at that point we could just hop back on the PCT and head back west to where we came from.  We were in no hurry, so we enjoyed the views and extra mileage.  On the way back, we found our destination.  Sure enough there was a use trail splitting off and leading to the summit of Wright Mountain.  This ‘trail’ (if you could call it that) is not maintained.  We had to bushwhack our way up through overgrown chaparral to get to the top which was actually a lot of fun.  This is definitely not a trail to do in shorts!  Just after we reached the top, the wind started kicking up and storm clouds started rolling in.  We took in our views and began our descent.  A light sprinkle began to fall and the forest became peaceful and still with only the sound and fragrance of fresh summer rain.  We could not have timed it any better...  Just as we got back to the car, the sky opened up and it poured!  There's nothing quite as refreshing as a good mountain rain!  It was a lovely day and as per our usual routine, we rewarded ourselves with a hearty lunch at the Grizzly Cafe in Wrightwood.
 

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Icehouse Canyon, Cucamonga Wilderness, Icehouse Saddle, Timber Mountain, 8,303' (3,325 +/-), 9.03 miles RT, August 27, 2017

Icehouse Canyon, Cucamonga Wilderness, Icehouse Saddle, Timber Mountain, 8,303' (3,325 +/-), 9.03 miles RT, August 27, 2017

Our destination today was to hike Icehouse Canyon through the Cucamonga Wilderness to Icehouse Saddle and then summit Timber Mountain via the Three Tee’s Trail.  Icehouse Canyon has quite a bit of history.  In the 1800s, there was an icehouse here that serviced Los Angeles.  The ice was brought down from the mountains by mules and sold door to door.  There was also a resort here that was built in 1880.  You can find more info. on all of this by searching it on Google.  It’s very interesting and really makes you appreciate the area in which you are hiking.  

Icehouse Canyon is a popular destination among Angelenos, so in order to beat the crowds, I was out of bed by 3:30 am, on the road and at the Old Baldy Ranger Station to collect our wilderness permits just after 5:30 am.  We arrived at the trailhead in the dark, but soon dawn broke and the sun rose to turn pitch black skies to moody blue.  As we began our ascent on the rocky terrain of the trail, we could hear the running creek off to our right.  It followed us through the canyon until we we reached the beautiful Cucamonga Wilderness where the trail opened up to towering trees.

Much of this trail is walking on rock and uneven terrain, so you have to pay attention here.  Then once you hit the switchbacks, get ready to party even harder!  It’s a slow burn all the way to the saddle but I guarantee the scenery will make you forget about your fatigued leg muscles.

The saddle is a junction for a number of different hikes.  Knowing the weather was going to heat up, we had already planned to summit Timber Mountain and be back down before it got too hot.

We took a short snack break at the saddle and then headed straight up the Three Tee’s Trail to summit Timber Mountain.  It was a short one mile climb, but that was no easy trek.  Once at the peak were were rewarded with the most beautiful mountain top covered in a forest of trees and huge, fallen pinecones.  I now understand why it’s called Timber.  We had a little lunch (sandwiches taste so good at over 8,000’), and took in the scenery until it was time to head back.  

With the cardio work out of the way, I could now enjoy myself by taking photos of… EVERYTHING.  Every which way I turned, it was a picture perfect landscape.  Coming back was definitely another challenge.  All those rocks we climbed up on had to be negotiated carefully on the way back down.  I could feel my quads working hard.  It was definitely something you had to pay attention to.  When we arrived back in the canyon, the sunlight peaked through the shady canopy of trees to create magical hues of green and gold.  Coupled with the sound of rushing water, I had to keep stopping and standing there saying, “Wow.  Oh Wow!  This is so pretty!”  

We passed quite a few people on the way back down, but not nearly as many as I had originally anticipated.  I guess not everyone likes getting up at 3:00 in the morning to beat the heat.  Personally, I would not have it any other way.  
 

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Throop Peak, 9,138' (1,249' +/-), 4.5 miles RT, August 20, 2017

Throop Peak, 9,138' (1,249' +/-), 4.5 miles RT, August 20, 2017

Throop Peak was a short but sweet 4.5 mile RT trek to the summit and back with the option to hop on the PCT and summit Mount Hawkins as well.  Throop Peak is named after Amos G. Throop who was the founder of Throop University which is now Cal Tech.  Funny things you learn at 9,137 feet!  The trail starts off at Dawson Saddle which is the highest point on the Angeles Crest Highway at an elevation of 7,901’.  There are actually two trailheads here -- the old route and the newer more “official” route which was built by the boy scouts in 1982.  The newer route is located just east of the Dawson Saddle parking area where Angeles Crest makes a southward turn.  We came in from the Wrightwood side since they finally opened up Angeles Crest to make it passable since it had been closed since June because of a sinkhole.  The first steep, bare switchback of the Dawson Saddle trail is on the south side of Angeles Crest.  You can’t miss it.  Once you make your way up these first few switchbacks, you’ll quickly be covered in the shade of Jeffery, sugar and lodgepole pines pretty much the whole route.  We walked across a beautiful ridge and from there we could see views the Devil’s Punchbowl as well as the Antelope Valley.  At about the 2 mile mark, you’ll see a sign for the PCT.  Head to the right going away from Mt. Baden-Powell.  Shortly after this, you’ll see a fork in the trail.  Stick to the right.  This is a use trail that’s going to take you to the summit of Throop Peak.  When we hiked it was marked with a cairn.   The trail will fade in and out and be covered in brush at some places, but it wasn’t hard to follow.  The last .3 miles to the summit are steep!  Luckily, you will arrive in no time - it goes fast.  When we arrived at the top, we chatted a bit with an older gent who looked like he was in his 60s or 70s.  He walked up that trail like it was nothing!  Then it was just the two of us alone to enjoy the views.  We took our photos and selfies and soaked up the scenery for a bit.  From here you can see the ridge going to Mount Hawkins.  We thought about heading down the southwest side and hopping on the PCT to catch that one as well, but our actual goal today (which I haven’t mentioned yet) was to make the breakfast cut off time at the Grizzly Cafe in Wrightwood.  We arrived at the peak of Throop just before 9 am which was a bit later then I would have liked.  (Being a photographer, I spend a lot of time on the trail taking photos and that tends to slow things down quite a bit.)  So we decided to head back down and try to make it in time for pancakes!  Mission accomplished!  We walked into Grizzly Cafe at 10:45.  Of course later we found out the breakfast cut off was actually 11:30 am and we would have had more time, but that was okay.  We had great morning on the mountain topped off with pancakes and lots of coffee!

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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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