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Strawberry Peak via Redbox, 6.9 Miles RT, 1,814' +/-, 6,164' Max Elevation, April 19, 2019

Strawberry Peak via Redbox, 6.9 Miles RT, 1,814' +/-, 6,164' Max Elevation,  April 19, 2019

I had off on Friday and was looking for a challenge. Strawberry Peak seemed like a really good idea. We’d done this hike exactly one year ago, and I was excited to see if it would be easier this time since I’ve been working with a trainer for almost a year now at my gym and he’s been training me with my specific hiking and backpacking goals in mind. The hike starts out innocently enough meandering northeast from the trailhead at Red Box and making a sharp turn to the west and around the southern slope of Mt. Lawler until it reaches the saddle between Lawler and Strawberry. That’s where the fun begins. The trail then climbs unforgivingly for about the next mile and a half except for a short section where you’ll actually lose elevation and then have to climb back up later. I put my hiking poles away on the last mile so I could have free use of my hands for the rock scrambles. I felt really strong today and all the step ups I’ve been doing at the gym were really paying off!! I was definitely running on a bit of adrenaline and excitement, but I was having a good time. Strawberry Peak is still a butt kicker, but I could tell how much stronger I’ve become. We reached the top of the mountain in no time and since it was a week day, we didn’t see many other hikers and had the peak to ourselves. We signed the summit register, had lunch and then began our careful descent. On the way back we saw a lot of critters. One in particular was a Western Fence Lizard doing push ups to impress a female. We stopped to watch him as he tried to put the moves on her, but she had no interest. I wished him luck and continued down the trail. As we got closer to Red Box, we also saw a few snakes. They made their way into the shrubs as we passed by on the trail. It was an awesome day in the mountains!

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Vasquez Rocks, 3.3 miles, 2,672' max elevation, 535' +/-, January 6, 2019

Vasquez Rocks, 3.3 miles, 2,672' max elevation, 535' +/-, January 6, 2019

We had an easy day today at Vasquez Rocks. We walked the trail that goes around the perimeter of the natural area and enjoyed looking at the unique geology. The sky was filled with big, billowy clouds from the rain we had last night. This is such a wonderful place to come for a relaxing day, and you can get some really great photos perched up on the rocks.

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Warm and Cozy on Table Mountain, October 7 & 8, 2018

Warm and Cozy on Table Mountain, October 7 & 8, 2018

We hiked along the PCT in Wrightwood from Inspiration Point and across Blue Ridge to kill time before checking in at our campsite at Table Mountain. This section of the PCT has great views of Mt. Baden-Powell and Mt. San Antonio (aka Mt. Baldy). It passes by Mountain High Ski Resort and continues on past the Blue Ridge Campground. Some of the oaks were starting to change color, and it finally felt like fall. We did just over two miles on the trail before it was time to head to camp and get set up so we could settle in and enjoy the evening.

The weather in Wrightwood was chilly! I knew we’d be in for a cold night, but I was looking forward to snuggling up inside the tent in our sleeping bags. After we made camp, we headed into town to pick up a pizza and bring it back to camp for dinner. No point in cooking when you have a pizza shop 10 minutes away! Wrightwood is such a cute little town. It’s a nice change compared to the chaos and sprawl of Los Angeles. All the shops were decorated for Halloween and I even spotted a pumpkin growing outside the Wrightwood Market. As we walked around town waiting for the pizza, I felt that warm and cozy feeling I used to get growing up in Pennsylvania when the seasons would change from summer to fall. This is exactly how it should be this time of year.

When we arrived back at camp, we got the fire going right away. The autumn days are getting shorter and it wouldn’t be long before sunset. We spent the rest of the evening enjoying each other’s company and the warmth of the crackling fire. As the daylight faded and darkness set in, the night sky filled with endless stars. We were almost ready to call it a night when we noticed a bright white light appear in the sky. We watched it as it continued to travel in a southwest direction until finally disappearing. Neither of us knew what it was, but guessed it might have been a comet or some sort of rocket. We didn’t find out until we got back to the city and had cell service that it was, in fact, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch. What a sight to see from on top of a mountain in the middle of a forest!

The next morning we were in no hurry to get up from our warm sleeping bags. We slept in until well after sunrise. When we did finally get up, we built a fire to keep warm in the chilly morning air, then made coffee and breakfast. There was no rush to be anyplace else, so we took our time and later did a walk around the campground and enjoyed the views from high up on the mountain before it was eventually time to check out and head back to civilization.

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Mt Lowe, 3 miles RT, 5,604' Max Elevation, 548' +/-, September 30, 2018

Mt Lowe, 3 miles RT, 5,604' Max Elevation, 548' +/-, September 30, 2018

My husband and I did a sunset hike on Mt. Lowe this past Sunday. We drove up to Eaton Saddle, followed the Mt. Lowe Fire Road through the Mueller Tunnel to Markham Saddle and then picked up the trail to the Mt. Lowe summit. I really like this area a lot. There’s never very many people and you get some great views of the rugged San Gabriels. The hike to the summit is a short one, but it was perfect for a day when we didn’t have time to do a long hike. The views are pretty great too. As the sun began to sink behind the Santa Monica Mountains to the west, we started to make our way back down the mountain. We reached Markham Saddle just 10 minutes before the sunset then stopped to enjoy the show as the light faded from orange, to pink and finally inky black. It was a little spooky coming back through the Mueller Tunnel in the dark, but the city below us lit up in a romantic, sparkling glow of lights. It was a great way to wrap up the weekend!

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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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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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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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