nature

McGill Trail, Los Padres National Forest, 8.5 miles RT, 1,594 +/-, Max Elevation 7,570', June 9, 2019

McGill Trail, Los Padres National Forest, 8.5 miles RT, 1,594 +/-, Max Elevation 7,570', June 9, 2019

This weekend we took out the backpacking packs, loaded them up with gear and went on a hike in the Los Padres National Forest. We hiked the McGill Trail up to the McGill Campground. I was carrying about 27 lbs in my pack. This was a nice starter trail with a moderately graded incline to begin getting used to carrying extra weight before our backpacking trip on the Mt. Whitney Trail. I also started using my backpack to train at the gym. At least one day per week, I wear it with 30 lbs and do exercises like squats, lunges and step ups. It’s all been very beneficial. Hiking with the extra weight takes some getting used to, but the McGill Trail is a lovely trail through a beautiful pine forest and I enjoyed myself nonetheless. Once we arrived at the campground, we chatted with the camp hosts before sitting down at a picnic table and making lunch with the Jetboil stove. We took a nice rest before loading up again and heading back. It was nice and cool up in the mountains. When we got back on the freeway to head home, my car gauge read 101 degrees! I was happy to have spent the day in the mountains!

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Jackson Lake, Boy Scout Trail, 7 Miles RT, 1,378' +/-, Max Elevation 7,462', Camping Table Mountain, June 1 and 2, 2019

Jackson Lake, Boy Scout Trail, 7 Miles RT, 1,378' +/-, Max Elevation 7,462', Camping Table Mountain, June 1 and 2, 2019

This weekend was our first camping trip of the season! It was time to pull all our gear out and get familiar with it again since we’ll be backpacking the Mt. Whitney trail this year. I love camping. It’s so nice after a day of hiking to be able to build a fire and sleep out under the stars. We headed out of the gloomy cloud covered city up to sunny Wrightwood. There were, however, some scattered storm clouds hanging around, but the rains held off and the clouds passed us by. Our hike today started at Jackson Lake. There were people here fishing and families picnicking. We got on the Jackson Lake trail to the Boy Scout Trail. There’s plenty of shade on this trail as you pass through a forest of beautiful black oaks and towering pine trees. I’d like to come back here in the fall when the leaves are changing. It’s a lovely trail and we didn’t see another person. The Boy Scout Trail eventually ends at a junction for two service roads. You can head southwest on the Pinyon Ridge Truck trail, or southeast on service road 3N26. This road winds around the mountain as it climbs upward with nice views of Mt. Baden-Powell which is still covered in snow at the top. The road eventually takes you to a junction for the PCT, so we headed north here to loop back to the Jackson Lake Trail. We passed about 6 thru hikers on this section heading towards Baden-Powell. Hope they all made it up safely with the snow. It was about 2:30 pm when we got back to the trailhead and headed to camp at Table Mountain. After we set up camp, we went into town and brought back some Grizzly Burgers from the Grizzly Cafe. That’s the nice thing about camping at Table Mountain. You’re about a 10 minute drive from food! Why cook when you can get a burger to go, right? As the sunset and the weather cooled down, we built a fire, toasted marshmallows and enjoyed the outdoors. We had a peaceful night and slept comfortably under the stars. The next morning welcomed us with a beautiful sunrise and birdsong. We had breakfast and then headed home. The weekend was way too short, but I’m so grateful for the times we have like this when we get to be away from the city, traffic, electronics, etc. and enjoy the beauty of the forest.

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Pacifico Mountain from Mill Creek, 14 miles RT, 2,316' +/-, Max Elevation 7,124', May 12, 2019

Pacifico Mountain from Mill Creek, 14 miles RT, 2,316' +/-, Max Elevation 7,124', May 12, 2019

What a beautiful mountain. There are so many blooming wildflowers this time of year. We did this hike last year in June and the weather was very hot. This time the weather was still warm, but definitely not as bad. Again, just as last year, we saw very few people other then the PCT thru hikers passing by on their way to the Sierras. We put in quite a lot of mileage and the day was made even longer by my stopping to take photos every few minutes. The best hikes are always the ones where I take my time and don’t feel like I’m in a rush against the clock or in a big hurry to reach the summit. Now that we’ve been hiking for a few years and have hiked many of these mountains, I don’t feel such an urgency to summit and I’m taking more time to stop and really appreciate and enjoy the beauty of my surroundings. Even though Pacifico Mountain was hit hard in the 2009 Station Fire and there’s still a lot of visible damage along the route, it’s a very pretty hike. The area is incredibly beautiful with great vistas and it is full of flowers and wildlife. In fact, we can in very close proximity to a rattlesnake towards the end of the hike and only about a half a mile away from the trailhead. We didn’t see the snake, but we did hear the warning rattle. She must have been alongside the trail hidden where we couldn’t see her. It’s amazing how they can disguise themselves. As we climbed up the mountain, the trail changed from charred trees to beautiful Jeffery Pines. We had lunch at the campground on top of the summit. It would be so nice to camp here sometime. There were a good number of ravens circling and I saw several species of butterflies including painted ladies, swallowtails and duskywings. We spent good amount of time at the top before leaving. There was no one there but us. I scouted around the big boulders to see if I could find the official USGS marker, but I still couldn’t locate it. I’ll check again next time we’re here. It was a really nice day.

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Eaton Saddle, Mt. Lowe Road, Mt. Lowe Trail Camp, Tom Sloan, Mt. Lowe East, 6.4 Miles RT, 1,434' +/-, 5,421' Max Elevation, April 21, 2019

Eaton Saddle, Mt. Lowe Road, Mt. Lowe Trail Camp, Tom Sloan, Mt. Lowe East, 6.4 Miles RT, 1,434' +/-, 5,421' Max Elevation, April 21, 2019

The weather is still cool so I’m trying to make the best of the front range before it gets too hot. Today we drove up to Eaton Saddle with no specific plan in mind since there are plenty of routes you can take to make a great hike. We hiked up the Mt. Lowe Road through the Mueller Tunnel which experienced an avalanche over the winter, but some of the rocks were cleared so you can get around it safely. At Markham saddle, we decided to continue down the Mt. Lowe Road to Mt. Lowe Trail Camp and the ruins of Ye Alpine Tavern where we’d take a break and enjoy the ham and cheese croissants we’d picked up from the donut shop before starting our hike. I really love this area and enjoy walking the Mt. Lowe Fire Road. The views are great down into Bear Canyon and you can really see just how rugged the San Gabriels are. As we hiked the sun was trying very hard to break through the clouds, but we were soon engulfed in them as they wrapped around the mountain and our views disappeared in a heavy mist of white. When we reached the junction with the Tom Sloan Saddle trail, we branched off to explore it for about a quarter mile. It descended steeply and since we didn’t want to lose too much elevation, we decided to save that adventure for another day. I was really enjoying being surrounded by all the cloud cover. When we arrived at the Mt. Lowe Trail Camp, I noted that there was water flowing. This is the first time I’d seen it there. There were a few people enjoying the solitude of the camp, and we stopped for a while to appreciate the silence and eat lunch. I pulled out the map while we were eating to check out the Mt. Lowe East Trail. It would be a shorter, but steeper route back, so we decided to explore it. We got on the trail and began climbing up the switchbacks on Mt Lowe’s southern slope. There were some loose rocky, sections that were narrow and exposed so we had to be careful on those, but nothing too terrible. At one point, two mountain bikers almost collided into us as they were racing down the mountain on the switchbacks that didn’t give them much visibility to see what was around the corner. Thankfully, they saw us and we moved to the side so they could continue their way down the mountain. I worked up a pretty good sweat climbing up, but soon we reached the junction with the summit trail to Mt. Lowe. I considered continuing up since we were already here, but then we both decided since there would be no views today, that we’d just head back to Eaton Saddle and enjoy an early day.

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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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Saddleback Butte State Park, 4.8 Miles RT, 1,037' +/-, 3,651' Max Elevation, April 14, 2019

Saddleback Butte State Park, 4.8 Miles RT, 1,037' +/-, 3,651' Max Elevation, April 14, 2019

We hiked Little Butte and Saddleback Butte this weekend. I was here last year, but had not gone during the wildflower bloom. It was magical! We started our hike on the Dowen Nature Trail which connects to the Little Butte Trail and eventually the trail leading up to the top of Saddleback Butte at 3,651’. I immediately began to see carpets of wildflowers blanketing the park and the Fiddleneck flowers were covered in thousands of caterpillars. We took our time and admired all the beauty being offered to us here at the western edge of the Mojave Desert. I took note of some of the many wildflowers we observed. We saw: Coreopsis, Fiddleneck, Desert dandelion, Sun cups, Desert candles, Davy gilia, Fremont pincushions, Dune primrose, Wild Rhubarb and in addition, the Joshua Trees were in full bloom. Eventually, the sandy trail gave way to rocky terrain as it began its steep ascent up the top of Saddleback Butte. The wind was strong as we climbed and after a few easy rock scrambles, we were at the top enjoying the 360 degree views. To the south we could see the snow capped San Gabriel Mountains and further off in the distance we could make out Mt. San Gorgonio and Mt. San Jacinto. This was a really wonderful hike and being able to see the park in all it’s wildflower glory was a special treat!

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Griffith Park: Travel Town to Ferndell, 12.7 Miles RT, 2,080 +/-, March 24, 2019

Griffith Park:  Travel Town to Ferndell, 12.7 Miles RT, 2,080 +/-, March 24, 2019

Today we hiked the entire length of Griffith Park from Travel Town (north) to Fern Dell (south) and back. The nice thing about living so close to the park is we get to sleep in since we don’t need to travel very far to start hiking. We didn’t get on the trail until about 8 am. We started up Oak Canyon which is a popular equestrian trail. It’s very pretty and like the trail’s name, it’s a canyon covered in beautiful oak trees. The morning was chilly and there was frost on the ground. From Oak Canyon we connected with the Toyon Trail. This trail was very lush and green. I almost felt like I was walking along a country road. We then connected to Mt. Hollywood Drive. It’s a winding concrete road, but it was very quiet and we saw very few people. To my surprise, we happened to come upon the infamous haunted picnic table, table #29. If you don’t know the legend of the picnic table, two young lovers, Nancy and Rand, were crushed to death by a tree that fell right on top of them while they were making love on Halloween night in 1978. The fallen tree still remains on top of the table as is because when the city sent someone to cut it down, he became scared out of his wits and claims he saw the tree start to shake violently and heard voices telling him, “Leave us alone!”. When his supervisor went up to do the job himself, he was found dead of a heart attack the next morning. Quite an interesting little story. From Mt. Hollywood Drive, we made our way up near the Griffith Park Observatory. The trail became very busy here with tourists and people hiking in from the south side of the park. We then descended down the West Trail into Fern Dell. Fern Dell was very pretty with it’s cascading pools of water and tropical flora, but we didn’t stay very long. There were A LOT of people here and although I was expecting it to be this way, we were done with crowds and ready to head back to the peace and quiet on the north side of the park. We hiked back on the West Trail and then took the Charlie Turner Trail up and around Mt. Hollywood. From there we headed north around Taco Peak and then followed the trail West. From here we picked up the North Trail near Mt. Chapel and then back again to Mt. Hollywood Drive, Toyon Trail and eventually Oak Canyon. It was a fun day, but as fun as the past few weeks have been trying out city hiking, I think I am ready to get back into the wilderness!

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Griffith Park: Wisdom Tree, Burbank Peak, 1.7 Miles RT, 761' +/-, 1,690' Max Elevation, March 18, 2019

Griffith Park:  Wisdom Tree, Burbank Peak, 1.7 Miles RT, 761' +/-, 1,690' Max Elevation, March 18, 2019

Since I began hiking in Los Angeles, I’d always seen photos of the Wisdom Tree. But since I’d never really been interested in city hiking until now, I never considered hiking up to see him for myself. He’s kind of a celebrity to Los Angeles city hikers. There’s a huge trunk that sits underneath the tree where hikers can leave their “Wisdom Tree Wishes” in the hopes they’ll be granted. This tree is the only tree that survived the 2007 Hollywood Hills fire. Now that our days are getting longer, there’s more time for hiking on weekdays after work. We decided to make the short climb up Burbank Peak where the famous Wisdom Tree is located. This is a very popular trail and there was a consistent flow of all kinds people going up and down the entire time. In front of us, a girl who was wearing only chucks and hiking with a handbag was slipping and sliding on the rocky trail trying to make her way up. She finally realized that this may not be the best idea and asked my advice on whether or not she should continue. I politely let her know it would probably be better to come back another day with a pair of hiking boots. She took my advice and turned around. I felt relieved she did so that she wouldn’t twist an ankle. The climb up was a lot of fun. It was a warm day and I worked up a decent sweat. As we made our way to the top, I saw a few people trying to come down on the rocks wearing sandals. Yikes. In just a short time we reached the top and the Wisdom Tree came into view. I walked up to him, made my introduction and then explored all around the summit taking in the 360 degree views of Burbank, Griffith Park, DTLA, Warner Bros. Studios, Universal Studios and the surrounding mountain ranges. To the east, there was a trail to continue on to Cahuenga Peak and Mt. Lee. We’ll try that one another day. After taking it all in, we carefully began our descent down the rocky trail. Now when I look up at the Wisdom Tree which I can see from the studio where I work, I can finally say that I have met him in person.

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Griffith Park: Mt. Hollywood, Captain's Roost, Mt. Chapel Trail, Mt. Lee, 9 Miles RT, 2,110' +/-, 1,708' Max Elevation, March 17, 2019

Griffith Park:  Mt. Hollywood, Captain's Roost, Mt. Chapel Trail, Mt. Lee, 9 Miles RT,  2,110' +/-, 1,708' Max Elevation, March 17, 2019

We spent another day exploring Griffith Park. Our plan was to hike the North Trail from Mineral Wells Picnic Area and from there take the Mt. Chapel Trail to watch the sunrise from Mt. Lee which is where the Hollywood Sign is located. This is a non-traditional route to the sign, and I had not been able to find much much information about the Mt. Chapel Trail. We got started around 5:30 am and saw a couple of coyotes scavenging the picnic area for leftover food. As we hiked up, the city below looked really pretty. The lights were twinkling and there was a soft, warm wind blowing which made it seem kind of surreal. Up ahead I noticed the orange glow of an eye reflecting in the light of my headlamp. I wasn’t sure what kind of animal it was until I got closer and realized it was a little bird. It seemed strange to see a bird just sitting in the dirt and there was another one not far up ahead. Later, I did some research and learned that these nocturnal birds are called Common Poorwills. We continued up the hill until we reached the base of Mt. Chapel. It was about 20 minutes before sunrise, and at this point the wide trail turned into a rocky, narrow footpath hugging the hillside. We didn’t get too far on this when we realized we’d have some rock scrambling to do. I wasn’t comfortable scrambling rocks in the dark with only the light of our headlamps, especially since I didn’t know much about this trail. To play it safe, we backtracked and opted to see if we could make it to Mt. Hollywood for sunrise instead. We could always check out the trail again later when there was more light. We had about 15 minutes to reach our Plan B destination, and we made it there just in time! There were already a number of people on the summit ready to enjoy the sun coming up over Los Angeles. It was lovely. We then headed down to Captain’s Roost where you can find the “hidden palm trees” that you see in so many photos of Griffith Park. It’s just a short distance from the Mt. Hollywood summit, and it’s a great place for a photo op with it’s beautiful garden overlooking the city. From there, we continued our journey and headed toward Taco Peak. Taco Peak is a just small bump, but the climbing was a bit slippery due to all the loose little pebbles. The views at the top were nice, and from what I understand, there used to be a tea house here. After a quick snack break, we headed back towards Mt. Chapel to check out the Mt. Chapel Trail again now that there was daylight. After surveying the scrambling situation and some encouragement from my husband (I’m not a fan of rock scrambling), we made our way across the rugged trail over to Mt. Lee. I admit the rugged trail was a lot of fun and the views from the ridge were probably some of the best I’ve seen yet in Griffith Park. By this time the sun was warming things up and there were a lot of Painted Lady butterflies fluttering around the wildflowers. Eventually, the Mt. Chapel Trail intersected with Mt. Lee Drive and we met up with the crowds making their way up to enjoy the views from the summit of Mt. Lee and the back of the Hollywood sign. It was actually really fun seeing the Hollywood sign up close. I’ve lived here for so long now and never made it a point to go see it. But we didn’t stay very long since there were lots of people on top jockeying for a good view and the perfect photo. Even so, I would definitely recommending seeing the sign at least once just as long as you know what to expect as far as the amount of people you’ll be sharing the views with. After leaving Mt. Lee, we scrambled our way back across the fun Mt. Chapel Trail and back the way we came on the North Trail and to Mineral Wells. We put in about 9 miles. I am really enjoying exploring this park!

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Griffith Park: Skyline Trail, Mineral Wells, Bee Rock, North Trail, 7.9 Miles, RT, 1,647' +/-, March 10, 2019

Griffith Park:  Skyline Trail, Mineral Wells, Bee Rock, North Trail, 7.9 Miles, RT, 1,647' +/-, March 10, 2019

Today we headed back to Griffith Park again and this time accessed the trails from the north side. We didn’t have to get up as early to beat the crowds today, and we had much more solitude coming up from this direction. We took the Skyline Trail to the Mineral Wells Trail. From there we followed it all they way to the Bee Rock Trail. What an interesting spectacle Bee Rock is from below! We made our way up the steep single track to the top of the Bee Rock where the views, even though fenced in, were excellent! From Bee Rock we hiked a short distance on Vista Del Valle and then picked up the North Trail. From the North Trail we connected back to Mineral Wells and then back to the Skyline Trail in a lollipop loop. I have to admit I really underestimated Griffith Park. It has a very extensive trail system, and there’s a hike for ever level. You can make a whole day out of it or just a few hours if you so choose. The only problem we ran into was that there are many use trails throughout the park, so it can get confusing as to which one to take. I found myself referring to my map quite a bit. At the end of our hike, we both agreed we are very lucky to have this wonderful park within a few minutes drive from our home. We’ll definitely be coming here more often in the future.

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Griffith Park: Riverside Trail, Glendale Peak, Mt. Hollywood, 5.1 Miles RT, 1,155' +/-, March 9, 2019

Griffith Park:  Riverside Trail, Glendale Peak, Mt. Hollywood, 5.1 Miles RT, 1,155' +/-, March 9, 2019

Since moving to Burbank, we thought we’d give Griffith Park a try. It’s practically our backyard. The first time we went was last Sunday in the late afternoon where we did a short hike from Mineral Wells to Amir’s Garden. I liked it so much I wanted to come back and spend the whole weekend exploring more of the trails. I woke up early at 5 am on Saturday. I wanted to check out the southern end of the park and I knew accessing the trails from this end would be much more crowded. The parking was already starting to fill up when we arrived around 6:30 am. We hiked up the Riverside trail to the Hogback Trail to Glendale Peak and then the Mt. Hollywood Summit. The Hogback Trail was a nice workout! I really enjoyed this hike. It took a little getting used the being around so many people, but since it was a city hike, I knew that was to be expected. We had great views of DTLA and the hills were beginning to bloom with all kinds of flowers. This is going to be a great go-to place for us for hiking, especially when we aren’t able to make it up into the forest or even on a weeknight after work. After the hike today, we both agreed we wanted to come back and do some more exploring tomorrow.

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Snowshoeing on Waterman Mountain, 3.8 Miles RT, 948' +/-, 7,713' Max Elevation, February 24, 2019

Snowshoeing on Waterman Mountain, 3.8 Miles RT, 948' +/-, 7,713' Max Elevation, February 24, 2019

I am really enjoying this snowshoeing thing! It was a beautiful day, so we decided to venture back into Angeles National Forest taking an alternative route around the recent rock slide on the ACH near Red Box and check out the conditions on Waterman Mountain. The ski lifts had recently been opened, so we knew there would be a good amount of snow. We past the lifts as skiers and snowboarders were just heading into the parking area and parked our car at the usual spot for the Mt. Waterman Trailhead. There was only one other car in the turnout when we arrived, and the air was chilly with an occasional gust of wind. We geared up (There’s a lot more to gear to deal with in winter.) and started up the Mt. Waterman Trail. At the junction with the Fire Road, we decided to head in that direction instead of our usual route. The snow conditions were mixed with sections of crusty ice on top of snow in the shade and a powdery mix in the sun. The snow was deep but packed and the fire road was a bit steep. We got a good workout as we enjoyed the views of snow capped Mt. Baden-Powell in the distance. We took our time and had the route mostly to ourselves. About two miles up we reached the junction with the ski runs. We stopped and watched some of the skiers and snowboarders do their thing. We could have continued on, but decided to take our time and head back. I thoroughly enjoyed every single second of another beautiful winter day!

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Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve, 4.8 Miles RT, 594' +/-, 1,404 Max Elevation, February 18, 2019

Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve, 4.8 Miles RT, 594' +/-, 1,404 Max Elevation, February 18, 2019

There have been a number of rock slides in our local forests due to heavy rain and snow, so we decided to stick to lower ground and explore Upper Las Virgenes Open Space Preserve in Calabases. I’d see pictures of this place with its rolling hills, grassy meadows and majestic oak trees, but I never had the opportunity to visit and right now, it is so incredibly green! This area is a habitat for the San Fernando Valley Spineflower and the endangered Red-Legged Frog.

We started our hike at the Victory Trailhead. As soon as we left the parking area, I felt like I was in a movie set for “The Sound of Music” This place makes you feel so far away from LA, but it’s quite a different feel then the wilderness hikes we are so used to doing. We did an easy 5 miles on the Lasky Mesa Loop. It was a pleasant walk with just a little bit of up and down. We saw quite a few dogs on this trail too. I’m always happy to see people out hiking with their pups. It was a nice change of pace, and I was grateful to be able to see this location while it’s looking so vibrant. In the summer, the hills will lost their green radiance and turn to earthy brown.

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Descanso Gardens, January 27, 2019

Descanso Gardens, January 27, 2019

Today was a beautiful day to visit Descanso Gardens. As always, it was full of magic. Hellebores were blooming and the daffodils were right on schedule. It’s such a fairytale-like feeling walking through the camellia forest. What a wonderful Sunday morning!

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Joshua Tree National Park, January 20, 2019

Joshua Tree National Park, January 20, 2019

After our snowshoeing excursion on Mount San Jacinto, we drove an hour to Twentynine Palms to spend the rest of the weekend at our favorite bed and breakfast, the Campbell House. We arrived early enough to relax for a bit before heading out for dinner and drinks at the Twentynine Palms Inn. It was a great way to end the day. I slept very well that night until I awoke around 5:45 am and decided to wake my husband up so we could head into the park by 6:48 am in time to watch the sun come up. As much as I would have liked to sleep in, I never miss a desert sunrise. We quickly put on some clothes, threw our backpacks and some extra water in the car and drove into the park. The colors were phenomenal as always! It was chilly, but I was bundled up so I barely noticed. It was quiet with not many people around since it was still very early. The only sounds we heard were the birds peacefully singing and I saw a huge hare hop by. His feet were quite large and he had long, black tipped ears. I took a some photos as the sun came up and then we spent some time simply enjoying the tranquil morning before heading back for breakfast. Later on, after checking out of the bed and breakfast, we decided to drive through the park. We had mixed feelings about it since all of the issues going on with the government shut down, but we wanted to see for ourselves. We discovered that there were rangers working both the West and North entrances (without pay). The park looked like it was being well taken care of by the volunteers. The ranger told us that the Visitor Center on Park Blvd. was open and being operated by Joshua Tree National Park Association. We stopped off at the visitor center and made a donation. It was the least we could do to help their efforts. If I lived near and worked in Joshua Tree National Park, I'm sure I'd be working for free too. Joshua Tree is a very sacred and special place. I was happy to see it being well cared for.

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Snowshoeing on Mt. San Jacinto, Desert View Trail & Round Valley, 6.6 miles RT, max elevation 9,100', 900' +/-, January 19, 2019

Snowshoeing on Mt. San Jacinto, Desert View Trail & Round Valley, 6.6 miles RT, max elevation 9,100', 900' +/-, January 19, 2019

We had quite a bit of rain over the past few days and I really wanted to try snowshoeing. We had already made plans months ago to spend the weekend in Twentynine Palms, but instead of hiking in the desert like we normally would have, we decided to take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up to Mt. San Jacinto. We rented snowshoes from REI in Burbank and were lucky to get the last two pairs available for the upcoming weekend. Seems everyone had the same idea: Take advantage of the snow while you can. I got up at 4 am and we were on our way by 5 am. When we arrived in Palm Springs at 7 am, the parking lot was already getting filled up; families with sleds, coolers, snowshoes, etc., all gearing up for a winter play day. We got our tickets for the 8 am tram and were on our way up the mountain in no time. The tram is a unique activity to do in and of itself. I never get tired of being hoisted up a steep cliff inside a floating bubble travelling up a cable. The transition from desert floor to sub-alpine is amazing and in just 10 minutes we went from the desert floor at 2,643’ at Valley Station to 8,516’ at the top of Mountain Station. The air at the top of the tram was in the 30s. The snow was hard packed and crunchy with some ice. We headed over to the Desert View Loop to try out snowshoeing for the first time. It was actually quite easy. To me it felt a bit like an elliptical machine. The Desert View loop is a short trail with a gentle incline and five notches overlooking wonderful views. It was the perfect place to start. After we had gotten the hang of things, we headed over to Long Valley Station where we filled out a permit and continued on into the San Jacinto Wilderness with our destination being Round Valley. By this time, more people had arrived, some wearing microspikes and there were many groups of snowshoers and winter backpackers. I really enjoyed being able to “float” on top of the snow in the snowshoes. I also liked having a sturdy grip with the snowshoes’ crampon that dug its teeth into the hard packed snow for traction. I felt very secure both ascending and descending. There were a number of people on the trail today, but we were still able to enjoy some alone time. After arriving at Round Valley, we contemplated going up one more mile up to Wellman’s Divide. But instead, we changed our minds and decided to start heading back, knowing we had a cozy room waiting for us in Twentynine Palms. The weather was warming up now, and the snow was starting to get slushy. I think it was a little after 2 pm when we arrived back at Mountain Station. We had no problems getting on the next tram down and were headed out to spend the rest of the weekend relaxing and enjoying the desert. It was a wonderful day. I think I am hooked on snowshoeing and I cannot wait for the opportunity to do it again!

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Josephine Peak, 8 miles RT, 5,558' max elevation, 1,866' +/-, January 13, 2019

Josephine Peak, 8 miles RT, 5,558' max elevation, 1,866' +/-, January 13, 2019

My favorite part of the hike to Josephine Peak are the spectacular views. It’s a steady 4 mile climb to the peak, and today we had a nice, clear day since it had just rained. As we travelled up the fire road from Clear Creek Station just off Angeles Crest Highway, we could smell the eucalyptus trees and the yerba santa. It was even more fragrant today since it had just rained. I’m not quite sure how the eucalyptus trees got here since they’re not native, but they sure do smell nice. As we continued hiking up the trail, I started to get some great photo ops. Strawberry Peak looked quite impressive and we could see a dusting of snow covering the mountaineer’s route. We also had a nice, clear view of DTLA. The views went out all the way to the ocean. To the north, the high country was covered in fresh snow; Waterman, Baden-Powell, Twin Peaks, etc. As we neared the summit of Josephine, we crossed over a bit of snow ourselves. When we arrived at the peak, the views were even more incredible. The last time we were here we were shrouded in clouds so we didn’t get the 360 degree views that we had today. I took advantage and snapped away with my camera. It was absolutely lovely. After spending some time at the summit and greeting a few fellow hikers who’d come to enjoy the day as well, we decided it was time to begin our descent. The clouds started to roll in as we hiked back down the mountain, but we didn’t see any rain. It was an absolutely perfect day.

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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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