Today we hiked the Gabrielino Trail East from Red Box to Valley Forge Trail Camp with the option to continue on to West Fork and Devore Trail Camps if we felt up to it. With the cool morning temperatures and the trail covered in falling leaves from the towering oaks that surrounded us, it was finally starting to feel like fall. The first part of the trail descended the steep stone steps from the Red Box picnic area then continued down some exposed switchbacks. It wasn’t long until we were in the cool shade of the oaks following the trail along the South Fork of the San Gabriel River. The stream was dry at this time of year, but that didn’t stop the gnats from bothering us. Luckily, we were prepared and always have our bug nets with us which prevented the pesky insects from flying into our eyes.
On our route we passed by some cabins and the ruins of an old, stone chimney. After about two miles, we reached the junction for the Valley Forge Trail Camp that was marked with a sign at the spur. We descended the spur to the camp to check it out and see if it was a place we’d like to stay as a future backpacking trip. The camp was lovely with plenty of shade, fire rings, picnic tables and primitive bathrooms. We set up at one of the picnic tables and decided to stay a while. I made friends with a Steller’s Jay who invited himself to our breakfast table. It was a very nice day and we were thoroughly enjoying the peace and quiet! This hike along this section of the Gabrielino Trail reminded me a bit of Santa Anita Canyon sans the crowds. We will definitely be coming back when the weather cools down a bit more to hike the longer routes to West Fork and Devore Trail Camps, and perhaps enjoy an overnight stay. Read More
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. Read More
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! Read More
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. Read More