trail

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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Santa Anita Canyon to Mt. Wilson, 14.5 miles RT, 4,426' elevation +/-, 5,712' max elevation, April 1, 2019

Santa Anita Canyon to Mt. Wilson, 14.5 miles RT, 4,426' elevation +/-, 5,712' max elevation, April 1, 2019

I decided to take a vacation day on Monday so I could go hiking. We headed to Chantry Flats, but we weren’t sure whether or not we wanted to do a longer, more strenuous hike to Mt. Wilson or a shorter loop. We figured we’d decided when we got to the junction at Sturtevant Camp. Santa Anita Canyon was exceptionally beautiful today. There was so much water flowing in the creek. We took the Lower Winter Creek Trail that climbs up along the side of a rocky cliff to the top of Sturtevant Falls. The water was rushing strong and it looked awesome! As we hiked along the trail, we saw so many cascading pools of water. When we reached the junction near Sturtevant we made the decision to do the longer route to Mt. Wilson. I figured why not. I’d taken the day off and had no other place to be. As we started up that first steep mile, I was almost starting to regret my decision. My body was tired, but I didn’t want to turn around. We’d done this route last year, and I remember I really enjoyed it. We slowed up our pace which made it a little more bearable. It was a fun climb! Lots of beautiful scenery along the way. But I was very happy to reach to top because all I kept thinking about was sprawling out at one of the tables at the Cosmic Cafe and eating a ham and cheese croissant my husband had picked up at the donut shop before our hike! Once at the top, we had a nice rest. I took my hiking boots off to give my feet a break too. After we were finished refueling and recharging, we began the 7 mile descent back down the mountain. We took the Mt. Wilson Trail where you can still see quite a bit of fire damage to the Mt. Wilson Toll Road. There had been an avalanche since the last time we hiked on this road, and there were huge fallen boulders strewn across it. They were easy enough to get around, and I wondered what it must have sounded like when they came crashing down. We then reached the junction for the Winter Creek Trail and continued the long, steep descent on the switchbacks until we reached the bottom of the canyon. There were a lot of downed trees to hop along the way and there was also some trail erosion. The trail was still in good shape, but it does need a little TLC from the wonderful volunteers who help keep these trails passable so we can enjoy them. My knees and feet were getting tired, but the Winter Creek Trail is just so pretty. The final part of the hike was the grueling slog up the concrete road leading back to the parking lot. It seems to go on forever and it is steep! I was sweaty and tired by the time we got back to the trailhead, but it was so worth it. It’s been a while since we did any long, hard days on the trail so it felt really good to get out there and enjoy it!

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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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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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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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Mt. Hillyer, 5.6 miles RT, 1,112' +/-, max elevation 6,207', January 1, 2019

Mt. Hillyer, 5.6 miles RT, 1,112' +/-, max elevation 6,207', January 1, 2019

Our first hike of 2019 was to Mount Hillyer. I love this hike. There’s so much going on. Lots of great rock formations and change of scenery along the way. It was 39 degrees at Chilao where we picked up the Silver Moccasin Trail with wind gusts up to 50 mph expected at the summit. We had a great hike up. The breezy day was refreshing and there’s not much exposure on this trail with all the boulders, so we were protected from the wind for most of the route. There was a downed tree on the switchbacks of the Silver Moccasin trail. I’m not sure if it was caused by the winds, but luckily it was easy to maneuver over. As we continued our journey upward, the winds became stronger. My core was warm with all my layers, but for some dumb reason I didn’t wear a bottom base layer under my hiking pants. I don’t know where my head was this morning. I knew there would be a wind chill, and I’m usually the one who is over prepared with too much gear. When we reached the gusty summit, I could feel the tops of my legs getting numb. We hauled butt pretty quickly down off the exposed mountain top. I haven’t felt that numb feeling set in since Pennsylvania when I would spend the entire day at the barn riding and taking care of my horses in temperatures below zero some days! Once out of the big gusts, my legs warmed up and we continued our descent. About 1:30 pm, we heard a loud roar in the sky. As we looked up we saw two B-2 Spirit Stealth Bombers flying overhead. They were probably headed back to base after the Rose Parade. Last year we got to see one of them from the top of Waterman Mountain. I didn’t think we’d get to see that this year, but we actually got to see two of them! It was a great way to begin the New Year!

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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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Exploring Mt. Akawie (aka Buckhorn Peak) 7,283' Max Elevation, 3.5 miles RT, 768 +/-, August 26, 2018

Exploring Mt. Akawie (aka Buckhorn Peak) 7,283' Max Elevation, 3.5 miles RT, 768 +/-, August 26, 2018

For my upcoming birthday I asked my husband for a Jetboil cooking system. It would be the first item in a long list of backpacking gear that we’re going to need to make the crossover from day hikers to backpackers. Since I’d been looking for an excuse to make the short hike up the little bump called Mt. Akawie (aka Buckhorn Peak if you’re using a Tom Harrison map), we headed up to the mountain to test the new cooking system and spend a quiet morning together.

We hit the trail just after 6 am. After a very short distance we took the path leading up to the peak. There appeared to be a number of fire roads around to explore, but we were ready to get cooking and I couldn’t wait for a hot cup of coffee. The Jetboil system did not disappoint! For breakfast I’d packed a couple of Eggo waffles (my favorite) and brought along a freeze dried breakfast scramble from Mountain House. Overall, it was pretty good. I definitely could live on this stuff for a couple of days in the backcountry. After eating, we got comfortable on one of the large, flat bounders looking towards Waterman Mountain and Twin Peaks and napped for a short while. After a peaceful rest and stomachs full of interesting freeze dried food, we packed up our gear and did some exploring around the mountain both on and off-trail. An unmaintained road/trail took us northeast around the bump and offered views looking towards Pleasant View Ridge. We also saw a lot of deer; mostly doe and one with a young fawn. The road/trail eventually disappeared and we made a scramble up the east side of the mountain before heading back the way we came. It was around 11 am when we got back to the car. We thanked Mount Akawie for the hospitality and headed home to enjoy what was left of our weekend.

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Mt. Whitney Trail to Lone Pine Lake, 5.8 miles RT, 10,032' Max elevation, 1,824' +/-, August 20, 2018

Mt. Whitney Trail to Lone Pine Lake, 5.8 miles RT, 10,032' Max elevation, 1,824' +/-, August 20, 2018

We only had two short days to spend in the Eastern Sierra, so on the second day after having hiked to Kearsarge Pass the day before, we decided upon something shorter since we’d be heading back to Los Angeles on this day.  I knew the hike to Lone Pine Lake on the Mount Whitney Trail was only about 5.8 miles round trip, and although I am not always keen on hiking busy trails (this one probably being the most popular trail in all of California) I decided to suck it up and give it a go. 

On Saturday the day we arrived, we actually drove up to the Whitney Portal just to check it out.  I have to admit I was pretty starstruck knowing that every year about 30,000 people try for the summit of the tallest peak in the lower 48.  Just for fun, we weighed our backpacks at the weigh station, and my day pack weighed in at 15 pounds.  

On this Monday morning as we began the hike to Lone Pine Lake, the first section of the Mount Whitney Trail reminded me very much of a typical Southern California hiking trail.  The grade was steady and not too strenuous as we ascended through pine trees, passed by wildflowers, a grazing doe and crossed over a few streams.  We were surrounded by the towering walls of majestic granite cliffs that opened up to views down into the Owens Valley, Alabama Hills and White Mountains off in the distance.  At about 2.8 miles we reached the junction for Lone Pine Lake and followed the trail to the shores of the lake’s stunningly beautiful cobalt blue waters.  After spending some time exploring the lake, we hiked a little further on the Mount Whitney Trail to the posted sign for the permit only Mount Whitney Zone even though we knew we would not be going any further today.  As we looked longingly up trail towards Outpost Camp, several groups of hikers passed us crossing over into the zone with their permits hanging from their backpacks like little battle flags.  I could not help feeling a bit jealous wishing I were one of them, but also knowing I would not want to attempt hiking Mount Whitney in just one day.  On this trail, my husband and I made a pact that we would start collecting the gear and learning how to backpack.  It’s something we’ve been thinking about for a while now, but seeing this mountain in person for the first time seemed to inspire us to get the ball rolling.  Perhaps someday we too would be one of the many hikers who journey to the top of this peak, but for today we would just take it all in before it was time to head back home leaving the Sierra until next time.

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Onion Valley to Kearsarge Pass, 11 miles RT, Max elevation 11,835', 2,972' +/- August 19, 2018

Onion Valley to Kearsarge Pass, 11 miles RT, Max elevation 11,835', 2,972' +/- August 19, 2018

The trek from Onion Valley to the top of Kearsarge Pass was a spectacular day hike! The Kearsarge Pass Trail heads west from the trailhead at Onion Valley entering the John Muir Wilderness at approximately .7 miles. On this 11 mile round trip journey, we passed through foxtail pine forests, crossed over boulder fields, hiked alongside waterfalls and aquamarine colored lakes filled with golden trout. A final rigorous high altitude ascent up a barren, rocky slope lead us to Kearsarge Pass where the trail crests the Sierra at an altitude of 11,835 breathtaking feet! We were rewarded with the most sublime views I have ever seen; the glaciated Sierra peaks, sparkling turquoise pools of water and views into Kings Canyon National Park. Here are some photos with captions below each to describe our incredible journey.

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Mount Williamson 8,214', 5 miles RT, 1,552 +/-, July 29, 2018

Mount Williamson 8,214', 5 miles RT, 1,552 +/-, July 29, 2018

The best time for hiking during the hot summer months is EARLY! I like to be on the trail either before sunrise or shortly after so I can enjoy my time on the trail before the day heats up. This is also the time of year when I like to stick to the high country or look for higher elevation hikes which are usually a bit cooler than those at the lower altitudes. Mount Williamson was the perfect hike for today; a short 5 miles from the Islip Saddle trailhead with a little bit of an elevation gain and a fun climb. The early morning sunlight was brilliant as we headed up the trail which starts off on the PCT. It wasn’t long before views of Mount Islip opened up to the south on the opposite side of the Angeles Crest Highway. The hike to Mount Williamson is a fun one. We did this last year in September and I really enjoyed it. The climb is mostly steady until you get closer to the top where you leave the PCT and the trail to Mt. Williamson becomes quite steep and rugged. Once at the top we had wonderful 360 degree views. It was only us on the summit so we took our time, had some snacks and after orienting my map, I spread it out and secured it with some rocks so I could use it to identify some of the surrounding features of the area. Many of the surrounding peaks were visible including Mount Lewis, Mount Baden-Powell, Throop Peak, Mount Hawkins and Twin Peaks to name a few. To the north I could see all the way out to the Mojave Desert and to the southwest I had a nice view of Williamson Rock, which was once popular with rock climbers until the area was closed off to protect the mountain yellow-legged frog. It was barley 9 am and already I could feel the sun starting to heat up the day, so we headed back enjoying our time on the trail and the sweet, vanilla fragrance of the Jeffery pines along the way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, April 29, 2018

Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, April 29, 2018

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

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

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

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Burkhart Trail from Devil's Punchbowl, 12 miles RT, 3,038' +/-, April 1, 2018

Burkhart Trail from Devil's Punchbowl, 12 miles RT, 3,038' +/-, April 1, 2018

The Burkhart Trail from Devil’s Punchbowl has been on my bucket list ever since the first time we hiked to Devil’s Chair and the Punchbowl loop.  I wanted to get this one out of my system before the weather got too hot knowing that much of the trail is exposed.  This hike is kind of like two for the price of one.  It has a lot of diversity along the way taking you from the desert floor to the alpine zone.  The first part of this hike drops you down to Cruthers Creek which is lower then the elevation from which you started at the trailhead.  This section is a beautiful trek unto itself, but you have to remember to save some fuel in the tank since you’ll have to hike back up out of the canyon later on.  Next, you cross over Cruthers Creek and from here on out it’s a long, steep haul toward Burkhart Saddle.  Personally, I didn’t find the climb all that difficult.  BUT… what I didn’t expect were the lengthy sections of trail with loose rock on sometimes very narrow and mostly exposed slopes.  This trail has all kinds of terrain to hold your attention from beginning to end.  We encountered soft sand, loose scree, talus, and pine needle covered track.  I really enjoyed hiking through the different plant communities in this unique transition zone.  As we continued onward and upward, there was a nice, cool breeze coming up out of the canyon to keep us comfortable.  The higher we went, the more the temperature cooled and trail seemed to become more and more rocky with very few breaks in between.  At about 6 miles in, just one mile short of the saddle, we hit our turn around time.  We looked over at the saddle which seemed so close, yet so far!  Then we looked at the trail ahead of us...  More rock!  Ugh.  We contemplated making the final push anyway, but we both agreed it would be even more slow going on the way down and decided we should start heading back.  We also still had to make the climb up out of the canyon.  Carefully we negotiated our way down the slope.  My trekking poles came in handy here.  When we arrived back at the creek, I got distracted by all the little Lotus Hairstreak butterflies.  I spent some time chasing them around trying to get a good photo.  (Or maybe I was just procrastinating the climb back up.)  As I tried to focus my camera on the tiny green butterfly who was posing so patiently on a leaf, a hummingbird mistook my bright fuchsia tee shirt for a flower.  He swooped so close I could feel the flutter of his tiny wings.  He swiftly flew away when I looked over my shoulder at him and he realized he was mistaken.  As we began the final climb up out of the canyon a hazy cloud cover kept the sun at bay, and I enjoyed snapping photos of the ever changing scenery on the trek back to the trailhead.  Overall, I really enjoyed this hike and would do it again.  Perhaps next time we’ll start a little earlier now that we know what to expect with the rugged terrain.

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Pacific Crest Trail, 9.7 miles RT, Inspiration Point to Vincent Gap, 1,827' +/-, Christmas Day 2017

Pacific Crest Trail, 9.7 miles RT, Inspiration Point to Vincent Gap, 1,827' +/-, Christmas Day 2017

Our Christmas Day was spent hiking a section of the Pacific Crest Trail from Inspiration Point to Vincent Gap. The air was calm but crisp and scented with my favorite vanilla Jeffery Pines.  The trek along this stretch of the PCT is mostly evenly graded and under the shade of pine trees until you drop down into Vincent Gap where you’ll lose about 1,000’ of elevation in less then a mile.  If you do this trail, just remember to leave some extra gas in the tank for the climb back up later.  Beautiful pine needles cover much of the path along the way and just before Vincent Gap you’ll pass through a flat section where there’s a pine grove.  As the trail begins to descend the scenery then changes into a scene from Snow White’s forest and you’re suddenly in a fairytale forest of oak trees.  We hiked almost 10 miles round trip stopping at Jackson Flat campground to have lunch.  I can’t think of a better way to have spent our Christmas this year then on the trail in these beautiful mountains!

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