Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ontario Peak Hike - August 21-22, 2010

Looking southwest from Ontario Peak See Ontario Peak Hike Description at Dan's Hiking Pages

What a superb experience spending the night on the 8693-foot summit of Ontario Peak, enjoying a beautiful sunset and sunrise, an amazing panorama of human sprawl and spectacular high country, great weather, solitude, and good company.

Ontario Peak had been on my hit list for a number of years and so finally it was time to climb it. At 12.2 miles round trip with 3,800 feet in elevation gain, I knew I wanted to hike it as an overnighter so that I can take my time and enjoy this wonderful high country.

Early Saturday morning, my friend, Mark, and I head east on the 210 freeway then north up Mt. Baldy Road to the Visitor Center to pick up our wilderness pass that is pinned to the board. Then on up to the Icehouse Canyon parking lot and are happy that there are still parking places available at this immensely popular trial.

Cabin in lower Icehouse Canyon7:10 AM - Begin our trek up Icehouse Canyon Trail. The weather is pleasantly cool. Our pace is casual as we enjoy the beauty of the tree-covered, flowing stream. Lot of other hikers on the trail. Enjoy taking pictures of some of the rustic cabins en route. At one mile we pass the junction to Chapman Trail, where I hiked a month ago.

8:25 - Cucamonga Wilderness boundary, at 1.8 miles. Now on the south side of the creek. The landscape is breathtaking! At Telegraph Wash we cross back over to the north bank and begin the steep ascent along the slope taking us high above the canyon bottom.

Upper Icehouse Canyon9:11 - Columbine Spring. Love the refreshing water! I fill up a one-liter bottle. We meet up with Don and Kathy, friends of Mark who he arranged to meet us. Continue up the steep trail with an eye to the massive slopes south across the canyon with the anticipation we will be up there in a while. Our pace is relaxed.

10:03 - Chapman Trail junction. Only 0.6 mile more to the saddle. Superb scenery. Don shares his story of being rescued by helicopters out of Laurel Gulch. The terrain is less steep now with blankets of thick manzanita.

View from Ontario Peak Trail10:33 - Icehouse Saddle. Lots of people. We sit on the large log and chat and enjoy the cool breeze. People coming and going. Don and Kathy say goodbye and head down the trail. Mark and I leave the saddle at 12:03 and head southwest on Ontario Peak Trail. The sign indicates 1 mile to Kelly’s camp and 2.8 miles to Ontario Peak. I’m excited because after the first quarter mile, I’ll be on a trail I’ve not yet hiked. The scenery continues to be breathtaking as we traverse the north slope of Bighorn Peak. The temperature is still nice and rate of climb is very gentle. Great views across to Timber Mountain, Telegraph Peak, and good ol’ Mt. Baldy in all its glory.

1:10 - Kelly’s Camp. Finally get to experience the place I’ve read about. I pull out some old photos of Kelly’s Kamp (as it reads on the un-dated post card) and attempt to match the location of the foundations to the cabins pictured. We eat lunch and talk with others arriving at the site.

Kelly's Camp2:00 - Leave Kelly’s Camp. The trail conveniently goes up the steps of a cabin foundation and climbs south zigzagging through the trees. In a few minutes we transition from a shady forest to an open bowl which had been incinerated by fire years ago leaving a toothpick forest. The ridge is in sight. The trail is a little brushy here.

2:29 - Ontario Ridge. Wow! Great view south to the suburban sprawl! The trail on the left heads east to Bighorn Peak, 0.7 mile away. We linger here for about ten minutes then proceed west. The trails contours around the north flank of a large bulge on the ridge. As we round the hip, more of the ridge comes into view with a prominent outcropping just up ahead.

Ontario Peak Trail3:28 - The trail arrives at the ridge again with more views south. The route continues below the ridge on the north. As we round another hip, Ontario Peak comes strikingly into view, although we are not certain it is indeed the peak since there are several “false” summits en route. The “toothpick” forest is a stark reminder of the destructive fire. In a few more minutes we intersect the ridge again with more great views south. The fractured, rugged terrain of the steep southern walls is amazing. The trail continues west, now more closely following the ridge. We reach foot of the final pitch to Ontario Peak. The trail climbs steeply a zigzagging route and in a few minutes begins to level out as the rocky outcropping of the peak looms 150 yards ahead. We note a large flat area here that would be suitable for camping.

View south from Ontario Peak4:35 - Ontario Peak (8693’). Wow, what a great summit! I climb around the rocks to experience the views from all directions. Mark has cell reception and calls home. The late afternoon haze and low sun gives the layered, silhouetted ridges to the west a blue tint. This peak has to rival any peak in the San Gabriels for numbers of peaks in view; I identify 35.

Sunset from Ontario PeakMark and I sit on the summit for a long time and just talk while soaking in the views. We set up camp in the flat area about a 125 yards east of the summit—ideal location. Eat dinner (all cold—no stoves on this trip). Walk back over to the summit outcropping to watch a beautiful sunset and the twinkling lights of sprawling humanity. We both agree that the overwhelming majority of those who summit Ontario Peak don’t experience this twilight picture or the dawn picture that we will enjoy after a night’s sleep.

Dawn on Ontario PeakWe retire around 9:00. I love sleeping under the stars (and satellites). At about 1:30 a.m. I get up and walked around. There is an amazing beauty of nighttime on a high mountain peak. The temps are cool but not bad. Breezy all night. A nearly full moon provides lots of light.

5:45 AM Sunday - Snap a picture of a superb dawn then snooze until I snap a pic of sunrise at 6:22. Get up, eat, and pack up. Mark and I have “church” on the summit rocks in one of the most beautiful sanctuaries in which I have ever worshipped. Enjoyed the panoramas in a different light.

Rattlesnake on Ontario Peak Trail8:30 - Left Ontario Peak. Enjoying the coolness of morning and beautiful views. In about half hour I stop to look at a snake track crossing the trail. When Mark stops to look at it with me we are startled by the sound of a rattle! There off the trail about eight feet away a large rattlesnake coiled himself and rattled his tail vigorously. It was quite a treat for us!

9:00 - Reach a shallow saddle and notice signs of bighorn sheep—lots of tracks, scat, and bedding recesses. We decide to go off trial and follow the ridge. Lots more signs of the bighorns. I’m really hoping to see one of these amazing animals. Enjoy exploring. Finally get to a section where a large outcropping prevents us from safely proceeding. A lone hiker with his metal poles clanking passes below us on the trail. We drop down to the trail and soon round the hip and zigzag down a series of switchbacks. Three men are climbing up.

Bighorn Peak Junction10:06 - Saddle junction to Bighorn Peak. Meet a group of seven hikers coming up. Their group is called SOA. Enjoy chatting. They proceed west to the peak; we head down at 10:32.

10:46 - Kelly’s Camp. Look for the spring and find it about 150 yards west. There is only an occasional drip coming from the pipe but there is water in the little basin, which could be filtered if one needs to refill. More hikers on their way to Ontario Peak. Leave at 11:06. I love the scenery of this high country.

Icehouse Saddle11:37 - Icehouse Saddle. I count 16 people here. Hikers coming and going. Strong breeze. See several deer including two or three fawn. A man shows us a pic of a bighorn sheep he saw this morning en route to Cucamonga Peak. Leave saddle at 11:53 for our final 3.6 miles. Two females come up the trail with their black Labradors not on leashes. I remind them of the regulation. Trail gets steeper. My pace is slower than Mark’s, trying to take it easy on my feet and knees, and to enjoy the scenery. Lots of people on the trail.

12:12 - Chapman Trail junction. Getting warmer. Those coming up the trail are really sweating. Sunshine good for picture taking.

Columbine Spring12:36 - Columbine Spring. Fill up my one-liter bottle. The water is so cool and refreshing. There are always people here every time I’ve been here. Linger for awhile. Trail gets rougher as it crosses the canyon bottom at Telegraph Wash and heads down the south bank. The rocky trail surface make descending tedious.

1:16 - Wilderness boundary. Seems there is always people here too. Yup the sign is still there: “PLEASE KEEP PETS ON LEASH.” Soon we cross the creek to the north side. Some shade feels good. Getting hot now. Big crowd of people at one of the shady pools. Stop when a couple points out a rattlesnake in the brush. Our second rattler of the day—cool!

Icehouse Canyon Trail1:40 - Chapman Trail junction. Only one more mile. I’m ready to be done. More shade in this section now. My camera’s 4G disk reaches its max. I delete a few low-priority photos to free up some space for the end of the hike. Encounter the women with their dogs again, still off leashes. I address them but they remain defiant. The “conversation” invigorates me and my pace picks up.

2:24 - End of hike. What a splendid outing!! I report the dog ladies to the volunteer Forest Service worker. The women emerge with their dogs on leashes—imagine that! The forest worker speaks with them but they merely dodge any responsibility for their actions and remain defiant.

Epilog - Well, I didn’t see any bighorn sheep, but some deer and two rattlesnakes were a treat. This hike ranks among the finest ones I’ve done in the San Gabriels. It certainly is comparable to other grand summits such as Baldy, Baden-Powell, Telegraph, and Cucamonga. But spending the night on the summit of Ontario Peak pushes it over the top as a truly special experience. icon

Blogspot See my blog post: Bighorn Peak Hike - August 28, 2011

boot icon See Ontario Peak Hike Description at Dan's Hiking Pages

boot icon See Icehouse Canyon Hike Description at Dan's Hiking Pages

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Griffith Park Six Peaks Hike - August 5, 2010

Bee ♦ Chapel ♦ Bell ♦ Hollywood ♦ Glendale ♦ Beacon

View south from Mt. Hollywood toward Griffith ObservatoryGriffith Icon2010 has become the year of hiking Griffith Park for me. In April I began to seriously attack the trails and peaks of our beloved park, and by July, I had felt very satisfied with having completed all the main trail systems in the park. I began to ponder hikes that would hit multiple peaks in a single outing.

On Thursday, August 5, I had my monthly early morning meeting at work in L.A., so that gave me the chance for a late afternoon hike in Griffith Park. And with the long daylight days of summer and the unseasonably moderate temperatures, I can hit the trail hard. My mind easily crafted the hike to do—A big loop hitting all 6 named summits in the central core of the park: Bee Rock, Mt. Chapel, Mt. Bell, Mt. Hollywood, Glendale Peak, and Beacon Hill. And just to sweeten the pot, I'd also hit the prominent summits that don't have names but should: "Baby Bell" (aka Taco Peak) and "Hogback Peak." Sounds like a winner!

View east from Bee Rock3:40 p.m. - Begin at Old Zoo parking lot, head west, and soon I'm on Bee Rock Trail. The starting temp is only 81 degrees, so I move at a good pace.

4:04 - Bee Rock (1056'). It's warmer than the last time I was here in April, but the strong breeze cools me down. I spend only 4 minutes here and head west on Vista Del Valle Drive and arrive at Mt. Hollywood Drive at 4:33. Veer left and in 50 yards reach the trail junction for Mt. Chapel. I hiked to Mt. Chapel in July 2009, but I summited it from the west. My choice now is climb the east route or climb the north route via the water tank. I choose the latter and it turns out to be a good choice.

View east from Mt. Chapel toward Mt. Bell, Baby Bell, and Mt. Hollywood4:52 - Mt. Chapel (1614'). Nice vistas but the residual haze from this morning's "June gloom" obscures the panorama beyond the surrounding hills. I'm intrigued by "Simpson" rock. Simpson Rock on Mount Chapel, Griffith Park Stay briefly and choose the east route to descend. Bad choice! It's steep and precarious with loose footing requiring all fours and my butt in several places. Really slow going. After a tedious descent I arrive back at Mt. Hollywood Drive at 5:15. Veer right and then an immediate left to climb the dirt road east toward Mt. Bell. I arrive at the saddle between Bell and the small rise to its west. I decide for a quick side jaunt to hit that rise, just to be comprehensive. It cost me only 5 minutes and now I begin climbing the use path on the west ridge of Bell. I navigate the web of paths better than the last time I attempted it a month ago.

View southeast from Mt. Bell toward Baby Bell and Mt. Hollywood5:34 - Mt. Bell (1582')—forth time this year. It's breezy and cool. Have quick snack and begin descending the path east at 5:40. It takes 6 minutes to reach the saddle. I continue east to climb the west ridge of what I call "Baby Bell."

5:50 - "Baby Bell" (1560'+) (aka Taco Peak...the unnamed summit east of Mt. Bell). Can see all the summits of my trip except for Glendale Peak. Got to keep going, so 3 minutes is all this peak gets. Descend south and veer left to catch the trail coming around the peak. Meet Joey and give directions. Couple more minutes and I'm at the main trail coming up from Vista Del Valle Drive. Continue south along the ridge divide toward Mt. Hollywood with views east and west. Chat with gal who I gave directions to at the water tank on Mt. Chapel. I arrive at the major junction on the backside of Mt. Hollywood at 6:08 and keep pressing on.

View north from Mt. Hollywood toward Mt. Chapel, Mt. Bell, and Baby Bell6:13 - Mt. Hollywood (1625'), peak 5 of 8 for the day. Lots of people as usual. So much to photograph. Hard not to linger, but keep the visit to 9 minutes. Retrace my steps to the junction. I turn right and descend the 3 minutes to Dante's View. Drink from the fountain, not because I don't have plenty of water in my CamelBak, but because it's there. Sun getting low in the sky. Start my descent on Hogback ridge. Climb the west ridge of the prominent unnamed summit.

View east from 'Hogback Peak'6:40 - "Hogback Peak" (1480'+). This substantial summit certainly is worthy of name. I don't like rushing through a hike, but I've covered all this territory before on one hike or another, so I don't feel too badly about moving quickly. Continue down Hogback. Confront two different dog owners for not using leashes. Really bugs me that these people think they are an exception to the law (LAMC.63.44-B.2.C). Cross the bridge and arrive at Henry's Trail at 6:58. Confront another inconsiderate dog owner. Ascend Henry's Trail.

From from Hogback Trail toward Glendale Peak7:03 - Glendale Peak (1184'). This is so fun, hitting peak after peak racing against the setting sun. On my last visit here I noticed the path that descends east toward Vista Del Valle Drive. Looks like a great shortcut. I decide to take it. Snap picture of a yucca bloom and realize that this is the first plant I've photographed the entire hike! In 4 minutes I reach Vista Del Valle, almost. The path dead-ends at a shear rock face created by the road cut—a drop-off of about 15 feet! Oh no!! There is no way I can safely scale down without a rope, so I disappointedly turn around and climb back to Glendale Peak (Do I get credit for hitting it twice?!). That "shortcut" costs me only 11 minutes, but it seems a lot longer with tired feet and waning daylight. The sun is dipping behind Mt. Hollywood. Leave Glendale Peak a second time at 7:19 heading northwest back along Henry's Trail, turn left at the bridge, and reach Vista Del Valle Drive at 7:31. I snap pics of the rocky face and ponder my ill-fated shortcut attempt.

As I walk east on the eucalyptus-lined paved road, my pace is relaxed. My camera battery expires as I reach Joe Klass Water Spot. Sit at a picnic table and change my battery. Large group of Sierra Club hikers there. Continue northeast on dirt road and arrive at Five-Points junction at 7:50 and encounter another large group of hikers. Onward east to my last peak.

Beacon Hill7:56 - Beacon Hill (1001'), my eighth and final peak! The beauty of twilight and the twinkling lights of urban sprawl eludes adequate capture by my camera. Two other hikers arrive immediately after me, spoiling the hope of a few moments of solitude. Then a horde of Sierra Club hikers invades the summit. To turn a John Muir quote, "The mountains are calling and I must go."—I say, "Sierra Clubbers are swarming and I must go." Leave the summit at 8:10.

Twilight on Beacon HillI walk down Fern Canyon Trail in the dark. The ambient light from the city is sufficient for my steps. The cool air feels more like spring than summer. I savor the special atmosphere of nighttime in the park and the pleasure of such a rewarding hike. I reach Fern Canyon Trail trailhead at 8:40. Walk north past the large parking lots, cut through Old Zoo Picnic Area, and arrive at the car at 8:50.

Epilog - I'm so used to taking the time to soak in the beauty of my surroundings; this blitz-pace hike was atypical for me. But what a thoroughly fun and adventuresome outing! Great weather, lots of variety, good exercise, and the crafting of what I'll call my signature hike for Griffith Park. icon

Griffith Icon  See Hiking Griffith Park at Dan's Hiking Pages
 (includes links to my other blog posts for hiking in Griffith Park, and links to detailed trail guides for the various components of this six peaks hike)

NEXT > Mt. Hollywood and Mt. Bell - October 10, 2010 (via observatory)
PREVIOUS > Mt. Bell via North Trail - July 8, 2010 (and Amir's Garden)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Garcia Trail Hike - August 1, 2010

Azusa PeakSee Garcia Trail Hike Description on Dan’s Hiking Pages

My beloved Garcia Trail—five minutes from my house and my de facto scrappy hike. When we moved to Azusa in 1990, hiking trails were not high on our list of features in buying a house. But this great little trail has become a beloved friend.

After last weekend’s overnighter, I didn’t feel like doing much in hiking this weekend, but I knew I needed to do something to keep me in condition. So Garcia it is. And with the unseasonably moderate temperatures, I won’t have to hit the trail at the crack of dawn.

I sleep in, get my stuff together, and am on the trail by 7:50 a.m.—quite late by my usual summer standards. The temperatures are very pleasant. This popular trail is only 1.2 miles to the ridge, but it’s quite steep, climbing 886 feet per mile. I set off at a serious pace and soon am sweating and huffing. A group of six young adults are not far behind me. Not much in bloom. The sun is shining here but a thick marine layer dominates the horizon to the south. Wispy white clouds above accent the blue sky. The new Target store being built near our house looks massive. I slow my pace a little in the top third. I let the young adults pass me.

Garcia Trail 8:27 - Arrive at the ridge, the upper end of Garcia Trail where it intersects Glendora Ridge Motorway. Striking views into San Gabriel Canyon and the high country beyond. I linger only briefly, then climb the steep path east to Azusa Peak. The young adults are coming down.

8:35 - Azusa Peak (2081’). Been here many times. Lots of memories. The large wooden cross erected in February 2007 has become an icon on this summit, filled with signatures, sayings, scriptures, and assorted comments. Since I was here last in February, someone attached a mailbox to the cross containing a summit log book. And someone completed painting the cross white. Browsed through some of the entries. In my hikes to here, often this is the final destination, making a three-mile round trip hike. But today I’ll proceed east on the fire road to get some more distance on my legs and feet.

8:50 - Leave summit heading east. Temps still pleasant with refreshing breezes. A 180-degree panorama of the San Gabriels spreads out before me to the north. I pick out more than a dozen peaks that I’ve climbed and a few more that are still on my hit list. It’s really quite peaceful up here. Dirt roads are not my first choice for hiking, but I’ve always loved the expansive scenery here in my back yard. I look back west toward Fish Ridge and Van Tassel Ridge and ponder the current fight over mining them and wonder what their future holds. The road climbs steeply. The surrounding dry grass is a huge contrast from the greenness of February, but the landscape is still beautiful. I traverse the north face of Glendora Peak and bend around to the east side of the summit to meet the use path heading up the gentle slope. Foot traffic has worn a path through the dead grass. A short scamper takes me to the summit.

View from Glendora Peak 9:35 - Glendora Peak (2596’). The survey marker is dated 1937. The large rounded summit offers nice views. Sometimes this has been my destination, making a respectable five-mile round trip hike. But today I stay only five minutes because I want to get some more mileage in. Leave the summit and continue east on the road, descending a little before climbing to the next high point.

9:54 - Jct. at water tank 8. This was going to be my destination, but I decide to wander down the road just a bit more to see if there’s a better vantage point. I veer right and make a short ascent to a buckwheat-covered high spot with reaching views. I really love these mountains. I gaze east toward Little Dalton Canyon looking for any signs of the fire that started there yesterday, but see nothing. Linger a bit and study the map. Head back to the water tank junction and take the firebreak out along the ridge rutting north. It had been freshly graded. Amazing views. Sit on the water collection slab and tend my feet. Still pleasant temps. Have a snack. Back at the junction I ascend another small hill on the south side of the road for some more vistas.

View North from Glendora Ridge10:50 - Leave junction at water tank 8 and head back. See a coyote with fresh prey it its mouth. Jogger passes—first person I’ve encountered since Azusa Peak. Stop occasionally to photograph plants: poison oak, yucca, everlasting, lupine, telegraph weed. As I near Azusa Peak, a couple hikers approach. We chat.

11:39 - Ridge junction beginning my descent on Garcia Trail. Hiking a fire road isn’t too bad when the hike begins and ends on a single track trail. Temps are still ok but starting to get a tad warm. The breeze is not as pronounced as it was on the ridge. I enjoy solitude virtually the whole route down. Encounter two hikers near the end.

12:17 - Finished. The car thermometer reads 80 degrees—not bad for a mid-summer day. I covered somewhere around 6.5 miles with about 1,900 feet in elevation gain. A rewarding outing, and only five minutes from home! Can’t beat that! icon

See Garcia Trail Hike Description on Dan’s Hiking Pages