Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Shoemaker Canyon Road Hike - June 27, 2010

and the Tunnels to Nowhere

See Shoemaker Canyon Road Hike Description on Dan’s Hiking Pages

I had an intense 2 weeks at work and was in meetings all day Saturday. I knew I needed to hit the trail on Sunday to unwind. My wife needed the car around 9:30 a.m., so an early morning hike on Shoemaker Canyon Road seemed ideal. I had not hiked that trail in 5 years so was anxious to re-experience it.

I rise at 4:00 a.m. and am on the trail at 5:10 a.m., a half hour before sunrise. I love the crispness of early morning. Spanish broom along the path provides a pleasant aroma. The full moon sits over the ridge top behind me. The deep blue dawn sky evades the heavy marine layer (“June gloom”) I left at home.

5:17 - Jct on left leads to a flat area hosting beehives. The white blossoms of California buckwheat abound. East Fork San Gabriel River provides a nice soundtrack far below. It’s getting lighter out. Camera does not really catch the beauty of pre-sunrise dawn.

5:40 - Stop and take some pictures of swirly metaphoric rock exposed by the road cut. Several sets of shoe prints on the road indicate others have traveled this way recently. Some deer tracks too.

5:46 - Pass the unmarked jct to Rattlesnake Peak. The unobvious route would elude all but those who were looking intently for it. Enter a road cut and get my first view of tunnel one up ahead.

5:53 - Arrive at tunnel one. I linger for a few minutes before starting my passage. The 1000- foot-long tunnel is cool and musky. I contemplate the effort to hew this tunnel out of solid rock. I’m glad when I emerge to the outdoors. I can see tunnel two at a distance ahead. I look down to the river hundreds of feet below but see no sign of human life yet this morning on the popular trail. But it’s only 6:00 a.m.! I contour along the mountainside and pass over a tributary before the trail starts to descend for couple minutes. I round an outward bend and arrive at the second beehive location. I walk up to the wire fence close to the beehives. The silver boxes are stenciled with the words, “Happie Bee Co.” I see very few bees. They must be still sleeping. Looking south I see the sunshine making its first landing on the ridge above Glendora Ridge Road in the distance.

6:22 - Arrive at entrance to tunnel two. It takes a few minutes to walk through it. Upon emerging from the tunnel, the road ends and a narrow path provides the route going forward. I’m wearing long pants so am ready for some mild bushwhacking. In a few minutes I arrive at the “jungle” and the sound of running water. I carefully navigate the poison oak, thorny black berry, poky thistle, and some dicey spots on the path. Emerging from the jungle the route is dominated by California buckwheat, but reasonably passable. I look across the chasm toward tunnel two. Traversing the south-facing slope, I now have a view south into the heart of East Fork. Still see no humans below. I contour north.

6:51 - Arrive at the end of the reasonable path at a dry gully. I decide to forge ahead along the mountainside. The route now is very crude, suitable for animals but questionable for people. All fours and fives are necessary at times. Poked by yucca several times.

6:58 - This is as far as I go, stopped on the side of the rugged mountain. The path only gets worse and promises no worthwhile destination. I linger here for a few minutes. It’s peaceful. The sun is now shinning on the east-facing slopes.

7:11 - I turn and head back. Loose the route in several spots. Thick brush. Perilous footing in places. Dirt in my shoes. Poked by more by yucca.

7:29 - Step into full sun. Now on a reasonable path. Some awesome yucca blooms.

7:42 - Take picture of tunnel two across the chasm, now in full sun. Anxious to empty my shoes and pick the burrs out of my socks.

7: 46 - Back at the jungle and 3 minutes later arrive at tunnel two. Take 4 minutes to walk through tunnel. Road now sunny. Sit on a rock and service my feet. Pull hat and sunglasses from pack and get out a snack. Approaching 8:00, so I am mindful that I need a pace of about 2 MPH to get me back to the trailhead by 9:00.

8:04 - Beehives. Walk up close. Bees are buzzing with activity now.

8:12 - Reach tunnel one. Stop inside to photograph the “Love” mosaic. Takes 6 minutes to walk through. Enjoying the full sun now. Temps are still pleasant.

8:45 - Rattlesnake Peak jct. I check my hike log and see that it took me 36 minutes to get here at the start of the hike, so I need to press the pace. The chaparral on the north facing slopes is thick and green. Views across the canyon toward Heaton Flat open up. I see Heaton Flat Trail ascending east. It’s been 3 years since I hiked it.

8:59 - Bee jct. The bees are really going after the plentiful California buckwheat. Across the canyon I notice the Heaton Flat parking lot is completely full and a sizable group has gathered—maybe bungee jumpers.

9:10 - Finish hike, exactly 4 hours from when I started. I covered only 6 miles, but the bushwhacking section beyond tunnel two took a disproportionate amount of time, but it was worth it. A thoroughly enjoyable outing! icon

Monday, June 28, 2010

Beginning Dan's Hiking Blog

Dan at Sturdevnat Falls
The first week of summer—a fitting time to begin my hiking blog. The goal is to tie it into Dan's Hiking Pages as a more dynamic way to share reports on my outings and other miscellaneous reflections on the subject.

I have write-ups for nearly 60 trails on my hiking website. Sometimes I post hike reports with them. But a blog would provide a venue to publish hike reports more easily and create the opportunity for reader interaction. I’ve been considering a blog for some time. My hike to Monrovia Canyon Falls on February 7 prompted me to consider it more earnestly. My hike yesterday morning on Shoemaker Canyon Road was the catalyst to get this blog started. I’ve been posting blog-like pieces on my Facebook, but now it is time to open it up to an unlimited audience.

I don’t know how much readership this blog will get. But I’ve practiced journaling for many years to an audience of one. So if I’m the only one to read this, that’s fine with me.

If there is anyone out there reading this, enjoy Dan’s Hiking Blog. I will. icon