Monday, February 7, 2011

Marshall Canyon Hike - February 6, 2011

Marshall Canyon TrailSee Marshal Canyon Trail Hike Description on Dan's Hiking Pages

What a delightful romp around Marshall Canyon Trail on a beautiful Sunday. Many parts of the nation are being hammered with snow, and we’re enjoying lots of sunshine and temps in the 70s.

I first discovered Marshall Canyon last March and enjoyed exploring its web of trails on two consecutive weekends. I got to work writing a hike description for Marshall Canyon but the project got put on the back burner. So now with beautiful weather and green hillsides, I figured it was time to revisit the hike and complete the write-up.

Descending south on Marshall Canyon TrailI leave the house at 7:38 a.m. for the 13-mile drive from Azusa to La Verne. It’s 48 degrees. I arrive at the big parking lot on Stephens Ranch Road. There are eight cars in the lot. It’s now 55 degrees. With map and trail guide in hand, my intent is the walk the route I have written up to check details and accuracy. I start the hike at 8:10 and descend the trail heading south into Marshall Canyon. The sky is blue, the sun is bright, the grass is green, and the aroma of the morning chaparral is pleasant. A haze mutes the distant visibility. Soon I’m covered with a canopy of oaks and serenaded by a sparking stream. The little white flowers of wild cumber are the first blooms en route.

8:32 - Reach the first junction and encounter my first contact with others...several walkers and several bikers. Turn left (east), cross the creek and begin an ascent. In a few minutes I reach the large flat clearing on a low ridge that separates Marshal Canyon and Live Oak Canyon. Walkers and bikers are coming and going. I continue east. A eucalyptus tree buzzes with bees. The trail bends north and parallels the east fence of the equestrian facility. I snap a pic of a purple nightshade, my second flower en route.

8:52 - Arrive at junction where a hard right would take me on a lower trail downstream to the equestrian center on Esperanza Drive and Golden Hills Road. I bear left and continue upstream enjoying a beautiful wooded setting with the pleasant melody of the creek below. Bare sycamores stranding amidst a carpet of brown leaves remind me that it is winter. Bikers whisk by me often.

Sweeping views9:04 - Hit a junction marked by a huge patch of poison oak directly in front of me with a sign describing the toxic plant. Either direction will take me on a large loop, but for this hike, I turn right (east). In couple minutes I cross the creek, veer left and begin a meandering climb up the east side of Live Oak Canyon. The views open up nicely to the valleys beyond. Take pics of pearly everlasting and orange monkey flower. Very few flowers in bloom. After climbing about 400 vertical feet I reach an upper ridge with a sweeping panorama. I turn left (east) and follow the road as it ascends to a high point. A lone bicyclist rests on the summit but soon is joined by a bunch more. The warm sun feels good. Snow-capped Ontario Peak peeks above the hills to the east. Sunset Ridge and the Angeles National Forest loom to the north.

9:52 - Reach a junction with a narrow trail cutting northwest back into the canyon. This is a trial I have not yet hiked, so one of my intents for this hike is to break from the trail description to check it out. The slope blocks the sun. Fern and vivid green moss accent the route. Currant displays its small, white blooms. Two switchbacks aid the descent. Near the bottom, the creek provides a pleasant soundtrack.

Nice spot to rest on Marshall Canyon Trail10:13 - Arrive at the main road. Sitting at the picnic table, I have a bite to eat while studying my map and notes. It’s peaceful here, expect for the frequent bicyclists racing past. I have found that cyclists and equestrians tend to be noisier than hikers. Their loud voices break the tranquility of this beautiful setting. There is a narrow trail heading east up canyon that begins by roughly paralleling the one I just came down. I’ve not yet hike that one either, so my plan is to check it out. Hit the trail at 10:38. It climbs a ridge that separates two creeks. Soon I emerge from the canopy of oak to sun-soaked chaparral. Views to the valleys below open up to the west.

View west into Live Oak Canyon10:56 - Reach the road. Another objective of this hike is to explore the old pack trail that starts from here and climbs 1,300 feet to Sunset Ridge. So up I climb. The route at first is in reasonable condition. Several places are quite steep and slippery. After about 15 minutes of climbing, I decide it’s time to turn around. I don’t know if the route is doable all the way to Sunset Ridge, but it would at least require some earnest bushwhacking and precarious climbing.

11:34 - Back to the road, I continue east on familiar territory, reverse of the hike description. Pass a sign, “You are now entering Claremont Hills Regional Park.” At 11:45 I arrive at the junction of Cobal and Johnson Moterways. I decide to go straight and see what the route holds, at least for a bit. After six minutes the road begins to descend quite steeply, so that’s as far as I go for this trip. Back at the junction I turn left and continue my ascent southwest. Nice views out over the Claremont foothills and beyond.

The lookout12:06 - Arrive at the lookout site, a nice, covered rest area with two benches and sweeping vistas. I relax in the shade, have some lunch, call the wife, and enjoy the pleasant breezes and splendid scenery. Snow-capped San Jacinto and San Gorgonio dominate the distant eastern horizon. Less than three and a half hours to Super Bowl kick off, so I must go. Hit the trail at 12:40 and retrace my steps east and then west. I move at good pace now. Three minutes to the Johnson/Cobal junction and another nine minutes to the junction where I came up. I continue down the road. In two minutes I pass the picnic area. The road contours along the north face of the canyon in full sun.

Equestrians enjoy the trails in Marshall Canyon1:07 - Transition from the road to a narrow trail dropping into the canon to bypass a section of road. Poison oak is abundant. Four horseback riders pass. In seven minutes I reach the road again and in two more minutes reach my earlier junction with the picnic table. I’m really enjoying the beauty of my surroundings. As the canyon narrows I get glimpses of the stream as it gurgles below me. The route contours along in mixed shade and sun as the canyon opens. After a point where the road bends back to the northwest, I take a left at the junction and in a few more minutes I reach another junction about 75 yards short of my 9:04 location. Not wanting to retrace the lower section, I turn right, briefly climb to the entrance of the equestrian facilities, continue straight to the parking lot, and reach my car at 2:00.

Epilog - I really enjoyed this hike with its varied scenery, amazingly beautiful weather, green grass, splendid views, flowing streams, and pleasant breezes. I’m eager to get home to finish publishing the hike description in hopes that others can enjoy the treasures of Marshall Canyon Trail. icon

See Marshal Canyon Trail Hike Description on Dan's Hiking Pages

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