Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Beginning Summer on Garcia Trail - June 21, 2011

Azusa PeakSee Garcia Trail Description on Dan's Hiking Pages

It’s summertime! Summer 2011 official began in Southern California at 5:20 p.m., June 21. It was a pressing two days for me at work, so I decided it would be great to begin summer with a hike. I got home from work at about 6:30 and by 7:00 I was on my bike heading for nearby Garcia Trail...my default scrappy hike.

Looking south from Garcia Trail7:22 - Begin hike. The weather is warm and the sun low in the sky. With the sun setting at 8:05, I’m hoping to get a good sunset picture. But I see the sun will be setting behind the mountains stretching to the west and be out of sight long before 8:05, so I’ll have to get the shot from the trail. There is a real beauty this time of day. I’m not paying much attention to plants but some of the blooms include buckwheat, golden yarrow, scarlet penstemon, cliff aster, sunflower, mustard, everlasting, yucca, deerweed, Douglas nightshade, clarkia, fountain grass, tree tobacco, elderberry, and lupine (one occurrence on the summit).

There are lots people on the trail; the majority are young adults. My pace is brisk and I’m working up a nice sweat. The June gloom of this morning has left moisture in the atmosphere creating a distant haze. I am perturbed about the amount of litter along the trail...what is wrong with these people?!

7:29 - Arrive into direct sun at the ridge divide past the concrete wall. The sun is starting to dip behind the mountain so I figure this will be my sunset shot. Take a few pics and continue. Various ones stop to look at a tarantula crossing the trail. The beauty of dusk compels me to continue capturing the azure sky. The trail maintenance efforts of the crew from county fire camp 16 on May 9 has made considerable improvement on the trail.

View east from Azusa Peak8:05 - Arrive at Azusa Peak, exactly at sunset, but the sun has long dipped behind the mountains. The Christian flag atop of the large white cross flutters in the breeze. Others arrive at the summit. A new peak register box has been attached to the base of the cross. Looks like it is custom made and quite durable. The human sprawl rests in twilight below. I don’t linger long, wanting to be off the trail before it’s too dark. Leave summit at 8:12. Others are still coming up the trail.

I enjoy the beauty of dusk and am still drawn to photograph the sky. A blanket of city lights begins to twinkle, but I know my efforts to photograph the panorama will be blurry without taking time to secure the camera. The cool evening air feels good. Crickets chirping. My steps are more guarded as the light dims.

8:48 - Finish hike. It’s dark now and starting to cool. I’m glad my bike is still locked up to the picnic table. I enjoy the bike ride home, which is mostly downhill! icon

See Garcia Trail Description on Dan's Hiking Pages

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Tips for Hiking with Children

Eaton Canyon Falls I often receive emails asking questions about hiking. Occasionally I am asked questions about hiking with children. I received one such inquiry this week, and as I reflect on Father’s Day, I thought it would be timely to share my response with a wider audience.

The question was from a father who had just purchased an annual Adventure Pass to take his two boys (ages 5 and 3) for leisurely, scenic, mild strolls and would greatly appreciate any advice I may have about children-friendly trails. Here was my response, with a few enhancements:

Hi James,

Great question! Thanks for asking. I commend you for wanting to get your boys into the outdoors. That’s a great place to create wonderful experiences.

One of the key issues with children is attention span. A child generally has an attention span of one minute for every year of age. For example, your five-year old can be engaged in an activity for about five minutes before he is ready to move on.

Monrovia CanyonSo even if the outing lasts an hour, you’ll find you can keep the boys engaged by breaking it up into smaller pieces. Walk a few minutes, watch a butterfly, examine a plant, walk some more, talk about lizards, walk, sing a song (not too loudly), tell a story, look at tadpoles, walk, count the rings of a tree stump, etc. My wife, who was a preschool teacher for years, always says, “Keep them wanting, not waiting.” In other words, conclude the outing before they are done so they will want to come back for more. If they are done before the outing is, they may not want to come back.

Now for some specific outings. Generally kids are more inclined to enjoy creek-side strolls rather than climbs to mountain peaks. Some good places in the front range of our San Gabriels include:
  • Monrovia Canyon (pretty waterfall and nature trail)
  • Bailey Canyon (nature trail)
  • Eaton Canyon (wonderful nature center and trails)
  • Fish Canyon (showy falls, great trail)
  • Chantry Flat (keep in mind the uphill climb out)
  • West Fork San Gabriel River (good fishing, splendid scenery)
  • Santa Fe Dam Recreational Area (nice park, lake, nature trail)

See Dan's Hiking Pages for descriptions of these hikes.

Even trails like Icehouse Canyon, which is a trail serious hikers use in trekking deep into the wilderness, can be great for kids if you just wander up the trial for a mile or so. There are lots of spots along the creek for exploring. Up toward Mt. Baldy, San Antonio Falls would be doable and offer a big waterfall experience. Always be vigilant for safety around water, especially swift moving rivers and streams.

Poison oak
Another thing to keep in mind is that there is a lot of poison oak in the foothill canyons, so learn to recognize it and be alert in keeping your kids out of it. I taught my kids to avoid petting dogs on the trail because a dog can easily get the poison oil on its fur and it can transfer to a hand, then to the face...then the kids are horribly miserable for couple weeks.

It’s not permitted to pick flowers or collect natural material from the National Forest or from most parks and recreational areas, so teach your kids to look and enjoy, and take only pictures. And of course, we always want to pack out our own litter, even fruit peals.

Bailey CanyonMake sure your kids are wearing appropriate shoes and clothing for the outing and think in layers to be ready for changing temperatures. Carry plenty of healthy snacks and water with you and always have a first aid kit for any cuts or scrapes that might occur. And wet wipes are always handy to have along. Mosquitoes and other bugs love streamside settings, so carry some repellant in your bag. And don’t forget the sun screen.

Helping your children gain a love and appreciation for nature is a wonderful gift that will last a lifetime. And you’ll have some great times along the way!

Happy hiking!

Do you have other tips for hiking with Children? Feel free to share your comments below. icon

Visit Dan's Hiking Pages

Other Pages on Dan’s Hiking Pages:
Plants Plants and Wildflowers in the San Gabriel Mountains
Animals icon Animals of the San Gabriels
Waterfalls icon Waterfalls of the San Gabriels

Sunday, June 12, 2011

El Encanto Trail Hike - June 12, 2011

Old San Gabriel Canyon Road

El Encanto Azusa River Wilderness Park, San Gabriel Canyon As the weekend approached I knew I would not be able to go hiking since I had a plate full of household tasks. But as Sunday afternoon wore on, I had a window for a walk, so I headed over to El Encanto Trail (AKA Old San Gabriel Canyon Road) at Azusa River Wilderness Park. This is the site of the former El Encanto Restaurant and now operated as a park by San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy (RMC). Actually it’s still not much more than a large parking lot overlooking the river, but they have big plans for the site.

San Gabriel River, as seen from Old San Gabriel Canyon RoadEl Encanto is only minutes from my house and sits just inside the mouth of the San Gabriel River. I’ve driven past it numerous times over the years, as has anyone who has driven up Hwy 39 into the mountains, but I’ve only hiked the trail once.

The trail is an old service road (Old San Gabriel Canyon Road) that begins at the south end of the parking lot and follows the canyon wall high above the winding river and ends a mile later just past an old gauging station. I figured it would be a good chance to see what plants might lend themselves to be photographed.

4:13 p.m. - Begin walk. The sun feels good after an overcast and cool weekend. The plants in bloom are typical of what I’ve been seeing in recent weeks...California buckwheat, golden yarrow, sunflower, mustard, bush monkeyflower, scarlet larkspur, Botta’s clarkia (farewell to spring), white sage, yucca, tree tobacco, morning glory, everlasting, thistle, etc. But then I saw a dudleya that I’ve only read about. I know it may sound silly to get excited over a plant, but I found myself delighted by this serendipitous discovery. Below is my “rare” find along with some other plants I captured on the walk.

Globe gilia, Gilia capitata, San Gabriel Canyon
Globe gilia (Gilia capitata) / Phlox family (Polemoniaceae)
Native / Annual herb / Blooms April to July

Mediterranean mustard or shortpod mustard (Hirschfeldia incana) / Mustard family (Brassicaceae)
Non-native / Biennial or perennial herb / Blooms April to October

San Gabriel Mountains dudleya, Dudleya densiflora, San Gabriel Canyon
San Gabriel Mountains dudleya (Dudleya densiflora) / Stonecrop family (Crassulaceae)
Native / Perennial herb / Blooms June to July
According to the interpretive sign in Fish Canyon, Dudleya deniflora was first verified in 1919 in Fish Canyon. This is a rare species that apparently only grows in three places in the front range canyons of the San Gabriels. It generally is found in steep, rocky, granitic cliff and canyon walls from 800-2000 feet in elevation.

San Gabriel Mountains dudleya, Dudleya densiflora, San Gabriel Canyon
San Gabriel Mountains dudleya (Dudleya densiflora) / Stonecrop family (Crassulaceae)
According to Cliff and Gabi McLean, there are five species of Dudleya in the San Gabriel foothills and canyons. Canyon dudleya (Dudleya cymosa) and lanceleaf dudleya (Dudleya lanceolata) are the most common. Dudleya densiflora is rare.

Red valerian
Red valerian (Centranthus rubber) / Valerian family (Valerianaceae)
Non-native / Perennial herb or subshrub / Blooms April to August
This popular garden plant is grown for its ornamental flowers. It escaped and ended up here. There is quite a bit of it in this section of trail.

Poison oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum, San Gabriel Canyon
Poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum) / Sumac family (Anacardiaceae)
Native / Perennial shrub or vine / Blooms February to May (small whitish flowers)
The leaves usually turn colorful in autumn and fall off for a leafless winter, but sometimes some of the leaves get confused with what season it is, seen here 9 days before summer begins. Contact with the plant causes rash or worse for most people, usually starting one to three days after contact. See my Poison oak page for detailed plant description and photos.

Castor bean, Ricinus communis, San Gabriel Canyon
Castor bean (Ricinus communis) / Spurg family (Euphorbiaceane)
Non-native (invasive) / Shrub / Blooms most of year
Note that it has both red (female) and white (male) flowers. Neither have petals, only sepals.

Castor bean, Ricinus communis, San Gabriel Canyon
Castor bean (Ricinus communis) / Spurg family (Euphorbiaceane)
Non-native (invasive) / Shrub / Blooms most of year
A closer look at the white (male) flowers. The seeds are extremely poisonous.

Dodder, Cuscuta spp., San Gabriel Canyon
Dodder (Cuscuta spp.) / Dodder family (Cuscutaceae)
Native / annual herb or vine / Blooms May to November
It is widespread in the San Gabriels and beyond. Dodder is a leafless parasite that takes its food supply from a host plant.

Blue elderberry, Sambucus Mexicana, San Gabriel Canyon
Blue elderberry or Mexican elderberry (Sambucus mexicana) / Honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae)
Native / Deciduous tree or shrub. Blooms March to September

Blue elderberry, Sambucus Mexicana, San Gabriel Canyon
Blue elderberry or Mexican elderberry (Sambucus mexicana) / Honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae)
Native / Deciduous tree or shrub. Blooms March to September
Ripe elderberry fruit is used to make pies, jellies, and wine. The green fruit is poisonous.

Wishbone bush, Mirabilis californica, San Gabriel Canyon
Wishbone bush (Mirabilis californica) / Four O’clock family (Nyctaginaceae)
Native / Perennial herb / Blooms March to July

Old San Gabriel Canyon Road, Azusa River Wilderness Park5:24 - While shooting the wishbone bush my battery dies. I reach into my pocket to get the backup battery and it’s not there. I thought for sure I put it there. So I sauntered along cameraless just enjoying the setting. After passing the gauging station I went another 150 yards to where the trial disappears into a jumble of boulders. At 5:42 I turn around and enjoy a brisk walk back.

6:01 - Finish hike. What a nice outing to cap the weekend. Not much distance (about 2 miles r.t.) but taking the time to focus on plants is satisfying. I am always thankful that we live so close to such wonderful natural resources. icon

Plants See Plants and Wildflowers in the San Gabriel Mountains at Dan's Hiking Pages

NEXT BLOG POST > El Encanto Trail Hike - March 7, 2015

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