Saturday, March 22, 2014

Fish Canyon Falls Farewell Tour - March 22, 2014

Dan Simpson at Fish Canyon Falls, March 22, 2014
See Fish Canyon Falls Hike Description at Dan's Hiking Pages

It’s spring and that means Fish Canyon Falls! Since April 2005, when Vulcan Materials began providing free access days to Fish Canyon, hiking to this splendid waterfall has been my springtime ritual. Every year I have relished the shared experience of hiking to the falls with hundreds of others. All of that is changing now as Vulcan has suspended the access days for this year as it is nearly done with the new access trail heading through quarry, which is required to be completed by August.

With virtually no rainfall this year aside from a good storm three weeks ago, I suspect that the flowing water, flowers, and green vegetation of springtime will be short lived. The new access trail will be good and bad. The good is that anyone will be able to hike to Fish Canyon Falls 365 days a year. The bad is that with ease of access, all the reprobates who have horribly vandalize places like Eaton Canyon, Hermit Falls, and Bonita Falls, will be able to invade our pristine canyon and turn it into a hell hole. I fear that one of the most unspoiled and beautiful canyons in the San Gabriels has its days numbered. So it’s time for a farewell tour of my beloved Fish Canyon.

Fish Canyon Trail Vulcan entrance
I made special arrangements with Vulcan to access the trail through their quarry and invited some hiking acquaintances to join me: Nancy, Chris, Doug, and his young daughter Alex. The five of us rendezvoused at the Vulcan Materials gate in Azusa and the security guard signed us in.

8:08 a.m. - Begin hike. As we stroll through the quarry I point out the parking lot for the new access trail and the route it will take. Steep canyon walls soar above us. The reclamation efforts that are required by the new mining plan are well underway. Soon the 50-foot so called “Mayan benches” will be transformed into 12-inch micro benches.

After the 0.6 mile walk through quarry, we arrive at the gate next to the bridge at 8:23 only to find it locked. I make a phone call and soon the security guard arrives and unlocks the gate.

Fish Canyon Trail damage from Madre Fire
8:33 - Cross the bridge into the Angeles National Forest. The water flow in the creek is unseasonably low, as anticipated. Everything has greened up nicely. The shiny leaves of poison oak have come back in abundance after their winter hiatus.

As we round the first bend we encounter the results of the September 2013 Madre Fire, which consumed about 300 acres at the mouth of San Gabriel Canyon and portions of Roberts Canyon and Fish Canyon. The recent rains have washed tons of earth and rock from the burned mountainside to the canyon bottom. The creek has carved a trench through the debris. The deep pool near the trail is buried.

Fish Canyon Trail
We continue up the trail enjoying the beauty of the canyon. The cloudy weather makes for very pleasant hiking conditions. A rockslide has buried a portion of the trail. Shortly a group of hikers who came over Van Tassel Ridge pass us heading to the falls. A large white alder has fallen across the trail and requires some finagling to get by. Poison oak requires vigilance to avoid in some place along the trail throughout the hike.

Miner's lettuce on Fish Canyon Trail
There is not much in bloom yet: a few occurrences of mustard*, castor bean, everlasting*, vinca (periwinkle)*, filaree, wild cucumber*, miner’s lettuce*, common yarrow, common sunflower*, wishbone bush, Douglas nightshade, purple nightshade, spreading larkspur, cape-ivy, California buckwheat*, tree tobacco*, bay, mule fat, bush monkeyflower*, and lots of blue dicks* and eupatory. (* plants with asterisks are featured in my Fish Canyon Trail Plant Guide. See also my Fish Canyon Plants Hike - May 10, 2013 with photos of 18 plants and links to other pages featuring Fish Canyon plants). We see a couple newts (Taricha torosa) and I mention to the group that the toxin on their skin is highly poisonous.

Fish Canyon Trail
At Old Cheezer’s, I am pleased to see that somebody in the past year has taken a saw to the trunks of the fallen trees that were blocking the trail, clearing the route. Chris disappears ahead at a faster pace. Nancy and I take a side jaunt to Darlin’ Donna Falls. There is not a lot of water in the main creek as we cross to the canyon’s east wall. We take another side jaunt to look at the rare dudleya densiflora (see blog post from 7-7-11). Shortly we meet Chris as he is returning from the falls. As we approach the falls the other group is leaving.

Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest, March 22, 2014
10:24 - Fish Canyon Falls. I love this place! The water is flowing but not as much as it would be if we had normal amounts of rainfall. I’m pleased that there is very little trash here. There is a party of two people and they leave shortly. A group of several guys arrive and leave before we do. It always feels a little odd being at Fish Canyon Falls with no crowd. We explore, relax, eat, and enjoy the beauty of this special place.

11:47 - Leave falls. It’s still cloudy and cool. Our pace is leisurely. A group of about five young folks pass us heading to the falls. As we pass Old Cheezer’s, a group of three guys pass us heading up. And we encounter a guy with a dog without a leash. I mention that leashes are required in the National Forest but he has no sense that the laws apply to him. As we near the end, the clouds begin to break up and we get some sun and patches of blue.

1:19 - Arrive at bridge and locked gates. As I pull out my phone to call the security guard, she pulls up…great timing! She unlocks the gates and we begin our walk through the quarry.

1:44 - Finish hike. Sign out with the security guard.

Fish Canyon Falls
Epilog - What a splendid way to spend the first Saturday of spring! Great weather, good company, green plant life, flowers, a rugged canyon, a superb footpath, a melodic creek, and a grand waterfall. I don’t know what will happen to this special place once the quarry no longer provides a protective barrier. So I will cherish the kaleidoscope of memories of so many hikes over the years to my beloved Fish Canyon Falls. icon

Facebook icon Like Fish Canyon Falls Facebook Page

See Fish Canyon Falls Hike Description at Dan's Hiking Pages (including a link list for my other blog post for Fish Canyon)
NEXT > Fish Canyon Falls - A New Era - June 21, 2014
PREVIOUS > Fish Canyon Plants Hike - May 10, 2013

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Old Zoo Park to Bee Rock and Mt. Bell - March 13, 2014

View west toward Bee Rock from Old Zoo Park
Griffith Icon It’s almost spring and a great time to hike in Griffith Park. Part of my job at work is to facilitate meetings, and this week we have meeting participants from all over the country in town. As the week unfolded it turned out that the meeting would end a half day early today. During weeks of previous meetings, I’ve had the pleasure of hosting Jeff (Kentucky) and Loren (Kansas) to hikes in Griffith Park. They were both up for a hike today and after mentioning it to Dave (Washington), he was in too.

So we pile into my car and head to Griffith Park. As we arrive at the Old Zoo parking lot, we found that the area is being used for filming a sitcom and the lot is closed off to cars. Thankfully there is a close-by parking place available.

Walking west through Old Zoo Park
2:35 p.m. - We begin our hike by walking west along the closed-off parking area. The production crew is up ahead so I decide to bear left and take the guys through the old zoo. It’s a worthwhile side jaunt as we enjoy walking past the zoo enclosures which housed the small assortment of animals from 1912 to 1965. Up on the mountainside 600 vertical feet above us, Bee Rock stands as an imposing mass. The warm sun, pleasant temps, and gentle breeze provide perfect hiking weather. Stately sycamores are now in full leaf after their winter hiatus. We enjoy good conversation as we stroll along.

We pass through the pedestrian opening in the chain link fence and transition unto Bee Rock Trail, a wide dirt road climbing west. I point out some of the plants along the way. This is Dave’s first time hiking in Griffith Park and he is impressed by the rugged beauty and remote feel right in the heart of Los Angeles.

On Bee Rock Trail from Old Zoo Park
The heavy rains we had two weeks ago have brought a freshness to the plants. There is nothing in bloom yet except for a lone eupatory. Soon the wide road ends and our route cuts left turning into a narrow path. Now this feels like hiking. We enjoy the views opening up to sprawling Glendale and beyond. I point out some of the landmarks. The marine layer from this morning has left hazy skies. Lemonade berry joins my blooming list. High above us, a couple ladies stand atop bee rock. We’re having a great time. We reach the ridgeline and turn left (east) for our final steps.

View east toward Glendale from Bee Rock in Griffith Park
3:19 - Bee Rock (1056’). I’m always impressed with the amazing views from this protruding pinnacle, aside from the horrid, rusty chain link fence. The abundance of graffiti is a stark reminder of how blighted mankind is. A cool breeze feels good. We take some pics and enjoy the scenery. I point out Mt. Bell to our west, our next destination.

We leave the summit at 3:29. A four-minute walk along the fenced ridge brings us to the paved Vista Del Valle Drive. It still makes me sad that the early guardians of the park felt the need to carve up this beautiful island of natural space with wide roads. We veer right and saunter west on the paved road. Shortly we arrive at trail junction 16, one of the very few navigation posts left in the park. We turn left (south) and begin our climb up the steep dirt road. I point out the tender young leaves of poison oak as it emerges from its winter siesta. We enjoy the warm sun and expanding views.

Climbing a use path on the east flank of Mount Bell
At junction 39 (yes, another sign post!), we turn right for a short descent. Within a minute we notice a steep use path heading west up the slope toward the summit of Mt. Bell. It looks like the path gets a fair amount of foot traffic, suggesting that it may be a doable route to the top. From my observations from Mt. Bell on previous trips, I’ve noted that there is a network of paths heading in various directions. I toss out the idea of an adventure and the guys are eager to give it try. So up we climb. It is quite steep and is still damp from the recent rains, making it slippery. Soon we reach a junction and veer right. Shortly the trail vanishes and we’re left on the brushy mountainside. I’m always amazed that so much foot traffic goes nowhere! We retrace our steps to the previous junction and try the route that heads south. Shortly it splits. I have the guys wait while I veer right to see if it’s a good route. It looks good, but Loren yells over announcing he’s found a doable path. I figure his route will join the east approach to Bell from the Bell/Baby Bell saddle. So I yell across and give him my blessing (and hope he realizes he’s not in Kansas anymore). Dave follows him and Jeff follows me. Soon our route gets crazy steep, slippery, and brushy. Not a good choice! After a few minutes of thrashing we finally reach a decent trail (the route coming up from the northwest). That was an adventure! Another couple minutes delivers us to the summit.

View east from Mount Bell
4:21 - Mount Bell (1582’). Loren and Dave are sitting here waiting for us and give us a hard time for our poor route choice. But they both have wounds on their shins, so their route wasn’t a walk in the park either! I love this peak. The views aren’t great today because of the haze, but it still provides a most satisfying panorama. I point out various sights—the ocean, mountains, peaks, cities, studios, buildings, and so on. We are having a great time. The weather is wonderful. I’m always amazed by the solitude on this peak. As I look south across the canyon, there are at least a dozen people over on Mt. Hollywood.

We leave the peak at 4:53 and head down the southwest approach and six minutes get us to the dirt road. A lady passes by...only our second human encounter since leaving Zoo Park (we passed three gals on Bee Rock Trail)…surrounded by a metropolis of 13 million people, and we have this splendid hike virtually to ourselves! Go figure.

Heading northeast on Bill Eckert Trail in Griffith Park
We turn right (west) then another right at the saddle heading northeast. This is the route we would have been on if we hadn’t taken our “shortcut” up the mountainside. At the next junction we take a left and in five minutes arrive at Vista Del Valle Drive. We turn right and saunter along the paved road in the late afternoon shade enjoying good conversation. We pass junction 16 (where we turned earlier) and shortly reach the junction with Bill Eckert Trail (jct. 14). I decide to lead the group down this route to provide a loop with some different scenery. Soon we are enjoying the direct sun. I love the “golden hour” for photography. After a half-hour walk down Eckert Trail, we arrive at its lower terminus near Old Zoo Park. We turn right, then left, then pass through the chain link fence. They are still shooting the TV show as we walk by the production trucks along the paved road.

6:05 - End hike.

Dave, Loren, Jeff, and Dan on Mount Bell
Epilog – What an enjoyable outing! Great company, near-perfect weather, beautiful scenery, good exercise, splendid trails, two fun peaks, solitude, adventure. And topped off with dinner at In-N-Out! Life is good! icon

camera  View photo album for this hike

Griffith Icon  See Hiking Griffith Park at Dan's Hiking Pages
  (includes links to my other blog posts for hiking in Griffith Park)

Boot Icon See Bee Rock and Old Zoo Park hike description at Dan's Hiking Pages

Boot Icon See Brush Canyon to Mt. Bell hike description at Dan's Hiking Pages
(includes more detailed description for the approaches to Mt. Bell)

NEXT > Mt. Hollywood and Mt. Bell via Travel Town - April 9, 2015
PREVIOUS > Mt. Hollywood and Mt. Bell via Observatory - Sept. 19, 2013

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Colby Trail Tree Planting and Hike – March 8, 2014

View west from Children’s Forest near Colby Trail in Glendora
I love nearby Colby Trail. Most people hadn’t heard of Colby Trail in the foothills above Glendora. That all changed on January 16, 2014 when an illegal campfire irrupted into a wildfire which destroyed more than 1,700 hundred acres of mountainside above Glendora and Azusa. Officials dubbed it the Colby Fire and “Colby” was in the lead story in the news for days.

Colby Trail is on property owned by the Glendora Community Conservancy, which has held, managed, and stewarded the open space for more than two decades. I was heartbroken when I learned that much of the environs around Colby Trail were incinerated by the fire.

When I saw the announcement by the Glendora Conservancy about the tree planting event—Children's Forest ~ Phase II—I was eager to lend a hand and get a firsthand look at the fire damage along Colby Trail.

Colby Trail trailhead in Glendora
9:00 AM - I arrive at the Colby Trail trailhead at the top of Lorain Avenue in Glendora. Others are arriving for the event. I meet Doug and his wife and daughter. I’ve enjoyed interacting with Doug online. We begin walking up the trail. Soon the fire damage abounds. Doug and family catch a ride on an electric cart. Signs handcrafted by children point the way. A walk of about 0.3 mile delivers me to the entrance of the Children’s Forest.

While volunteers look on, Dr. Ann Croissant, president of the conservancy, demonstrates the steps in planting the trees and shrubs. It’s great to see lots of kids here. I walk around and take picture of the activities. I find Bob Bennett, who is on the conservancy board and is an ISA certified arborist. He is shoveling mulch into a wheel barrel and mulching newly planted plants. I join up with Bob and soon we have a system going where he uses a small tractor to load the wheel barrel and I deliver the load to the plants. It takes nearly a full wheel barrel to mulch a single plant. Bob explains that the mush is critical in helping retain moisture to give the young plant a chance to survive. This is hard work but very satisfying. The sun is warm.

View southwest from Children’s Forest near Colby Trail in Glendora
After a couple hours the volunteers began to dissipate as all the plants that were intended to be planted today are now in the ground. I wander out to the south edge and have a bite to eat sitting on the stone bench memorializing Joseph Patrick Malowski (1989-2008). Soon a conservancy volunteer begins to work on mulching nearby trees so I lend a hand. Bob shows up with the tractor which greatly helps in delivering mulch to the trees. As we are finishing up, Dr. Ann Croissant and her husband Dr. Jerry Croissant drive over to survey the work that has been done. We enjoy good conversation. Ann gives me permission to hike up the closed Colby Trail to view the damage. They are hoping to reopen the trail by May.

View north at Colby Fire damage on Colby Trail in Glendora
1:00 - Begin my walk back. I take pictures of the newly planted trees. Back at the trail I turn left (west) and retrace my steps back to the junction. At the junction I turn right, pass the brodiaea reserve entrance, and continue up Colby Trail. The beautiful riparian woodlands I enjoyed on December 31 have been reduced to dead sticks and ash. It’s heartbreaking. A tender wild cumber vine crawls along the blackened ground.

View west at Colby Fire damage on Colby Trail in Glendora
As the trail climbs east out of the canyon, views south open up. The fresh green grass of the brodiaea reserve far below stands in stark contrast to the dead plants on surrounding hillsides. Green leaves of castor bean sprout along the trail...a most hardy weed. Grasses and other newly sprouting ground plants add a touch of fresh green life amidst a sea scorched earth. It’s so depressing to see the charred mountainsides to the west. I stop and talk with a man and his son who say they didn’t realize the trail is closed (hmmm…the sign is pretty clear).

View south from Glendora Mountain Road at Colby Fire damage on Colby Trail in Glendora
1:28 - Glendora Mountain Road. Wow, this view south is so different. It’s remarkable how a fire changes everything. I have to be done today by 2:30 so a figure I have enough time to climb the first leg of Upper Colby Trail 0.07 mile to the next occurrence of GMR. Up I climb the steep path with careful steps.

1:41 - GMR Second hair pin. There is a clear demarcation between the burned and unburned as I stand on the eastern edge of the burn area. It’s encouraging to look east and see the rich chaparral covering the mountainsides, particularly knowing that it was all incinerated by the 2002 Williams Fire. Life comes back. I sit on a nice rock and have a snack.

I leave at 1:53 and head down the ravine being drawn by a pretty white flower that I don’t recognize. Atop blackened sticks, five-pedal blossoms flutter in breeze. I’m intrigued. As I get close to take a picture I discover that the flowers are artificial! Someone stuck several dozen silk flowers on top of the deed sticks. I soon rejoined the trail and began my descent. Careful, deliberate footsteps delivery me safely down the step section.

Back on Colby Trail I retrace my steps through the blackened scenery. I meet a young man who also says he is not aware that the trail is closed. I try to recall some of the pictures I took on December 31 so I can do some before-and-after shots.

Colby Trail 12-31-13
12-31-13 - Colby Trail before the fire
Colby Trail
3-8-14 - Colby Trail after the fire
I find some orange slime mold. Ann had told me about it. Slime molds are common after a fire and are part of the natural processes. Nearing the beginning of the trail, my spirit lifts as I enter the land of the living.

2:30 – End Hike.

Sign at Colby Trail trailhead in Glendora
Epilog - It’s been a good a day. Planting trees gives a sense of being able to give back to nature and do something to balance the destruction of the fire. Hiking Colby Trail was both sad and encouraging. Last week’s rain has brought some new growth. Nature comes back but it will take years for its beauty to be fully restored. And I’m always thankful for the dedicated people of Glendora Conservancy and their amazing work in stewarding hundreds of acres of open space. icon

See Colby Trail hike description at Dan's Hiking Pages

See Colby Fire at Dan's Hiking Blog

Visit Glendora Community Conservancy

NEXT > Colby Trail Hike - May 3, 2015
PREVIOUS > Garcia Trail to Colby Trail Hike - December 31, 2013