When I hiked the trail in July, one month after the grand opening of the new access trail, I was pleased that the trail was still passible, although rough and brushy. Fast forward to Friday, March 13: I did a plants hike to Fish Canyon Falls with Michael Charters. When we passed the junction to Van Tassel Ridge Trail, I was saddened that the trail looked virtually ignored. When I woke up on Sunday morning I spontaneously decided revisit the trail. I knew that temps were forecast for the 90s, but I figured I’d be up and down before the major heat.
After a short drive from my house in Azusa, I arrive at the trailhead and count about 21 cars in the parking lot. It’s 71 degrees. The sunshine is somewhat hazy.
8:25 - Begin Hike. This is my sixth time on the new access trail since it opened on June 21. Almost immediately I encounter a giant blazing star in bloom on the berm. It was not blooming Friday. I wonder if this is one of the plants that was included in the hydroseed mix when they built the trail.
I begin my climb. I’m wearing long pants because I know it’s going to be brushy. Good choice. Most of the plants on the trail are the soft weedy grasses. Some parts of the trail look pretty good and others are cloaked in vegetation and virtually invisible but easily passible.
Much of the trail is in good shape.
Wadding through this is not as bad as it looks.
I reach a fork in the trail that I don’t remember. A right heads up to the ridge (the way on which I will return). Left continues straight contouring to a lower section of the ridge. I stay to the left and in another minute arrive at the ridgeline.
I continue up the ridge. The ascent is mild. It’s getting warm but hazy clouds help keep the temps down. Tall lupine is growing like crazy with its showy purple flowering stalks. Mustard, wild morning glory, cliff aster, and a few other flowers announce the soon-arriving springtime. I’m really enjoying the rugged mountains and thick chaparral.
Here at the base I see that the firebreak extends to the top, but it’s crazy steep. I decide to climb a little to get a nice picture of the ridgeline I climbed. The expanding views are rewarding. I’m really huffing and puffing. And I’m in a lupine jungle. Before long I am about a fourth of the way up. I decide that since I’ve done a fourth, I can do a half. I keep climbing. It’s quite warm and there is not a lick of shade. I creep slowly up. I sit occasionally. I really need to get in better shape. I love the beauty of nature that surrounds me. But I loathe these nasty bugs.
12:05 - Pinnacle (2720’+). Wow, I did it! That was really a workout. I am rewarded with breathtaking views. The problem is, there is still another pitch going to a higher point. I can’t stop here, can I? I drudge on and it takes me 9 minutes to achieve the next highpoint.
Part of me would really like to press on further, but I’m hot and tired and ready to be done. I’m eager to sit and eat and head back. Beyond 3126’, the topo map shows an old fire road that curves around to the west and connects with Van Tassel Fire Road and Mt. Bliss (3720’) (See my Mt. Bliss hike description). I have often pondered a loop hike to Mt. Bliss which would include this route up Van Tassel Ridge. With this reasonably clear firebreak, the route seems very doable [later I got a FB post from hiker Crystal stating that she recently climbed this ridge all the way to Van T Fire Road]. I sit on the berm and have some lunch. Directly below me to the east is Fern Canyon, a tributary to Fish Canyon. When hiking to the falls over the years, I’ve pondered exploring Fern Canyon but figured it would be choked with thick brush. From this vantage point, it looks completely impassible for humans.
12:52 - Begin back. I retrace my steps. Down I go. I pass highpoint 2670’ and the steep section is faster going down than up, but careful steps are required. I slip several times but don’t go down. The wispy clouds help keep temps manageable. It also helps the lighting for photos. It takes me a half hour to negotiate descending the steep section. It’s easy going now. I find some shade under a laurel sumac and take a 15-minute break. I dig my bug repellent out. I reach the hip above the forest boundary at 1:57 and take the path that was the right fork that I skipped earlier. I hit the trail junction in about a minute. My descent is slow as I take time for plant work and photography. The shade and jungle-like vegetation is welcoming.
3:39 - Arrive at Fish Canyon Trail. My pace is relaxed as I walk back to the bridge and through the quarry. I’m still thinking about that snake.
3:59 - Finish hike. It’s 93 degrees. There are 19 other cars in the parking lot. (All of them are in the white, black, and silver pallet. We’ve become such an aesthetically boring nation.)
See Van Tassel Ridge Hike Description at Dan's Hiking Pages
See Fish Canyon Falls Hike Description at Dan's Hiking Pages (including a link list for my other blog posts for Fish Canyon)
Like Fish Canyon San Gabriel Mountains on Facebook
See Fish Canyon Trial Plant Guide (April 2011) (PDF)
See Plants and Wildflowers in the San Gabriel Mountains at Dan's Hiking Pages
NEXT > Fish Canyon Falls Hike - April 19, 2015
PREVIOUS > Van Tassel Ridge Hike - July 20, 2014