Thursday, November 26, 2015

Mystic Canyon and Lower Monroe Hike - November 26, 2015

View southwest from the junction of Mystic Canyon Trail and Lower Monroe Road, Glendora

Thanksgiving is a good time to hit the trail and be thankful for creation and the beauty of nature. I’ve done a few Thanksgiving hikes over the years as holiday plans permitted. Since I have the morning free today before leaving to celebrate Thanksgiving with family, I have the opportunity to hike, as do a couple friends.

I drive to Glendora and meet John and Rick at Rick’s house. We pile into the car and take the five-minute drive to the Mystic Canyon trailhead in Big Dalton Canyon. There are lots of cars parked at the intersection of Glendora Mountain Road (GMR) and Big Dalton Canyon Road and at the trailhead. It’s a brisk 52 degrees.

Mystic Canyon trailhead, Big Dalton Canyon Road, Glendora Mystic Canyon Trail, Big Dalton Canyon, Glendora
View southwest toward Glendora from Mystic Canyon Trail Heading north on Mystic Canyon Trail, Glendora
8:10 Begin hike. I forgot how crazy steep the first section of the trail is. I assure my buddies that shortly it mellows out and the rest of the hike is quite gentle. It’s cloudy and brisk and we welcome the generated heat from the steep climb. We enjoy the expanding views of Glendora and think about Thanksgiving preparation happening in many of those homes. We exchange Thanksgiving greetings with others on the trail. Rick and John are engaged in considerable conversation but I hang back a little and just soak in the beauty of my surrounds. There is virtually nothing in bloom and deciduous plants like poison oak are hunkering down for the winter with their leafless stems. Some recent rain has invigorated plants from the arid months while weedy grasses are brown and dead. The chaparral has wonderful fragrance. A sunflower cheerfully greets us. Common sunflower (Helianthus annuus) along on Mystic Canyon Trail, Glendora I am so thankful for the splendor of nature!

Our route climbs north along the western side of Mystic Canyon, a tributary to Big Dalton Canyon. We choose to take the two long switchbacks for the final pitch rather than steep use path from Poop-Out Trail.

View northeast toward Summit 2760 from the junction of Mystic Canyon Trail and Lower Monroe Road
8:49 - Junction with Lower Monroe Road (aka Truck Trail). Wonderful vistas! Three gals have Rick take their picture. A small America flag attached to the sign post flutters in the wind. Patchy sun peaks through the clouds. Across Little Dalton Canyon to our west, vehicle noise on GMR detracts from the serenity. To our northeast, Summit 2760 stands pointed against the sky, but we won’t bag it today. Our plan is a two-hour hike, so when we get to the 60-minute point, we’ll turn around and head back.

View southwest toward Little Dalton Canyon and Glendora Mountain Road from Lower Monroe Road
After a few minutes at the junction, we head northeast on Lower Monroe Road and enjoy the expansive view north. Occasionally mountain bikers swoosh by us. I suspect that most are doing the one-way downhill from GMR, about a nine mile ride. A mother and her young daughter (maybe 10 years old), both clad in colorful riding gear, come racing down the trail. The young lady enthusiastically greets us, “Happy thanksgiveeeeeeeing!” as she wizzes by. We reach the sign post for Punk Out Trial and stop for a selfie (does not turn out well so we retry on our return).

9:11 - Reach our one-hour mark and take a brief stop. The view north begs for a panorama shot.

Panorama north from Lower Monroe Road with Summit 2760 on right

We turn around and head back, now engaged in a lively conversation about creationism. I’m not an expert but I’m thankful for a personal relationship with the Creator! When we reach the Punk Out post, a pair of cyclists offers to take our picture. Our descent is pleasant. Heading southwest on Lower Monroe Road Such a beautiful autumn day!

9:35 - Mystic Canyon junction. We linger for a few minutes, chat with a family of cyclists, and enjoy the views. View west toward Little Dalton Canyon and Glendora Mountain Road from the junction of Mystic Canyon Trail and Lower Monroe Road The trails are getting lots of use today. We retrace our steps down Mystic Canyon Trial and continue to appreciate the gifts of rugged scenery and good friends.

Dan Simpson, Rick, and John on Lower Monroe Road at Punk Out junction, Angeles National Forest
10:10 - End hike.

Epilog – What a pleasant outing! Splendid trail, fresh air, brisk temperatures, picturesque clouds, superb vistas, aromatic chaparral, and a sense of holiday set aside for being grateful. We have so much to be thankful for! icon
Psalm 100 (Holy Bible, English Standard Version)
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
     Serve the Lord with gladness!
     Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
     It is he who made us, and we are his;
     we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
     and his courts with praise!
     Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the Lord is good;
     his steadfast love endures forever,
     and his faithfulness to all generations.

  Experience the Creator

See Mystic Canyon Trail & Lower Monroe Road to Summit 2760 and Summit 3397 Hike Description on Dan’s Hiking Pages

PREVIOUS > Mystic Canyon and Lower Monroe Hike - January 25, 2014

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Fish Canyon Falls Hike - November 22, 2015

Dan Simpson at Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest, November 22, 2015
I’ve been looking forward to my monthly visit to Fish Canyon as I have been endeavoring to hike it every month for a year. For the last three months, the falls have been bone dry. But I’ve seen pictures showing that recent rains have begun to wet the falls and fill the pools. So I’m eager for my visit.

My wife has the car today, so I have to walk to the trailhead, typically about 2.3 miles from my home in Azusa. But today I encounter an unexpected obstacle: water! As I reach the check dam where I cross the San Gabriel River, the river is flowing and blocks my route.
Water flowing over a check dam on the San Gabriel River near Fish Canyon
Any attempt to cross would be deemed an aquatic sport, and I don’t have stilts or wings. So I follow the river trail south 0.75 mile and cross the footbridge. View north toward Fish Canyon from the footbridge over the San Gabriel River I then head north on Encanto Parkway to the trailhead. There are less than a dozen cars in the parking lot. The temps are supposed to be in the high 80s today.

Heading north from the trailhead on the Fish Canyon access trail into Vulcan’s quarry
8:02 AM - Begin hike. The sky is blue and the sun feels good. I stroll through the quarry lined with towering canyon walls. The lighting is different from month to month as the sun cycles through the seasons. I pass into the riparian section of the access trail and begin snapping shots of the scarce flowers in bloom (at this point, one occurrence of golden yarrow, some buckwheat, and a lone bush monkeyflower).

Heading north on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
8:21 - Cross the bridge into the national forest. The creek here is bone dry. I sauntering along and appreciate the changes that autumn has brought to the canyon. The alders, sycamores, maples, and poison oak are mostly leafless now. Some poison oak is still beautiful orange and some willows are golden yellow. The tree of heaven is just starting to turn yellow. There is virtually nothing in bloom.

Heading north on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
Since it is a little later then I usually start, and the sun is further south, I’m enjoying sections of the trail that are graced by sun where they would usually be in the shade. The recent winds have blown down a dead tree in the Old Cheezer Mine area (near the matilija/dudleya interpretive sign) and one across the trail at little further along. Fallen tree on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest The fig tree still has its leaves. Occasionally small parties of other hikers pass me heading down. The sound of water in sections of the canyon below is most pleasant. I bypass Darlin’ Donna.

9:40 - Main creak crossing. It’s bone dry. Now I climb the east wall just enjoying the scenery. There are some noisy voices behind me so I keep a pace to reach the falls before them.

Dan Simpson at Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest, November 22, 2015
10:00 - Fish Canyon Falls. Wow, there’s water! What a pleasant change from the last several months! The main pool is full to within about 18 inches of its waterline. A trickle of water wets the face of the falls. The moss has turned rich green. The lower pool is mostly full. The stream between the pools is still dry but water flowing from underneath tumbles down the chute. I ponder the “glass half full/half empty” maxim. If I arrive here in the early summer and the falls are a mere dribble, I’m disappointed that they are drying up. If I arrive here in late autumn and the falls are a mere dribble, I’m excited to see the water returning. I guess the whole issue of the glass being half empty or half full depends upon the water level before it reached the halfway point.

I enjoy the peaceful setting. Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest, November 22, 2015 A frog is croaking. The gooseberry bush is sprouting new leaves from it winter stems…might be seasonally confused. The large black willow tree is still in full leaf yet to display its gorgeous falls colors. I spot several more Dudleya densiflora plants growing from the sheer rock face that I don’t recall seeing before. A few people come and go. I chat with some. I never get tired of this wonderful setting.

Heading south on Fish Canyon Trail toward Old Cheezer Mine, Angeles National Forest    Riparian setting along Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
Tree of heaven jungle, Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest, November 22, 2015    Heading south on Fish Canyon Trail toward Vulcan Materials quarry, Angeles National Forest
10:53 - Leave falls. I retrace my steps and appreciate the warm sun, blue sky, fresh air, rugged canyon, and rich plant life. I take the brief side jaunt to admire Darling Donna Falls, which is flowing modestly. I occasionally encounter other parties coming up the trail, mostly groups of a few. My pace is more deliberate as I have other tasks pressing my day. It’s feeling a tad warm in the open sun but I’m so thankful I’m not in the Midwest and Northeast where temps are dropping to the twenties and teens today. I cross the bridge and transition to the access trail at 11:47. Others are still heading to the falls. The quarry sits quite in the full sun. View west on Fish Canyon access trail through Vulcan Materials Azusa Rock quarry

12:05 - End hike. I neglected to count the cars but I’d guess there are less than a dozen. The thermostat in the car reads 88 degrees.

Epilog - Another thoroughly enjoyable visit to my beloved Fish Canyon. One might think I’d get bored with it after numerous visits, but to the contrary. Each visit adds to my love for its beauty. icon

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See Fish Canyon Falls Hike Description at Dan's Hiking Pages (including a link list for my other blog posts for Fish Canyon)

Plants See Plants in Fish Canyon at Dan's Hiking Pages
(including links to various plant resources)

icon  See Waterfalls of The San Gabriels at Dan's Hiking Pages

NEXT > Fish Canyon Falls Hike - December 24, 2015
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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Glendora Mountain and Summit 3397 - November 8, 2015

View north from the north ridge of Summit 3397, Angeles National Forest Although oft overlooked and somewhat lackluster, these two peaks offer amazing panoramas over the heart of the San Gabriels. Gorgeous weather and some lean hiking months drew me to the mountains. I’ve visited both peaks multiple times, but it’s time to return. During the Colby Fire of January 2014, the Forest Service cut dozer lines on the ridges of Glendora Mountain, so I’ve wanted to see how it impacts the hike to the peak. And I’ve not hiked to Summit 3397 from the north, so this would be a good chance.

Trailhead on Glendora Mountain Road for Glendora Mountain, Angeles National Forest
The drive up Glendora Mountain Road (GMR) is somewhat dicey with all the bicyclists coming and going. They really put themselves in danger sharing the narrow, windy road with motor vehicles. Around every bend I face the possibility of cyclists in the middle of the lane. I finally reach the trailhead at mile marker 6.50. I don’t need an Adventure Pass since the rules have changed and passes are required only in locations with guest amenities.

Glendora Mountain Hike

View south toward Glendora Mountain, Angeles National Forest
10:00 AM - Begin hike (3120’). The temperature is pleasant in the upper 60s with warm sun and gentle breezes. The route heads west up the firebreak following a narrow path along the right edge. Cut brush covers the break (probably to limit erosion). Seven minutes delivers me to the first high point (3311’) along the undulating ridgeline, now bending south. It’s quite peaceful here aside from the occasional roar of motorcycles along GMR…the epitome of noise pollution. The ridgeline offers a spectacular 360-degree panorama of the surrounding San Gabriels and numerous peaks which have become familiar friends.

View south along Glendora Mountain ridge, Angeles National Forest
There is virtually nothing in bloom aside from some lingering California buckwheat and a few asters and sunflowers. Wildflowers on Glendora Mountain ridge, Angeles National Forest I can hear occasional gun shots from the Burro Canyon Shooting Park about four miles north as the crow flies. The sky is blue and cloudless. Up and down I go along the rollercoaster ridge. For the most part it’s easy going. The firebreak has softened with nearly two years of vegetation growth. I see virtually no trace from the 2002 Williams Fire and the 2009 Morris Fire, which incinerated most of this mountain; chaparral rebounds well. The last time I was here (February 2011), the temps were in the 40s and I was leaving boot tracks in an inch of snow. Today is quite different.

View northwest toward the Cabin Fire burn area in North Fork San Gabriel Canyon from Glendora Mountain ridge, Angeles National Forest
I’m enjoying the grand scale of the scenery. To the north about 4.5 miles in the San Gabriel Canyon, the footprint of the August 2015 Cabin Fire, which consumed more than 1,700 acres, stands out a tan scar on the southeast slopes of Smith Mountain and vicinity. To my left (east) I peer down into the upper reaches of Little Dalton Canyon blanketed with rich green vegetation. Looking down into San Gabriel Canyon on my right (west), I see cars snaking up Hwy 39. San Gabriel Reservoir comes into view to the northwest. The water level is still low but a predicted El Niño for this winter could fill it up to overflowing. Noisy vehicles on GMR remind me I’m not really in a wilderness. Over each bump on the ridge I get closer to my destination.

View southwest toward Morris Reservoir from Glendora Mountain, Angeles National Forest
10:35 - Glendora Mountain (3322’). Achieving the summit is not that climatic since there were sweeping views all along the ridge route. I am, however, now rewarded with a grand view south. Haze somewhat mutes the human sprawl in the valleys below. The Downtown L.A. and Century City skylines are but faint silhouettes in the distant southwest. Catalina Island forms a faint line on the horizon. Across the canyon to the east stands Summit 3397 inviting me to climb it next. View east toward Summit 3397 from Glendora Mountain, Angeles National Forest

View northwest toward San Gabriel Reservoir from Glendora Mountain, Angeles National Forest
I sign the peak register, contained in a white PVC tube lodged in a small pile of rocks. Peak register on Glendora Mountain, Angeles National Forest The summit doesn’t get a lot of traffic. The last visitors were a group of seven on October 24—two weeks ago. The logbook was started on May 17 with a group of 13; I recognize some of the names as Sierra Clubers. Glendora Mountain is on the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter Lower Peaks Committee List. I linger for a long time just enjoying the expansive scenery and solitude.

View northeast toward Little Dalton Canyon, Glendora Mountain Road, and the Baldy high country from Glendora Mountain, Angeles National Forest
11:35 - Leave summit and retrace my steps along the rollercoaster ridge. My car is a speck on the distant road. A sweeping northern panorama of the central San Gabriels spreads out before me. I survey ridges and peaks and ponder hikes I’ve done and potential new adventures. GMR is pretty close below via several ravines along the west-facing slopes; I’ve considered if any of these would provide a viable shortcut from the road to the ridge, but the brush is so thick that only an animal would attempt such a passage. View northwest toward Glendora Mountain Road from Glendora Mountain ridge, Angeles National Forest And a shortcut…really? The whole hike is only 2.0 miles round trip! I curve around to the east and begin descending my last 191 vertical feet to the end. View east toward Glendora Mountain Road returning from Glendora Mountain, Angeles National Forest

12:08 - End hike. So 35 minutes up and 33 minutes down, and an hour on top.

Tom Harrison Map Angeles High Country
I continue my drive east on GMR 1.2 miles to the large turnout for Forest Service road 2N16 (Lower Monroe Road) on the right (there is no mile marker here but 5.08 is 300 yards further east). A couple vehicles are unloading mountain bikers for a one-way a ride down 2N16. I’m wonder if the one young lady driving away is the girlfriend of the rider she dropped off. That’s one way to a guy’s heart. I linger in the car, have a bite to eat, and study the map.

Summit 3397 Hike

View east toward Glendora Mountain Road and Mount Baldy from Lower Monroe Road (2N16), Angeles National Forest
12:40 - Begin hike (3420’). Walk past the locked vehicle gate and head south on 2N16, Lower Monroe Road (aka Lower Monroe Truck Trail). In few minutes I round the bend and see my summit in the distance. It seems like a long way away. Soon I am rewarded with great views east and west as the road follows the rollercoaster divide between Little Dalton Canyon on the right (west) and Monroe Canyon and the Big Dalton Canyon watershed on the left (east). The sun is warm and a few wispy clouds now add interest to the blue sky. The dirt road shows the heavy traffic of bicycles. I’m surrounded by thick chaparral. Shy of 15 minutes (0.6 mi.) I reach a fork. The left heads up past an apiary clearing (for bee hives) to high point 3386. I may hit it on my way back. The road bends right to bypass the highpoint. It’s just a beautiful day for sauntering through the rugged scenery. View south toward the north ridge of Summit 3397 from Lower Monroe Road (2N16), Angeles National Forest I’m really enjoying solitude.

1:13 - Junction to the summit. The road continues to the right but I veer left past the apiary clearing and climb the old firebreak. View south toward the north ridge of Summit 3397 from Lower Monroe Road (2N16), Angeles National Forest Views east become outstanding, but they are even better when snow blankets the high country.

1:26 - Summit 3397. The broad top is mostly rimmed with high vegetation obscuring views except for east. I photograph the eastern panorama before wandering around the summit.

View northeast from the north ridge of Summit 3397, Angeles National Forest

I’ve been here three times before, but those were from the south (twice from Mystic Canyon Trailhead in Big Dalton Canyon, 2,217 vertical feet below, and once from little Dalton Canon). I wander over to the clearing with great views south. Before me lies the San Dimas Experimental Forest. View southeast toward San Dimas Experimental Forest from Summit 3397, Angeles National Forest Beyond is the vast human sprawl. The sun gleams on the distant ocean. View southwest from Summit 3397, Angeles National Forest I attempt to find a spot to take a pic west toward my earlier peak, but there’s too much brush.

View west toward Glendora Mountain (3322’) from the north ridge of Summit 3397, Angeles National Forest
1:50 - Leave summit and retrace my steps down. A spot on the ridge gives me a shot west to Glendora Mountain. Seven minutes delivers me to the road. I enjoy the scenery as I amble along. Heading north on Lower Monroe Road (2N16) with high point 3368 on the right, Angeles National Forest A small snake about 12 inch long slithers across the trail and disappears into the brush before I can snap a picture of him. His coloring suggests a gofer snake. At the junction past high point 3386, I double back, walk past the apiary clearing, and walk the 200 yards to the summit. It’s brushy and nothing to write home about, but it does provide a nice view south toward summit 3397. Back on the road I continue north. Green toyon berries promise to add a splash of red to the coming winter chaparral. Firebreaks on slopes north of GMR beg to be explored. View north toward Glendora Mountain Road from Lower Monroe Road (2N16), Angeles National Forest

2:49 - End hike. Trailhead for Lower Monroe Road (2N16) at Glendora Mountain Road returning from Summit 3397, Angeles National Forest I’m done. I drive east another 0.3 mile to the junction of GMR and Glendora Ridge Road. I get a nice shot back toward Summit 3397.

Dan’s boot print on Lower Monroe Road returning from Summit 3397, Angeles National Forest
Epilog - A very pleasant outing! The weather was simply gorgeous. The distance was not great (2.0 mi. r.t. for Glendora Mt. and 3.0 mi. r.t. for Summit 3397), but the satisfaction level was high. It’s amazing to me that I can be on such fine trails within 20 minutes of massive human sprawl on a beautiful weekend, and encounter no one. In fact, on Glendora Mountain, I had quite a prayer meeting feeling the seclusion of the summit sanctuary. Being in nature always inspires me toward communing with the Creator. icon

See Hike Descriptions at Dan’s Hiking Pages
(Detailed trail guides include driving directions, recommended season, map, notes, links, and photos)
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