Saturday, February 20, 2016

Fish Canyon Adventure - February 20, 2016

Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest, February 20, 2016
What a notable hike in Fish Canyon! This hike was meaningful to me on three counts. First, with this hike, I have now completed hiking to Fish Canyon Falls for 12 months in a row. Yahooo! It’s been great to experience Fish Canyon through the seasons. Second, it’s the first time I have hiked Fish Canyon in February. Third, I planned this as an adventure outing. In my 45 hikes to Fish Canyon Falls since 1997, I’ve never really done much exploring off trail. So armed with long pants and shirts, gloves, clippers, topo maps, aerials, and courage, I set out for an adventure. And what an adventure it was! My plan was to hike to the falls first and then explore.

I arrive at Vulcan’s gate at 6:55 a.m. and there is a long line of cars waiting for the 7:00 opening. The guard opens the gate punctually and about 22 cars immediately populate the parking lot. There are several large groups. Fish Canyon trailhead at Vulcan Materials, Azusa

7:09 - Begin hike. I wander through the quiet quarry. The temperature is brisk (about 50 degrees) but not uncomfortable. The sky is clear and blue and the sun alights on the upper portion of the steep west quarry wall. We had a good rain on Wednesday into Thursday so everything is fresh (and a little muddy in places). As I transition to the riparian section of the access trail, I am greeted by blossoms on mule fat, everlasting, California buckwheat, and golden current (first occurrence of this I’ve since this year).

Riparian section along Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
I cross the bridge into the national forest at 7:27. The creek is flowing briskly and the canyon is damp with a wonderful aroma. After several months of very little in bloom, it’s nice to see more flowers: blue dicks and western wallflower (the first I’ve seen of both this year), wild cucumber, canyon sweet pea, and the ever-present common sunflower. And of course weeds: common beggar-ticks, sow thistle, filaree, and mustard, and the landscape plants: a few purple blooms of vinca and a profusion of jade. The canyon still has the feel of winter with many of the deciduous trees and shrubs in their leafless state. Some poison oak is beginning to sprout its tender leaves…a harbinger of what I will face shortly on my adventure.

I stop occasionally and review the topo maps and aerials to get a better feel of the canyon’s topography as I ponder features to explore. There is a constant flow of eager hikers on the trail today, including several big groups. Near the Old Cheezer Mine site, a large boulder has fallen onto the trail.

At 8:34 I step into the sun. I bypass Darlin’ Donna without stopping for a visit.

9:07 - Main creek crossing. It’s flowing well. I suspect that some poor hikers have fallen in today. I now climb the east canyon wall, still in shade. As many hikers pass me going down, the dominate comment is that the falls are really crowded. A beautiful display of mountain lilac is blooming near the rare Dudley densiflora site. I always have a bit of excitement as I approach the falls.

9:49 - Fish Canyon Falls. I love this place! The falls are nearly in full sun now. It’s flowing well and more showy than when I was here on January 24 (4 weeks ago), but not as showy as when Hank videoed it on January 31 after the big rain storm on January 28. The black willow that provided wonderful autumn gold is now completely leafless. There are about 25 people here. It’s hard not to linger long at this splendid setting, but I have an adventure waiting.

10:15 - Leave falls to begin the adventure.

ADVENTURE: I’ve decided to withhold the narrative of my adventure. It posed serious risks and I really don’t want to encourage hikers to embark on this off-trail escapade. I would feel terrible if some hiker had to be airlifted out after reading my blog post and attempting the route. I would hate to see this become another Eaton Canyon death trap.

Below are some pictures of the adventure.

See Adventure Debrief for more considerations for off-trail excursions.

2:52 - Finish adventure! Wow, what a relief to be back on a safe and comfortable trail. Four hours and 47 minutes of sheer roughing it through hostile terrain (See Adventure Debrief below).

I decide to head up trail back to the falls. The falls are in full shade now and only a few people are here. I am still buzzed from my adventure.

3:09 - Leave falls. My pace is deliberate but relaxed as I enjoy the comparative ease of a nice trail. The sun is warm and lights the canyon quite differently from the morning hours. At the Dudleya site a couple is looking at the rare plant. We chat for a few minutes. At the Darlin’ Donna junction I decide to take a quick jaunt to visit the charming waterfall. I’m glad I did. There has been a big debris slide that has obliterated vegetation near the falls and changed the whole feel of the setting. Back on the main trail as I near Old Cheezer’s, I step from the warm sun into the shade cast by the west canyon wall. I never get tired of this beautiful canyon. There are still hikers coming up the trail with insufficient time to complete the trip to the falls before the 5:00 closing time. I cross the bridge at 4:09 onto Vulcan’s access trail and enjoy my stroll through the quarry to my waiting car.

4:24 - End hike. There are 26 cars still in the lot and it’s about 74 degrees. My Fitbit recorded 14,594 steps for the hike.

Epilog - What an adventure to culminate 12 continuous months of Fish Canyon visits. I am tired and dirty and have bruises, scrapes, and scratches. But I feel so good. I am indeed grateful for a safe trip and an amazing canyon. I have a renewed appreciation for a fine trail allowing us to penetrate deep into wild places safely without having to embark on treacherous expeditions. And of course I’m not stopping at month 12 as we approach the next three months and the very best season for hiking my beloved Fish Canyon. icon

It’s sobering to realize that the difference between a safe conclusion and being airlifted out can be one miss step, one branch tearing loose, one foot slipping from its tentative hold, one dislodged boulder toppling down on a buddy. What a fine line between being a heroic explorer and ending up on the news as a foolish risk-taker. On all my hikes, whether on an easy trail or an arduous bushwhack, I assess the risks and carry the essentials. Risk can never be eliminated, but it can be mitigated and managed. Some essentials include wearing clothing and footwear suitable for protection, carrying a whistle, first aid kit, bandana (many uses), map and compass, cell phone, extra layers of clothing, extra food and water, protection from the sun and elements, mirror for signaling, and telling a family member or friend where you are hiking and when he or she should expect your return. Does your hiking buddy have the necessary skills and equipment? Did you check the weather forecast? Can you survive overnight temperatures if needed? Can you direct emergency personnel to exactly where you are?

These things can be the difference between search and RESCUE and search and RECOVERY.

On my adventure, I never felt I took risks that posed major injury or death. Before trusting my weight to a branch or foot-hold, I would assess the exposure. If the branch would tear lose, what’s the worst case-scenario? I may end up with a broken bone, contusions, abrasions, lacerations…but probably nothing to put me on a search and rescue stretcher.

Experience, preparation, vigilance, and good judgment are all essential to keep you off a gurney and out of the headlines.

Environment – In considering hiking off trail, we must remember the environmental impact. Our beating through brush, climbing steeps banks, dislodging rocks, trampling on grass and plants…it all has an impact. We can disturb sensitive habitats, create erosion, and disrupt animal behavior.

Fish Canyon Wilderness
This adventure was a poignant reminder that Fish Canyon is truly a pristine wild place in many ways…steep mountainsides, dense and hostile vegetation, craggy ramparts, jumbled scree, deep furrows, watery obstructions. Such wild places are probably best experienced on an established trail. What a gift to have a fine footpath that allows us to safely amble deep into rugged wilderness and be comfortably home by lunch.

I have trusted you with my story. Please be wise and take care of yourself and our special wilderness places.

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 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 Adventure - March 12, 2016
PREVIOUS > PHOTO ALBUM: Fish Canyon - January 24, 2016
PREVIOUS > BLOG POST: Fish Canyon Falls Hike - January 16, 2016

Monday, February 15, 2016

Beacon Hill and Glendale Peak in Griffith Park - Feb. 15, 2016

Panorama northwest through east from Glendale Peak, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, February 15, 2016

Griffith Icon A day off from work to celebrate Presidents Day was an ideal time for a hike in Griffith Park…my first one for this year. I had to go into my office in L.A. for a few hours so I figured I would do a short hike to begin the morning. As I headed west on the 210 and 134, I pondered what trails I might cobble together. I decided that the two peaks at the east end of the park would be good.

I exit the I-5 at Los Feliz and take Crystal Springs drive to the large parking lot near the merry-go-round. Lots of cars in the lot and lots of walkers, hikers, and runners.

Beginning the hike on Lower Beacon Trail, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, February 15, 2016
9:10 a.m. - Begin hike. I head southeast on Lower Beacon Trail. The temperature is pleasant, the sky is blue, and the hillsides are green from winter rain. In a couple minutes I round a hip and reach my junction. A narrow use path cuts to the right up a steep bank. Up I climb the informal route which ascends a broad ridge due south. It’s mostly shaded and I have the path to myself. The din of traffic on the I-5 is ever-present. I enjoy expanding views of Glendale to the east with the San Gabriels as the backdrop. I can see my car in the lot below to the northwest. View northwest from the north ridge of Beacon Hill, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, February 15, 2016 Across the canyon to the west, Glendale Peak, Baby Bell, and Mount Bell define the skyline. It’s disheartening to see that someone has torn out all the young wild cucumber vines along the way. Why would someone destroy native plants? After a few minutes the steep path mellows out Climbing the north ridge of Beacon Hill, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, February 15, 2016 and I can see the summit of Beacon Hill. Soon the route gets steep again and at 9:27 I reach Upper Beacon Trail, a wide dirt road. I turn left (east) and climb the final steep pitch to the summit.

View north from Beacon Hill (1001’), Griffith Park, Los Angeles, February 15, 2016
9:29 - Beacon Hill (1001’). This broad-top summit stands as the easternmost point of the 40-mile-long Santa Monica Mountains. Clear skies provide good visibility today. It’s simply a beautiful day in L.A.! Burbank and Glendale basking in the morning sun sprawl to the north and east. The downtown L.A. skyline stands silhouetted to the south. Distant Palos Verdes Peninsula floats as a slender line above the marine layer. Glendale Peak and Hogback Ridge outline the parkland to the west. I look north toward Glendale beyond the 134 to spot the old control tower of the long-gone Grand Central Air Terminal. The airport got its start in 1923 and was the Southland’s main air terminal. The beacon light that stood on this summit guided those early aviators.

View west from Beacon Hill toward Upper Beacon Trail, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, February 15, 2016
9:35 - Leave Beacon Hill heading west on Upper Beacon Trail. I’m really enjoying the sunshine, fresh air, and surrounding park as a wildland island amidst a vast metropolis. Six minutes delivers me to 5-Points junction. View west arriving at 5-Points junction from Upper Beacon Trail, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, February 15, 2016 I encounter my first humans of the hike. Of the two routes that head west toward Vista Del Valle Drive, the one on the right has a sign that notes that the trail is closed 0.25 mile ahead for a construction project to expend the water recycling system. Construction closure sign at 5-Points junction, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, February 15, 2016 It will be closed through June 2017. Two gals head up that road, so maybe they know of a way to skirt the construction.

View west approaching Joe Klass Water Stop, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, February 15, 2016
I take the road on the left which climbs west. A lady and her dog off leash are coming down the road. The dog jumps up on me. I tell her the dog needs to be on a leash according to park regulations. She laughs and says, “Yeah, your right.” But she continues down road while occupied with her smart phone. What’s with these people?! I continue along the eucalyptus-lined dirt road and in five minutes reach the Joe Klass Water Stop. Joe Klass Water Stop at Vista Del Valle Drive, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, February 15, 2016 I top off my water bottle and continue west, now on paved Vista Del Valle Drive. A couple minutes delivers me to the construction project, which occupies a large area on the knoll adjacent to the Vista View Point (helipad). I have views west now toward the grand observatory View west toward Griffith Observatory from Vista View Point (helipad) at Vista Del Valle Drive, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, February 15, 2016 and Mt. Hollywood. The L.A. basin sprawls out on the southern panorama. Lots of people on the trails today.

View north toward Bridle Trail junction and Glendale Peak from Vista Del Valle Drive near Vista View Point (helipad), Griffith Park, Los Angeles, February 15, 2016
I round the bend north to see Glendale Peak inviting me up. At the junction for Hogback Trail (aka Bridal Trail), behind the green pump house, I ponder the treacherously steep route climbing about 15 feet up the shire granite road-cut. Short cut to Glendale Peak from the junction of Bridle Trail, Riverside Trail, and Vista Del Valle Drive, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, February 15, 2016 The first time I encountered this obstacle was in August 2010 on my six peaks hike. I had left Glendale Peak heading east thinking it was a short-cut, only to be stopped by this cliff. So I turned back. But today I stand here looking at the obstacle and think, you know, I can climb that thing. So up I climb, carefully negotiating each step, each handhold, summoning the nerve to keep climbing. At about half way I look down and realize that one slip would have horrible consequences. I dislike hospitals, so I will myself safely up. Wow, that was exhilarating! What a relief. The narrow path now leads me comfortably up the ridge five minutes to the peak. Heading west on short cut to Glendale Peak from the junction of Bridle Trail, Riverside Trail, and Vista Del Valle Drive, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, February 15, 2016

View south from Glendale Peak (1184’) in Griffith Park toward downtown Los Angeles, February 15, 2016
10:08 - Glendale Peak (1184’). This is a splendid little summit. Great views today. I love how green everything is. And there is such a contrast between the surrounding ruggedness and the massive human sprawl beyond. And as always, I have the peak all to myself. Ant-like figures crawl along the roads webbing throughout the park around me. It’s getting warm now. Thankfully it’s all downhill from here.

View north from Glendale Peak toward Henry’s Trail and Hogback ridge, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, February 15, 2016
10:15 - Leave Glendale Peak heading east on Henry’s Trail. I’m thoroughly enjoying the scenery. I stop to photograph wild Canterbury bells. Wild Canterbury bells (Phacelia minor) along Henry’s Trail, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, February 15, 2016 There has been very little in bloom today: some wild cucumber, everlasting, deerweed, ceanothus, tree tobacco, and the typical weeds of mustard and filaree. I ponder my return route and think I’ll climb down from the bridge to Vista Del Valle Drive. When I reach the junction it appears to be awfully steep and perilous. But I’ve done it up and down before, so I know it is safely doable. So down I go (starting at the point directly behind the Henry’s Trail sign). Beginning of short cut from Henry’s Trail to Vista Del Valle Drive, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, February 15, 2016 It is somewhat precarious, but I negotiate it safely. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart. View from Vista Del Valle Drive toward short cut coming from the bridge at Henry’s Trail and Hogback ridge, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, February 15, 2016

View north from the use trail connecting Vista Del Valle Drive and Fern Canyon Trail, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, February 15, 2016
I turn right (south) on Vista Del Valle and stroll along. Looking east down into the canyon, I see a well-worn path along the canyon bottom heading down to Fern Canyon Trail. Oh, that’s going to be my return route. I walk past the junction of Hogback and Riverside trails and find my route adjacent to the Vista View Point (helipad) just to the left of the lower trail heading back to 5-Points (blocked right now by a construction fence). I head down the trail. It’s a splendid path and I enjoy being off the wide fire roads. But, as with most narrow trails in Griffith Park, it doesn’t last for long before it deliverers me to a wide dirt road.

View north on Fern Canyon Trail, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, February 15, 2016
10:51 - Fern Canyon Trail. I turn left and mosey down the dirt road. Lots of foot traffic today. A ranger drives up the road and I give to him a set of keys I found on Glendale Peak. I also reported to him the destruction of the wild cucumber vines. It’s quite warm now and I’m glad I’m heading down. Several families with young kids trudge up road under the warm sun. The kids don’t look like they are enjoying themselves. I don’t blame them. Dragging kids up a steep road under ponding sun is not a good way to endear them to hiking. At 11:08 I leave the road and transition onto Fern Canyon Nature Trail, a most pleasant route for my final stretch. View northeast from Fern Canyon Amphitheater to Fern Canyon Trail, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, February 15, 2016 The area is rebounding nicely after the devastating fire of May 2007, but some dead trees still stand as a reminder of the raging inferno.

11:17 - End hike. It’s about 87 degrees. Good for 8,539 steps on my Fitbit.

Dan Simpson on Beacon Hill (1001’), Griffith Park, Los Angeles, February 15, 2016
Epilog - What a pleasant outing! Warm sun, fresh air, blue sky, green hillsides, splendid views, some adventure, and good exercise. In all my hikes in Griffith Park over the years, I’ve never repeated a hike. I’ve used many of the same trail sections, but combined them for different hikes. So on today’s hike it was fun to visit two familiar peaks yet cobble together different routes for a unique hike. I never get tired of the amazing Griffith Park. icon

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

Boot IconRelevant trail descriptions for this hike at Dan’s Hiking Pages:

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