Saturday, January 16, 2016

Fish Canyon Falls Hike - January 16, 2016

Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest, January 16, 2016
As I have been endeavoring to hike to Fish Canyon Falls every month for a year, I’m eager hit the trail for my eleventh month to begin 2016. I started in March and have been thoroughly enjoying experiencing Fish Canyon through the seasons. And it was one year ago this weekend that the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders restored the trail from a major slide that covered the trail on November 17, 2014.

For the last couple months I’ve enjoyed the falls flowing again after its summer dryness. And I’ve heard that the recent rains have bolstered the flow. Today’s forecast is for temps in the mid-60s and cloudy skies with 10 percent chance of rain. I arrive at the trailhead and the rising sun is peaking below the clouds. It's nippy. There are six cars in the lot.

Heading north from the trailhead on the Fish Canyon access trail into Vulcan’s quarry
7:43 - Begin hike. I stroll through the quiet quarry and transition into the riparian section. There is nothing in bloom except some California buckwheat. The sound of water is peaceful. I cross the bridge into the national forest at 8:00. It’s cool and damp and the stream flows briskly. Rains have washed debris unto the trail in places.

Riparian setting along Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
I saunter along taking time to appreciate the seasonal changes to the vegetation. Winter grasses are greening up. Deciduous shrubs and trees are mostly leafless now. Plants that were parched in the arid months, like coastal sagebrush and spikemoss, have returned to life. New vines of wild cucumber sport their tiny white flowers. There is virtually nothing else in bloom aside from occasional occurrences of everlasting, cliff aster, and the ever dependable sunflower, and a few weeds like mustard, filaree, sow thistle, and cape ivy (horrifically invasive and abundant). Some willows still have a remnant of yellow leaves adding a splash of color. And some poison oak, sycamore, and big-leaf maple also contribute a little lingering fall colors. Toyon berries add highlights of red. The tree of heaven jungle is a curtain of leafless sticks. There is one lone periwinkle blossom. Domestically planted jade at the Polly’s cabin site is blooming in profusion. Further along, I some brilliant blue flowers high above me. It is spreading larkspur (Delphinium patens), one of my favorites. It typically begins its bloom around March and adds wonderful color to the spring floral display.

Heading north on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
The clouds are breaking up and hazy sun begins to grace the canyon. There is a steady stream of hikers passing me by, including several large groups. I guess a lot of people had the idea that the recent rains would make it good to hike to Fish Canyon Falls today. I am really enjoying the beauty of this canyon; I never get tired of it. And it seems like I am always discovering new things. The trial is relatively clean of litter and I'm thankful for hikers who pick up trash along the way. It’s hard to grasp why people discard their garbage in such a beautiful place.

Washout on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest, January 16, 2016
Nearing the spiral staircase, there is a large rock and earth slide that has significantly damaged the trail. I had heard from a hiker who encountered it a week ago. It’s still reasonable passable with some care, but it will take concerted labor to restore it. I take a side jaunt to Darlin Donna Falls and it’s flowing nicely. I continue along enjoying the delightful streamside setting.

9:54 - Main creek crossing. It’s been great to see it flowing for the last several months after months of dryness. I am no doubt the slowest hikers on the trail today (as has been my custom in Fish Canyon) but I’m sure no one is enjoying the canyon more than I am. How many hikers stop to smell the bay and sagebrush, to admire the tiny blossoms of Douglas nightshade, to listen to the creek flowing and the birds chirping, to value the texture of bark, and appreciate the diverse patterns and colors of rock?

Heading north on Fish Canyon Trail approaching the falls, Angeles National Forest
I enjoy the rugged scenery as I climb the canyon’s east wall. I stop to greet the large population of the rare Dudley densiflora in anticipation of its dense flowers in the late spring. Lots of hikers are coming and going, and in some narrow sections the traffic gets a little congested. Deep in the canyon below, water flows and tumbles down cascades and chutes worn in the bedrock. As I approach the falls, I am are greeted with the melody of falling water and happy voices.

Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest, January 16, 2016
10:30 - Fish Canyon Falls. Always a wonderful sight…80 feet, three tiers, one of the most beautiful falls in the San Gabriels. The falls are in the full sun now and are the strongest I’ve seen all season. Both the upper and lower pools are full. Lingering yellow leaves on the black willow tree add rich color to the setting. There are lots of people here. After about 20 minutes of standing on the big rock and enjoying the setting from afar, I climb down to the pool. I chat with different ones, take photos, and just relish this special place. Dan Simpson at Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest, January 16, 2016 I always love seeing the diversity of people hiking to Fish Canyon Falls: various ethnicities, families, young couples, singles, middle aged, elderly. When I see teenagers and young adults making the trek to the falls, I’m encouraged that the upcoming generations are gaining an appreciation for nature and the outdoors. There is hope for our planet!

Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest Vinca aka periwinkle (Vinca major) on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
Riparian setting along Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest Hikers heading north on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
12:03 - Leave the falls. I retrace my steps down the trail. The sun has conquered the clouds and provides some welcome warmth and lightning. My pace is a little faster but I still take time to appreciate the nuances of the canyon. Lots of hikers are still coming and going. As I stroll through the streamside section below Polly’s cabin, I spot a Mylar balloon hanging in a tree across the creek. I cross the creek among a thick patch of invasive cap ivy and retrieve the balloon. I continue downstream a tad before finding a place to cross back over to the trail. I never get tired of the canyon’s beauty.

Bridge between Vulcan Materials Fish Canyon access trail and Angeles National Forest
I cross the bridge at 1:40 and meet a man and his two young sons. The boys seem to be enjoying their interaction with nature. I introduce them to the wonderful aroma of coastal sagebrush and one boy immediately shares the experience with another couple hikers coming up the trail. There is hope of the planet! I wander along the access trail through the quarry to conclude another fine visit to Fish Canyon.

2:05 - End hike. There are about 45 cars in the parking lot and it is 67 degrees. My Fitbit recorded 13,180 steps for the hike (for 5.4 miles plus walking around at the falls).

Common sunflower (helianthus annuus) on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
Epilog - I love Fish Canyon. What a pleasure to sample it through the seasons. After the parched months, each visit increases in beauty, and there is a sense of delightful expectation as we head toward the fabulous springtime and its floristic show and wonderful waterfall. I’m eager to see how the forecasted El Niño rains will impact my beloved canyon in the months to come. 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 > BLOG POST: Fish Canyon Adventure - February 20, 2016
NEXT > PHOTO ALBUM: Fish Canyon - January 24, 2016
PREVIOUS > PHOTO ALBUM: Fish Canyon - December 30, 2015
PREVIOUS > Fish Canyon Falls Hike - December 24, 2015

Friday, January 1, 2016

Summit 2843 via East Ridge, San Gabriel Canyon - Jan. 1, 2016

Panorama north to east from the ridgeline of Summit 2843 separating San Gabriel and Roberts canyons, Angeles National Forest

It’s great to start the new year with a hike. The theme of today’s Rose Parade in Pasadena is “Find Your Adventure,” so rather than sitting passively and watching the parade, I went to find an adventure. Standing predominantly over Azusa near the mouth of the San Gabriel Canyon, Summit 2843 is one of my favorite local peaks. I’ve climbed it a half dozen times and each outing is unique. Today’s plan is to climb it from a route I’ve not hiked before: straight up the steep east ridge. I’ve looked at it from various vantage points and studied the maps and aerials, and I’ve seen that others have used the route (at least partially) and posted the GPS tracks to Peakbagger.com. From the aerials, it’s evident that there is a clearly defined route, but it’s quite steep. So I’m psyched up for an earnest climb.

Trailhead for 2N28 Silver Fish Fire Road near Morris Dam on Highway 39, Angeles National Forest
It’s winter and the night-time temps have been in the 30s and 40s, and day-time temps in the 50s and 60s. So I’m geared up for some brisk weather.

I arrive at the trailhead for Silver Fish Fire Road (2N28) adjacent to Morris Reservoir on Hwy 39 in San Gabriel Canyon. II don’t display an Adventure Pass since I understand that the courts have ruled that the Forest Service can require the pass only for areas where there are guest amenities, like restroom and tables. But the rules are still confusing and in dispute, and of course the FS is as clear as mud on the issue. There is a pick-up truck parked here. It’s 51 degrees.

View northeast toward Highway 39, Morris Reservoir, and Glendora Mountain, Angeles National Forest
9:45 AM - Begin hike. I skirt the locked vehicle gate for 2N28 and begin my adventure up the old Silver Fish Fire Road. Almost immediately I reach my junction. The road takes a shape right (north) but I veer left and follow the path up the ravine passing the check dam on its left. As many times as I’ve hiked here, this is my first time on this route. The corrugated “steps” of the metal barrier assist me over it. The path climbs steeply and within a minute bends left and follows the bed of what appears to be a long-abandoned dirt road, softened by decades of natural forces. In another minute I step into the sun and the route splits. To the left heads downhill, so I veer right. Views of Morris Reservoir and Dam open up. The path turns right (southwest) and I can see the concrete water tank high above me on the ridge. View west toward water tank on the east ridge en route to Summit 2843, Angeles National Forest It’s steep and a little brushy in places. A California everlasting greets me with its creamy white flowers as the first plant in bloom today. In a few minutes I reach the ascending/descending hogback ridge where I’ll be spending the rest of my climb. The route veers right onto the ridge. After the first steep scramble I reach a water district benchmark. View back east toward Morris Dam on east ridge en route to Summit 2843, Angeles National Forest I’m treated with expanding views of the lower San Gabriel Canyon blanketed with thick, scruffy chaparral. View southwest toward the ridgeline of Summit 2843 separating San Gabriel and Roberts canyons, Angeles National Forest It’s quite peaceful aside from vehicle noise on Hwy 39 below. The path is steep and I take my time. The warm sun feels good.

Water tank on east ridge en route to Summit 2843, San Gabriel Canyon, Angeles National Forest
10:13 - Water tank. I’m warming up so I shed my long-sleeved shirt. I linger few minutes and look around. Up I climb. The San Gabriels high county comes into view. There’s not much snow yet this year. Add a few occurrences of the weeds mustard and filaree to the blooming list. I look up and am intrigued to see huge circles of sky writing in the southwest sky. Political skywriting (notice the name Trump) over San Gabriel Valley as seen from San Gabriel Canyon, Angeles National Forest It’s fading and difficult to read (later on the news I learned they were messages blasting Donald Trump: “America is Great! Trump is Disgusting,” “Anybody but Trump” and “Iowans Dump Trump”…I’ll let the political blogs opine on that).

View southwest on the east ridge en route to Summit 2843, Angeles National Forest
Soon the route veers left to leave the ridgeline for a stretch. In a few minutes I reach a section that is dreadfully steep and loose. Crazy steep section on the east ridge en route to Summit 2843, Angeles National Forest I carefully place each step. A slip would have dire consequences. It takes me about six minutes to safely negotiate this section. This was actually too unsafe for my comfort zone as a solo hiker, but there was no way around it. Having poles would have really helped. I decide that I’m not going to return via this route; there are too many steep sections and descending would be tedious and risky, particularly without poles. Another four minutes and one more steep section bring me to the old road.

View southwest approaching saddle and old 2N28 on the east ridge en route to Summit 2843, Angeles National Forest
11:00 - First occurrence of 2N28. It’s overgrown and does not appear to have any foot traffic in either direction. To the right would be a short walk to highpoint 2214’ on the topo map, but it’s blocked by a pile of cut brush. My route continues steeply up the bank about 20 feet to achieve a gentle ridgeline which parallels the old road below it on the left. It’s nice to have a couple minutes of nearly level walking before my final steep section to the top. I reach a small saddle where the upper section of 2N28 reaches this ridgeline. Access to the old road is blocked by thick brush but an access path connects to it just past the saddle. This was the route taken by couple hikers who posted GPS tracks on Peakbagger.com for trips to Silver Mountain (I really don’t know why they would take that route rather than the standard route I describe in my Summit 2843 trail guide).

View northeast from the east ridge of Summit 2843 toward San Gabriel Canyon, Glendora Mountain, and the San Gabriel Mountains high country, Angeles National Forest
I continue to climb. To the northeast, Mt. Baldy and the San Gabriels high country from Ontario Peak to Baden-Powell come into view. In spite of the steepness, Upper section on the east ridge en route to Summit 2843, Angeles National Forest I’m enjoying the fresh air, sunshine, rugged scenery, and solitude…sure is different from fighting the masses in Pasadena on this New Year’s Day. Vehicle noise from Hwy 39 is virtually silent now. There are fresh deer tracks. I’m surprised to find frost in the shade. I’m eager as I near the top. View west on the east ridge nearing the ridgeline of Summit 2843 separating San Gabriel and Roberts canyons, Angeles National Forest

View north toward Pine Mt. (left, 4539') and Silver Mt. (right, 3385') from the ridgeline of Summit 2843 separating Roberts Canyon (left) and San Gabriel Canyon (right), Angeles National Forest
12:00 - Upper ridgeline (2720’). Ok, I’ve now joined the standard route coming from the north…back on familiar territory. It’s fun to explore different routes. A nearly leafless elderberry tree sports some new leaves and blossoms. That’s the thing about SoCal, we do have seasons, but they are somewhat subtle and plants can be found behaving uncharacteristic to the seasons. But it is definitely winter with crisp air, frost, leafless trees and shrubs, dead grasses, rusty buckwheat, and virtually nothing in bloom. And I don’t have to worry about rattlesnakes!

I meander up the broad ridge and soak in the expansive scenery. On the upper ridge, buckwheat encroaches into the route; I’m glad I’m wearing long pants. I reflect on my various hikes up this ridge since my first ascent in May 2004 with my buddy Drew (Gosh, I didn’t even think about hiking it in 2014 to celebrate 10 years! Maybe I need to plan 20-year anniversary hikes this year to Mt. Lowe, Hoegees Trail Camp, and Switzer Falls).

View southwest toward Azusa and beyond from Summit 2843 on New Year’s Day 2016, Angeles National Forest
12:20 - Summit 2843. Wow, here again for my seventh ascent. I love this peak. It’s my mountain looking down on my home in Azusa. Oh yes, there’s my house down there…nestled behind some trees. Aerial view of Summit 2843, the mouth of San Gabriel Canyon, and Azusa The 360-degree panorama is stellar. The mighty San Gabriels fill the northern panorama. Panorama north from Summit 2843 with Monrovia Peak on the far left (west) and Ontario Peak on the far right (east), Angeles National Forest The vast human habitation of the L.A. Basin sprawls the southern panorama, muted somewhat by haze. View southeast toward Glendora Ridge and the east end San Gabriel Valley from Summit 2843, Angeles National Forest Catalina Island stretches along the distant horizon. The weather is fantastic for New Year’s Day. I take pictures, post to Facebook, and have a bite to eat.

View north toward old 2N28 and the saddle between Roberts Canyon (left) and Water Canyon (right) with Pine Mt. (left, 4539') and Silver Mt. (right, 3385') above, Angeles National Forest
1:20 - Leave summit and retrace my steps down the broad ridge. I’m enjoying the warm sunshine, blue skies, and splendid scenery. At 1:30 I pass the junction to the route I ascended, but I continue down main ridge for a loop. In another 13 minutes I reach the junction of the standard ridge route from the east. Rather than descending that route, I continue north down the old firebreak. It’s been some years since I’ve taken this route so I’d like to check out its condition. The path is reasonably easy to follow through the brush (mostly California buckwheat). It’s pretty steep but the soil is soft providing for decent footing. There are several big patches of frost in the deep shade. I suspect that portions of this steep, north-facing slope get no direct sun in the winter months.

View north from old 2N28 and the saddle between Water Canyon and Roberts Canyon with Silver Mountain (3385') above, Angeles National Forest
2:03 - Saddle. The ridge in front of me climbs north 0.7 mile and 1,035 vertical feet to Silver Mountain (3385’). The old fire road (2N28) crosses the saddle north into Roberts Canyon, but it has long been abandoned and reclaimed by nature. View east into Water Canyon from old 2N28 and the saddle between Water Canyon and Roberts Canyon, Angeles National Forest Water Canyon lies below my feet to the east. After a few minutes of taking pictures and scoping things out, I turn hard right and head southeast on the old fire road. It’s in good shape and my walk is pleasant. There’s lots of frost in the deep shade. Single occurrences of bush sunflower, bush monkey flower, and golden yarrow add yellow highlight to the winter landscape. Behind me Silver Mountain rises sharply into the blue sky.

View east down the ascending/descending ridge from the junction of old 2N28, my route down, Angeles National Forest
2:18 - Junction to the ascending/descending ridge. This will be my route down but I continue along the road to do some scouting. The old road continues to be in good shape. I follow it for about six minutes to a point where I can see the gentle ridgeline and saddle where I ascended this morning. The route looks clear all the way over there. I turn back and reach the ascending/descending ridge at 2:32. I turn right (east) and begin my descent. The first section is steep but then it mellows out. My pace is comfortable and I enjoy the expansive views and warm sunshine. Across San Gabriel Canyon is see Glendora Mountain and reflect on my hike two months ago.

Strolling on old 2N28 in Water Canyon, Angeles National Forest
2:48 - Lower occurrence of 2N28. To the right (south) the road disappears into impassability. Straight ahead the ridge continues down. But I turn left (north) to follow the old road into Water Canyon for my return route. Immediately I step into the shade and figure that I’ll probably not be in direct sun for the rest of my outing. I enjoy sauntering along the old road as it contours in an out of canyon tributaries. It’s brisk and wintery and the grass is wet. Single occurrences of California fuchsia and cliff aster defy the season. At 3:07 I reach the hairpin where the route begins its eastward descent along the north-facing slopes of Water Canyon. Shortly I pass the rock face that should be a showy 12-foot waterfall during our upcoming El Niño rains. Seasonal waterfall along old 2N28 in Water Canyon, Angeles National Forest A little further along I reach the section that was washed out in the 2005 storms. A narrow path climbs up and over the slide. It has deteriorated some since I last hiked it 11 months ago. The footing is loose and a slip would be grave. I negotiate it without incident. I continue along. Across San Gabriel Canyon to the east, the golden-hour sun saturates the mountainside.

View northeast from old 2N28 toward Morris Reservoir and Glendora Mountain, San Gabriel Canyon, Angeles National Forest
3:37 - Reach junction to the ascending/descending ridge route. I round the outward bend and get a shot of the sun disappearing behind the ridge I climbed this morning. As I contour into the tributary canyon, the temperature drops dramatically. Morris Reservoir looks serein. I stroll along savoring the last minutes of a rewarding day.

3:47 - End hike. The car thermometer reads 48 degrees.

Epilog - What a pleasant hike! Fresh air, blue skies, comfortable temperatures, sunshine, rugged scenery, solitude, healthy exercise, a new adventure, and a beloved peak...a great way to begin the new year. Life is good. icon

See Summit 2843 hike description on Dan’s Hiking Pages

PREVIOUS > Summit 2843 via San Gabriel Canyon Hike - Feb. 21, 2015