Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Sinks and Peak 1775

Hiked: 5/21/2017
Distance: 10 miles round trip on trail
Summit Elevation: 1775'
Elevation Gain: 1270'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.01
Round trip time: 3 hours 15 minutes
Recommended water: 36 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free at Augustine Staging Area (registration required)
Difficulty: Moderate

Irvine Ranch Conservancy manages 40,000 acres of open space in eastern Irvine. The area is closed to the public except for docent led events and occasional open access days. The gem of Irvine Ranch is The Sinks in Limestone Canyon. The Sinks is sometimes hyped as the "Little Grand Canyon" of the OC. To register for events, go to I have generally avoided the Irvine Ranch area because, sometimes, they are a bit heavy handed in their management. I decided that it was worth the effort to see The Sinks at least once so I signed my wife and I up for a cardio hike that went past it.

Out of 25 people that signed up, only 4 showed. There were 3 guides so we ended up with essentially a private guided hike. After the first mile on Limestone Canyon trail, the group seemed to be relatively strong, so the guides suggested we take the Sandtrap trail for a loop over Loma Ridge. It was more gain, but gave us great views back into the Open Space, the Santa Anas, and the ocean (through some haze). We kept a brisk pace up to the ridge, taking only one break for water and photos. The trail passes over Peak 1775, the high point on the ridge. On the way down, we stopped to look at a raptor nest before reaching the west viewing platform for The Sinks. Here we took about a 5 minute break for photo ops. I admit my expectations were low, but the The Sinks were an impressive product of erosion for Orange County. The way back was mostly flat, gradually losing about 350' in elevation. The highlight on the way back was a large red tailed hawk at the top of a tree. Counting all breaks, we still averaged over 3 mph over 10 miles. Not a bad workout, though my heart rate was only high during the uphill sections.

Two of our guides, CJ and Ali


The Santa Ana Mountains from Loma Ridge

Hawk's nest

The Sinks

On the way back

Red tailed hawk

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Hawkins Ridge

Hiked: 5/13/2017
Distance: 11.5 miles round trip on trail and cross country
Summit Elevation: 8505' (Middle), 8047' (Sadie), 7783' (South)
Elevation Gain: 3450'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 2.76
Round trip time: 6 hours 30 minutes
Recommended water: 92 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass at Crystal Lake
Difficulty: Moderate

The Hawkins family is a cluster of 4 peaks near the center of the Angeles National Forest. Mt. Hawkins (8850') is the highest and farthest north, the other three, Middle Hawkins, Sadie Hawkins, and South Mt. Hawkins, lie along a north-south ridge. Leisa and I had done Mt. Hawkins and Middle Hawkins before. Madison was celebrating his birthday and planned a route to start at Crystal Lake, hike up to Windy Gap, then the PCT to the Hawkins Ridge Trail, then descend the ridge going over these summits:

1. Middle Hawkins
2. Sadie Hawkins
3. South Mt. Hawkins

That would complete the Hawkins family for both Madison and I. Sean had done all of these summits several times. Recent rain and a cold front left us in doubt about the conditions we might face on the north slope section of the PCT. I decided to bring microspikes and poles, but leave the ice ax at home. This turned out to be fine and in fact, we encountered no snow on the trail. It was very cold, though, and my preparations for the cold came up short. About 15 minutes into the hike, Sean and Madison stopped to shed a layer. I kept all my clothes on and was quite comfortable. When we reached Windy Gap, the wind howled from the north. I pulled my balaclava on for face protection and Sean and Madison both added back some protection they shed below. We took a short detour to Little Jimmy Spring so Sean could refill some water bottles. Then, we returned to the PCT and headed up toward Hawkins Ridge. The wind was relentless and there was no protection or avoiding it. Madison had stowed his gloves and considered stopping to get them back out. But he didn't, he just toughed it out. Sean considered adding a bandanna for face protection, but didn't. I was in good shape except my fingers started getting cold. I considered getting out my mitts for wind protection, but didn't. A bad mistake. When we reached the Hawkins Ridge Trail, we stopped for hydration and food. It was during this stop that several of my fingers went numb.

Starting on the Windy Gap trail

Looking up at Windy Gap

Madison and Sean at Windy Gap, Islip ridge behind

Little Jimmy Spring

Crystal Lake basin from the PCT

Middle Hawkins from the PCT

Hawkins Ridge trail junction

Cold. I hate it. I am overly sensitive to it. The forecast was low 40sF for South Mt. Hawkins with a 15 mph wind leading to a wind chill of 39F. But, when I pulled up to the Crystal Lake parking lot, the temp was 36F, suggesting a temp on South Mt. Hawkins around 29F. At higher elevations on the north side of our loop on the PCT, it was going to be even colder. The gloves I wore had no wind protection, but I brought mitts for that purpose. The decision not to use them during the worst of the wind led to the numbness. Whether the mitts would have completely prevented it is unknown. As we climbed Middle Hawkins, the wind still blasted us from the north, and there was little relief on the summit. Sean and Madison weren't having any issues, but my fingers were causing me some distress. I finally put on my mitts and dropped chemical warmers in each one, but was not content to wait. I told Sean my hands were cold and that I wanted to continue moving. Without waiting to discuss it, I started moving down the south side of Middle Hawkins and followed the trail toward Sadie. Sean and Madison remained behind to sign the register and take care of other summit business. I flexed my fingers continuously and gripped the warmers. Middle Hawkins was high enough that it blocked the wind once I was below it. That was crucial. Soon, I was at the base of Sadie and started up. The vigorous activity, warmers, and lack of wind made a difference and feeling slowly oozed back into my frozen fingers. When I reached the summit of Sadie, I had feeling back and paused to wait for Sean and Madison. I took no photos between the Hawkins Ridge junction and Sadie. I had no desire to stop and couldn't have operated my camera anyway. During the whole episode, only my fingers were an issue. I need to figure this out or abandon the idea of ever climbing something really cold like Mt. Hood. When Sean and Madison reached Sadie, Sean placed a new register on the summit. We then headed to South Mt. Hawkins as a group.

Climbing Middle Hawkins

Looking back at Middle Hawkins and Mt. Hawkins

Sean's fresh register on Sadie Hawkins

Baldy from Hawkins Ridge

Approaching South Mt. Hawkins

At the base of the South Mt. Hawkins ridge trail

The wind was now gone and the sun warmed things up quickly. We hiked through a beautiful section of new and old pine forest. Hawkins Ridge, like the Twin Peaks and Waterman area, is in my opinion, the nicest part of the ANF. We had a very pleasant hike to the final Hawkins, taking the ridge instead of the road to the summit. Great views unfolded as we topped out and I relaxed for the first time. We sat around, ate, drank, and barely noticed two other people that made the summit from the road. We all roamed around taking photos, then started down the road. Instead of taking the road all the way, Sean suggested a "shortcut". He pointed out a faint use trail down a steep slope. It didn't take much convincing before we decided the shortcut was the way to go. The first part was a scree slide. We lost and found the use trail several times before arriving at a clearing that others had also found. Sean packed out some beer bottles and cans strewn around the area. We dropped down a second steep slope and intersected the Tototngna Loop Trail. That trail led us back to the cars.

Twin Peaks East (right), Triplet Rocks and Smith Mountain

Sean took this shot of us getting ready to head down from South Mt. Hawkins

Looking back at South Mt. Hawkins

Sean leading us down his shortcut

Trail back to the parking lot

Would you like to know more...?

Friday, May 12, 2017

Blue Mountain

Hiked: 5/12/2017
Distance: 4.1 miles round trip on dirt road
Summit Elevation: 2448'
Prominence: 928'
Elevation Gain: 1250'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.0
Round trip time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Recommended water: 20 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free on Westwood Street
Difficulty: Easy

I was looking to break in some new boots in preparation for hiking Hawkins Ridge the next day so I headed for Blue Mountain, a small peak in Riverside County north of Box Springs Mountain. There are a couple of trailheads for Blue Mountain. I drove to the one at the end of Westwood Street north of the mountain. There are actually two Westwood trailheads and I parked at the unfriendly one. The gate to the start of the trail was covered in No Tresspassing, No Parking, and Closed! signs. So I continued past the gate onto a wide dirt road with long switchbacks.

A steep use trail was available as a shortcut near the start, but I opted for a little extra distance since I was breaking in boots. Hazy, smoggy views opened up of Box Springs Mountain, the Santa Anas, and San Gabriels as I gained elevation. The combination of "May gray" and smog muddied what were probably very nice views. Interesting boulders lined the trail or were just off trail, but I marched to the summit without stopping in about 40 minutes. Other trip reports mentioned that all the benchmarks were missing. I found the missing mount points while taking some photos. Some kind of shrine was set up for Ralph Granillo. His online obit turned this up: He was an avid walker of Blue Mountain where he was known as "The Legend". RIP. After poking around the Blue Mountain summit a few minutes, I continued south to the Highgrove benchmark area where I got an even better view of Box Springs Mountain. On my return trip, I passed several other parties on their way up. I stopped to check out a large granite boulder with loose climbing anchors bolted into the top. I climbed it on one side with an easy class 2 route. The bolts were for the 25' vertical face on the other side. Frankly, none of the bolts seemed secure and I wouldn't trust them. At the end, the boots didn't seem to cause any discomfort, though the real test awaited. Blue Mountain was a fun urban hike, one of several in the UC Riverside area.

Unwelcome start

Summit not visible at the start

Switchbacks on a wide track

Nearing the summit

Box Springs Mountain and Saddleback distant right

Missing benchmarks on Blue Mountain

Shrine to Ralph Granillo

Box Springs Mountain from the Highgrove area

Looking down from the large granite boulder, about half way down

Would you like to know more...?

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Dome Rock, AZ (Sugarloaf)

Hiked: 5/4/2017
Distance: 1 mile round trip on dirt road and cross country
Summit Elevation: 1759'
Prominence: 439'
Elevation Gain: 575'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.46
Round trip time: 1 hour
Recommended water: 40 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free on unnamed dirt road
Difficulty: Easy

Fresh off my hike to Alligator, I drove about 60 miles east along I-10 to the next geological oddity near the road: Dome Rock. The official USGS name of this mountain is Sugarloaf Peak, part of the Dome Rock Mountains, but it is locally known (and signed) as Dome Rock. The Dome Rock Mountains run both north and south of I-10 with higher mountains on both sides, but Dome Rock is an interesting and somewhat prominent beacon from the road. It is a great mound of dirt capped with a jagged, round dome of volcanic rock. It looks technical from the north, but a class 2 gully cuts the dome from the southeast.

Dome Rock from the road

Serious desert temps

Dome Rock, starting from the east

Traveling east on I-10, I took exit 11 on the paved Dome Rock road, then followed unnamed OHV dirt roads and trails to the east side of Dome Rock between it and peak 1911. The roads were not very good, but they also weren't deep sand like around the Alligator. 4x4 was not required, but I recommend high clearance. A sedan might be able to make the trip, if driven slowly. When I reached the starting point, the temp had risen to 100 and it was approaching the hottest part of the day. This trip was expected to take about an hour with some scrambling, and I decided that if I started to overheat, I would turn around. I wasn't sure where the ascent gully was so I headed up the road toward a south side ridge. As I got closer, I spotted the gully east of the ridge, so I left the road and headed toward the gully. Half way up, I found a single boulder large enough to throw some shade and stopped under it to hydrate. My core temp seemed fine, so I continued up. The gully got steeper as I ascended with loose rocks testing my balance. I stopped at the first class 2 section because the rocks were too hot to touch for more than a second or two. I anticipated this and put on gloves before proceeding. The last 100' or so was steep class 2. I made one class 3 move that was not really necessary before topping out. There were a couple of tall rock cairns on the summit and a register in a plastic jar stuffed with loose pieces of paper. I found a blank one to fill out and laughed at some of the other entries. There was no insect swarm to drive me off the summit so I took a little time to enjoy it. The desert views were striking and I was glad I made the effort. While returning, I saw a chuckwalla with a red-orange body on a rock below. We sized each other up, then he ducked between two rocks for cover. He was in an awkward spot, but I did my best to get some good photos of him. Mr. chuckwalla was icing on the cake of an already fun adventure.

A chink in the armor

Lone saguaro guardian, with open arms

Final bit

Cairns on the summit

Random register entry

Wary chuckwalla

Hide and seek

Starting down the gully