Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Redwood Grove Trail

Hiked: 12/30/2013
Distance: 0.8 miles round trip on trail
Summit Elevation: 738' (at the start of the trail)
Elevation Gain: 0'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.00
Round trip time: 30 minutes
Recommended water: 0 oz.
Parking/Fees: $10 state park fee
Difficulty: Easy

We vacationed in Monterey, CA over the holidays and my only outing was a family trip to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park north of Santa Cruz. The park has plenty of parking, restrooms, a store, and visitors center. There were a group of deer near the entrance, but I failed to get a photo.

There are several trails in the park, but we only walked the main Redwood Grove Trail. It is level, very wide, and well maintained probably due to the popularity of the trees. The redwoods were up to 16' wide and topped out about 275' above the forest floor. They are just massive, giant things straight out of a Lord of the Rings movie, and everyone was in awe. Park literature claims the oldest trees here are about 1,800 years old. It's hard to think of living things that ancient.

Start of the Redwood Grove Trail

Puny humans among the giants



Monday, December 23, 2013

Sunset Peak

Hiked: 12/23/2013
Distance: 3.1 miles round trip on use trail
Summit Elevation: 5799'
Prominence: 1273'
Elevation Gain: 1509'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.20
Round trip time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Recommended water: 48 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass
Difficulty: Easy

With unseasonably warm weather, I headed to Cow Canyon Saddle off Glendora Ridge Road for a quick hike up to Sunset Peak. I started up the steep firebreak and followed it straight to the top. It was warmer than expected and I shed my top layer within 15 minutes. Along the way, there were spectacular views of San Antonio Canyon and all the higher surrounding peaks. The firebreak has a well defined use trail and intersects the fire road in two places. Just before the second intersection with the road, there is a short, easy section of class 2, most of which can be bypassed. I chose to scramble over the rocks on the way up and down. While on top, I signed the summit register and leafed through the recent entries. I can see why it is a popular destination, since the views are a great reward for not too much effort. The ruins of the old lookout tower were scattered around the large summit area. Even though it is a pretty stiff climb up the firebreak, the short distance keeps it in the easy category. Good fun and another HPS peak checked off the list.

Start of the firebreak from Cow Canyon Saddle

First look at Sunset Peak along the firebreak

Awesome view down San Antonio Canyon

A few rocks just before the second road juntion

Sunset Peak summit

Ruins of the old lookout tower on Sunset Peak?

Mostly snow free Mt. Baldy from Sunset Peak

Telegraph Peak and Ontario Peak from Sunset Peak

Thursday, December 19, 2013

San Ysidro Mountain, The Thimble, White BM, Bonny BM

Hiked: 12/18/2013
Distance: 9.4 miles round trip cross country and use trail
Summit Elevation: 6147' (San Ysidro), 5779' (Thimble), 5326' (White), 4574' (Bonny)
Prominence: 947' (San Ysidro)
Elevation Gain: 3248' (combined)
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 2.59
Round trip time: 7 hours 30 minutes
Recommended water: 128 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free on the side of S22 (Montezuma Valley Road)
Difficulty: Strenuous

San Ysidro is on the Sierra Club Hundred Peaks list and also the San Diego County Peaks list. It is also one of the highest in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. I had climbed one other nearby desert peak, Indianhead, and it was tough, so I expected a difficult cross country, cactus filled day. I wanted to hike Ysidro before Thanksgiving, but delayed the attempt due to weather. In mid-December, I wanted to find a nice, snowy hike to break in some new equipment, but two weeks of sun left patchy snow in the local mountains so I went back to Ysidro. Sometimes, you have to take what the weather gives you.

I truly love the desert. Many desert peaks have no trails and everything on the itinerary today was cross country, leaving from the side of Montezuma Valley Road just inside the Anza-Borrego Park. You go past the park sign to the top of the rise, over a cattle guard, then U turn to park on the north side of the road. Day hikes in Anza-Borrego require a serious effort on my part, starting with a 2 hour drive from south OC. I left home at 4:30 AM in order to start at sunrise. I had no trouble getting to the roadside trailhead, with very little traffic in the dead of night. I started at daybreak. The sun rose but I never saw it. It was hidden behind high clouds all day. I started by following the barbed wire fence that separates the park from private land. The brush was not too dense at the start and route finding was not an immediate problem.


Typical terrain in the early going

Constant cactus companions

As suggested in several trip reports, I approached White BM from the west. It was steep, but relatively clear. The summit block was an easy climb and I was glad to get the first one under my belt. I took a shot of Hellhole Canyon off to the east. According to Jerry Schad in Afoot and Afield in San Diego County, Hellhole Canyon earned the name because cattle often wandered into the canyon and it was "hellish" to get them out. A herd of feral cattle apparently lived in the canyon until they were helicoptered out in the late 1980s. After a short rest, I descended back to the west and traversed north toward The Thimble. The boulder hopping and bushwhacking got unpleasant on the northwest slope. I think the east side would have been better.

Approach to White BM

White benchmark

San Ysidro and The Thimble from White

Hellhole Canyon from White, Webo BM on the left

The Thimble looked intimidating as I got near. I ducked through a barbed wire fence (on private property) to take the most direct path. I had heard dogs barking earlier and hoped that they would stay in the distance. I headed directly up the south slope of The Thimble, all class 2 until the last 100 feet. I slipped on a slab and grabbed a nearby bush to stop myself, but the bush bit back, causing a nice blood flow from my left index finger. I had just taken off my gloves as the day warmed up, but after a bandaid, the gloves went back on. Finally, I got to a wall of cliffs and boulders. There appeared to be several tough class 3 routes, but I headed west until I found the chimney that is supposed to be the normal route. There is one chimney behind a tree, but after a close look, I decided to climb another chimney left of it. After that climb, I found a long granite slab with class 2 access to make it the rest of the way. The exposure was not severe in either case, and it was good granite. Once on top, I signed the summit register, took photos, then ate and explored the cool rock formations on the large summit area. The north side looked uninviting for a down climb, so I went down the way I came up, which was easier than expected, then traversed east up a saddle between the The Thimble and another rock ridge. Getting to the wash at the base of San Ysidro was another unpleasant boulder and bushwhacking affair. It was overgrown with buckthorn and not much in the way of animal trails.

Approaching The Thimble

Class 3 chimney

Final slab climb to the top

Summit register on The Thimble

Standing on The Thimble

San Ysidro from The Thimble

San Ysidro Mountain ridge line

Once in the wash, I found cairns leading the way up a reasonable use trail. It was steep, but didn't require any use of hands. For some reason, I was sapped of energy. I think I had been focusing so much on The Thimble, that once it was done, I lost some drive. It took me a lot longer than planned to get up San Ysidro. I forced myself up, only to be greeted by strong, cold winds and thicker clouds. I climbed up to the triangulation benchmark, which is where the summit register was, signed it, took a few photos and started down without wasting time.

Heading to the saddle between The Thimble and rock ridge

The Thimble and White from San Ysidro

San Ysidro benchmark

At this point, I was in no mood for the two boulder/bushwhacks that awaited me on the north slopes of the The Thimble and White. I followed the cairns down to the wash and continued following it west, even though it would take me a mile or so out of the way. I had forgotten what it was like to hike without obstacles. Very nice. I made great time bypassing The Thimble and the worst of White. Unfortunately, it took me back on private land. When I spotted a house, I took a hard left and climbed back near White, then continued on toward Bonny BM.

Bonny was hard to identify. There are many small bumps on the landscape, and I climbed one thinking it was Bonny but it wasn't. It was further back near the road. Again, following the advice of trip reports, I approached Bonny from the east. From the east, there are a couple of obvious class 3 routes, and one class 2 on the left that circles around the summit boulders clockwise. I took the easier way. Bonny is a small peak, with the benchmark and register together in about a six foot wide bowl shaped notch. I signed it and found the entry for Michael Sullivan, whose GPS track I was (sorta) following. I spotted another benchmark on the next boulder, and it was also a triangulation marker, but without the peak name. Very odd. My return to the car led me into more brush but I eventually emerged about 100 yards from my car. I saw a lot of rabbits on the trip but not another human. It was a long, hard day, and a gratifying drive home.

Following the wash back

Bonny summit blocks viewed from the east

The easy way to the Bonny summit

Bonny benchmark

Looking back at White, The Thimble, and San Ysidro from Bonny BM

Thanks to Derek Loranger of 100peaks.com for his great trip report that helped in planning, and Michael Sullivan for the GPS track.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Stoddard Peak, Frankish Peak, Spring Hill

Hiked: 12/13/2013
Distance: 14.2 miles round trip on dirt road, use trail, and cross country
Summit Elevation: 4627' (Stoddard), 4201' (Frankish), 4056' (Spring Hill)
Prominence: 678' (Frankish)
Elevation Gain: 2794'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 2.23
Round trip time: 6 hours 20 minutes
Recommended water: 96 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass (not sure if needed)
Difficulty: Moderate

I planned to hike a couple of lower peak list targets for my first trip to the San Gabriel Mountains in a couple of months. Stoddard looms over the right side of Mt. Baldy road before you get to the village, while Frankish is a little deeper into the foothills. An optional bonus was Spring Hill, something I spotted on the GPS about 0.3 miles off the road, but not on any list. The trail starts on Barrett-Stoddard dirt road, heading east past some houses and cabins, then south the rest of the way. This hike put me over 500 trail miles for the year, a milestone I am unlikely to best due to increasing work demands next year.

It was 38F when I started at sunrise. There are a couple of easy stream crossings along the road at the beginning. Barrett-Stoddard road continues past a locked gate beyond the cabins. About a mile up the road, I was startled by a mule deer buck that came bounding around a corner. He was there for less than a second before darting down into the canyon and out of view. I don't know how lions catch them except by surprise. Soon, I was at Stoddard Flat and spotted the obvious use trail. There are a couple of false summits along the way before getting to Stoddard Peak. I signed the register and leafed through it. I didn't recognize any names, but it appears to be popular by the number of entries. I couldn't find a benchmark, so went back to the road and continued south toward Frankish.

Alice in Wonderland house

Use trail to Stoddard Peak

Final approach to Stoddard Peak

Stoddard Peak marker

Since I started early, most of the road was in the shadow of Ontario Ridge, making it cold. In a few more miles, the road became overgrown and shrunk to a single track. It also lost elevation continuously from Stoddard Flat to the base of Frankish. There was a cairn marking the use trail up Frankish. The use trail eventually merges with another dirt road that winds around Frankish. That road leads to the top, but I took a steep firebreak that was more direct. I didn't need to use my hands, but the firebreak got my blood pumping. The register for Frankish is on the highest bump, but the GPS showed the peak was another 0.2 miles on what looked like a lower bump. I signed the register, then continued on to the other bump, but found nothing there. I couldn't find a benchmark for Frankish on either bump. I stopped for a break and a Vanilla-Orange GU. Then, went down the way I came up.

Bear tracks on the road

Broken gate near Frankish, buried in dirt

Looking down the firebreak from Frankish Peak

Hazy view of the Inland Empire from Frankish Peak

Panorama of Ontario and Cucamonga from Frankish Peak

When I returned back to Stoddard Flat, I started looking for a way to Spring Hill, which was still a half mile back toward the car. Near a burned tree, I saw what looked like a faint use trail. Exploring a little, the trail went around and over other burned trees, down to some large boulders in a gully, then up the other side. I was surprised to find a metal pole with what looked like a tin foil flag, and an unusual LA County benchmark. After looking at it, it apparently marks the boundary between LA County and San Bernardino County. It was a lucky Friday the 13th after all. The peak of Spring Hill was still almost 0.2 miles away and I was energized about finding something. The use trail faded and I followed animal trails until those faded, and the last 200 feet was just nasty bushwhacking. I was disappointed to get to the small summit clearing and find a steaming cup of jack squat. The views were nothing special. It was not worth the effort. By the time I got back to the road, Spring Hill turned out to be about a 30 minute diversion. The sun had warmed things up and it was 58F when I got back to the car.

Use trail to Spring Hill starts just left of this burned tree, Spring Hill in the background

Benchmark and pole with shiny flag on the way to Spring Hill

The benchmark shows the boundary between LA and San Bernardino Counties

The disappointing Spring Hill summit