Thursday, January 15, 2015

Black Star Canyon: A Journey Through Time

      Located just 15 Miles from Disneyland Resort lies Black Star Canyon, a natural time-capsule hidden  within the ancient Santa Ana Mountains.  As millions race across busy freeways and gridlock themselves in stalled intersections, only a few short miles away this quiet canyon whispers to those seeking a simpler speed of life and least for a little while.  This trip is full of wondrous surprises including a 60' waterfall, but perhaps the most fascinating feature of this canyon is the powerful sense of timelessness one receives upon visiting.  History is alive and real nestled between these venerable canyon walls.  The echoes of the past manifest themselves in many forms here, including prehistoric fossil walls, a extinct Grizzly Bear refuge, an abandoned Indian village, an 1850-style dynamite mine, an abandoned mountain-crest summer home, a historic ranch, and a Mexican Ranchero battlefield.  As the sun glides across this cool mountain sky above you, culminating its journey by falling into the gleaming Pacific, and the canyon's shadows grow ever longer by the hour, you are left with a feel of timelessness across this bygone land.


Category: Strenuous  
Miles: 18
Elevation Gain: 2,400'
Location: Cleveland National Forrest, Wildlands Conservancy, OC Regional Parks
The Hike:  From the free parking lot at the gate on Black Star Canyon Road (800'), enter past the gate and follow the road as it moves into the canyon.  Once within the canyon you follow the trail 2.5 miles though Riparian Woodland until the road makes a sharp bend and there is a sign signaling to the waterfall.  You should only go to the waterfall if you have experience in rock-bouldering and cross-county navigation.  Take this use-path down into a small canyon with a trickling brook until it becomes more of a stream crossing-bushwhack.  
  Observe the unique variety of geological formations around you; mainly limestone and a variety of other sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous rock.  Keep following the brooklet about 0.5 miles until you come to a sign pointing the direction of the falls.  Proceed in that direction until you come across the first set of some imposing Class 3 boulders.  After you scale those carefully there are about five or with more sets of Class 3 Rock Climbing ahead, most of which is slippery limestone; a tumble could result in serious injury.  The rock formations just keep getting more interesting as you proceed through this section though, with small limestone caves and rare tufa(which looks a lot like stalagmites).  The final rock wall is the hardest to scale, and caution is urged.  Upon completing the final boulder pile ascent you will behold the falls (sometimes flowing after heavy rain) before you, and more caves, one of which is a dynamite miner's cave going back 12', around you.  Explore the area and gaze up at the harrowing cliffs above (1300').  Any attempt to climb the falls is foolhardy and dangerous: don;t become front page news.  Upon ending you visit to the falls retrace you steps carefully down the boulders and back to the 
main trail about 0.75 miles one way.  
 Once back at the main trail, take it up as it winds though thick chaparral  quickly begin gaining elevation.  In about 2 miles the trail's grade softens and you are welcomed by a sign into the Wildlands Conservancy's Mariposa Reserve (2000').  After this point, you enter the Hidden Valley verdant and pure, back-dropped by Hagnor Peak (3900') topped with communication antennae and covered in clouds.  Soon you will see a small oaken grove and a user path descending into the valley.  Take this path down to the remnants of a tribal village from a lost era.  It is truly a fascinating place.  After reliving history there, return again to the main trail and follow it as enters the gentle valley.  Believe of not, this calm vale was once the site of many historical events including a battle staged  by Mexican Rancheros against the natives, who wanted the prime grazing land for their cattle.  In addition to that, this canyon was also one of the last strongholds for the California Grizzly Bear in the state. 
      After a couple of blissful miles entrenched within that beautiful element of creation, the trail once again begin gaining elevation as it makes it final 800' ascent to Beek's Place, an abandoned summer vacation home covered by pines on the crest of the Santa Ana Mountains.  Before the final destination is reached though, the most wonderful aspect of the trip is to be found: a gravelly fossil wall just on the side of the trail, and if you look hard enough, you may find an etched seashell or leaf on the back side of a rock; memoirs of an ancient world.  
     Continue past the wall, and in about 1.75 miles, you will find you self at Main Divide Road, the Crest of the Santa Ana Mountains (2850') looking into Orange County and the glissining Pacific on one side and the Inland Empire and snow-covered San Bernardino Mountains on the other.  Just a few steps away lies Beek's Place, laced with Ponderosa Pine.
When you are ready to leave, strap on you hiking boots and get ready for the possible blister-provoking miles downhill back to the trailhead.  The descent though, is still enjoyable and the easier going makes for ample time to converse  with your Creator in his created elegance.  Savor the trip down as you end your journey thorough time. 

Note Bene:  As with most low-country hikes, this trek travels through territory that is scorched outside of winter and spring by sometimes triple degree heat. Be wise and leave this hike to a cool day, and if you want to see lots of water in the falls, after a heavy rainstorm.

Hiked: 1-12-2015.  Orange and Riverside Counties.  Free Parking.  
Newts come out of hibernation when the rains kick up. Watch for them on the trail in the winter.  I saw 5! 
Signage DOWN to the falls.
In the canyon on the way to the falls.

Right before the bouldering.  Who put a bike in the tree?

Limestone mini waterfall

Typical bouldering section
Tufra formation

Black Star Falls (mostly dry, even after a moderate storm), and the miner's cave to the left.

The dew and frost evaporating on the trail.

Odd Rocks

Site of Indian Village

Grinding stones

California Sycamore in a meadow.

Hagnor Peak and a Doppler Radar
Shell Fossil

Leaf F ossil

View from the crest

View east

Main Divide Road

Beeks Place

Remnants of Beek's Place

Monday, October 20, 2014

Jones Peak (3,390') via Barebone Ridge and Little Santa Anita Canyon

Climbing a Class 3 ridge, scrambling over gravelly 70% grade slopes, and slicing though think Chaparral, while looking down at Wal-Mart, McDonalds, congested freeways, and 10 Million people's homes, is something you can only do hiking in Southern California.  It is strange to think that, when your sweating profusely and breathing even harder up an insanely steep ridge, to think that just one air mile away, there is a bustling civilization, along with all its amenities.  While the city offers comfort, the mountain offers adventure; while the metropolis calls some to complacency, the peaks also beckons them to new limits.  This trip indeed, will increase your limits, bring you out of complacency; and give you an unforgettable experience.  

Category: Very Strenuous (Because of the Class 2/3 trail-less climb up Jones Peak)
Miles: 6.9
Elevation Gain: 2850'
Location: Angeles National Forest

The Hike:   You begin this trek near Mt.Wilson Park at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, in the uppermost neighborhoods of Sierra Madre.  From the quiet park you follow the paved Mt. Wilson Road up until the beginning of a real trail with some signage.  Here is where the real hike begins, as you wind below some hilltop homes.  After a few minutes, you realize that you are now really in the mountains, as the homes and roads are left behind.  You are now on the Old Mt. Wilson Trail, which built in 1864 to the top of its namesake, is the oldest continuously used trail in Southern California.  Ponder that as you stare back down to the busy I-210 Freeway and downtown Los Angeles 10 miles away.  Below, is the Little Santa Anita Canyon, as rugged a canyon as any in the San Gabriels.  Across the steep chasm, is abrupt Winter Ridge and the Winter Creek Trail, originating in Big Santa Anita Canyon on the ridge's other side.  After gaining about 500', you come to the beginning of a small climber's path, and the end of a ridge.  Take this climber's path as it switchbacks up the steep slope of Barebone Ridge, which culminates in your zenith for the day; Jones Peak.  
    At a certain point the use-path diverges off the ridge, and disappears behind the north-side of the ridge.  Trekking poles are a must past here, and  this is also your last way out.  After this, the route is trail-less and extremely steep; turning back past this point would result in a mean fall or worse.  Its all or nothing after this.  You in?   Good, let's continue:  After the trail leaves, its just you and the ridge.  Take up the challenge as you climb up the gravelly slope, and use both your hands and feet to bench over the only Class 3 spot on the hike.  The very beginning of the ridge-line scramble is the worst, and after about fifteen minutes you will, have to 'only' climb up a brutal Fire-Break.  Follow this route up, and after passing one false summit, you will find yourself at the summit of Jones Peak (3,390'); quite the accomplishment.  You will have just benched a ridge gaining 1550' in 0.75 miles!  The grade on some spots was 70%, while the average was around 40%.  Intense.  Jones Peak summit, is really just a typical Front-Country range peak, but after the work to get there, it feels like so much more.  
   After spending some well-earned break time on the top, you will climb down the steep north-western slope of Jones Peak to a small saddle with the Baily Canyon trail coming up to it from Altadena, the easier way to the peak.  From the saddle, you climb up the ridge in front of you, until you come to a trail-split.  Take this crossover trail which leads back into Little Santa Anita Canyon, about two miles until it makes its way back down to the main Old Mt. Wilson Trail.  From here, you can either go back to the car on the trail, or continue about one and a half miles a little bit up to Orchard Camp, to make this trip a little more relaxing after that intense climb.  If you choose to continue, you will find yourself making a left at the trail-split, and hiking towards Orchard Camp,  the half-way point up Mt. Wilson and an old resort spot from days gone by.  On route to the camp, you pass by some magnificent alders, oaks and firs, as well as bubbling Decker Springs, the only year-round water source on this trail.  When you arrive at the Orchard Camp (3000'), stop an enjoy the sounds of creation, while sitting atop the old ruins of 1920's resort, and under the shade of one of the oldest Oak Trees in Southern California, around 500-700 years old.  After your sitting, follow the trail back down the canyon three and a half miles to the car, where the sign and sights of the city will be waiting for you.  

Saint Margaret Mary Alaquoqe, Saint Hedwig, and Saint Gehard, Pray for us!  

Hiked 10-16-2014.  Los Angeles County.  No Adventure Pass Required.  

Warning: Do NOT, under ANY circumstances, attempt to climb Jones Peak via Barebone Ridge if the temperature is above 80 F.  

Beginning the ridge  climb

Up the gravelly gully 

The standard route, the majority of the time on the ridge

Nearing Jones Peak

The City and the Mountains

Crossover Trail after Jones Peak

Jones Peak at the Crossover Trail

At the end of the Crossover Trail

Distant Mt. Harvard

Decker Springs, surrounded by Fall Foliage.

The Great Oak

Near Orchard Camp

Nearing the trip's end at the mouth of Little Santa Anita Canyon

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Humphrey's Peak (12,637') from Humphrey's Peak Trailhead

Humphrey's Peak: Highest Point in Arizona

Towering thousands of feet above a state known for its harsh deserts and inhospitable climate, Humphrey's Peak, the crown of the San Francisco Peaks stands as an island in the sky.  Its lower slopes are covered with thick aspen and pine forests, with meadows gracing the edges of the forests.  The peaks themselves are remnants of a blown volcano, which scientists tell us exploded 200,000 thousands years ago, and traces of that epic event are founds all along the trail, from the igneous rocks scattered among the trail, to the cinder cones in the surrounding terrain, to the blown caldera on the eastern side of the peaks, this land is littered with the echos of days past.  


Category: Strenuous 
Miles: 9.6   
Elevation Gain: 3350'
Location: Coconino National Forest, Kachina Peak Wilderness

The Hike:  From the newly paved parking lot, follow the trail through an almost gorgeous meadow, if it weren't for an enormous ski lift scrapping right through the middle.  Aside from that fact however, the meadow is purely picturesque, with wildflowers and green grasses around along stunning views of the high peak above and the dark aspen forest ahead.  Soon, you enter into that forest, littered with roots of the enormous colonies of aspen trees, quaking in the wind.  In about a mile, you are officially welcomed into the Kachina Peak Wilderness be another sign and a hiker registration box.  After filling in some basic info, you take the trail right, as it begins to switchback up the mountain side for a good 2.5 miles.  Observe how, very subtlety the forest begins transitioning from the main body to sub-alpine.  At 11,400' you are told camping is no longer permitted above that height and just a short 400' higher you reach treeline at the Agassiz Saddle at 11,800', where you are treated to a spectacular view into the caldera basin before you, and the Arizona Snowbowl Basin behind.  From the saddle you turn left and follow the trail up and around the mountainside.  At this point, good trail sense is needed as the route is currently being repaired in this section and large boulders hide the trail in many places.  The last mile up the the summit is completely above tree-line and exposed to the elements; not a good place to be during a thunderstorm.  Nonetheless, here on the rooftop of Arizona, there is a quiet peace and stillness which is remarkable; only broken by the occasional call of the raven.  You round and climb three false summits before attaining the true peak, but when you are there it is worth all the troubles of the trail.  To the north lies the Grand Canyon, and in every other direction, spectacular views- a true 'top of the world' experience.  Return the way you came, and be sure to be in the forest before the daily thunderstorms in the summer hit.  Laudatur Jesus Christus!  

Saint Bernard, Patron of Mountain Climbers, Pray for us!  

Hiked 8-20-2014- Coconino County Highpoint, Arizona State Highpoint.  
No  Wilderness Permit Required.              


The San Francisco Peaks

Wilderness Boundary

The Agassiz Saddle

The Interior Caldera

Mount Agassiz

The Summit

Do you see the Grand Canyon?

Hail begins at 12:05