Monday, January 10, 2011

Go to the fall in the winter

Most hikers head to Sturtevant Falls in the summer, when they search out the spray of the 50-foot cascade to escape the mid-day heat.
But the falls really get roaring in the winter, a few days after a strong storm.
The falls were named for William "Sturde" Sturtevant, a packer from Colorado who opened a resort and pack station in the San Gabriel Mountains in the 1930s.
You will still hike past several dozen cabins along the nearly two-mile hike from Chantry Flats to the falls. You can still hire horses or mules to "pack" to the cabins. The trail offers a 500 foot gain but the views along the river, in the shade of oak and alder trees, will make it feel like a stroll in the park. Giant ferns and towering canyon walls will make you think you have dropped in on a Tolkien shire.
Direction: From the 210 Freeway, take the Santa Anita Avenue and drive north for six miles into the hills until you reach a parking lot and a pack station at Chantry Flats. Follow the paved road downhill to a wooden bridge and follow the signs to Sturtevant Falls. Water and bathrooms are available at Chantry Flats. You need to buy a $5 parking pass, sold at the bottom of the hill at the REI store at the corner of Santa Anita Avenue and Santa Clara Street.
(Photo: Sturtevant Falls. Credit: Hugo Martin)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Atop Mt. Bliss

With an 8 mile round trip and 3,000 feet of elevation, the trek to the peak of Mt. Bliss is what you might call a "conditioning hike."
You can bag Mt. Bliss by hiking the fire road past chaparral, cactus and a few pine and oak trees.
This hike has no access to water and little shade so pack lots of H20. The views are pretty impressive from up here. Or maybe not. You can see the 605, the 210 and the huge gravel pits of Irwindale, not to mention the well-spaced, humble homes of Duarte at the bottom of the mountain. But, hey, you are here to get in shape so don't complain. Be aware: I spotted a few bear track so make some noise as you hike so you don't run into a startled bear.
Directions: Take the Mt. Olive Drive exit from the 210 freeway and head east, turn right on Royal Oaks Drive and then left on Melcanyon Drive. After the road ends, turn right and look for the paved path on your left. It leads to the dirt fire road after you reach the huge water tank a few yards up the hill.
(Photo: Me on the peak of Mt. Bliss)

Pick an excuse to skip work to visit the West Fork

1. I've got a dentist/therapist/podiatrist appointment.
2. My cat/aunt/neighbor died.
3. My refrigerator/dryer/transmission needs repairs.
4. I have a rash on my back/scalp/down below.
Any of the above excuses work for getting you out of work so you can escape to the West Fork of the San Gabriel River for some hiking, biking or fishing. The paved access road borders the clear-water creek for eight miles from the access gate to Cogswell Dam. The road makes for a great place to jog or ride but I couldn't resist the fishing. About a mile from the gate where the road begins, the creek meets up with Bear Creek. At this confluence I found the trout biting like angry pit bulls. On weekends, the path and the river are clogged with anglers, hikers and bathers so I suggest you check it out on a weekday. Remember: This area is designated for "catch-and-release" fishing with barbless hooks only. Be on the lookout for bear, which hunt for trout without such restrictions.
Direction: From the 210 Freeway, take the Azusa Ave exit (State Route 39) and head up into the mountains. Just as you enter the forest, stop by the ranger station on your right to get you daily pass ($5) to park in the forest. (If you get caught parking without a pass, you will get a citation, requiring you to buy a pass.) Continue for 14 miles and after you pass the Off Road Vehicle access area on your right, look for a parking lot and a gated road on your left. That is the access point for the West Fork path.
(Photo: A trout caught with a barbless hook. Credit: Hugo Martin)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Get hot at Deep Creek

As the temperature in Southern California begins to cool, my mind turns toward the desert.
This is the best time of year to visit Deep Creek Hot Springs. The hike through the desert near Hesperia is much more tolerable during the fall temperatures. The colder the temperature the better because when you get to the hot springs at the end of the hike you will love the feeling of the 100-degree plus pools.
Click on the link above to get the details from a previous post.
Warning: This place is clothing optional, which means most people hang around nude--even the ugly folks.
(Photo: My naked feet sticking out of a hot spring pool. Credit: Hugo Martin.)

Vasquez Rocks rock

If you take California State Route 14, northeast of Santa Clarita, the strange rock formation on our left may look familiar. Those rocks have been the backdrop for dozens of movies, including "Little Miss Sunshine," "Austin Powers" and "The Flintstones."
But the rocks had a more interesting role in history decades before Hollywood discovered the area.
The rocks are part of Vasquez Rocks County Park, named for Tiburcio Vasquez, the Mexican bandito who hid among the upturned sandstone slabs to elude the law back in the 1870s. Click on this page to read more on Vasquez.
The 932-acre park is easily accessible (only two miles from the freeway) and lined with easy single-track trails. Most visitors come to hike or boulder-hop but I like looking for the caves that Tiburcio and his gang may have used as hiding spots when the local sheriff was on their trail. You can also climb around and find what could have been the perfect spot for a Tiburcio ambush.
Some history books describe Tiburcio as a sort of "Mexican Robin Hood" because he allegedly distributed some of the loot he stole to the Mexican peasants in the area. But I suspect a lot of those tales are exaggerated.
Tiburcio's end came when he got "involved" with the wife of one of his gang members. The jealous husband got revenge by passing on Tiburcio's hiding place to the sheriff. Tiburcio was hanged and buried in San Jose.
Directions: From Los Angeles, take I-5 north toward Santa Clarita. Take State Route 14 northeast for about five miles and take the Agua Dulce Exit and look for signs to the park.
Hours: 8 a.m. to Sunset
Cost: Free
Drinking water and bathrooms are provided.
(Photo: Vasquez Rocks. Credit: Hugo Martin)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Monrovia Canyon Fall

Despite our desert climate, Southern California is home to several waterfalls--small but still a delight to visit.
The Monrovia Canyon Fall, in the San Gabriel Mountains, is a 30-foot cascade at the end of an easy 1.7 mile hike.
To visit the fall, you must enter Monrovia Canyon Park. There is a $5 parking charge but it is well worth it.
The water fall is a nice cap to a wonderful hike. The creatures and foliage that live in the canyon come together like nature's greatest symphony. The crickets set the back beat. The frogs perform the melody, and the wind-rustled leaves sound like distant applause. Bravo.
The dirt trail follows a small creek, bordered by oak and sycamore trees that form a shady canopy. It's a great hike on a hot day. Even better, the $5 ensures that the park is kept free of litter--soiled diapers and empty beer cans that trash other parks.
Directions: From Monrovia, take E. Foothill Blvd. east then turn left at North Canyon Blvd. Follow the road uphill and look for the signs that direct you right just before you reach a dead end.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Snakes, Rattle and Coil

You adventurous outdoor enthusiasts who refuse to let a little heat keep you from venturing in the wild need to be extra careful about where you step.
Experts say rattle snakes are especially active when the temperature outside starts to rise.
That make sense, considering I almost stepped on the fanged reptile to the left during a recent hike along Coldbrook Creek Canyon in the San Gabriel Mountains. This creek eventually dumps into the San Gabriel Reservoir.
There are a couple of good fishing spots along the North Fork, near the OHV Entrance Station in San Gabriel Canyon. However, the area is overrun with families and picnickers on the weekends. That's why I explored the river further upstream to look for a place to drop a line and accidentally met up with the snake in the grass that you see above.
So, stay safe! Stay on marked paths and trails. Wear hiking boots and thick pants if you are going to venture into the brush. And look before you step.
Happy hiking.