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.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Look for Osprey in Upper Newport Bay

The Osprey, a majestic bird that makes its home near water, is making a comeback in Southern California.
It's great news because these are beautiful birds to watch in action. I just got back from my annual vacation in Huntington Lake where I joined the Osprey in a daily hunt for trout in the beautiful mountain lake. My efforts were an epic failure but I enjoyed watching the Osprey soar over the surface and dive to pluck the floundering fish from the lake.
If you have never seen an Osprey before, think of a cross between a seagull and an eagle, with a call that sounds like a crying baby.
To see the Osprey, check out the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve and Ecological Reserve. Follow the link for hours and directions. The preserve boasts one of the largest coastal wetland in southern California, and is renowned as one of the finest bird watching sites in North America.

(Photo: Osprey nest near the Upper Newport Bay. Credit: Los Angeles Times.)

Friday, August 6, 2010

It's not too late to see Bald Eagles

Our nation's iconic symbol, haliaeetus leucocephalus, spends most of the summer in cool places like Alaska and Canada. But with some luck you can spot a couple of Bald Eagles here in Southern California.
Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains has been home to dozens of Bald Eagles, most visible in the winter but a few hang around in the summer.

The best way to see them is to check into the Big Bear Discovery Center on the northeast end of the lake. From the center you can join a canoe or kayaking tour of the lake. The eagles usually nest in the tallest trees closest to the water. The juveniles look like Golden Eagles, covered with brown feathers. But there is no confusing them with any other bird when you see an adult eagle, sailing on a wind current.

For more information, call 909-866-3437.

(Photo credit:

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Training to bag Mt. Whitney (Mt. Wilson)

It's been on my bucket list to hike to the peak of Mt. Whitney, the tallest summit in the lower 48 states. If you have the same wish, between now and early October is probably the best time to do it before the winter weather sets in. But before you attempt such a feat, you have to train a bit so you don't poop out half way up the mountain. To get in shape to tackle Mt. Whitney, many people choose Mt. San Gorgonio in the San Bernardino Mountains. It is the highest peak in Southern California at 11,503 feet in elevation.
I haven't hiked Mt. San Gorgonio but another good training site is Mt. Wilson, the 5,710 feet peak overlooking the San Gabriel Valley. If you begin at Eaton Canyon Nature Park in Altadena, you will hike about 12 miles each way with an elevation gain of 4,400 feet. I did this hike last summer in the midst of a stifling heat wave.
From Eaton Canyon park, go to the nature center where you can get a map that shows how to look up to the Mt. Wilson Toll Road. It probably won't be necessary. Just follow the main trail up the creek and when you get to the big concrete bridge, follow the wide dirt trail up the mountain. You won't find any water until you get to a small hike-in campsite halfway up the mountain. The terrain ranges from dry, dusty chaparral to shady pine and oak forests. Keep an eye out for bear, which have been spotted in the area. To read up on the toll road, check out this Wikipedia site.
Directions: From the 210 Freeway, take the Altadena exit east. After you past New York Ave. look for the Eaton Canyon Nature Park on your right. Park and follow the creek up river.
(Photo: Mt. Wilson from Altadena.)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hiking is for the dogs (Griffith Park)

The dog days of summer are here and you don't want to leave Fido at home while you're exploring the great outdoors. If you're looking for good hiking trails where your pooch is welcome, you will find no shortage of suggestions from a stack of books on the subject. You energetic and athletic types can try hiking up Solstice Canyon from Malibu into the Santa Monica Mountains. You'll get a good workout and see some gorgeous views. But be warned that the park rangers have been cracking down on dog owners who ignore the leash law.
But for those who are looking just to have a short adventure with man's best friend, try meeting up with the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club. These friendly tree huggers meet Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights around 7 p.m. at the upper Merry-Go-Round parking lot at Griffith Park. The hike along dirt trails is not strenuous but it stretches out into the night so bring a flashlight and water for you and your dog. The highlight of the hike comes when you reach Bee Rock, a summit that offers a view of exotic, glimmering Glendale after dark. For details, call the chapter headquarters at (213) 387-4287.
(Photo: An unleashed dog hikes toward Bee Rock in Griffith Park. Credit: Los Angeles Times.)