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)