Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday Getaway

Just a quick little jaunt this afternoon to get out and about. I did a 6 mile loop trail with about 1400' of elevation gain near Glendale. The whole trail was along fire roads, and pretty easy cruising (2 hr total hiking time).

I ran into maybe 10 other hikers and a handful of mountain bikers along the way, which isn't too bad for this close to the city on a sunny, Sunday afternoon. One group of hikers warned me about about several rattlesnakes they'd seen along the trail, including a juvenile, but fortunately I was never able to confirm the rumor. Related, I put on my gaiters, thinking they probably wouldn't provide substantial protection in the event of a strike, but couldn't hurt nonetheless. I figure an extra layer of plastic skin might be helpful. Anyone with knowledge on this?

Looking north to the San Gabriel mountain range

Today was a hazy, smoggy one in LA, so the views were limited, but I did get nice vistas of the San Gabriels to the north, a peek of San Jacinto off in the distance to the east, and the Palos Verdes peninsula poking up out of the cloud. This picture shows a barely visible downtown LA. The creepy pink effect is a product of my malfunctioning camera, which needs to be sent back to Canon for repair.

Downtown LA through a thick haze and creepy pink camera effect

There were some nice spring wildflowers alongside the trail, as well as plenty of green afforded by the last couple months' rain. All in all not a bad Sunday in the city!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Oceanside Slide

I spent a beautiful sunrise morning today with my dear, old friend Moana and bodysurfing partner Bret "The Threat." We went to the north side of the Oceanside pier, where we were greeted by clean surf in the 3-4' range, and chilly winter water.

The experience was bittersweet. On one hand, it felt so good to be in the water, enjoy the view, and swim with my friend. I remembered the many mornings I have spent this way; floating, watching the sun crest over the horizon, the pelicans fly by. Scrambling outside when a big set rose, swimming hard to get to a shoulder, or ducking under just enough to avoid the lip, yet capture the wave's energy to breach up out the back. Few things in life have brought me such joy.

February 2006, San Clemente (Mahalo to Huge)

I caught a long left and felt the exhilaration of sliding down the face, cruising down the line, and milking every second of the ride before ducking in, coming to the surface, and grinning ear-to-ear as I swum back out. I felt the joy of camaraderie with a friend I'd learned to ride with - one I knew was capable, equally appreciative of the experience, and would drag my ass out of the water should I find trouble.

August 2005, Encinitas

On the other hand, he almost had to. After 4 years of injury-plagued absence, my bodysurfing fitness leaves much to be desired. I couldn't really go for it, for fear of hurting myself again. I mourned this lost part of my life, desperately wished to have it back, and felt numbed by my powerlessness to affect it (that and the water was freaking cold). A profound sadness accompanied the spiritual fulfillment, and I wondered if on balance the experience was good or bad.

Nonetheless, when exiting the water (cramping, and having shot the pier), as always I bowed to offer thanks:

Mahalo moana - again soon, I hope.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mountain Adventuring

Good things are always in store when you see this sign

February's scheduled camping trip to the desert was postponed on account of rain, so Saturday morning I set out for a "Return to Joshua Tree." "Return" that is because in December I'd gone, experienced an extremely cold, windy, ice storm, and ended up retreating in the middle of the night. Good times.

This time the weather was clear and all systems were go, so I packed up my gear and hit the road.

This weekend's gear

Two hours later, Joshua Tree, and once again, trouble. You see, I left LA to escape the noise, traffic, crowds, and well, LA. I arrived Saturday afternoon at the Joshua Tree Visitor's Center to find noise, traffic, crowds, and middle-aged women wearing knee-high leather heels. O.K. So pretty much LA with desert and rocks. The campgrounds were full, and this definitely wasn't the scene I was looking for, so I bailed.

The adventure was on. Broken itineraries are always the best anyway.

Heading south on Route 62, a towering, snow covered Mt. San Jacinto beckoned, "Climb, young man, climb."

Google Earth simulated view of Mt. San Jacinto, seen from the north along Rte. 62

The mountain had a point. I started thinking, and figured that if I headed to 6 or 7000 feet and found some snow, I'd substantially cut down on the crowds of outdoor posers. Then I started thinking that maybe I shouldn't listen to talking mountains.

Nevermind, the adventure was on. I headed up the mountain and sure enough, half an hour later was in alpine paradise. Snow started around 6000', and though higher elevation Forest Service campgrounds were still closed for the winter, Mt. San Jacinto State Park in Idyllwild was wide open, practically empty, and just what the doctor ordered.

Here's the scene at the first of three sweet campgrounds I found on this trip:

My campsite even had a cool stone woodstove...

and a little hiking trail up to the site from where I parked the car.

I had some dinner, checked out a beautiful starry sky for a while, then climbed inside the tent for a nice, long slumber. Overnight temps were around 30 degrees, but I was cozy as could be in my little cocoon.

Not exactly sure what I'm responsible for knowing, but I did have a permit!

The next day I hit the trail and hiked up to a place called Suicide Rock. Elevation gain was 1700' over 3.3 miles, ending at 7300'. The last mile or so was completely snow-covered, but the trail was decently packed and didn't require snowshoes.

Along the way I encountered these trees that I swore looked like sequoias, but I knew I was too far south for such a thing. They were really pretty, especially against the snow. Upon further investigation, my tree-expert cousins informed me that this is likely an example of California Incense Cedar, Calocedrus decurrens.

At the top I was treated to a great view of Tahquitz Mountain and Lily Rock to the east, and Strawberry Valley down into Idyllwild below.

Tahquitz Mountain, with Lily Rock in the foreground

The picture above doesn't really do it justice, and unfortunately some of my better examples fell victim to a recent bug in my previously reliable digital camera, whereby images turn strangely pink and smeared...

Gremlins in the camera!

Alas. The hike down was great, as you can tell from the big grin on my face.

Mountain bliss!

The state park campground was closed down Sunday night (thank you CA state budget), so I cruised down the road to a place called Hurkey Creek, where I found a second sweet campground, and pitched my tent next to a babbling brook that provided soothing sounds throughout the night.

Hurkey Creek campground

This trip provided me the first opportunity to fire up a "new" camping stove that I've had for 4 years. It worked great!

Later on I played around with some night photography. I'm pretty proud of this picture I took of Orion:

Here are a couple artsy-fartsy shots:

I call this one "Tent Phone Home" (only children of the 80s will understand)

"Evening Shelter"...a little more straightforward

On the last day I drove a little further south, and hiked up the Ramona Trail on Thomas Mountain.

It's theoretically a 7 mile roundtrip with 1500' of elevation gain, topping out at a place called Toolbox Spring around 6000'. I never found confirmation that I'd reached Toolbox Spring, but the distance seemed about right, and I did find a third sweet campground:

Thomas Mountain campsite

There was snowcover here as well, and some great views of Tahquitz and San Jacinto.

Tahquitz (foreground, lightly powdered) and Mt. San Jacinto (background, big and snowy) appear as one mountain from the south, even under close binocular inspection

A man and his view

Tuna and pita for lunch!

Enroute back down the mountain I enjoyed the scenic view of Garner Valley, a little early spring waterfall, and some picturesque pinecones:

Garner Valley and the San Jacinto wilderness from Thomas Mountain

To finish off the trip, I cruised down the 74 into Hemet, and enjoyed dinner with my uncle and his family. As I parted, I looked in the rearview and heard San Jacinto whispering "farewell, see you again soon." Indeed, my friend.

Never stop listening to talking mountains

Here's a link to a Google map of the weekend's destinations.

Aloha a hui hou!