Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas Dayhike in Griffith Park

That's Catalina Island out there
Griffith Park Observatory
I think Griffith Park is my favorite Christmas Day hike. Lots of people are out, and this year, despite the cold, it was still busy.  Sunshine and utterly clear skies prevailed

Monday, December 21, 2015

December 20 dayhike down the spine of the Verdugos

Mt Hollwood, Mt Lee, Santa Monica Bay
Today Nina and I hiked down the length of the Verdugo range. It was a perfect day, cool with mixed skies. It's a 13-mile hike with a car shuttle. I'd wanted to do this entire hike for several years as an end-to-end dayhike, and it was worth the effort.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

December 5: Hiking Club Scramble at Vasquez Rocks

Fall has arrived
We fashioned an 8-mile looping scramble-ramble around Vasquez Rocks Natural Area, visiting all corners of the park.
Neolithic rock art
That's right
Observant readers of Kev's Blog are no doubt asking, "What kind of crap are you trying to pull over on us?" Right! But whoever painted these in the last couple decades did a very good imitation of paintings at stoneage sites like Lascaux. Why? The word inherited by the current park staff is that the images were painted by an artist as a film backdrop.
But native Tataviam would have undoubtedly used this alcove as a shelter. It offers great shade in summer, warm southern sun in winter, and nearby water.
We topped off our dayhike by climbing the tallest rock outcrops in the park. A good time was had by all.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

November 27 on Echo Mtn

With a blimp, even
On sunny winter afternoons, hikers in the mountains around LA are treated to a magnificant ocean shine. Today, it even silhouetted a blimp over the USC-UCLA game at the Coliseum.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

November 14: Night Hike with the Hiking Club

LA, from atop the Verdugo Hills
Hiking Club had perfect autumn weather for another night hike, this time in the Verdugos. This is a really good night hike, and a loop hike too.
Group photo

Sunday, November 8, 2015

November 7 in Nightmare Gulch

The Hills Have Eyes, kids.
Ace Desert Rat Mr Mike and I hiked the north rim of Nightmare Gulch this time, instead of in the wash. On the way back we casually watched a couple hikers going upcanyon, but they were totally unaware of our presence. If that's you, we saw you peeing.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

October 24: Hiking Club in Placerita Canyon

From the lookout: Yeah, that's Catalina Island back there

Sunday, October 11, 2015

October 10: Trona Homecoming and the Gem-O-Rama

Homecoming weekend in Trona is big
Gotta love the homecoming banner in front of the chemical mines. Sandi, Tom and I did a long daytrip to the Trona Gem-O-Rama. It was just HOT. When we found a place that served beer, Tom forgot and left behind the giant $10 crystal he bought. No matter, it was also Homecoming at Trona HS so his loss must have ended up someone else's gain.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

August 27-30 Hiking Club at Mammoth Lakes

Saddlebag Lake

At the trailhead

Duck Lake and Pika Lake

On the Duck Lake trail

Thursday, August 13, 2015

John Muir Trail 2015: Piute Creek to LeConte Canyon, and Back over Bishop Pass

Day 5:  Reflection on Wanda Lake
This year's JMT trip was 7 days again, 58 miles, encompassing the northern part of Kings Canyon NP. This is our longest segment yet, returning over Piute Pass to restart our progress down the JMT.
This trip is also commonly referred to as the North Lake-South Lake 'loop', even though it's an end-to-end trip with beginning and ending trailheads not far from each other on Bishop Creek.
Day 2 In Humphreys Basin
After a thunderstorm on Day 1 prevented our crossing 11,423' Piute Pass, Day 2 is a 14-mile day to catch up, but skies were clear.
Day 2 on a creek crossing in Humphreys Basin
At the end of Day 2, we reach the San Joaquin River's south fork and camp by Piute Creek at 8000'.
Day 3 on the footbridge over the San Joaquin
On Day 3 we follow the trail up the San Joaquin, reaching the mouth of Evolution Creek and starting the big climb into Evolution Basin that will eventually lead us over Muir Pass.
Evolution Creek at end of Day 3
Day 4 in Upper Evolution Basin
Our fourth campsite at elevation 10,852 at Wanda Lake was very scenic, with our tents on pads set among glacial boulders. I even found some obsidian tool flakes here, evidence of early native American trading.
A very scenic campsite at Wanda Lake
Day 5: Looking down at Wanda Lake on Muir Pass ascent
On reaching 11,955' Muir Pass, we toast John Muir at the summit hut before dropping into upper LeConte Canyon.
Day 5 on Muir Pass
Rock monster demands to be fed!
On Day 6 we awake in the forest in LeConte Canyon, hike down to our trail junction at the backcountry ranger station, and leave the JMT for the Bishop Pass Trail. We haul the 2000' of switchbacks up into Dusy Basin for our final night on the trail.

Day 7: morning breaks over the Palisades
Day 7: Breakfast in Dusy Basin
Day 7: Scenic Upper Dusy Basin
Day 7: we cross 11,972' Bishop Pass
Dusy Basin was a photographic delight: a wide, high glacial basin floored with alpine flowers, beneath the spear-like Palisades and white fluffy clouds.
Upper Dusy Basin
We're now 75% complete with the JMT. Next year is the rest of Yosemite, then in 2017 the big 8-day segment behind the Palisades - 68 miles with no resupply.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

First real pack trip: 35 years ago this month

So this week while on the JMT, I remembered that my first pack trip was 35 years ago this month. It was 1980, I was 19, had just finished high school, and though I was no longer a boy scout, I went on this trip with my old Troop 281 of Hygiene Colorado. Actually, my dad and I set up the shuttle.
So the group split and started on both sides of the Indian Peaks Wilderness, which straddles the Continental Divide south of Rocky Mountain National Park, crossing 12,550' Pawnee Pass, with a key swap at Pawnee Lake.
Yeah that's me
Backpacking fashion of the 70s was dirty blue jeans, a baseball cap, and a bright orange external frame. My addition to the look was the same western boots I spent every day in. Yeah, it was the only footwear I had, so my feet didn't blister. And to honest, at 19, physical discomfort is not really so noticeable anyway. You also have no compunction about walking across log bridges in such smooth-soled footwear with a teetering frame pack on.
With Scott and Eric on Pawnee Pass. It was cold and starting to rain. Of course. That same sign still stands today.
We spent three days to hike from Brainard Lake to Monarch Lake, with overnights at Pawnee Lake and Crater Lake, about 20 miles probably. At the time it felt like a huge trip, to cross over the divide on foot and come out on the other side. We met my dad and my brother Shawn at Pawnee Lake and swapped keys. One of my fondest memories is from Crater Lake, sleeping under a sky filthy with stars.

Crater Lake. From left: Scott Story, Scott Hill, Roger Brickman, me, Eric McRobie, Don Brickman. Photo by Bruce Story.
My cook stove was the size of a small coffee can, and fueled probably weighed over 3 lbs, my poly-fill bag was just warm enough, and I had no tent. Afterward, shuttling back across Trail Ridge Road in RMNP in the daily hailstorm, I was glad to not be out in it anymore, but that trip was my start in backpacking. The next month I climbed Longs Peak on an overnight with Bruce and Scott Story, and then I started planning my own trips.
Big thanks are owed to Scoutmaster Don Brickman and Bruce Story, wherever they are, for setting up this first trip.  Bruce took these photos too, and I remember him fondly for being a great dad to his kids and a friend to the rest of us. Sadly, Roger Brickman died in 2006 of a brain tumor, leaving his wife and two daughters behind.  And like many troops, Hygiene Troop 281 has apparently dissolved in the last couple of years due to declining membership. But I hope that the contributions of the dads who led it are still felt in the lives of the young men who participated.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Spotted While Hiking

On my local hike, I've seen lots of animals around sunset, and in July I sometimes see tarantulas, but this was new. Tonight right on the trail I found a tarantula hawk dragging away its prey. The tarantula hawk is a giant wasp that preys on tarantulas - sort of.  It's one of the nastiest tales in nature. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

June 13: Hiking Club on Echo Mtn

Hiking Club had a group of 12 to climb Echo Mountain above Altadena, but the marine layer was thick enough to cover even the summit! No matter, we had fun anyway.
Ruins of Echo Mtn House

Our group by the old bullwheel that drove the cable incline railway
Photo in the drizzle
Upon sumitting, I recognized Ric and Jen Serena, two of the filmmakers who made the outstanding JMT film, Mile...Mile & A Half.  They and their artist companions busted their humps hauling high-def recording gear down the entire length of the John Muir Trail in the heavy snow year of 2011. While hikers like me count ounces, these guys hauled really heavy packs loaded with cameras, audio equipment, mikes, batteries and dollies, recording for 25 days. They did it in hi-def first, did it all, did it best, and after spending two years in postproduction, released their highly anticipated (by people like me anyway) film in October 2013. And there they were, on the summit, for me to get to express my full appreciation.
MMAAH is now on Netflix, iTunes, or you can watch the entire film on YouTube for a few dollars.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Memorial Day Weekend at Joshua Tree

Four days of hiking at Joshua Tree National Park!  My friend Nina spent two weeks in the LA area, and so a JT trip was in order.  We explored some of the park's newer trails on the north end, spent two days hiking off-trail routes including climbing the highest point in the park, Quail Mountain; and a day spent hiking in the south end of the park to Lost Palms.

Remote inscriptions from a 1920's homesteader

1849 inscription, this one was a mystery

Warbird plane wreckage from 1999 on Quail Mtn summit. That's San Jacinto Pk and Mt San Gorgonio behind
Bighorn sheep on Quail Mtn, this hike was the trip highlight and offered a chance to practice cross-country map & compass navigation
Lost Palms Oasis
Lost Palms Oasis

Saturday, June 6, 2015

May 16: Hiking Club in Fish Canyon

Fish Canyon in the Angeles NF offers a route into the wild and empty northwest corner of LA County, and our May outing with the Honda Hiking Club was an 11-mile dayhike through the narrows of Fish Canyon (two of them, really), with a lunch stop at Rogers Camp. Afterward was supper at the Rose & Crown pub in Valencia.  A good time was had by all.
At Rogers Camp

In the narrows