TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Sunday, March 17, 2019

Ortega Falls

Thursday my husband and I had AGAIN planned to hike Caspers to the hot springs. However, the trails we planned on taking were still closed. So, we drove up Highway 74  to the lot across the street from the candy store. There is a lovely short-short hike up called the San Juan Loop that takes off from the parking lot and winds around to end in back in the lot. It's only 2.2 miles long, but you can add more by hiking down to the falls. Our total hike ended up at 2.7 miles, and boy did we see some falls. It has been quite some time since I have seen Ortega Falls flowing -- can't recall the exact date, but it's been years. This hike is a must do after the rainy season. The added bonus is that it is short, so you can do it as one of your first hikes working up to longer ones. The trip down to the falls is a bit tricky, but definately can be done. Just do it with care.

The first sight of some falls -- looking down from San Juan Loop
 Hiking down & getting closer
 Arrived!
 After hiking back up to San Juan Trails, we spotted this one a little further in




Friday, March 15, 2019

Hot Springs Canyon 3X

I have come to conclude that it’s a good thing that the state and county parks have been closed so much lately “due to wet and muddy conditions.” I was getting so annoyed at OC Parks, but now I am fine. Really, I am fine. All these closed parks have lead me to a wonderful revisit -- a revisit to Hot Springs Canyon. And what an unexpected delight this has been.

Hot Springs Canyon is toward the bottom of the mountain off of Ortega Highway (In the Cleveland National Forest on the Orange County side). The turnoff is by the fire station and the same road that you take to LazyW Ranch. Old Goat’s Chimera (100 mi. race) has an aid station in this canyon. It’s where the runners come off a long 12 mile downhill on San Juan Trail. And then they must turn around and repeat those 12 miles back into the Blue Jay campgrounds. I have frequently travelled San Juan Trail over the past decade. But I almost always stay toward the top of the trail and go off on other junctions like Chiquito Trail and The Viejo Tie. A couple of times I have ventured up San Juan Trail from Hot Springs Canyon. Once, some years back, I ran up the trail from Hot Springs Canyon to Cocktail Rock. One thing for sure, during the summertime, San Juan Trail is a bear. It can get brutally hot, heat stroke kind of hot, if not taken seriously. It’s completely exposed until you get in pretty close to the campgrounds. So, you’ve got about 7 or 8 miles of uphill sun beating down on you if you want to make the trip on San Juan Trail from Hot Springs Canyon into Blue Jay campgrounds.

Oh, how I have digressed. My journey back to Hot Springs Canyon began at the beginning of this month -- March 1, in fact. I got a really late start because I had to pull over and make some unexpected phone calls. It may have been as late as 1 pm before I arrived to Hot Springs Canyon, the location I chose because it was semi-close and all my local trails were closed. I meandered a bit about the creek, which was clear and rushing. Then I gave myself two hours up before I needed to turn back to make sure that I’d get in before dark (we hadn’t changed the clocks yet). The weather was cool and breezy, the skies gray. Little fields of wildflowers were splattered all over the slopes. And moss and ferns were wrapped around boulders and rocks in the shady areas. Wow. This was no summertime San Juan Trail. This was beautifully cool weathered- springtime San Juan Trail. 8.10 miles on this hike; 1,713 elevation gain.




Trip number two into Hot Springs Canyon this month was unplanned. Thursday, March 7, my husband and I had planned a hike in Caspers Park to the San Juan Hot Springs (we have never been). I should have known, because Caspers is part of the county park system, that it was closed due to “wet and muddy” conditions. So, we drove a few miles and turned into Hot Springs Canyon hoping we could find a way to the hot springs from that location. Turned out that the entire perimeter of Caspers is fenced. We did find a spot to squeeze through, but being that the place was so heavily fenced and plastered with no trespassing signs, we decided to squeeze back through the barbed wire fence and did a short creek hike instead. We crossed the creek several times before reaching LazyW Ranch. We took in every cabin (as close as possible). Everything was clean and green. Some of the cabins had the creek flowing just past their front doors. What a lovely spring canyon. 4.03 miles on this hike, plus a little more walking around at the Tree of Life Nursery down the road a bit. (Wonderful nursery with all California native plants).



The very next day, Friday March 8, I got back out to Hot Springs Canyon. I had five hours. I really needed to get back to the car by 4pm so that I could bring my son to an appointment. (Just in case though, I had left directions on the kitchen counter so that my husband could bring him if I didn’t get back in time.) My goal was Cocktail Rock, which I estimated was around 6 miles away (uphill).

Well! The day was absolutely lovely with big puffy clouds and blue skies. Spring flowers were bursting all over the place. I could see down to the Pacific Ocean and for miles into the Cleveland National Forest. It really was amazing. But my time was not good. Cocktail Rock was slightly further than I expected. The weather was super cold at the rock, and the wind began to pick up. It took me slightly more than 3 hours to arrive there, and I wasn’t going to turn around and go straight back. I did recorded some video, took in the scenery. By this time though, I basically had 1 hour and 45 minutes to make the trip back, which I could conceivably do if I ran it. Funny thing was, my phone rang when I was hanging out at Cocktail Rock (did not expect any service there!). Learning that I had cell service, I gave my husband a call to let him know that he would have to take our son if I didn't make it in time. I had fun running back (as it was basically all down hill). But the trail got too technical in some parts, and being that I’m not really practiced at running this level anymore, I slowed it down during those portions.  I did not make the return trip in 1 hour 45 minutes. But I was close. It took me just a little over two hours. Total distance: 13.11 miles, 2,546’ of elevation gain. And that is why Hot Springs Canyon 3 times!



Friday, March 8, 2019

Wet and Muddy Conditions


We are having one of  our wetter rainy seasons this year. Sometimes we skip right past the rainy season with just two or three rains. And sometimes, we get a deluge for weeks and weeks. Such is the case right now. Everything is green. Everything is clean. The weather is perfectly cool, sometimes even cold. There's snow even occassionally in the local mountains, and the mountains just west of those (The San Gabriels for example) are still covered in snow. The rain is delightful (oh, except for all the driving I do freeway flying between three campuses). Creeks are full. Waterfalls fall once again. It is perfect trail season right now. PERFECT. Too bad our dang county park system has got the door closed tight on all the local trails. They're all closed due to "Wet and Muddy Conditions!"

A window opened up on the last day of February, and I got off to Wood Canyon Thurday late morning. The creeks were flowing and the skies were blue. Like I mentioned, perfect trail weather. I took the easy canyon route with two detours: 1) up to a bench that overlooks the canyon, and 2) Wood Creek Trail, a magical shady trail that crosses over Wood Creek and winds through a thick forest of trees.

Since I am behind in everything, I'll cut this short and end with the stats and pics. 

9.07 miles, 650' elevation gain. 







Monday, March 4, 2019

Spring is Coming to Arroyo Trabuco

We have been transformed into a green colored state with all the rain that we’ve had the past several weeks. Green hills and mountains surround us now. It really is remarkable. I get out to the trails when I can in between rains. Most of my local trails are closed, so I always shimmy off to the trails that open sooner than the others. One of those trails is Arroyo Trabuco, which I set out on over a week ago (February 24) for a nice long hike (with some running, because I got behind in my schedule due to all the creek crossings). I put in 13.17 miles and waded through the stream a dozen times. I didn’t mind the wet feet, but oh did it feel wonderful at the turnaround point in O’Neill Park when I replaced my socks with a dry pair. Almost nothing feels better than replacing soggy socks with a new dry pair.

Beneath Oso Parkway looking down onto Arroyo Trabuco Trail:

Nearly Knee Deep: 

 





 

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Black Star Falls for 54

I don't think about age much, especially mine, which is why I was confused this past week (Sat., February 16) when I thought that I was turning 53 years old. But then I did the math. The truth: I have now made the revolution around the sun 54 times. In celebration, my husband and I took the one day in between rains (we had been experiencing near constant rain) to hike out to Black Star Falls. The only other time I had ever made that hike was also with my husband, along with some friends. That first trip 9 years ago. It was another era in my life. It was when I was running all the time; I was much stronger physically then. I recall the hike being strenuous and what I would rate as a moderately difficult hike. 

And it was again -- a strenuous, moderately difficult hike. There was a difference though. This time, the creek was crashing through the canyon. Crashing. It was so full, there was no staying dry. It took so much mental focus traversing between the boulders and rapidly moving creek that it became tiresome. Other times, we were scrambling up mud banks, or but sliding down unwalkable surfaces. You really can't beat that type of hiking. It takes both mental and physical strength. And for me, I had some mental and physical strength to pull from, but I was slow moving. Slow moving was okay though, because that canyon was so lush and beautiful, that I loved all the time I could get taking it its glamour. 

Another difference nine years later, is the powers that be erected a sign pointing the way to the falls. As such, there were crowds of hikers on the 16th (I'd say more than 50). But the terrain was difficult enough to thinly spread out the field. Often it seemed like we were the only hikers (waders!) out there.  On a sad note, graffiti had been spray painted on some of the rocks (grrrrr!). 

The falls though -- wow. WOW. Absolutely remarkable how much water tumbled down into the creek. It was loud and misty. And the natural terrain of haphazard boulders made it comfortably easy to lounge about with a couple other dozen people where if we wanted to converse to one another, needed to yell because the falls were that loud. 











Monday, February 18, 2019

Black Star Canyon is Beautiful!

On our second day of no rain last week, 2/8/19 (all other 5 days, we got rain), I headed back to Black Star Canyon. After having turned back because of the heat during the summer, I vowed to return in the wintertime.  
Wintertime is here, and Black Star Canyon did not disappoint. My goal was to hike up Black Star Canyon Road to Beek's Place. Having researched it some on the internet, I figured the trip would be about 15 miles long. I had just enough time to fit that hike in. I was hoping for a total time of 5 hours. That did not happen. Of course that did not happen because I always get side-tracked on little detours. 



First detour: 
A trip down to the top of Black Star Falls. After some miles zig-zagging up Black Star Canyon Road I began to hear a roar -- a roar, even listening to music on my ipod (which I don't usually listen to very loudly). My first thought, though I really couldn't believe it, was that the roar was coming from Black Star Falls. But I had been marching for much too long, surely, I had long passed the falls. The roar intrigued me, but was presumably the first opportunity to make it down there seemed too time-consuming, and I wasn't positive it was a good route anyway. So, I headed back up to the road. 

And then Black Star Canyon road meandered away, zig-zagging again up the mountain. A bit later, I heard that fierce roar again. That's when I realized that I was standing atop a thin single track that headed down from Black Star Canyon Road, off toward the roar, off toward two giant boulders in the not so far distance.  



The first trail I took off of this track took me just to the left of the right boulder in the picture above. As I approached, it became evident to me that I was indeed above the falls, the sound was just so fierce. But just when I thought that I was getting closer, my trail ended at a cliff, an abrupt clift, too scary to even consider approaching. In fact, I backed off immdediately and headed off to another single track that I had spotted on the way down. 

Friends, I found the creek. And it was rushing hard and loud. I was surrounded by boulders, and slippery footings. So, I took a seat on top of a nice solid boulder. I could not see to the bottom of the falls, and I have no idea if there were hikers below. They could have been yelling and I would not have heard them because the water was so loud. I'm not even sure how close I was to the falls. I didn't want to chance venturing closer. I felt this was a time for extreme caution. And besides, the spot that I had found to take it all in was really just spectacular.  



Second detour:
After the falls, I found another enchanting single track off of Black Star Canyon Road (there were actually many different distractions, but I had refrained mostly). This second detour took me through a meadow out onto groups of boulders that led to the edge of the valley.

After that second detour, I began heading down into an immense green valley. The road followed Black Star Creek for quite some time, crossing back and forth over it here and again. Finally, the road headed away from the main creek, but not too far afterward, I came upon another creek that undoubtedly met up with Black Star Creek. There were actually little creeks all over, our rains have been near constant. 




At about 9 miles traversed, I arrive to the ruins of Beek's Place on The Main Divide. I spent some time going through the ruins. There were two buildings, both just one room with fireplaces and plenty of windows. There view was spectacular -- white capped San Gorgonio Mountains and The San Gabriels covered in snow. After a little detour on top (detour #3) to get a better view of The San Gabriels, I finally decide to head back. I was way behind in schedule. But that was okay -- it was Friday, my day off.






Black Star Canyon to Beek's Place, Cccccold in the morning, approx. 37,000 steps (supposidly) 17.17 miles, 2,684' elevation gain. It was gorgeous out there. Black Star Canyon is beautiful! Green, green, green.