Category Archives: photography

Manzanita Morning

Manzanita

A day that begins on a trail winding its way through manzanita and Jeffery pine is probably going to be a good one. You’re in the mountains, and most likely starting a hike, run, climb, or some other adventure. In this case, it was the San Gabriel Mountains, and I was on the Pacific Crest Trail, near the start of a 20 mile run that began at Three Points and would circuit Mt. Waterman.

From Three Points (5,920′), I followed the PCT up to Cloudburst Summit (7018′), and then down into Cooper Canyon (~5735′). Reminiscient of a Rousseau painting, Cooper Canyon is one of the most idyllic spots in the San Gabriels. The old roadbed the trail follows into the canyon is a telltale sign of its lasting popularity. One of its attractions is Cooper Canyon Falls, which is on the PCT a short distance beyond where the Burkhart Trail, and my run, branched off and climbed to Buckhorn Campground (6300′).

The last time I had done this run, the linkup from Buckhorn Campground to the Mt. Waterman trail had been a little unclear. This time I knew I had to follow the camp roads to the entrance of the campground, rather than the exit. From the entrance of the campground, if I turned right onto Hwy 2, the Mt. Waterman trail could be picked up a few hundred feet north along the highway.

The Mt. Waterman trail winds a couple of miles through open yellow pine forest to within about 0.7 mile of the Mt. Waterman summit. At this point, a spur trail leads to the peak, and the main trail continues to the junction with the Twin Peaks trail. This spur trail leads to Twin Peaks Saddle, and from there to Twin Peaks.

The rocky, isolated summit of Twin Peaks is a worthwhile ascent, adding about 4 miles and 1700′ of elevation gain to the loop. It has a unique character, and is one of my favorite summits in the San Gabriels. On one ascent, as I reached the summit, the music of Bach wafted in on the wind from a subsidiary peak. Played with skill and feeling on a concert flute, the notes seemed to dance among the trees and rocks, and fill the expanse that lay beyond the peak.

There would be no Bach on the summit of Twin Peaks on this run. At the junction with the Twin Peaks trail I briefly debated the ascent, but continued on my way to Three Points.

Here’s a Google Earth image and Google Earth KMZ file of a GPS trace of the loop.

Pleasant View Ridge

Peak 8248, the highest point on Pleasant View Ridge

The photograph is of peak 8248, the highest point on Pleasant View Ridge, viewed from the saddle northwest of the peak. Located in the San Gabriel Mountains, Pleasant View Ridge extends northwest about 8 miles from  Mt. Williamson to the vicinity of Indian Bill Canyon.

When hikers refer to Pleasant View Ridge, they are usually talking about a 3 mile segment of the ridge that runs from the southeastern summit of Mt. Williamson (8214′) to Burkhart Saddle (6959′). From Mt. Williamson, the ridge follows along a series of 8000’+ summits, then crosses a deep gap to the broad summit of Pallett Mountain (7760’+). From this point, Burkhart Saddle and the Burkhart Trail are another 0.6 of a mile to the west.  There is no maintained trail on the ridge, but over time a use trail has developed and is generally (but not always) distinct. In this photograph of the ridge from the PCT, Pallett Mountain is the peak on the left, in the distance.

Mt. Williamson is in the peculiar situation that the register for the peak is not on the peak labeled “Mt. Williamson” on the Crystal Lake topo. According to the Sierra Club Hundred Peaks Section Peak List, the register is normally located on peak 8244, which is the next peak along the ridge to the northwest. What is even more peculiar, peak 8248, which is a little further on the ridge, is the highest point of all three!

The section of Pleasant View Ridge between Mt. Williamson and Burkhart Saddle is commonly done as part of a 13 mile loop from Eagles Roost. In order to protect critical habitat of the mountain yellow-legged frog, the Forest Service has closed the PCT between Eagle’s Roost and the Burkhart Trail. In addition, Angeles Crest Highway (SR2) is now closed 0.25 mile west of Eagles Roost. (Update May 27, 2007. Angeles Crest Highway has since been re-opened to Islip Saddle. It was open to Islip Saddle on May 27, 2007, but closed beyond this point. It looked like the road past Islip was being resurfaced.) If the PCT detour suggested by the Forest Service is followed, the loop length is increased to about 14.4 miles, and it is necessary to hike/run a 2.4 mile stretch of Angeles Crest Highway. Done this way, the route has an elevation gain and loss of 4000′ or so.

I usually like to do the loop in the counter-clockwise direction, and that’s what I did on this day. It’s nice to get a big chunk of elevation gain done in the morning while it’s cool, and then have a net elevation loss doing the ridge. Also, except for a few downed trees, the running is outstanding from Burkhart Saddle down to Little Rock Creek. Some Western Columbine (Aquilegia formosa) was blooming along Little Rock Creek.

Here is a Google Earth image and Google Earth KMZ file of a GPS trace of the loop with the PCT detour through Buckhorn Campground. The ridge parallels the San Andreas Fault zone, whose linear features can be seen in the valley below. This Google Earth image shows the approximate position of the fault zone in relation to Pleasant View Ridge loop. It also shows the section of Pleasant View Ridge northwest of Burkhart Saddle.

For more information regarding the PCT detour see the News section of the Angeles National Forest web site.

Updated May 5, 2008. Added elevation profile.

Google search: $g(Pleasant View Ridge), $g(Mt. Williamson), $g(Pallet Mountain), $g(Burkart Trail), $g(trail running), $g(mountain yellow-legged frog), $g(PCT), $g(Pacific Crest Trail), $g(San Gabriel Mountains)

Related post: Peaks Along Pleasant View Ridge

Seeing Red

Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja affinis) in Cheeseboro Canyon.

In this case, Indian Paintbrush (prob. Castilleja affinis), Scarlet LarkSpur (Delphinium cardinale), and Indian Pink (Silene laciniata) in the Cheeseboro Canyon area of Southern California.

As is the case with many wildfires, one of the side effects of the 2005 Topanga Fire has been to promote a population explosion in many species of wildflowers. Scarlet Larkspur has been especially prevalent in some areas, such as upper Cheeseboro Canyon.

These photos were taken on a run to Simi Peak from the Las Virgenes Rd. trailhead of the Upper Las Virgenes Open Space Preserve on June 11, 2006. I like to go out via upper Las Virgenes Canyon, and come back through Cheeseboro Canyon. This variation is about 16 miles, with an elevation gain and loss of about 2000 ft. The run can be extended to about 21 miles by starting at El Scorpion Park, near Vanowen and Valley Circle. Following are links to trail maps for Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve and Cheeseboro/Palo Comado Canyons.

Related post: Simi Peak Out & Back

Plummer’s Mariposa Lily

Plummer's Mariposa Lily (Calochortus plummerae).

When the hills and valleys of Southern California turn golden brown, and temperatures reach into the nineties or beyond, mixed in among the desiccated grasses, enjoying the heat and the sun, may be the delicate pink to purple of a Plummer’s Mariposa Lily (Calochortus plummerae).

Previously listed by the California Native Plant Society as being rare, threatened, or endangered, the Plummer’s Mariposa is now listed as uncommon and fairly endangered in California.

Note: Plummer’s Mariposa Lily (Calochortus plummerae) and Foothill Mariposa Lily (Calochortus weedii var. intermedius) are closely related species that have intersecting ranges and similar characteristics. C. plummerae is more frequently reported in Los Angeles County.