Sunday, February 28, 2010

Backbone Trail in Hondo Canyon

I took a hike up the Backbone Trail in Hondo Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains today. I was able to cover about 10 miles, but took almost 7 hours doing it. The trail was very muddy this morning. The mud literally stuck to the bottom of my shoes, pounds at a time it seemed. Each step would peel off another layer of trail until I had huge blocks of mud on each foot. There weren't many people on this trail today, and I was able to enjoy solitude for most of the day. There were nice views of the Pacific at the top, downtown LA was also visible, as well as views towards the San Gabriels.

New Specimens: Backbone Trail in Hondo Canyon

Califonia saxifrage (above)
Woodland star? (above)

Large Flowered Lotus (above)
Common fiddleneck (above)
Collar Lupine (above)
Tree Poppy (above)
Indian warrior (above)
Blue Larkspur (above)
California buttercup (above)
Milk maids? (above)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Friday, February 26, 2010

Tuolumne Meadows

Here's a current shot of Tuolumne Meadows from the NPS website (snow covered). The top photo is what it looked like when I passed through in August. I think the peak on the left in my photo may be the same as the one that is pictured in the snowy photograph. I think the peak on the right in my photo may be Cathedral Peak.
Thanks for the link Robin. Man, I hope that snow starts melting soon! I've got a feeling it's going to be an interesting hike through the Sierra this year...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Banner Peak/Mt. Ritter: August 2009

Banner Peak (above)

Mt. Ritter (above)
I havn't been able to hike the last few days so I thought I'd have some fun editing some pictures I took of Mt. Ritter and Banner Peak last year. When I first saw Banner Peak on the JMT last August I thought, "This looks just like an Ansel Adams photograph!" A winter storm happened to be rolling in which brought some dark, ominous clouds. Here's a digital tribute to the master!

Monday, February 22, 2010

PCT Preparing

On my way home from work this evening, I was looking towards the San Gabriels and thinking it won't be long now before I'm sleeping in the mountains again. For me, a big part of planning for the PCT has been getting mentally ready. I've noticed I'm starting to slowly emotionally detach myself from work. It's a tricky process, wanting to finish strong, but also wanting to be prepared for the journey ahead. I've also started having dreams of the trail as well. When I was looking towards the San Gabriels, I randomly started thinking about what kinds of animals are waking up and starting their nightly search for food. A memory of the John Muir Trail popped into my head after that, something that I almost forgot about.

My very first night in Yosemite, I was camped in the backpacker's campground located about a mile from the Wilderness Permit Office. I made the decision to wake up at 3:00AM and hike to the Wilderness Office to better my chances at securing a back country permit. It was a rather frightening, yet exhilarating walk through Ahwahnee Meadow in the middle of the night. I knew there must be active bears all around. I could only see in front of me what my headlamp's beams would allow. At one point, I turned off my headlamp in the meadow, and looked at the thousands of stars shining above me, and the dark black canyon walls rising from both sides. There is something amazing about the contrast between the night sky illuminated by stars and the blackness of the mountains blocking the light. Anyways, at one point in the hike, my headlamp caught the eyes of some nocturnal creature on the road. His green eyes glowed and reflected the light from my headlamp. He also was running quite fast. It startled me, but reminded me to get to the permit office as fast as possible. As it turned out, I was indeed the first one to arrive at the permit office that morning at 3:30AM, although only by a few minutes. Several others arrived as the morning slowly greeted us, and a small scale slumber party ensued on the porch of the permit office. Thankfully, most of us that morning received our permits, and we were free to enter the backcountry.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Beaudry Fire Road/ Verdugos

Oriental Mustard (above)
Strigose (hairy) lotus (above)
Miner's lettuce (above)
Canyon sweet pea amongst the Castor bean plant (above)
California blackberry (above)

California aster (above)
Longstem buckwheat (above)

Mt. Thom (above)
Sow thistle (above)
There's no such thing as a "weed" in the mountains in my opinion.
Red maids (above)
Harvested red maids shoots? (above)
Suncups (above)
Today was a fantastic hike up the North Beaudry fire road, and down the South Beaudry fire road in the Verdugos. Thanks Kate for the recommendation! This was a hike I will probably do again and again. I was blessed to cross paths with a few more specimens that are arriving on the scene.
At one point during the hike, I walked past a huge patch of miner's lettuce, some of the leaves as big as a sand dollar. I read somewhere that California gold miner's used to eat it to get a dose of Vitamin C, thus the name.
"I've got to eat some of this one of these days" I told myself. Never before have I had an impulse to eat anything I've seen on my hikes. A couple of minutes later, I was taking a picture of some of the Canyon sweet pea pods that were growing alongside a Castor bean plant. A jogger ran past me while I was taking a picture and yelled,
"Don't eat that!!! You know what it is right?!"
"Oh yeah" I said, even though I wasn't sure what he was referring to. (I must have looked hungry!)
Anyways, I looked up the Castor Bean plant on Wikepedia, and it was dubbed the most poisonous plant in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Here's a few statistics:
Consuming 4 seeds will kill a rabbit.
5 seeds, a sheep.
4 to 8 seeds, a human.
6 seeds, a horse.
7 seeds, a pig.
11 seeds, a dog.
80 seeds, a duck!
As it turns out, the canyon sweet pea is also poisonous. So either way, the jogger was right.
Also I came across a tiny patch of Red maids, a fantastic little flower. I found out they are also edible, at least the young shoots are. When I went home and looked at my pictures on the computer, I noticed that some of the shoots had been cut off. Perhaps, someone else had a snack on the trail recently?


Here's a couple of city shots from today's hike.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Cathedral Peak/ August 2009

The last few nights I've been watching parts of "The National Parks: America's Best Idea" by Ken Burns on PBS video.
At one point during the chapter I was watching this evening, there was a particular quote by Dayton Duncan, the writer and producer of the documentary that immediately brought back a memory: "You are the owner of some of the best seafront property this nation's got. You own the magnificent waterfalls, you own stunning views of mountains, and stunning views of canyons, and stunning views of gorgeous canyons. They belong to you, they're yours, and all that's asked of you is to put it in your will for your children, so they can have it too."

Last summer on the John Muir Trail, I crossed paths with another hiker named Matt who was also hiking the trail solo. We hiked together for a couple of days and one of the places we camped for the evening was Cathedral Lake. The euphoria of leaving behind the city life and excitement of a new adventure in an absolutely stunning place was at it's peak for me. The grit and grime of long distance backpacking had not yet set in when we camped below Cathedral Peak that particular afternoon in August. Everything was still fresh and new. After hiking most of the day, we were treated not only with an incredible view, but with a refreshing and comfortable swim in Cathedral Lake. At one point, I turned to Matt and said "We win!" Even though both of our lives in the "real world" hardly measured up to what society deems "successful," in that particular moment, we felt like the richest people on the planet, and it cost us nothing. It became our mantra for the evening: "We win!" Cathedral Peak is still one of my favorite memories of the JMT.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Griffith Park

Greenbark ceanothus (above)
Common eucrypta (above)
Foxtail barley (above)
Tansy Mustard (above)
I took a short hike in Griffith Park this morning since I have the morning off from work. Unfortunately, I caught a nasty case of poison oak last Monday in the Verdugos. What started out as a few bumps on my legs last week has mutated into sores all over both my legs, it's starting to creep up my arms and my ear now has blisters on it. I never really looked out for it before, but today I saw lots poison oak plants off trail. Needless to say, the hike wasn't very comfortable this morning.