Saturday, May 31, 2014

Zion - East Temple Saddle

I visited Zion National Park last week.  It was fun.  My most interesting hike was the East Temple Saddle and loop.  I learned of this hike from Joe Braun's website, and from a new book: Favorite Hikes In & Around Zion National Park.   

I really liked this hike.  It's very steep and has plenty of route finding; right on the edge of my abilities.  This hike starts at the end of the easy Overlook Trail on the east side of the big tunnel.  At the place where everybody looks west enjoying the view down canyon, you turn around and start hiking up toward the saddle.  From the saddle, the hike continues down the other side and into Pine Creek Canyon, then back to Highway 9.  My GPS watch took a while to see enough satellites and get an accurate fix, so ignore the track that's south of Highway 9.  I posted the KMZ file to my google sites page and you can download it here to view in Google Earth.

Here's the end of the Overlook Trail, and the view looking up toward the saddle.

The saddle is in view so you can't lose sight of that objective.  Don't go too far to the left.  It gets very cliffy over there.  

The hike up the slickrock to the saddle is very steep in places.  Do not try this hike if you're not comfortable on steep slopes.  I brought my grippy shoes, but it wasn't steep enough to require them.  My Salomon trail shoes did fine.  If you're interested, I can point you to a couple steeper slopes on the east side of the park.

I passed several cairns.  Somebody also tied pink ribbons to the bushes along the route.  I'm not a fan of that method.

There's a fair amount of route finding.  Mostly, to find the least steep path up the next patch of slickrock.  I had to double back a few times when I made a poor choice.

It gets less steep as you approach the saddle.

It took me 1.5 hours just to reach the saddle.  I was very happy, because the remainder of the hike would be easier.

From the saddle, the next photo looks east toward Pine Creek Canyon.

After scouting the area, the path down looked pretty easy.  That made me happy.

The next photo looks back up the canyon I just hiked down, toward the saddle.

Here's Shelf Canyon from above.  I briefly wondered how to get around it, but then saw a small cairn confirming that I was on the right path. It's pretty easy.

While resting, I took a few photos of Progeny Peak.  There was nobody on the summit.

I've hiked Progeny Peak many times.  Seeing those slabs on the west side of the summit brings back memories.  Free advice: don't step on those.  They move!

And this is the final drop down into Pine Creek Canyon.  I startled a large group of bighorn sheep.  They ran away before I could get a shot with my camera.

The hike took a total of 3 hours: 1.5 hours to reach the saddle, and another 1.5 hours to return to the car.  The total distance was 4 miles.  I enjoyed this hike and I'll probably hike it again.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Owens Peak

I went hiking on Owens Peak recently.  I didn't summit.  I'm not a peak bagger so I often don't reach the top of the peaks I climb.  The route was very steep and one of my knees was hurting.  I decided to turn back and avoid any injury because I'm headed to Zion NP next week and I don't want to risk ruining that trip with a sore knee.  I can always return to Owens Peak later for more hiking.  The GPS data from my Garmin fenix seems to be off a bit.  I followed a clear trail up and down, and not the separate paths shown below.

It was a great day for hiking.  The Los Angeles area was experiencing a bit of a heat wave, so hiking above 7000 feet means it was much cooler.  The temps were mid 70s.  There was a slight breeze, but not in the shaded canyon where the trail lies.  That area was swarming with small flies.  They all seemed to be intent on landing on my eyeballs.  That part was very annoying.

My hike was about 6 miles total.  I didn't see any other hikers.  There were several other cars on the dirt road in Indian Wells Canyon, but none drove to the trailhead at the end.  The trail is pretty obvious.  There are plenty of small rock cairns to follow.  

On the way down, I almost stepped on this little critter.

I'm pretty good at looking out for these guys.  This time it was hard because I was focused on swatting the flies from my face.  The snake just lay there motionless.  Not even rattling.  I tossed a small rock at it to see if it was alive and maybe get it to move.  It was alive, but only moved its head to look toward me.  It was about 16-18 inches long.  A young one.  Less chance of a dry bite.  After carefully looking for other snakes in the area, I left the trail to walk around the snake.  Took a few more photos, then turned to leave.  That's when it started rattling.

When I got home, I consulted my rattlesnake book.  It appears to be a Northern Mojave rattlesnake (Crotalus Scutulatus), aka Mojave Green.  Yikes.  The book has a lot of info, and a whole section on distinguising these from the western diamondback rattlesnake that looks very similar.  Mojave Greens are very aggressive, very poisonous snakes.  Probably the most dangerous snakes we have in southern California.  

Before heading home, I stopped off at the Indian Wells Brewery and picked up a case of my favorite brew: Special Black Lobotomy Bock.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Skinner Peak

I recently hiked Skinner Peak in the southern Sierra mountains.  It's an easy hike.  There are two routes, both along the PCT.  One heads north from Bird Spring Pass, and the other heads south from the ridge atop Horse Canyon Road.  I took the later one because (a) it's shorter, and (b) I get to drive the fun 4wd road up Horse Canyon.  Here's a google map centered on Skinner Peak.

The hardest part of the hike is finding the actual summit.  You can see from my track that it took me quite a while to find it.  For this reason, my total hiking distance was 6 miles and not the advertised 5.

Horse Canyon Road begins as BLM route SC65.  As it gains altitude, it enters the Kiavah Wilderness and the road becomes rougher, requiring high clearance.

Driving up the switchbacks is the fun part.  The road is in the worst condition I've seen in the past 5 years.

This shot looks east down the canyon from half way up the switchbacks.

The PCT was a pleasant walk.  I only encountered one other hiker.  A grizzled old man who looked like a through hiker who'd been on the trail for quite a while.

There were 2 rock cairns marking where you should leave the PCT to find the summit.  These are located roughly where my track left and rejoined the PCT in the first image above.

It's hard to find the summit because the top is kinda flat and covered in pinyon pine and other trees.

I found two USGS markers on the same pile of boulders.

Bird Spring Pass is seen to the south.  I drove to the microwave tower facility back in 2011.

Here's a view of the road, from the PCT as I returned to the car.

Here's a final shot of the road going down the switchbacks.  There are several transitions to/from old asphalt.  Each one involves a rise/drop of 6 to 12 inches.   Those black dots in the sky are crows.