Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Heat of the Moment


This morning I had to wait for a construction crew to come and do some home repair before I could go hiking. That killed my hope of going to Idyllwild for a hike so I'd have to go near home. I'd hoped they'd be coming early (around 7:30-8:00) but they didn't get there until much later. I didn't mind the extra time to sleep but as far as hiking goes, early afternoon is not the ideal time to go this time of year.

With the construction guys working on the house, tearing down the old stucco in our breezeway, I left to go on my hike. It was about 11:00 and the temperature was already over 100º with no shade. I will be keeping it short and simple.

I walked over to the Yucatan plain and headed up this trail that I've never followed here.

I wasn't missing much. It pretty much ends and drops down into a wash but I decide to take this route, cross-country, because it looks more interesting and I've never gone this way.

And what do you know? I found a cairn to knock over. There is a faint but usable trail that someone has put ducks along. I knock them down because they are not needed and besides the trail just ends. Why have people following a trail to nowhere?

After following the trail to nowhere I find a proper trail and hike a bit until I see another duck up on this rocky hill. I wonder where it leads.

It goes nowhere except this overlook of the La Quinta Mountain Course. Those sprinklers down there look really good right now. It's about 106º at this point.

I hike up to this rock that reminds me of an iconic desert picture (you have to use your imagination). My wife doesn't see it but I think it looks like a howling coyote. Sort of.

Here's a closer shot. Let me know in comments if you can see it or if my wife is right again and I'm just nuts. Of course, if you can imagine it, you might just be crazy, too.

On the way home, I spot this rock circle that looks like a crumb donut to me. Or maybe I have just been out in the sun too long.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Hot and Bothered


After hiking in the mountains the last couple of days I was getting spoiled. I was looking forward to going up high again today but it didn't happen. I had the day off but the kids were tired from their weekend and didn't feel like going anywhere. So we stayed home and I was not happy about it. I would much rather have spent the day high in the mountains with the temperature in the 70s than here in the desert with the temperature in the 100s. But sometimes being a parent means you don't get to do everything you want. Actually, that's most of the time.

So I waited as long as possible to go out and started hiking once the sun went behind the hill. The temperature was still around 100 degrees but it wasn't bad once I started going. Really.

I went over the Lake Cahuilla and was going to get dropped off at the Morrow Trail Head. There was a small problem, though. The road to Lake Cahuilla was closed and locked. It says it's closed on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Somebody needs to tell them today is Monday.

While the air is hot, the sun is mercifully behind the mountains and there is just enough light to make it. I hope.

The trail will connect me to the top of the Cove where my wife will pick me up. If the pool at Lake Cahuilla were open it might be a better hike to do in the opposite direction and end with a plunge. Maybe next time.

On the hillside near the trail there are several trail monuments that generally mean there is an Indian trail somewhere near here. I don't have enough light to go exploring today, though. I'll have to remember this for the fall.

While it's tempting to go and walk down the fairway, I will respect the owners and their willingness to allow the trail to cross their property. The trail heads up the sandy wash on the right.

The trail climbs up to the left but I decide to go straight instead. It looks like people have climbed up that way and since I'm a little pressed for time it looks like a short cut.

The climb was steep, loose and rocky but doable. It also was definitely shorter.

At the top there are some type of monuments, similar to what I've seen along trails in 1000 Palms as well as a few others.

There are also a few large rocks mounds. I don't have time to really explore around here but this is pretty interesting and I must have hiked by here a hundred times.

There is also a trail. Hopefully, it's another short cut because the light is fading fast.

I lose the trail and have to travel cross country. It's slow going because the terrain is rocky and loose and I have to make sure I don't fall or step on a snake. Some short cut this turns out to be.

After going through a couple of little rocky canyons I hit the trail that will take me home and with just enough light to see.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Where The Heart Is


With the family still in San Bernardino, where we spent last night, I came home and went to work this morning. Harrison had a game at 2 p.m. and if his team won the game they'd have another at 8. Since his team hasn't won a game yet, I was fully expecting the family home early. So I headed up to the Tram and figured I'd go for a nice little 6 or 8 mile hike and then head home.

I get off the Tram at a little after 5 p.m. and am delighted to see the mountain covered in shade. I always come in the morning so it surprises me that it's shady this early. Of course, I then found out it is only due to this cloud blocking the sun.

I head down to Long Valley with the intention of hiking over to Willow Creek. I notice, however, that my wife called and so I instead decide to head over somewhere I can get some cell phone reception. I decide to take the Desert View Trail. Once I talk to the wife I can always come back.

I take the Desert View Trail over to where I get a view of the Coachella Valley and some cell phone reception. I call the wife and she's staying in Crestline. Harrison's team won their game by forfeit and will now be playing tonight. The funny thing is that they are playing Coachella. So they travel all the way to the mountains above San Bernardino and play a team from the city next door. At least it's cool up there.

It is also cool up here and with incredible views. I get a glimpse of Long View Dome over to my right and decide that I'll just head over that way instead of going back and then going to Willow Creek.

Long View Dome is this great big rock that can be seen from the Coachella Valley. It is several hundred feet high and has a fun moderate rock climb on it that I did years ago. From the upper side, it's little more than a class 3-4 scramble to get to the top and the views from it are tremendous.

I hike down Long Creek Canyon but realize that I went a bit too low and have to do some scrambling to get to where I can get to the top of the Dome.

In the process I get a couple of scratches on my legs but that's OK. My wife will know I had a great adventure.

The North Face of the Dome is steep and difficult but there are other easier sections. I find this ramp simple and it leads me to a little saddle where I get a nice view looking toward home.

From the saddle all I have to do is scramble up this little section and I'm on top. No biggie. I've done it before. Yet, today I just don't feel right about it. With the deaths of middle aged men dominating the news the past couple of days, I consider the risk. Also, on my FaceBook page this morning, I read about how one of the girls I taught in Sunday School about thirty years ago lost her husband to a heart attack just the other day. He was out surfing.
There is probably a .0001% chance that I'll slip and hurt something. But even if I just sprain my ankle, being out here alone, where no one knows I am, and with my family in another range of mountains miles away, I'd be in trouble. I decide to forgo the scramble, at least for today. This one time, having a surfeit of caution seems to make sense. I'll come back with a friend sometime and do the climb later.

I'll have to be satisfied with this view for now. I say a prayer for Kimmie and her family and head back. On any other day I'd feel like a wuss for not doing the final section of this climb but today I feel very much at peace. Doing the final hundred feet doesn't seem nearly as important today as getting home.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

First Time For Everything


This weekend, my son had a baseball tournament in Twin Peaks, near Lake Arrowhead. We had to drive up to the mountains and then depending on if the team won the game, he'd have a game later in the day or on Sunday. Our team lost so the next game will be Sunday. Now I've got to figure out what to do with the family and where I can go to hike.

I did a quick Google search and found Lake Gregory near here has a place for kids to play and a trail that circles the lake. I'd never been there so I figured, why not?

The only hikes I've done in the San Bernardino Mountains have been in the San Gorgonio Wilderness. I figured if you're going to make the drive you may as well make it worthwhile so I've done San Gorgonio several times from several different directions but nothing else. OK, I've gone skiing at Big Bear but that doesn't count. This hike will be a first for me.

The trail goes around the entire lake and since dogs are allowed I wish I'd have brought Kahlua. She'd love it up here. I don't think there will be anyone backpacking around the lake, though. It's not that long.

There are exercise stations along the trail and it makes me wish I'd brought my running gear. Although on second thought if I tried to do any exercises I might lose my lunch of pizza and Pepsi. It's good that I'll be sticking with hiking. But this is the first trail I've ever done that has exercise equipment other than rocks and logs.

There is a restroom on the trail! If I'd known this I may have been able to persuade my wife to come along. Next time. This is the first time I've ever encountered a restroom on a trail that wasn't either an outhouse or a tree.

The view here is pretty, especially since it's about 110º down in the desert today.

There is a ball field right next to the lake. It's not the ball field Harrison is playing on but it is the first ball field that I have ever hiked past.

Not only are dogs allowed on this trail, there is even a dog park. Near where I live dogs aren't allowed on many trails at all and they have a dog park up here. Incredible.

To enter the part of the lake that has a swimming area there is a $3.00 fee. Since the family is in here I guess I'll pay it even though I will not be doing any swimming today.

There's the wife and Nikolas on an Aqua Trike having a blast while I'm hiking. Family fun for everyone.

This trail also has a water slide and some water jets plus a lot of people who should never go out in public in a swimsuit. I'm sure a lot of people do a lot of hiking around lakes but living in the desert it is not something I get to do often, if ever. I kinda like it even if the hike is not particularly challenging.

Nikolas also likes it. If it were up to him I'd hike here every day.

Friday, June 26, 2009

In The Heat Of The Night


I am looking forward to this weekend. With expected highs in the desert topping 110º I am thankful that I will be able to hike in the mountains the next three days. Of course, there was still today to get through.

This morning when I got out of bed, the temperature outside was already in the mid nineties so I decided to put my hike off until late afternoon. Even though it was still almost 100º I wouldn't be in the direct sunlight so it was going to be tolerable.

Due to time limitations I just went up to the Bear Creek Trail. I wanted to go up to Mount Whitney but just didn't have the time. Plus, Kahlua just doesn't do that well being in the car that long.

Once we get out of sight of the road, the leash comes off. Just like men, dogs live to be free. Most of the day we are cooped up in our yards or cubicles or homes. Getting outdoors is about being feeling free if only for a few hours at a time.

The moon is not going to be a lot of help tonight so I made sure I brought a flashlight.

The start of the trail is just a sandy wash. Kahlua loves it. She runs around chasing bugs and lizards, hoping to find a varmint but they probably sensed her before we left the house. She's not really very sneaky.

Kahlua just runs right past this sign without reading it. Since she's not a gigantic dog she probably didn't think it applied to her but I figure we'd probably better look for an exit and head back.

We decide to take this trail. We've never really done it before but since the dog haters keep putting out signs telling people where they can't take their pets we are going to need to find new places to go.

We follow this ridge trail back as the city lights start to come on.

We make it to the palms before we need the flashlight.

Good thing, too. Without it I'd have walked right past Kahlua's drinking fountain.

Or, maybe the moonlight might have been enough.