Monday, August 31, 2009

Fighting Shape


In sports, most of an athlete's time is spent training, very little is actually spent on the event itself. So it is with hiking. During the course of each month I tend to have one hike that qualifies as an event, a couple that could be called demonstrations and the rest would probably qualify as gym work. But since a lot of athletic competitions are won or lost during training it's important for me to do these every day, training hikes so I'll be ready when a big event comes along. Hopefully, that'll be later this month.

There's a bit of smoke in the air out here from the Yucaipa Fire although not too much. There's no smell of smoke or ash in the air so there won't be any health issues other than heat to deal with.

I head up a trail and find the beginning of a new trail. I really don't know the purpose of this new trail or where the creator intends for it to go but I'll keep an eye on it and check its progress.

Someone's also done some painting on the sign since I was last up this way. I like the look of the natural wood but the heat will destroy that in no time so it's important to cover it with paint or varnish.

Up on the hilltop is this Sphinx-like figure. One of these days I'll hike up there and check it out up close.

When the weather cools I'll head up to this pass and climb the peaks that surround them but today I'll be turning back well before I get there.

Of course, Kahlua wants to keep going but then she doesn't have to carry her water. I've got to get her a dog pack. I want her to get in fighting shape, too.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Air Burns


The heat is starting to dissipate a little from the incredible highs we've been having but it's still going to be a month before it's comfortable to hike during the middle of the day. And while the heat has made it very uncomfortable here in the desert, it has been disastrous for other areas due to intense fire conditions. The Station Fire, near Los Angeles, is the largest fire in the Angeles National Forest in over 100 years. There is also a fire that has broken out in the Yucaipa area. Both of these areas are of interest to hikers because trails either go through or start at these areas. Smoke is not affecting the desert here in the desert although we can see it.

There's an area near the 1000 Palms Oasis that I've decided to go to in order to see what view I might have looking toward the west where the fires are burning.

I make my way up a hill to this Indian trail although I will soon leave it to climb a peak for a better view.

The sun is still out and the heat is intense. Even though the sun will soon disappear behind the horizon it'll stay warm although it feels better when the sun isn't beating on you.

The peak I am climbing has a little use trail heading up it so while it's rocky the climbing is pretty easy.

Looking to the west you can see smoke from the Oak Glen Fire, which just started today.

From the top of the Peak 833 I can look down over the Coachella Valley Preserve. It is a great expanse of undeveloped desert that is rare these days.

As the sun gets further beyond the horizon, the smoke starts spreading out in our direction.

Making it back to the Jeep just after dark I am happy I have a flashlight with me. It's going to be a tough fire season because although we are having one of the worst fires in LA County history the real bad months for fire season are yet to come.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Fits and Starts


Today was my day off so I planned on going to San Diego, going to the zoo and taking a nice, cool hike along the ocean. By the time I got ready to go I realized that my son, Nikolas, did not have his glasses. He needs them and we could not find his old or new pair. We looked all around, called the wife at work and had no luck. I'm not going to do a road trip and spend the day in the sun, jeopardize my son's eyesight so I can hike in cooler weather. No glasses, no trip.

We hung out at home instead and when the wife came home she found his glasses but by then it was too late. Oh well. Next option.

I figured the Tram would be good but no one else wanted to go and I was enjoying the day with the family so the time it would take to drive there, wait in line, hike and then drive back became an issue. On to option three.

Maybe I shouldn't say no one wanted to go. I should correct that and say no HUMAN wanted to go. Kahlua, the dog, always wants to go. Always.

So, off we went.

Palm Desert is a fairly good place to take here because they at least have a few trails where dogs are allowed. This one even has a new doggy duty kiosk.

Kahlua likes this trail a lot because it's not too steep and not too rocky. It'd be a good running trail and when the weather is not in the 100's anymore maybe we'll give it a try.

She also like getting up high where you get a nice view. A lot of trails where dogs can go don't give you that.

This trail offers a nice view looking down on the valley...

...or up toward the mountains.

And it's obvious that she and I aren't the only ones who think so.

I didn't get to go to either of my first choices today but when you've got a faithful hiking buddy and nice views it's hard to be disappointed. But next time.....

Friday, August 28, 2009

Morning Has Broken


Work required me to get out and hike early in the morning today which I really did not want to do. I went hiking late yesterday afternoon and wanted to rest a bit and I wanted to sleep in and rest a bit. Oh well.

Since my time is limited I had to go near my home in La Quinta today. With the insanely hot temperatures we've been having I'd prefer to head to the mountains whenever possible but on days like today that's not feasible. So I'm off half asleep trying to beat the sun.

As I get ready to leave the house Kahlua knows something is up. She's got her nose up against the glass wondering what's up and why on earth I am out of bed at this time of morning. I am planning on going beyond the No Dog signs this morning so I'm not going to take her. I make sure I don't bring any hiking gear into the open so she doesn't know what I'm really doing.

I get to the top of the cove and find it still shrouded in shadow. The temperature is in the 80s but that's not bad considering the highs were in the 120 range yesterday.

As I head up to my hiking destination the sun starts to cover the earth in front of me. I run through this section for fear that I'll melt if the sun hits me.

I get to this hill at the top of the Cove area and climb whatever hills that await me.

The trails back here are substantial and are in existence completely from use. No one built this trail. It is here solely from people hiking this way.

The best thing about hiking in this area is that whether in the morning or the evening you can find an area with the shade needed to hike without fear of dying from the heat.

I come to the end of the line, which is a line where the sun crosses my path.

As I head back to the parking area I come to a place where the sun has overtaken the trail and I am forced to actually walk in the sun for almost 30 or 40 seconds. Thankfully, I have enough water and sunscreen to survive. I don't know how I'll be able to make it through the rest of the hot weather but at least for this morning I made it out alive. Now I'm going back to bed.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fully Committed


Today was the hottest day of the year in the desert, perhaps the hottest day in several years. In my mind I was back in Lake Tahoe, or at the beach, enjoying cool breezes and cooler water, anywhere but here. My body, however, was here and that's where I had to hike today. I figured I'd just go for a short hike on the Hopalong Cassidy Trail in Palm Desert and be done with it. I knew I'd be alone because no one else would be crazy enough to go hiking on a day like today; it would be pure suicide. But I found out there are a lot of nutjobs out there.

I get to the parking area to go hiking expecting to see it abandoned but instead it's as packed as a cool winter day. What is going on here? Has the whole world gone insane? I think those are people on the trail up ahead so these cars must belong to hikers and not back to school shoppers at Target.

Good heavens, people! It's 113º! What are you doing here? I guess insanity loves company.

I start up the trail and notice that the people I saw earlier have now vanished. Were they really here? Has the heat gotten to me so quickly and caused me to hallucinate? What happened to those people?

As I go up the trail the people don't reappear but this trail does. I've never seen this before and I wonder if it actually exists. The only way to determine that is to take it.

The trail steadily climbs and seems to be going in the right direction. It's steep and as I climb the heat burns the inside of my nostrils with each breath. It is so dry I may have to start packing saline nasal spray in my pack along with my other survival gear.

But it soon vanishes, like those mysterious people that I saw earlier.

Oh wait! I think those shadowy figures on the next ridge are people, or are they?

The "trail" I took gets even more non-existent so I just have to guess which direction to go.

Even though the "trail" is not here any longer it's better than hiking this scar on the land.

And someone has definitely been this way before.

I just have to make it over this ridge and I'll head down the trail back to the cars. So much for hiking the Hopalong Cassidy Trail today.

The trail I took today came out just at the part where the newer south trail hits the Bump and Grind Road. I only have to walk a few feet on the road before I hit a real trail. So there's not a trail here yet but when it gets used a bit more it'll be a good way up this hill without having to walk that boring road.

So I'm off down the trail and back to the car before I do any permanent brain damage. Or maybe it's just a little too late for that.

I'm still wondering, what ever happened to those people?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Visiting Hours


A few weeks ago I took my boys and two of their friends to the Idyllwild Nature Center. There was only one problem: it was Monday and the Nature Center is closed on Mondays. It didn't matter too much that day because we did another hike but I wanted the kids to see the Center so today we came back. The boys really liked the Center. In fact, they liked it so much that none of them wanted to go hiking. Finally, Eliot decided to go alone but the rest of the boys stayed behind.

The Nature Center is really easy to find. It's right on Highway 243, just west of Idyllwild and right across from the Deer Springs Trailhead. It's $2 for adults and $1 for kids.

I left the boys at the Center and took Eliot out on the Summit Trail hike. Once you're on the trail the signs are actually pretty good but near the Center, not so much.

Good thing there's not any water in the creek. This is not a very good bridge.

The trail is big and easy to follow. Thankfully, most of it is shaded because despite our elevation of over 5,000 feet, it's still a bit warm today.

There are lots of signs all along the trail making it a good place to bring the family, especially if they are directionally challenged.

There are a lot of boulders for kids to climb on or under.

The trail starts gaining some really good elevation once it starts to leave the campground.

Once you get up a little bit you get a very nice view of Tahquitz Rock.

Eliot has had enough. He heads back to the Center and I continue on. This is the last I see him for several hours and only after a major search involving several agencies is he located. Just kidding. He makes a detour through the campground to get some water but makes it to the Center no problem. It's not really very far.

I get to what I think is the summit and there's a big cross there. Only it's not really the summit.

I wonder across the plateau and find a big pile of logs and wonder if this is the summit. Nope.

I think maybe these rocks are the summit but I can't really be sure. There is really no distinct top to this hill, at least that I can find. How do you call a trail the "Summit Trail" when there's not really a summit?

After all my wandering around looking for the summit I lost the trail and have to go cross country to get back to the Center. I find I'm not the only one who's done it because there are a couple of little use trails up here. Fun stuff.

Once I connect with the trail I easily find my way back to the Center and collect the boys. We head home because I have to work this afternoon but sometime we're going to have to come back to camp at the Campground and do a bit more exploring. I'd like to find that elusive summit some day.