July 29th – Alamos Canyon Exploratory Hike

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19 hikers gathered in the Simi Valley Sanitation parking lot at 600 W. Los Angeles Avenue (as previously arranged) on a pleasant summer morning cooled by an overcast sky.  We began our hike along the nearby Los Alamos Canyon Road which we followed northward, passing under Hwy 118 to the Alamos Canyon Open Space, 326 acres of which were acquired last December by the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District (RSRPD). 

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Everyone was excited by the rare opportunity to explore a new-to-us area in Simi Valley.  We headed northwest along a dirt road through a dry, mostly open landscape which offered a wide view of distant Big Mountain (on the northern side of which is Happy Camp Canyon).  Soon we headed eastward along a connector road until we reached the Scarab Fire Road (according to Google Earth) which we followed southward to Alamos Canyon Road thus completing a loop.  We returned to our vehicles having completed an easy 5-mile hike with about 425’ of elevation gain/loss (and we once again “beat the heat” thanks to our 7 AM start).  NOTE: RSRPD plans to construct a small parking lot, a trailhead, and a connecting trail from Oak Park County Park (near Moorpark) to Alamos Canyon Road to support public access to the Alamos Canyon Open Space.

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July 17, 2017 – July 23, 2017: June Lake: Annual Summer Camping and Hiking Event

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Monday – Arrival at Oh! Ridge Campground and Parker Lake Trail (5.0 miles with 700’ of elevation gain/loss)

After arriving at Oh! Ridge Campground (7,705’) on the northeastern shore of June Lake, checking in, and setting up camp, several of the 11 Rancho Simi Trailblazers who participated in the six-day outing in the Eastern Sierra Nevada headed for the Parker Lake (8,320’) hiking trailhead (7,791’) located west of Grant Lake on the June Lake Loop (Hwy 158) at the southwestern end of Parker Lake Road for a late-afternoon hike. 

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The near-record snowfall this past winter damaged the dirt road leading to the trailhead so we had to walk the final stretch of road (which accounts for the longer distance and elevation gain hiked this year).  At first the trail rose somewhat steeply amid sagebrush and a variety of wildflowers as it entered Parker Canyon.  It then rose gently beside quaking-aspen-tree-lined Parker Creek which was flowing strongly due to the above-average snowpack this past winter, until it reached lovely Parker Lake located in the granite cirque below Kolp Peak at the head of the canyon.  On the return trip, the usual views of Mono Lake in the distance were obscured by smoke from the Detwiler Fire that began in Mariposa, CA.

Tuesday – [1] Bennettville and the Mine Creek Drainage; [2] Great Sierra Mine Trail to Gaylor Lake; and [3] a visit to the Tuolumne Meadows area (Total 5.9 miles with 1,501’ of elevation gain/loss)

[1] The trail (TH 9,750′) followed an abandoned mining road as it made its way gradually down and then up the wooded slope toward Shell Lake (9,858′).  Along the way we encountered several snowfields which we had to navigate and Mine Creek which was thundering with snowmelt.  When we reached the lake we were unwilling to cross the rapidly flowing outlet stream.  As a result we were unable to reach two restored mining-camp buildings on the far side of the creek or to continue on up to Fantail Lake.  NOTE: Bennettville, was a town not far from Tioga Pass that “lived” from the late 1870’s until the early 1880’s; it was created by the Great Sierra Consolidated Silver Mining Company to facilitate silver mining.  The two of the town’s original fourteen structures that remain are: a large building that served as a bunkhouse (upstairs) and stable and a smaller building that served as an assay office.

[2] The trailhead (9,965′) is located just west of the Tioga Pass Entrance Station to Yosemite National Park.  At first the trail rose steeply through a forest as it gained 600′; it then dropped to Gaylor Lake #1 (10,356′) where we turned around.  Beautiful blue-tinged ice covered much of the lake and there were snow-capped peaks in the distance.  NOTE: The trail then ascends to Gaylor Lake #2 and then on up to the ruins of a silver mining operation; however, we decided not to proceed due to a large melting snowfield covering the trail.

[3] Since both of our preceding hikes were truncated due to the heavy winter snowfall we decided to visit Tuolumne Meadows since it was nearby.  As it turned out the damage caused by the near-record snowfall in the Sierra Nevada this past winter wreaked a shocking amount of damage to the man-made facilities in the area and virtually no services were available; even the Tuolumne Meadows Campground was closed.  However the meadows and the stream running through them were quite pretty.

Wednesday – [1] Obsidian Dome; [2] Glass Creek Trail; and [3] Black Point Fissures (Total 6.5 miles with 1,254’ of elevation gain/loss)

[1] Heading south from June Lake on Hwy 395 toward Mammoth Lakes, we turned right (west) on signed Obsidian Dome Road after a few miles.  We followed this well-graded dirt road to a sign reading “Obsidian Dome Parking”; ignoring the sign we continued driving south on the dirt road (staying left at a junction with a road leading to Hartley Springs Campground) and eventually reached a second fork in the road.  We took the left fork a short distance and parked near a dirt road cut into the hill on the left.  Hiking up the hill, we were soon atop the southwestern section of the Obsidian Dome (8,281’), a huge collapsed volcanic dome (a mile in diameter) created out of lava which solidified to black glass; it’s made up of giant (car-sized) obsidian boulders and smaller obsidian pieces as well as rhyolite.  This relatively small part of the dome is an awe-inspiring otherworldly wonderland of multi-colored rock formations; it stands out uniquely on Google Earth due to its high concentration of obsidian (black glass).

[2] Leaving the Obsidian Dome, we drove a very short distance back to the fork in the road and turned left; we then drove a short distance to the trailhead parking lot (at a dead-end in the road) for the Glass Creek Trail.  As it entered the Owens River Headwaters Wilderness, the pleasant trail climbed gently along Glass Creek which is lightly forested with lodgepole pines, Jeffrey pines, and red firs, but then it rose steeply beside a long series of thundering white water cascades to a relatively level area where it led to a low ridge (8,665’) overlooking Glass Creek Meadow with views of the towering High Sierra peaks to the west.  We continued cross-country into the meadow which was filled with blooming wildflowers and served as a beautiful turnaround point.

[3] Black Point is a low volcanic hill, composed of ash and brownish-yellow conglomerate; it conceals several deep, narrow fissures which resemble small slot canyons.  We drove east via Cemetery Road, passed by a dirt 4WD access road, and eventually reached the eastern side of the low volcanic hill where there was a kiosk announcing the unsigned “trail” to the fissures.  We elected to hike uphill cross-country to the northwest, eventually reaching Black Point “peak” (6,910′) with excellent views of Mono Lake (6,384’) but we gave up on reaching the fissures due to the extreme heat.

Thursday – Tuolumne Meadows to Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp (12.5 miles with 1,350’ of elevation gain/loss)

We started our hike just east of the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center on Hwy 120 (8,580′).  After crossing the meadows on a wide gravel path (and a nice bridge), we reached Parsons Lodge and the nearby Glen Aulin Trail.  The first half of the hike down to Glen Aulin was gentle and mostly shaded with occasional views of the Tuolumne River and a large gorgeous meadow.  The second half of the trail was rockier and steeper (downhill) as it descended beside a series of magnificent roaring waterfalls and cascades (including Tuolumne Falls and White Cascade) made particularly stunning by the winter’s snowmelt.  The Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp was severely damaged this past winter, including knocking the bridge leading directly into the campground off its foundation.  We had lunch from a perch looking downstream toward the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River and then reluctantly returned to the trailhead.

Friday – Kayaking the Owens River from Benton Crossing and the northern portion of Crowley Lake  – – –

Roger, Effie, Gary, and Les dropped a shuttle vehicle off at the western end of Layton Springs Road and then drove to Brown’s Owens River Campground and parked near the Benton Crossing Road bridge where we “put in” our two inflatable kayaks.  We enjoyed a pleasant leisurely trip down the Owens River (passing lots of fishermen along the way) until we reached Crowley Lake (6,781’).  We paddled on in the lake until Gary/Les beached and waited for Roger/Effie to bring the shuttle vehicle to pick them up.  The kayaking distance was about 5 miles.

Saturday – Break Camp and Return Home – – – We did.

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July 15th – The Hummingbird Trail

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15 hikers met in the paved parking area just outside the gated entrance to Hummingbird Ranch at the north end of Kuehner Drive in Simi Valley to hike up the Hummingbird Trail.  Despite the forecast of extreme heat later in the morning, it was still pleasant at 7 AM since the trail is on the west side of the mountain which was still shaded as we began our eastward climb to the Rocky Peak Fire Road. 

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The trail passed through (and on) a variety of imposing sandstone rock formations along the way including very large boulders and giant slabs of sandstone rock, many with small “caves.”  There were sweeping views of eastern Simi Valley, the Santa Susana Mountains, and the Simi Hills and even a few late-blooming wildflowers.  We had the trail mostly to ourselves except for a few early morning bicyclists.  NOTE: Over time bicyclists have selfishly “cut” the trail in so many places to enhance their downhill enjoyment that it is often difficult to discern the original trail.  When we were over halfway up the mountain, direct sunlight finally fell upon us, but fortunately at the same time a cooling breeze sprang up and cooled us the rest of the way up to the Rocky Peak Fire Road (our turnaround point), thus allowing us to “beat the heat” all the way uphill.  During a rest break at the fire road a few members of the group continued across the fire road and climbed up an extension of the trail into a maze of large boulders from which there were even better views of the surrounding area.  As we retraced our route downhill, the morning temperature increased steadily until the temperature on the final (uphill) stretch of trail had reached nearly 90 degrees Fahrenheit, demonstrating the wisdom of our early start.  We reached the trailhead (and our air-conditioned vehicles!) having completed a mostly pleasant 4.5-mile hike with about 1,250’ of elevation gain/loss.

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July 8th –  Mt. San Jacinto via the Palm Springs Tramway

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Five hikers arrived at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (with its rotating cabin providing a 360-degree view) around 9:00 a.m. on a very hot desert morning for a scenic 10-minute vertical lift from 2,643’ at the Valley Station to 8,516’ at the Mountain Station where the trail for our hike to the peak of Mt. San Jacinto (10,834’) began in the 14,000-acre San Jacinto Wilderness and State Park. 

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Since our last visit in 2015, a couple of vehicle parking changes have been implemented: [1] There is now an entrance kiosk where a $5.00 parking fee is assessed and [2] there is a free shuttle bus between the overflow parking areas and the main facility.  As we began our hike we were greeted by a clear, pleasantly cool (mid-‘60s), pine-scented morning with a beautiful blue sky.  After pausing briefly at the nearby Long Valley Ranger Station to obtain a free day-hiking permit and have a group photo taken, we resumed our hike.  The trail soon began rising through a lovely forest of conifers and was soon accompanied by the soothing sound of a small amount of water flowing in the corn-lily-lined stream parallel to the trail.  After hiking about 2.5 miles, we reached Round Valley, the location of one of only four campgrounds in the park.  NOTE: A pipe near the trail junction provided a steady stream of water that should be purified, but we did not avail ourselves of it.  We continued our hike, heading east along the trail as it climbed steadily (and sometimes steeply) to Wellman’s Divide where we took a short break and enjoyed somewhat murky views of the desert (the Santa Rosa Mountains to the east were totally obscured).  Resuming our hike we headed west on the rocky trail as it climbed along the rim of a large bowl-shaped valley providing beautiful views to the north; we spotted the Tramway Mountain Station (where we had begun our hike) across the valley.  Eventually we reached a switchback in the trail which allowed us to continue our climb, but now to the southeast.  Soon we reached a trail junction with a sign proclaiming that a right turn would take us to the base of the summit in 0.3 mile.  We soon reached a stone shelter built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s.  From there we began scrambling carefully up large boulders to the actual mountain peak where there was a horde of “peak baggers,” took photos, rested, and enjoyed the panoramic views.  After a brief stay, we regrouped and retraced our steps to the Mountain Tramway Terminal and descended to our vehicles, tired but happy, having completed an 11.5-mile hike with ~2,600’ of elevation gain/loss (while the Palm Springs area and Simi Valley sweltered under temperatures in the 90’s and 100’s).  NOTE: As we began our homeward journey, we spotted a sign for the new Hadley Fruit Orchards store in Cabazon, CA.  A quick detour led us to some much-appreciated great-tasting date shakes!

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