Saturday, March 31, 2012

Upper Bear Creek Trail

For some time we've been concentrating our hikes in the Angeles National Forest above Azusa near Crystal Lake, most notably around Windy Gap and Big Cienega. The winter has been relatively mild, but some weeks have seen a warm-cold-warm trend where cold rain brings snow in the mountains and then sun and wind melt it seemingly overnight.

During the weeks when snow lingers in the weekend, we opt for hikes at lower elevation, when it's possible to hike in shirt sleeves and to leave the packs free of heavy-duty clothes and gloves. One such trail is the Upper Bear Creek Trail, which at 3280 feet is some 1900 feet below Crystal Lake.

This trail starts out with the steepest part first, and then levels out for a gradual and mostly easy climb up toward Smith Mountain. The trail is almost entirely uncovered and sunsoaked; today it started sunny and then became enmeshed in a solid fog (which you can see rolling in, at top). There are some good wildflowers with many more plants in bud just waiting to open.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Big Cienega Trail from Crystal Lake

We've done this trail in one direction or another many times. Today we started from Crystal Lake and worked our way up to the ridge toward Mt. Islip.  The last time we came this way, the start of the trail was quite difficult to follow, but newly clipped vegetation points to some recent handiwork by our friends over at the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders.

Once, on the way down the ridge, we happened upon more than a dozen big horn sheep, when of course we had no camera. They were more surprised to see us than we were to see them, and their calm, slow gait erupted into a run. Every time we hike this trail we pause near the same spot in the hopes of seeing them again. Today there's nothing but a last little bit of snow.