GeezerHiker

April 24, 2012

Olsen Creek revisited

Filed under: Hiking, North Cascades — geezerwriter @ 12:04 pm
Y Road trailhead

Y Road trailhead

On Monday my dentist appointment interfered with my usual trip to the YMCA for my dollop of exercise, so afterward I drove over to Olsen Creek to check on the status of the work that I reported on in an earlier posting. The goal was to see A) if the big machines were still tearing up the landscape and B) how much damage has been done to the trails.

The short answers: A) No. B) Less than expected.

Bows & Ribbons

Bows & Ribbons

The trailhead is back to normal, with all the dire warnings removed – just the information sign about the Olsen Creek Seed Orchard remains. I started up the trail and as I got to the corner of the big fenced field the first big change was evident. Where there had been a couple of trees festooned with ribbons on the edge of the woods, those ribboned trees were about the only ones left standing. On my earlier trip I’d seen machinery operating up there and it was no surprise that a large area east (uphill) from the fenced field has been clearcut. The main question was whether it extended over to the new Trail #2 that we use on the way up the mountain.

The fence line

The fence line

The trail then crosses the road and drops into a shady, damp swale before coming out on the orchard’s fence line. The swale was untouched, probably because the trees there are alders and other deciduous ones whose pollen would not pollute the “pollen cloud” for the conifers in the orchard – the expressed reason for the recent cutting. But the view to the east past the red storage shed looked pretty bare and, sure enough, when I got to the place where Trail #2 takes off from the road the head of the trail had been completely obliterated.

#2 Trailhead

The old #2 Trailhead

The tiny little trail marked with a single orange ribbon has been replaced by a broad new road which seemed to be heading in roughly the direction of the trail – I’d forgotten to download my old tracks onto my GPS so I was going on memory. The road heads almost directly uphill and where it leaves the clearcut there is a partial opening in the trees. My best hope was that it was Trail #2 (or near enough to find it.)

And that’s just how it worked. The new section of road is less than 0.2 mile and has a dirt surface, rather than the usual coarse, rough gravel and leads directly to the remains of Trail #2. The picture below was taken from the edge of the clearcut back toward the red storage shed and shows that it is not a very great distance. (The new road runs near the bottom of the picture; the old road cuts across the middle in the distance.)

new #2 trailhead

New #2 Trailhead

So this was about as good news as any hiker could have expected. The first half mile of the hike is a bit less shady but only small amount of trail has been lost. I went on another half mile or so to check things over and wandered around on some old trails and found no other big changes.

Muddy horse tracks

Muddy horse tracks

It was pretty obvious that the horsemen and -women have been using the trails this spring – they’ve been tearing up the soft earth as only they can do. But I can’t complain too much (well, obviously I CAN complain, but probably shouldn’t) since the Whatcom Backcountry Horsemen do maintain the trailhead and provide a porta-potty.

My last picture shows the area as seen from space on Google Earth. Recent clearings are (roughly) outlined in white; the new one is the inverted L-shape near the top. Green lines and the chain of dots are old tracks from our hikes, and the yellow is my track from yesterday. Next week, May 3rd, we are scheduled to go on the Olsen Creek South loop, which is the the green line that runs off the south end of the picture and will scarcely be affected by the new cuts.

Visible from space

Visible from space

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April 17, 2012

And now for something completely different

Filed under: Hiking — geezerwriter @ 11:15 am

This has nothing to do with the usual topics of this blog, but I could not resist the urge to share it. While we were in LA last week, Laura told me about this astounding video and I just got around to watching it.

Jill Bolte Taylor

 It resonates with experiences I had a decade or so ago while trying to find the right side of my own brain by learning to draw. My experience was so small, tiny, even teentsy-weentsy compared to Ms. Taylor’s but I did break through my left brain’s defensive wall for a sort time and I hope I can get myself to try again – if this won’t do it, nothing will.

April 13, 2012

You can take the hiker out of the Northwest…

Filed under: Geology, Hiking, Travel — geezerwriter @ 9:43 pm
Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron

On our trip to Southern California to visit Joe and Laura we have come across a great variety of weather to go with the great variety of everything else one finds here. Tuesday we drove south to Redondo Beach, where Wanda’s (much) elder brother was the editor of the Daily Breeze in the late forties after mustering out of the service. It was a beautiful day for a drive along the coast from Marina del Rey to Redondo and after lunch we were visited by a very friendly Black-crowned Night Heron. At first glance it appeared to be a tern but then I saw the long, delicate white plume that extends from the back of his head almost the while length of his body. That and the brilliant ruby eye cinched the identification.

The next day Joe and Laura were once again busy with work, so we drove out to the Angeles Crest mountains for a visit to the historic Mount Wilson Observatory. After some overnight rain the weather was fine in town but we entered the clouds as we drove to the observatory’s 5600′ elevation, and at first we could hardly read the few signs. The temperature had dropped to about 35°F (2°C) and I thought we wouldn’t be spending much time there. But after the obligatory trip to the restroom the clouds pulled back a bit and we could find our way over toward the observatory.

I should say “the observatories” since there is a large campus with a number of different types of observatories. The centerpiece is the 100-inch diameter Hooker reflecting telescope, but there is an older 60-inch reflector, a couple of towering solar telescopes including one with a 150-foot (not a typo) focal length and a CHARA array of six one-meter reflector telescopes linked together by large light pipes and some seriously sexy computing devices to form a instrument that can resolve objects that would require a mirror 340 METERS in diameter (which works out to about 1100 feet). The Hooker mirror (2.4 meters) is 13 inches thick and weighs tons so I cannot begin to imagine what a 340 meter chunk of glass would be like.

There are no pictures worth showing because of the weather and because all of the action there is intellectual and nothing is very photogenic.

Then last night at dinner Laura told me about her favorite hike in the area: Runyon Canyon. If you’ve ever seen a TV series shot in LA (e.g., Entourage) where people are shown hiking and jogging in the hills, there is a good chance you’ve seen Runyon Canyon. It is a public park in a notch in the Hollywood Hills just above Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea Avenue (of tar-pit fame). It climbs up to Mulholland Drive and affords panoramic views of the Los Angeles basin.

At least it does when the atmosphere is friendly. Today the forecast was for rain and we headed out into the sort of drizzle that is so familiar to hikers  (and everyone else) in the Northwest. We first popped into downtown LA’s fashion district to visit the Michael Levine fabric store – an enormous warehouse-like room jammed with any sort of cloth you can imagine. Wanda picked up a few yards for a future quilting project and we headed to Joe’s restored theater where he runs his business of sound editing and mixing for motion pictures (he was raised in Seattle, so his company is named “Puget Sound”) and Laura runs her calligraphy and event planning business. I dropped Wanda off so she could have some quiet time and I headed for Runyon Canyon.

Downtown LA

Downtown LA from Runyon Canyon

Santa Monica from Runyon Canyon

Santa Monica from Runyon Canyon

By now the rain had reduced to an intermittent misting so it looked like I had a good chance of a pleasant hike. I didn’t bring any of my hiking gear on the trip – no trekking poles, no pack, only some New Balance walking shoes – but the whole hike was only about 2 miles round trip with about 700′ of elevation gain. The terrain is mostly low brushy stuff (chaparral, maybe?) with occasional trees so you get almost continuous views of the city.

The first half-mile was quite steep, covering most of the 700′ of gain. The footing was pretty good – mostly coarse sandy earth derived from the dark granitic bedrock that showed itself frequently. I think it would be classed as diorite – basically like granite, but with the darker minerals predominating over the lighter quartz. It was the latter that formed the coarse sand, much like at the start of Hannegan Pass trail.

The hard part

The hard part

Diorite bedrock

Diorite bedrock

There were a couple of steep spots further on, including this rocky face coming down from the high point of the trail. By this time the mist had moistened the track pretty well and it was a bit slippery. It wouldn’t have been a huge problem if I’d had my poles, but even then I might have done some sitting and sliding. But I was wearing some fairly nice pants so I ended up doing a crab walk on hands and feet, facing up – I’m glad there was no one there to take any pictures.

Micro box canyon

Micro box canyon

When I got to the north end of the trail I was looking at a choice of going back down the old sort-of-paved road or down another ridge trail something like the one I’d just done. My decision was made for me when the wind suddenly began to roar up the canyon and the mist turned to a downpour – I had a light rain jacket on but everything not covered by it was drenched to the skin in about fifteen seconds. As I went squishing down the road and the brown runoff spread across it, I remembered thinking at the start of the hike that, given the rain, I was better off on the ridge than in the gully since a flash flood was more likely, and more dangerous, than a lightning storm – I remembered that just as a massive thunderclap echoed across the canyon, reminding me that I did not have to choose between those two potential disasters.

Flash Flood

Flash Flood

The road had been paved at one time, but is badly washed out in spots. When the runoff stream hit those potholes/washouts it would turn into a mini-waterfall at the top of a micro-box canyon. By the time I got back close to city streets the water had spread across the entire width of the road in places. And then it funneled down into a gutter and roared on past the opulent mansions lining the street. I took a short movie of the point where the runoff from the trail turns and runs down Vista Street – I don’t think I can include a video in this blog.
Tomorrow we’re expecting a return to the normal, boring old sunny warmth of Southern California for a trip to Alhambra to visit with Laura’s family, followed by another sardine session on Allegiant Air for the return to Bellingham. (Did you know that the seats on Allegiant don’t even recline any more?)

Additions & Corrections

Joe informed me that the tall buildings in the distance that I identified as downtown Santa Monica are actually in Century City, a neighborhood of tall office buildings that are home to many lawyers and agents who control the flow of money in and around the motion picture business.

I wasn’t able to find any detailed information about the bedrock mentioned – all the geology discussions I found in a quick search was understandably focused on earthquake faults and soil stability. So I will stick with my identification of the rock as diorite; follow this link to a picture that seems to confirm.

And it appears that I can add my video of the storm runoff, via the good offices of flickr.com:

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