Friday, March 23

Snowshoe San Antonio Falls

| Gerogette at the base of multi-terried San Antonio Falls |

Extended autumn has finally come to an end, somewhere near the first day of spring to! What a strange and dry winter this has been. The weather has allowed for many great hikes & winter camping trips, but also has kept away the snow that usually blankets the high country of the San Gabriels.

Not this weekend though! With two days at 100% forecast of snow it was time to set out for some challenging conditions for what would surely be an exciting & rewarding endeavor.

This would be Georgette's first time to the snow, real snow of any kind, and boy was there lots of it. Highway Patrol made pedestrians fix cables/chains to their tires around the Icehouse Saddle turn off & slowly made our way up the rest of the windy mountain. This being the first test of the day, it was a new experience w/o my Dad. I had always helped on family trips, but it was time to put the knowledge to the test.

Now passing the hwy patrol inspection and rumbling up the road, we were treated to a forest that has been transformed by mother nature's cold wintery touch. Another challenge to this hike was that we had never actually done it before, even in "normal" conditions. Alas, there was no difficulty in locating the fire road and locked gate that we needed to pass beyond into the shadows of Mt. Baldy.

| San Antonio Creek below the falls |

I hadnt been snowshoeing in a few years & the feeling came back instantly. A slow paced walk through inches of freshly fallen powder were all I needed to be mentally transported to the backwoods of Canada, or so I felt. As we ventured deeper into the woods we passed another boyfriend/girlfriend duo out on their first snowshoe trip as well. I chuckled a little wonder how his GF was fairing in the odd conditions for a first time trip?

We pressed on with huge smiles frozen to our faces as the snow continued to fall. For the entire 4 hours we were out hiking the snow never ceased, falling lightly, but never a burden. After some time slowly moving uphill we reached a switchback with a spur trail that leads off to San Antonio Falls, our teramis for the trip.

I had never seen a waterfall in the dead of winter in person before. What a spectacular site to behold, entirely a different ora and presence was felt at the base of the falls. A huge ice sheet had frozen over at the base while the falls beat down from high above.

| San Antonio Falls on Mt Baldy |

After some time shooting photos and wandering around the base of the falls a collection of other hikers had moved in. Still feeling warm, dry & full of energy we almost opted to stop and boil a hot lunch, but preferred a 100% successful trip over pushing our luck & just causing small troubles for ourselves. Another father son team were tackling the chore off by the creek.

The trail back revealed that previous tracks were not hidden, but mostly covered over in just the couple hours we had been out hiking on Mt Baldy. We also past two fairly serious (in looks) mountaineers asking if we had summited, now feeling a bit low for only making to the falls told them no, they pressed on in what could have only been a great adventure in the snow. None the less, an all around great time out in what feels like a different world only a mile or so away from your car.

Monday, March 19

San Diego - Mom & Dad's B&B

Going on a trip to San Diego usually means two things, a trip to taste some exceptional good beers & a nice outing to the beach is not far away. This time Georgette & I got to do both... in a big way.

It seemed that each time we traveled down to SD we would make our usual pilgrimage to Stone Brewery, alas, this time we felt we should try to extend our palette to any other the fifteen plus breweries in the San Diego area. Most being within a 20 minute drive of our home base.

Ultimately achieving 7 different breweries and getting to taste a mouth watering FORTY TWO NEW BEERS! Standing out amongst the crowd of all the business park breweries for several great reason is the recently opened (6 months) Aztec Brewery in Vista, CA. In just a few words, unique flavors (Hibiscus Wheat brought us back a second day!), great atmosphere, owners serving the patrons, & great conversation all around.

That night, we both made it out to the local bar to see a good friend of mine play some rock n roll in the group Hell or Highwater. Strangely enough, it is not often I am in my hometown and a local favorite is playing. Most of the time these guys are generally out on the road playing shows, this aloud for an interesting crowd, everyone's parents had come out to watch; making for a wonderful bonus to see and chat with parents that I hadn't seen in many many years! This being one of the most fun day/nights I had since leaving San Diego almost a decade ago. 

It seemed that after one whirlwind day (plus working a graveyard shift beforehand) the next could not be topped by a second. Although Sunday brought different adventures, it still ranked up there as an awesome San Diego day. Starting a bit earlier Georgette and I sped down the 5 FWY toward Torrey Pine State Park for some backpack training and hiking. With both of us caring a fair amount of weight we set off into the most crowded hiking area I have ever been to! Topping Chantry Flats here in LA by a long shot. However, smaller size, being a Sunday and proximity all play a major factor in the crowds here.

After a nice mile or so down to the beach we slowly walked north along the shore, admiring the pink sandy cliffs with swirls of brown in them. Finding a good spot to rest against the rocks we sat, enjoyed some refreshing water and watched the waves roll in with endless people watching from the crowds walking the cliff and beach circuit.

With a nice climb back up to the cars we had put in a nice and mild day out on the trails. Now time for more beer! Since we had traveled to a much further destination in SD to hike, we opted for some breweries in this part of town we didn't get to the day before. Steering our car towards Mira Mesa, we were off to Ballast Point.

With only the motivation to move on to another brewery, it was hard to leave Ballast Point. Their more unique beers had won me over, the Fathom being my second favorite of the whole trip, a double pilsner & IPA blend, if I remember correctly. Also interesting to note, the Sculpin IPA was significantly different out of the tap then the bottle.

Moving towards north county again, our beer marathon would not be complete without filling out growlers at Stone Brewery & sampling one unquie beverage they had to offer. A dark Anisse beer & an Oaked Arrogant Bastard later we were off to search for The Lost Abbey.

Our final destination was a two in one, Lost Abbey Brewery & Port Brew, under the same business park warehouse. Quite a crowd could be seen from the parking lot, a good and bad sign for the experiences we have had so far. None the less, neither left us high and dry. One flight from Lost Abbey revealed the 10 Commandments brew to be an overall favorite & Port offered great IPA with fun cat stories. I guess I gotta get back to the graveyard shift tomorrow....... till next weekend.

Tuesday, March 6

Icehouse Canyon - Backpack Training

The gusts of wind came continually down the canyon with an icy freshness that both invigorated me & had me in total wonder of the new region of the San Gabriels I was exploring. Icehouse Canyon had been living up to it's name without question.

| Backpack Training Mt. Baldy in background |

 A local favorite among pretty much ever hiking book & website, I figured it was my time to give it a try. Short history of the canyon, in the 20's it was a major ice production area due to it's location, along with timber cutting pulled by oxen from upper reaches of the side canyons. I was in awe that anyone made this possible.


 This trip was the beginning of endurance building for longer backpacking trips planned over the next few months. Carrying a fair amount of weight up the 2,700 ft of elevation change & 4 miles of trail was an excellent first test back. The rock strew trail winded up to a mountain spring that I missed on my way up, but thoroughly enjoyed on my way down (video w/ new sterilization techniques to come).

While part way up the trail I passed into the Cucamonga Wilderness, a sub-alpine protected area little over 12,000 sq. ft. The snow was plentiful & pristine all along the north facing ridges. One could even make out animals tracks coming down from the denser upper forests to the creek side.

| Lunch off the ridge below Timber Peak |
 At the top my body had eaten through all the energy my breakfast had provided & was ready for a remote lunch. I spent close to 2 hours reading, shooting photos, & randomly sending the most remote text message I have had the chance to. The above photo shows base camp, looking out into the Cucamonga Wilderness.

| Natural Icebox at 7800 ft |

Another great thing I found out over the day about this trail was it was the more adult cousin to Chantry Flats area. Though somewhat populated, I found that all the hikers seemed to be in training mode, trail camping or out for the features of the snow country. No families, no teens, no trash, and almost no graffiti. Hiking solo on this journey allowed for me to stop and talk to almost 15 different people. Some eventually heading all the way to the Grand Canyon & Yellowstone. However, later in the day on my way down the trail, it was strew ever so often with late afternoon families enjoying the lower creek area.

| Switchback on Icehouse Canyon Trail w Mt. Baldy in background |

The upper reaches of this canyon allow for almost six different routes & I only made it a bit above the 7,555 saddle. This allows for more adventures down the road. Along with great beauty, one of the funniest wilderness moments happened while I was having lunch looking out into the hills, ponder something profound, a deep voice called from miles across the canyon, "Vote for Donnelly!" I laughed, replied the same, & never stopped smiling the rest of the day.

| Video of the Days Adventures - Two minutes |

Monday, March 5

Ansel Adams & A Look at Downtown

 This Saturday we didn't Run To The Hills to get outdoors, we actually hopped the metro with our skateboards & headed for downtown Los Angeles. The Red Line is a beautiful thing, endless forays into Hollywood, Silver Lake, & downtown at every stop. There is also lots of good tourist watching along this route.


Choosing a metro stop close to a scenic part of downtown & allowing for a proper skate to the exhibit, the three of us set off through the streets. Navigating all those enjoying the wonderful March weather in sunny so cal. Managing a few stops along the way to snap a few silver gelatin stills of our own.

Finding the next watering hole above. Eventually Carlos would order the most exotic mixed drink I've ever tried. Something with chili peppers in it...

The exhibit at Drkrm Gallery was quite interesting. A collection of 30 some odd photos from a FORTUNE Magazine commission in 1940. Ranging from Lockheed Martin Plant photos in Burbank, to locations along Venice beach. It was neat to see these photos together & to take in the gallery in such a way that Ansel would be experiencing these photos... somewhat on a weeks stay with another photographer friend. We see photos of that family, the Lockheed plant in their neighborhood. Then groups of day trips to other regions of LA, just planned out to get certain shots for a magazine spread. Just my take on viewing the photos as a larger collection. Almost a city vacation for the photographer from the Sierras and the desolate landscapes that were Adams legacy.

A little bruised with a fair amount of road rash, but still smiling above. I didn't get any shots inside the gallery, but the first photo in this post is a shot from the outside, looking in, with many reflections, if you click to enlarge the photo it may be interesting to see the levels.