Saturday, November 26, 2011

Modjeska Peak

At 5496 feet, Modjeska Peak is the second highest peak in the Santa Ana Mountains of southern California.  Unlike Santiago Peak (5687 feet), the summit of Modjeska is not covered with telecommunications infrastructure, which makes it a much more appealing destination.

By 5:45 on Thanksgiving morning, Zach Cyrus, Patrick Moran and I were walking up the unpaved Harding Truck Trail.  Four hours and over eleven looooong miles later, we arrived at the summit with Miguel Forjan, who had biked up in under 2.5 hours.  By 12:45 the last of us (namely, me) had returned to the parking lot at Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary.

The numbers: 20+ miles (including some short-cuts), 4000+ vertical feet, 7 hours round trip.


 Cliffs and trail above Santiago Canyon.

 Patrick and Zach heading up. 

 Mt. Baldy

 A car that had seen better days.

 Looking back down Harding Canyon.  The Harding Truck Trail is visible on the upper left. 

 Zach wondering when this road would ever end.  We missed a key short-cut, adding about 1.5 miles to an already very long walk. 

 Zach on the final stretch. 

(L-R) Patrick, Miguel, and Zach on top of Modjeska Peak.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Black Star Canyon

"That's where they do sacrifices" was the only thing I'd ever heard anyone say about Black Star Canyon in the Santa Ana Mountains.  So when Patrick Moran suggested exploring it, I had my reservations.  Regardless, at 6:15AM yesterday, Patrick, Ty Sutherland, me, and Patrick's two dogs set off in the brisk morning air toward Black Star Canyon.  Perhaps more worrying than the prospect of ritualistic sacrifices was the fact that Jake and Elwood (the dogs) had both eaten leftover chili for breakfast.

After walking for about a mile, we came upon the first of several weird scenes: the Edwards Ranch.  Whatever it is, it is surrounded by a new, electric, barbed-wire fence, with razor wire in key spots and occasional surveillance cameras.  These people definitely do not want any trespassers.  Past the Edwards compound, we observed a school bus overturned in the creek. And then came the habitations.  On either side of the road were several shacks, dilapidated RVs, cars, and assorted junk.  As we were all contemplating the movie Deliverance, we discussed whether anyone could be living there.  Later internet research suggested that some of these dwellings are in fact inhabited by people who occasionally harass hikers and bikers, sometimes with rifles. Beyond the junkyard dwellings, at roughly two miles in, was something even more bizarre and unexpected: a mini-golf course. 

 The mini-golf course.

 The bus.

Past the mini-golf course, things appeared normal again and we walked for several more miles up the dirt road.  The terrain was surprisingly scenic, with lots of appealing sandstone crags (reminiscent of Red Rocks Nevada, but on a much smaller scale) and an idyllic valley called Hidden Ranch.  About one half mile from the Main Divide Truck Road, we turned around, thus making for almost 14 miles round trip. 

 The view once the road climbs out of Black Star Canyon.

 Has anyone climbed those crags?

Ty, Patrick, and the dogs. 

The view back toward Hidden Ranch from our turnaround point.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bedford Peak

Bedford Peak (3800 feet) is a little mound on the Santa Ana crest, nearly 2000 feet below Santiago Peak.  The hike from the gate on Silverado Canyon Road was easy and surprisingly enjoyable (6.6 miles, 2200 vertical feet).  I'll let the pictures do the rest of the talking. 

 Looking north toward Sierra Peak with Mt. Baldy in the distance. 

 The San Gabriel Mountains.  Mt. Baldy is the highest peak on the left.

Another view north to the San Gabriels. 

Patrick Moran taking a break from digging holes on the summit. 

 Looking toward the ocean. Ok, maybe not "the" ocean, but "an" ocean at least.

Looking down at Silverado Canyon and the zigzagging trail.  This view reminded me of the Himalayan foothills in Nepal. 

Patrick realizing that there would be no bushwhacking on this outing either.  Enjoy it while it lasts . . .