January 23, 2010

Hike Review: San Bernardino Peak

Location: Angelus Oaks, CA
Distance: 15.8 miles
Elevation Gain: Trailhead (5,960 feet) to the Summit (10,649) for total of 4,700 feet
Time of Year Best to Hike: Spring thru Fall
Recommended map: San Bernardino National Forest

Trail-head: To get to the trail head from the populated area of Southern California, head east on I-10 into Redlands. Exit University, heading north, and turn right (east) onto Lugonia Blvd, also known as Highway 38. Continue on Highway 38 for 20 miles into Angelus Oaks. There is a sign for the trail-head off to the right (on Manzanita Drive) once you enter the city limit. Once you have left the highway, the road to the trail-head is a half mile dirt road passable (when dry) by most 2 wheel drive vehicles. The road opens up to a dirt parking lot. Park here.

Summary: The hike is very steep. This trek makes use of some serious switch backs on the side of almost eerily steep slopes. You will walk through a variety of pine, oak and fir trees. The majority of the hike is shaded, however there are several portions of the hike that are open and here the trail takes you through brush and boulders. Near the top on the north facing slopes there is snow pack year round. Although it can get hot in the summer months, a wind breaker is recommended. The wind chill can be very cold. Several creeks are crossed. Not all run year round. There is overnight camping for which a permit is needed. Contact the Mentone Ranger Station for more year round weather related details and to obtain permits.

Best Season: July thru October

Recommended Maps and Books: National Geographic TOPO! Weekend Explorer 3D (Los Angeles, Los Padres, San Bernardino National Forest)

January 15, 2010

Book Review: The Road

Title: The Road
Author: Cormac McCarthy
Publisher: Vintage International, 2006
Pages: 287
Genre: Post-apocalyptic fiction

The Road chronicles the travels and relationship of a father and son in an astonishingly and presumed wicked world of death, darkness and degeneration. The relationship is a struggle of ignorant trust against distrusting deprecation.

The world has been wrapped in a gray cloud of death. The sun is not able to penetrate this orb and all living matter other than mushrooms and man have ceased to exist. Chances of survival are not great. Mankind has been reduced to acting on their instincts to survive. This instinctual simplicity is highlighted in the tone of the dialect between father and son.

The father is determined that survival in this post-apocalyptic world can only be accomplished through avoidance of the others who survived. He has seen evidence of their savagery. His view is that man has lost all decency and all are completely shameless acting on self preserving motives of survival.

Yet, the son grasps glimmers of hope that not all man is evil. The sense in the child seems to be natural in that he has lived his entire life in this dark lifeless world and has almost no good or decent memories of what life used to be. In his simplicity he demands that humans, in the face of utter destruction, can prove to be more than just crude and instinctual. He struggles to convey this upon his obstinate father.

The book is written very well and entraps the reader with its suspense and description of a familiar, but unrecognizable world. Albeit, despondent, the story communicates renewed joy at our own blessed and comfortable lives.

January 13, 2010

Book Review: Hirohito Emporer of Japan

Title: Hirohito Emperor Of Japan
Author: Leonard Mosley
Publisher: Prentice Hall Inc., 1966
Genre: Japanese Non-fiction biography
Pages: 371

This book was written as a biography of the Japanese Emperor Hirohito (1901-1989) who reigned as a supposed divine being during World War II. The author outlines the Emperor's life describing the man's emotions, decisions, actions and relationships.

The author does an excellent job of painting the Emperor as a fair and humble man made impotent by the lies and guile of his entourage of government mentors. From his birth to his enthronement at age 26 to World War II and beyond, Hirohito was timid and skeptical of his own divinity. By his actions, it was apparent that he would rather perform his hobby as a botanist than dictate the direction of a nation. He had few meaningful relationships and he resented being subject his advisers, the majority of whom toyed with the Emperor as their personal puppet using him as a means to an agenda. He was a pacifist who often believed the lies of his advisers. Military fanatics used the Emperor's name in order to erupt national pride in the face of an oppressive world.

The book also does a good job of concentrating on its goal: to follow the life of the Emperor. World War II literature can fill aisle after aisle of library shelves and yet Mosley examines his topic without falter and without falling into any detail of the war that does not address the Emperor. A lot of the war is not mentioned because the Emperor was left ignorant for most of it. The author conveys the feeling that the Emperor was blind to much of the happenings and devastation of the war.

I would recommend this book to anyone who appreciates Japanese culture, enjoys World War II knowledge or needs a new perspective on history. After reading the book, I felt as if I had a broader view and a new understanding of Japan and her history.

January 12, 2010

Hike Review: Grand Canyon - Bright Angel and South Kaibab

Title: Grand Canyon - down Bright Angel trail and up South Kaibab trail
Distance: 17.5 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation change: 7200 ft to 2400 ft
Time of Year: Late December, early January
Recommended Map: Trails Illustrated Grand Canyon East #262

How better to usher in the New Year than from the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Our itinerary had us hiking down Hermit Trail and staying at Hermit Rapids camp for two nights. This is supposed to be a more remote and intimate experience of the Grand Canyon than the popular Bright Angel and South Kaibab trails. Weather demanded our plans to be altered. The road to the Hermit Trail was closed due to snow.

Grand Canyon from Bright Angel
We arrived at the park ($25 vehicle entrance fee) in the mid afternoon. Sunset is 5:30. We visited the Back-country Office and because the winter is the slow season for the Canyon we were able to dilatorily modify our plans.

We started out heading down the Bright Angel Trail and stayed at Indian Gardens Camp the first night. The camp (4800 ft) is approximately 4.5 miles down trail from the rim (7200 ft). Despite this being the Canyons slow season the trail was tangled with visitors. We hiked the last mile in the dark. The snow on the way down was slippery and crampons are highly recommended. Most backpackers do the this route in the opposite direction, staying at Indian Garden on the way out so as to cut the out hike in half. Indian Garden was about 2/3 full. We found a quiet spot among the fir and oak trees. The camp has drinking water, picnic benches with awning, a pay phone, and hole-in-the-ground restrooms (a spot distance away from the camp for obvious reasons). The temperature fell to the mid-20s.

The next morning the late blooming sun deceived us into waking much later than anticipated. We quickly ate, packed and got back on the trail. Starting time was 10:00 am. From Indian Gardens we hiked 3.5 miles to Pipe Creek Beach. The trail down was quiet and concealed from the sun. A handful of other hikers were encountered. Pipe Creek flows through an amazing canyon which leads to the Colorado River. The big river is a pleasant surprise as it immediately aggrandizes after a sharp turn in the Pipe Creek Canyon. We lunched at Pipe Creek Beach (2400 ft) to the roaring of the river.
Colorado River from Bright Angel
Grand Canyon, Phantom Ranch
From Pipe Beach, the hike to Bright Angel Campground (2400 ft) is an easy flat 2 miles of river walk. Bright Angel Camp is on the opposite side of the river. We crossed Silver Bridge and arrived at the campground shortly before 2:00 pm. We were welcomed by a herd of mule deer amiably eating the wild grasses utterly unconcerned with their surroundings. The camp was about half full. We found a beautiful spot along the clear Bright Angel Creek and rubbed elbows with the mule deer the remainder of the day. We explored the area. It is recommended that one visit Ribbon Falls. The falls are an easy 12 mile round trip from the camp up Bright Angel Creek. The Bright Angel Creek is in a canyon called the Box. The walls are almost vertical and over several hundred feet tall. The temperate full to just below freezing that night.

The next morning we anticipated the trickery of the Grand Canyon walls and awoke much earlier. We began our ascent at 8:00 am. The hike out lasted four and a half hours. We ascended South Kaibab trail which is a 7.5 mile trek to the rim. We climbed at a quick pace.

Grand Canyon from South Kaibab
At the top, there was a free shuttle to bring us to the Back-country office which was where we had parked.

I highly recommend this hike to anyone, young and old. Although, it might behoove you to get an early start and run the route in the opposite direction in which I have described it. It is not as difficult as one might anticipate if you take your time, plan well, and exercise before hand. Permits should be obtained months in advance as this is an extremely popular hike. You will encounter people from all over the globe on this hike.

January 11, 2010

Hike Review: Morton Peak Trail

Location: east of Mentone, CA
Distance: 3 mile out and back
Difficulty: Easy
Recommended Map: National Geographic TOPO! Weekend Explorer 3D (Los Angeles, Los Padres, San Bernardino National Forest)

This was an easy 3 mile out and back trail. The easier and shorter the hike, the easier it is to review the excursion. And seeing as this is my first post, easier is better in familiarizing myself with the setup and process.

The trail head is above Highway 38 to the north east of the Mill Creek Ranger Station and just west of the picnic area along Hwy 38 known as Thurman Flats. The turnoff from Hwy 38 is a dirt forest road designated 1N12. This road can be navigated by most two wheel drive vehicles. The trail head can be recognized by a giant gate along this forest road about 1.5 miles from the highway. Park here, but do not block the gate.

The trail is more of a fire road. It climbs steadily, but not strenuously for 1.5 miles. At the top you will be welcomed by a beautiful view of the greater Inland Empire and on a clear day one may be able to see into LA. At the top you will also be greeted by the lookout tower. The tower can be rented for overnight stays. I believe they charge $75 per night and the Rangers at the Mill Creek Station will give you the key to the gate and allow you to skip the hike.

This is a very easy, accessible and scenic hike. I hiked it with an 8 year old who had no difficulties. I recommend that this trail be tackled in the colder months. There is no shade along the trail and the view from the top can be clouded by smog in the summer months.