summer solstice begins on June 20, 2021 at roughly 11:33 pm Eastern and lasts 24 hours. You could legitimately call either the 20th or 21st Nude Hiking Day. Since the 20th is a Sunday with the potential of weekender hikers on the trail – and since it was still only down to 100 degrees here – I decided to go out on the 21st. Temps should also drop a few degrees between now and tomorrow.
This isn’t about a nude hike.
Surprise! (That didn’t happen until the 23rd.) Seriously, some of my hikes aren’t nude.
This is used to be part of Lake Piru. Notice the lack of water. It only gets water from Piru Creek, which depends on the water released from Pyramid Lake. To find water you have to go a mile downstream to the right. At this point, the creek is entirely underground. Welcome to the new reality in Southern California.
This road goes back and forth between National Forest property and that of different ranches it passes through. Not a good choice for freehiking.
This is a cowbird trap. A male and female cowbird are kept in it. This attracts other cowbirds which are not native to the area. Cowbirds are like cuckoos. They lay their eggs in the nests of other birds – up to 200 per year! Their chick hatches early. When any other chick hatches, they smother it, and then the parent bird raises it alone. There is food, water and shade provided and it is checked daily.
The road crosses back and forth across the creek where the water has been forced to the surface by underlying rock. A look north shows a shallow waterway lined with cattails. I noticed a bit of trailishness heading south, so I follow in to find a lovely sand-bottomed swimming hole. It is deep enough to jump and swim in. There are huge trout swimming in it.
I cross thru the water and immediately come across a ranch. There also happens to be another deer right there. There are NO TRESPASSING signs all over the place. According to the map and all the reviews I’ve read, this is supposed to be Whittaker Ranch, an abandoned “site.” Not an occupied working ranch. I quickly hike on by. Soon I come to a locked gate with more signs. Why is there a locked gate on what the map indicates is a public road? I probably have a legal right to continue hiking – this is the only route to the Agua Blanca trailhead. But this hiker is overly cautious, even when fully clothed, and I don’t want an argument. I turn back. Someday I’ll have to get legal clarification.
Out of the corner of my eye I catch a bit of trailishness so I follow it. Miles from anywhere, I think I’ve found a homeless camp. I’ve found them before, far from civilization.
These are called the “Wind Caves.” I guess when the wind is just right they make an eerie sound. The largest ones are big enough to sleep 3 or 4 people. There’s a geocache here but I’m too lazy to find it.
These are poison oak seedlings. The larger one has turned red due to dry conditions. Note the 3 leaflets that look vaguely like white oak. The entire plant contains an oil, urushiol, which most people are allergic to. If you touch it, be sure to wash it off with soapy water within a couple of hours. Failing that, use a wet wipe of some sort or use plain water and a natural soap alternative if you can find one. You can also get it from clothing and pet hair that has been exposed and not washed. Antihistamines, calamine, and hydrocortisone are effective treatments if you don’t wash in time.
Back at the parking area. It is also the trailhead for the Pothole Trail, which is another post.
I am finding these posts that are just photos and captions much easier to do.
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Married with adult kids. Hiker, backpacker, photographer, nudie, and dreamer of implausible dreams
June 29, 2021 at 02:53
I grew up in an area where cowbirds were quite common, but I’ve never seen or heard of a cowbird trap! I wonder what they do with the ones they capture? Never mind, I probably don’t want to know. I love your educational and beautiful hikes, even as the fate of our waterways makes me sad. I learned the other day that Las Vegas means the meadows and this whole rock hard dry valley once was a wetland. Now it’s completely dry and dependent on water from the Colorado River.
June 27, 2021 at 01:32
Several Arizona lakes and rivers are like Lake Piru. The Gila River was dammed many decades ago for agriculture, as was the Salt River, both of which run through the Phoenix area. They now have a little water due to an artificial lake being created in the Salt riverbed where it runs through the city of Tempe near where Arizona State University is located. Two adjustable dams hold water in a two-mile section to create Tempe Town Lake for recreational purposes. About 12 miles downstream a wastewater treatment plant discharges clean wastewater into the river which flows for a couple miles before running back underground, recharging the aquifer in that area. Apparently this regenerated riparian area has brought beavers back to the river.
Over a hundred years ago Tucson used to have water in its Santa Cruz River which flowed north to the then wildly flowing Gila River about 20 miles south of Phoenix. Near their confluence there was a huge, sprawling prehistoric village of Hohokam Indians inhabited between 300 BCE and 1200 CE called Snaketown. Their likely descendants are the Native Americans living on the reservations in the area today. The area is now off limits to visitors, but I got to visit the site in around 1968 when I was in high school. I also helped build a scale model of the site as it looked while being excavated in 1964-65.
June 28, 2021 at 10:46
Lake Piru is owned by the United Water Conservation District. It was mainly built to recharge the ground water for local farmers but also for flood control and supplying water to local communities. A secondary use was to create a large and popular campground, boating and fishing area on its west bank.
It was built in 1955 and filled by natural runoff from Piru creek. In 1972 they completed Pyramid lake about 20 miles upstream, a storage lake meant to hold water piped down from the Owens valley thru the aqueduct. Since then, Lake Piru has depended moistly on whatever water Pyramid allows through its spillways. Now only a small amount is run-off from the Piru Creek drainage. The permanent drought we seem to be in has dropped water levels such that the lake covers half its original area and about a third of its original volume. I think they have decided to make the current downsize permanent as trees have grown up where the lake once was. It is odd to see a dock facility and boat ramp with a a large parking lot when the nearest water is a half mile away.
Harrison Ford Crashed his helicopter into it. Then an actress, Nina Rivera, drowned in it. There are rip currents that make some areas dangerous. Historically there was an average of one drowning every other year. “Swim at your own risk” was the rule until until someone famous died. Now the entire lake is closed to swimming. The nanny state moves on.