It must be spring! First rose bloom of the season from our large Tiffany rose bush, which is loaded with rose buds! Don said he could smell it when he opened our front door this morning, as it is quite fragrant!
On my last hike, I decided to try to reach the top of the canyon, via the trail on the east side of the canyon, opposite our camp. During our stay, we had seen several hikers disappear up the canyon into a narrow tree-lined creek bed. The first half of the trail following the creek bed is very easy, but if you decide to try to reach the top rim you will need to have some moderate rock climbing skills. About halfway up the terrain becomes rather steep, and I would rate the trail as difficult. You don’t have to be an expert, but you do need to be able to pull yourself up over some rather slippery slabs of sandstone.
Rock formation at the start of the rim trail. The stream bed begins to get narrower and narrower past this point.
This is the easy part of the hike. This narrow stream bed slowly winds uphill
with several twists and turns.
One of several small feline like paw prints I followed in the riverbed. These were not much bigger than a common house cat's and much too small for a bobcat. I was thinking that possibly they were made by an ocelot??
The great thing about this route is that you are never short of shade - either from steep cliff walls, or from the cottonwoods that line the narrow uphill passages, which winds around like a dragon or snake. I took several rest stops along the way just to admire the beauty of the canyon, and to pick out a route to get to the top of the canyon in places where no visible trail could be followed. As you follow the stream bed you enter what I have nicknamed the Belly of the Beast - a very narrow passage with high rock walls where you totally loose contact via walkie-talkies or cell phones. Once you climb out of the mouth of the Dragon you will see an interesting rock formation which I call the "Owls Roost".
The Dragon's Mouth - Rock formations which reminded me of sharp teeth as I climbed up out of the Belly of the Beast where I lost contact with Don.
The "Belly of the Beast"
The view of the oasis where we set up camp.
This is where the trail begins to get difficult.
I nicknamed this rock formation the "Owl's Roost" - climbing up to it was a short term goal during the hike.
Another great thing about this trail is that about halfway up you reach what I call the upper canyon, where the trail levels off for some distance before making the final ascent to the rim of the canyon. I just followed the creek bed as far as I could until it got too steep, and then started zigzagging up the slippery rocky soil the final 100 yards to the top of the rim having run out of a visible trail.
First view of the upper canyon - the trail flattens out nicely in this area! I worked my way up the right ravine to get to the top of the canyon.
A natural arch which I totally missed on my way up to the top of the canyon.
I didn't discover it until I stopped to rest and catch some shade on the way back down.
The view from the top of canyon.
Once I got to the top, the first thing I looked for was a shade tree to get under. It was just past noon and I was about out of juice, and needed to get some relief from the hot sun. I sat down in the soft cool sand under a juniper tree to catch my breath, and appreciate the view from the rim of the canyon. I drank up to half my water bottle making sure I had enough left over for the hike back to camp. As I felt a little hot, I took out a little plastic ziplock baggie which I use to store well-soaked wet-wipes in that are quite refreshing while hiking hot desert trails. They are also quite handy for other reasons……. Not far from the tree I rested under, was another fairly wide river bed that made its way toward the steep cliffs of the canyon.
The hike up and down the canyon took me over 6 hours, but I am known to take several 15-20 minute breaks on my hikes just to really soak in the beauty of the terrain, and watch for wildlife. Some hikers like to get from point A to point B in record setting time – but I am not one of them. Like the sure-footed desert tortoise, I pace myself to make sure I make it there and back again. I am sure other hikers walking at a steady pace, could have made the rim hike in 2 hours or less.
This riverbed leads to a steep dropoff at the edge of the canyon rim.
Just one of several kiosks which marked the trail which continues along the top of the canyon.
The following is the video I shot after reaching the top of San Lorenzo Canyon. The second video was taken from the lower canyon just after climbing out of the Belly of the Beast where I checked in with Don to let him know I was OK, and on route to the summit. In the first few seconds, I zoom in on our campsite under an oasis of cottonwoods.
Last month we bought a new type of bird feeder specifically for the Woodpeckers we have seen in our garden. They seem to have a difficult time feeding while hanging upside down from our other feeders. We picked up a tube feeder that would allow the woodpeckers to land on and grasp a vertical surface as they are accustomed too. As soon as we hung the new feeder up, which we filled with a fruit and nut blend, the feisty Pine Siskins descended upon it in mass.
This is the first spring we have noticed Pine Siskins in our area, and I have read they tend to have very sporatic migration habits. You might see them one year in large flocks and not at all the next. Enjoyed seeing the brilliant flashes of yellow bars on their wings and tails as they fought amongst themselves at the feeders. They seem to be very quarrelsome and territorial around their favorite food sources, and in a constant state of war with their neighbors.
Pine Siskins have often been referred to as "Goldfinchs in Disguise" because of the subtle way their brown feathers mask the beautiful yellow undertones. You will often see them in the company of Goldfinches.
The bird on the left was nicknamed "Feisty" because it was extremely territorial, and would often chase off any other birds that landed nearby to feed. This little truce lasted all of 5 seconds......
On one of my first hikes in San Lorenzo Canyon, I walked up a small side trail (a narrow river bed) less than 100 yards from camp, and found a 3 foot waterfall that was just barely dripping with water. Near this area, I got a little scared because I heard what I thought was the intermittent rattle of a rattlesnake. I stood perfectly still and looked around me to see if I was in any immediate danger, but didn't see anything. It really unnerved me so instead of climbing around the waterfall, I decided to walk back toward the entrance of the trail, and took a side trail up a ridge that runs parallel to the creek bed to get a better view of things.
This is the 3 foot waterfall I found, and the area where I thought I heard the rattlesnake.
Once you get up on top of the ridge, the trail is fairly easy, with just a slight uphill grade. Looking back down the ridge trail toward the main canyon, I was amazed at what I saw – the silhouette of Mustafa, the Lion King, guarding the secret entrance to Pride Rock. You can’t see the silhouette from the canyon floor, as the rock formation is totally unrecognizable from that angle. The only real view of Mustafa is from the top of the ridge trail.
The following 2 photos shows the ridge trail looking back toward the main canyon.
King Mustafa guarding the secret passage to his kingdom! The likeness to the Lion King is uncanny!
Interesting snake-like formation of rocks along the ridge trail.
Near shipwreck rock, you definitely need some good climbing skills as the trail pretty much disappears. You have to really be careful because there is a steep cliff and drop off near the bow of the ship. There is a green metal fence stake near the top which you can use to hoist yourself up on the very narrow ledge. Once I got to the top, my legs were shaking because I realized that if I took one wrong step or lost my balance, I could easily fall off the narrow ridge.
The bow of Shipwreck Rock from the rim trail. Don't be fooled by this photo - the terrain is steeper than it looks.
From this photo you can see just how narrow the top ledge is looking toward the bow of Shipwreck rock.
Once at the top however, the view is spectacular as you can see the direction the riverbed takes beyond the waterfall, as it meanders pass what I call Pride Rock, and a brilliant orange outcropping of sandstone. The riverbed just beckons to be explored past Pride Rock, & I decided to leave that hike for our next visit. It really gives me something to look forward to the next time we are here.
Mustafa's kingdom - the river bed looks like it continues for quite some distance beyond the waterfall. I sat down on the ledge for a long time just to admire this magnificent view!
Pride Rock, which shows some of the massive geologic upheavals that have occurred in the formation of the canyon.
Brilliant orange outcropping of rock that stands out against the gray landscape.
Spotted this little guy on my way back down the ridge trail.