Red Box Revisited, Angeles National Forest - May 2012

For Memorial Day this year, I headed up the Angeles Crest Highway to the Angeles National Forest with my friends K and V to do a little hiking. I'd been up there with T the week before but we'd decided to simply drive it that day so I was anxious to get out into the wilderness and walk around.

We'd gone up with the goal of hiking to Switzer Falls. I'd tried to hike to the falls with a friend the July previous but it was too crowded that day and, as the ranger that day had said: "Who wants to wait in line to enjoy a waterfall?"

With such light traffic on the freeway and such a nice day I figured we'd be alright with everyone heading to the beach, but again Switzer Falls was incredibly crowded and so I decided we'd head up the highway a bit more and hike Red Box Trail (which is what we'd done the previous time as well).

Note: You need an Adventure Pass to park here and most other places on the Angeles Crest Highway. We purchased ours for $8 at Sport Chalet at the intersection of the 2 and 210 in La Canada Flintridge. Here's where we ended up:

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My first hike from Red Box was a bit of an adventure because we'd mistakenly taken the completely-exposed-to-the-sun fire road for over an hour before realizing we were on the wrong trail and would never make it to the shady, bubbling brook. By the time we realized our error, there wasn't much time or energy to go on the hike we'd set out to do.

This time I was prepared to lead the way on the bona fide trail. This description is helpful if you're planning on making this hike. It explains the services you'll find near the parking lot and the three trails that leave from this hub. We took the Gabrielino Trail east which descends 2.4 miles to the Valley Forge campground. 

It was a beautiful day and the area was just as I remembered it - a breath of fresh air.

We stopped along the way to admire the HUGE chaparral yucca blooms that lined the path. We'd seen these blooms from afar, some of them with stalks as thick as tree trunks, but our hike allowed us to get up close and really take in the size. Keep in mind that these are flowers and after blooming the entire stalk dries up and falls over. I find it incredible that these plants regenerate their substantial stalks each time they flower.

Chaparall Yucca (Hesperoyucca whipplei parishii)

I thought they seemed larger than the ones I'd seen in Santa Monica (on the Temescal Canyon Trail) and, according to this man anyway, these San Gabriel Mountain yuccas are a different subspecies from those found in the Santa Monica mountains (i.e. Malibu and surrounding).

The butterflies weren't as prevalent as I remembered from the last trip which was about 6 weeks later in the year. Here are some other creatures we encountered on the trail:

Western Whiptail (Aspidoscelis tigris)

Western Tussock Moth Caterpillar (Orgyia vetusta)
I decided not to photograph all of the wildflowers since I'd done so on my last hike here, but these two were new to me. We also saw a lot of Spanish Broom, Grinnell's Beardtongue, nightshades, and Orange Bush Monkeyflower.

Sierra Snapdragon (Antirrhinum multiflorum)

Genus Clarkia

The trail is pleasant because it's mainly shaded by large oaks and you hike down to a stream, but it's an out-and-back trail and what goes down must come up so conserve some energy for the sometimes steep hike back to the top.This time we decided to stop when we came to the main creek crossing and head back up.

K also wrote about the hike on her blog and, unlike me, she is brave enough to disclose the events that transpired after we left the forest and headed down the steep and winding road back to LA. As she says, "I would like to say that we all made it out alive, but we actually lost a TGT buddy on our way home"

You can see more of my photos from this location in my Flickr set.