Monday, December 7, 2015

Redding and Poleta Canyons Loop

Lower part of Redding Canyon
As the days get shorter and winter snow flies it gets tougher to keep the dirt hiking muscles in shape, and especially feet conditioning for long miles. With only 4 months before we start our Pacific Crest Trail adventure, we must keep in shape! This last weekend our friend Hikin' Bill took us out for a good thrashing near Bishop - connecting a loop between Redding and Poleta Canyons that included nearly 4,000 feet of elevation gain, and of course an equal amount of quad punishing descent. 

We started a short distance up from the mouth of the canyon at an elevation of 5,000 feet. Redding has year-round surface water and many riparian patches as you move up canyon. It can be fantastic birding in the right season, but December isn't that. Bill and Susan bet that we'd scrounge up only 10 species in the canyon, I took 15. When it was all said and done (and thanks to Susan's special find), I just barely won the bet with out total reaching 13. Winter birding in riparian canyons can be fairly bleak...  All that said, it wasn't far up the canyon with Susan in the lead that she pushed a Virginia Rail ahead of her, it walking basically in the middle of the jeep road until it high-tailed it into cover along the creek. That was definitely the bird of the day.

We continued up canyon and the jeep road ended at a closure leaving us to follow the overgrown remnants of the road until it finally became nothing more than a track in the bottom of the canyon. The views continued to improve as we neared the head of the canyon. The top of the canyon is very steep and includes a dry waterfall that must be negotiated to reach the mostly level plateau.

Sunrise in Redding Canon

Upper canyon and the beginning of Pinyon Pine zone

The Sierra Nevada across the Owens Valley

Rock formations at the head of Redding Canyon

More interesting formations

The canyon narrows dramatically

Steep climbing

Climbing the dry waterfall

Hikin' Bill near the top of the waterfall
Reaching the head of the canyon we were able to traverse north to an old mining site along the edge of Poleta Canyon. This set us up for a beautiful and relatively easy descent in a tributary drainage to the main Poleta Canyon. 

More fascinating rock near the crest

White Mountain from the top

Sierra Nevada crest from the top

Tributary drainage that will take us down into Poleta Canyon

Owens Valley and Sierra crest as we descend

Beautiful walking in this tributary canyon
Birds were few and far between in our descent canyon, but we did pick up a pair of Juniper Titmice in the pinyon forest far from where we know they reside several miles away, closer to the road into the Bristlecone Forest. Reaching the bottom of this drainage we connected with the motorcycle track in Poleta Canyon, then joined with a jeep road as we continued along the ridge high above the bottom of the canyon. Reaching a point on the ridge directly above our car, I suggested a cross-country drop that would avoid several miles of needless detour to the mouth of Poleta, down canyon from our car in Redding. I don't think my hiking companions were too fond of the 600 foot drop on precarious footing, but I thought it was a fun!

Poleta Canyon

Straight down to the car from here!

Hikin' Bill and Susan negotiate the steep drop

Map track link

Bird Lists:

Redding Canyon
Poleta Canyon

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