Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Devil's Punch Bowl

 It seems like we are really running on short time these days. Work has been crazy but that really isn't a surprise. In fact, it's more of a surprise when work is going well. The kids' school continues to get more difficult as time goes on, as it should, but it can be trying on everyone as each person's stress levels grow. We're also getting close to having our new home in Utah completed and we're trying to accommodate inspections and closing schedules and plan around our daily commitments here in California. We needed to get out of the house for a little bit so I remembered seeing a sign for the Devil's Punch Bowl as we've passed through the Palmdale area on our way to Santa Clarita. I took to the internet to do a little research and decided that a one mile hike would be the perfect break on our restricted time frame. So we grabbed the cameras, backpacks and water and we were on our way.

 The Devil's Punch Bowl is one of many California state parks. It encompasses 1,310 acres of incredible geological features and rests at approximately 4,750 feet above sea level. To compare, Salt Lake City sits at 4,226 so depending on the time of year you visit you will want to plan accordingly for weather. You may encounter snow during the winter.

  The punch bowl is surrounded by high mountain peaks that belong to the San Gabriel mountains and to me were the most impressive mountains that I've seen in Southern California so far. But what makes the area so unique is the rock formations. Similar to Vasquez Rocks to the northwest, the Devil's Punch Bowl is full of layers of rock that have been tipped on edge over time creating some impressive formations. The tan sandstone mixed with the ever strange Joshua trees and the yellowing plant life of Fall created a landscape full of contrasting colors begging to be photographed. The November temperatures (68 on the day we visited) made for an enjoyable hike at any time of the day.

 Speaking of the hike, we took the one mile loop option that I foolishly thought was going to be an easy, flat trail turned out to be a little more moderate and took us almost to the bottom of the punch bowl which is about 300' deep. The trail can be slippery in places and there are some large natural stone steps and ledges that are necessary to navigate on both the decent and the ascent that could prove a little difficult for some people so know your limitations. 

 To me a unique thing about these state parks is that they aren't as regulated as our national parks. You have the freedom to roam, climb and explore the formations and slot canyons as much as you want, a kind of nice feeling in a world so full of rules. Of course there are risks associated with this freedom. I noticed that there are many folks that seem to be part mountain goat, climbing to some of the most precarious places they can find.  Hey, more power to ya. Just be careful. Also there are a few species of rattlesnakes you need to watch out for. This is the great outdoors after all. You're in their world.

Honey Ants
 You will come across the visitor center at the trail head. I would start here. It isn't very large but they have some living specimens of the animals you could encounter while hiking in the Devil's Punch Bowl. These include snakes, beetles and the strangest ant I've ever seen, the Honey Ant (or Honeypot ant but they referred to them as honey ant.) These guys actually store food in their abdomens which swell to abnormal sizes and appear like drops of golden honey. Other ants will consume this food when needed. Don't ask me how.  I didn't ask. (I (Misty) did ask. They vomit it back out for the others to eat.) By the way, take this tip with you on your visit. Ask about a self guided tour or pamphlet. It was only after we set out on our hike that we discovered numbered posts that would have probably made the hike even more enjoyable if I'd have known what the heck they wanted me to know. Oh, well. Next time, perhaps.

Visitor Center
  Okay so things to know. The Devil's Punch Bowl is about an hour and a half from Los Angeles. The parking if very limited so get there early or you'll be parking along the road coming in which is narrow and not a great place to park your nice ride. They do have restrooms at the visitor center but your on your own for bringing water and food. There is a picnic area at the visitor area as well. Besides snakes, I noticed signs that we were in bear country so keep that in mind. And as always keep an eye on the weather report. The temperatures can vary drastically so you'll want to plan accordingly. Other than that if you're looking for a break from the ordinary and are limited on time the Devil's Punch Bowl may just be what you're looking for. Oh and don't forget, you are very close to Charlie Brown's Farm so you can stop by there to pick up all kinds of fun stuff. We stopped to pick up some huckleberry soda. I can't resist the stuff. If you haven't heard of Charlie Brown's Farm you can check it out here. See you Friday!


Devil's Punch Bowl 

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