Sunday was another beautiful day for a snow hike. Although it was a little warmer than the last snow hike we did a few weeks ago, there was still plenty of snow to turn the forest into a magical winter wonderland. We packed our winter gear and headed up to Waterman mountain. We know this mountain pretty well by now, and I feel safe here. The trail is easily graded and there aren’t many narrow sections. There’s also an option to hike up a fire road if you so choose. We took the Waterman Trail from Buckhorn just off Angeles Crest Highway. The day started off with blue skies and few clouds, but by the time we finished more clouds were rolling in. There was a lot of water flowing from the rains we just had which formed beautiful icicles. The pines were heavy with pure white snow which made me feel like we were walking through a scene from a winter fairy tale. As last time, this trail was so quiet and peaceful. We took our time making our way up to the summit and enjoyed the picturesque forest. I'm not sure if we’ll get to experience this again this year since it’s just about Spring, but it really was wonderful and I can’t possibly think of a better way to spend a Sunday.Read More
We had quite a bit of rain over the past two days, but it wasn’t cold enough to bring the beautiful snow down to the lower elevations like we had last weekend. I didn’t want to take my chances slipping and sliding on muddy trails or contribute to trail erosion, so today seemed like a good day to check out Josephine Peak which you can get to by hiking up a fire road. As we drove up Angeles Crest Highway, we could see the clouds nestled in the mountains. There were patches of fog, but the visibility was still pretty good. We started the hike just across from the Clear Creek Ranger Station. The mountains looked so beautiful surrounded by the passing clouds. I spent a lot of time taking photos of it all as we hiked up on a nice steady grade. As the trail looped us around Josephine’s north face, the scenery got even prettier. Finally, we reached the single track that would take us straight up to the peak. Once at the top, we were engulfed in the clouds. There wasn’t much visibility, but just for a moment the clouds broke up a little and I was able to get some great photos. I’m glad I took a lot of pictures on the way up because as we headed down, the fog really began to roll in and I could barely see anything as far as views. I decided to have some fun by taking photos of my husband as he disappeared into the foggy mist. It felt like we were walking in a dream. The weather definitely made this one interesting!
Our destination today was Switzer Falls with the option to continue on to Bear Canyon Trail Camp. This was such a fun hike with a lot going on! The hike to Switzer Falls starts off at the Switzer Picnic Area and follows the beautiful Arroyo Seco. The canyon is shaded by oak and alder trees, and the wildflowers were beginning to bloom. The trail eventually climbs out of the canyon and takes you up onto a sheer cliff where you can look across to see the ruins of an old chapel which was once part of a wilderness resort called Switzer-land. Next, you’ll drop back down into the canyon and follow some switchbacks to a junction with the trail to Switzer Falls and the Bear Canyon Trail. We hiked over to the falls first. There was no one there today, so we sat for a while, had a snack and enjoyed the sounds of rushing water. After the short break we made our way along the Bear Canyon Trail. This trail was definitely not as well maintained as the trail we had been on previously; however, it was definitely passable. We had to do some boulder hopping, route finding and navigating up and over downed trees. There were a lot of stream crossings on this trip. I counted 58 total there and back. It was an obstacle course for sure, but that’s what made it so fun! We passed by many fish pools and small cascades. I couldn't help myself. I just had to stop, take off my hiking boots and go wading in one of the pools. The water was cold, but refreshing. Eventually we reached the backcountry Bear Canyon Trail Camp. This campground is very remote. It has some picnic tables and wood burning stoves but not much else. We sat for a bit and enjoyed the peace and quiet before heading back the way we came. We didn’t see a single soul until we reached the junction with the falls. Just the way I like it! It was another beautiful day well spent!Read More
What an incredible day in Angeles National Forest! I was hoping to get to see more snow before the winter was over, and today I got my wish! I woke up at 5 am and we headed up Angeles Crest Highway just after the sunrise. I didn’t want to leave too early not knowing what the driving conditions would be like. As we got higher up in elevation, we started to see the snow. The roads still had a very light covering, but the driving was fine and there was no ice. It was beautiful just driving along the highway. Our destination was Waterman Mountain. This trail is one of my favorites in the summer and seeing it for the first time in winter was a treat! The pine trees were heavy with snow and icicles. The forest was incredibly serene and peaceful. The only sounds we heard were the birds singing and the ice melting off the majestic pine trees. The air was fresh and the sky was crystal clear. It was a bluebird day for sure. Today was also the first time I’ve ever had the opportunity to photograph snow. When I lived in Pennsylvania, I hadn’t gotten into photography yet. Also, I was just so used to having snow in winter, that I really didn’t think much of it. Well that sure changes when you don’t get to see it anymore. I could not have asked for a more perfect day.
Until I started hiking, I never thought I’d get to see snow here in Southern California. After spending 27 years of my life in Pennsylvania, you’d think I’d be over it. I guess I’m not. This past weekend we drove up through Angeles Forest with the intent to enjoy some snow. The plan was to do a short hike along the PCT from Islip Saddle to the beautiful Little Jimmy Campground. My husband had been feeling under the weather all week, so it wasn’t a good idea to do anything strenuous. When we got to Islip Saddle, however, the wind chill was so cold, we opted out. We got back in the car and headed over to the Blue Ridge Trail. This was one of the first trails we ever hiked in Wrightwood. It’s a great go-to trail when you just want to hike along a mellow trail through a pretty section of forest that will lead you to a nice vista on top. While I wasn’t expecting to be knee deep in snow, I was happy to at least get to see a little bit on some sections of the trail. They want another storm this week, so fingers crossed, Southern California will get to see a little bit more winter!
This weekend our plan was to hike a section of the PCT/Silver Moccasin Trail starting from Three Points and continue to the higher elevation of Cloudburst Summit. This section of trail sticks pretty close to the Angeles Crest Highway and crosses it several times, so you do hear a good deal of traffic noise when cars and motorcycles are traveling through. The scenery, however, makes up for the fact that you’re so close to the highway. The trail takes you along Waterman Mountain and into the Pleasant View Ridge Wilderness. It’s a beautiful trail with no lack pine trees and tons of fallen pine cones along the path. As we reached the higher altitude, we started to see some patches of snow along the trail Finally arriving at Cloudburst Summit, we were so close to Winston Peak that we decided to climb up and check out the views. Looking off in the distance we could see the snowy north face of Mount Baldy. It was about 1:30 pm when we started to head back and the winds were kicking up. We ended up doing about 12 miles out and back today according to my GPS stats. On the way home we stopped off at Charlton Flats to grill up some food. It was definitely feeling chilly by this time, but a warm bite to eat hit the spot.Read More
Just like every other Southern California hiker, I decided after having my first taste of what it feels like to summit a mountain, that Mount Whitney should be on my “to do” list. If you’re not familiar with Mount Whitney, it’s the highest peak in the lower 48 standing at 14,505’ and the highest peak in California. On February 1st the lottery opened to apply for a permit to hike the Mount Whitney Zone so I applied. I won’t know until March 24 when they post the results whether or not I’ll actually get a permit, but I thought -- why not try. The hike can be done as a 22 mile round trip day hike, but I’d want to break it up over a day or two which would require overnight camping. Camping is a whole other challenge I’ll have to tackle! Taking a day or two would allow my body to acclimatize to the altitude and although I’ve never experienced any symptoms of AMS, I’ve also never been up 14,000+’. While the chances of getting a permit are actually pretty slim, there’s always that “just maybe”. So we’ll see what happens. It would be a great challenge for me and it looks like it’s an incredibly beautiful hike. Summit or not, I know hiking the Mount Whitney Trail would be a beautiful experience and one of my goals before I turn 50 which will be in September of 2019.
Vetter Mountain was one of the first places we hiked to last year when we started our adventures. We didn’t really know much about hiking at that time, and I think between the two of us we carried only one bottle of water. I didn’t even own a pair of hiking boots! We’ve come a long way since that day, and knowing what I know now I can’t believe I had been missing out on these incredible places! That day kick-started our discovery of all that the great mountains surrounding Los Angeles and beyond have to offer.
After our 15 mile trek to Mount Wilson on Friday, we both wanted to do something easy on the legs. I’d heard the Vetter Mountain Trail (closed the last time we were here due to damage from the 2009 Station Fire) had been cleaned up and re-opened. I wanted to check it out. We drove to the beautiful Charlton Flat picnic area then hiked the Vetter Mountain Trail up to the stone foundation of the fire lookout (also burned in the Station Fire). The area is still recovering, but taking the Vetter Mountain Trail was a nice alternative to the service road which we hiked up the first time. When we reached the top, there was no one there so we had the views to ourselves and spent some time enjoying the scenery and each other’s company. On the way down, we took part of the service road and then hopped on the Silver Moccasin trail to return to Charlton Flat. It was the perfect day!
The hike to Mount Wilson is one of the required peaks for the Six Pack of Peaks Challenge my husband and I are participating in this year. This hike is another one that had been on my bucket list. I can see Mount Wilson from my back porch, and we’d only ever visited it once in 2011 when we drove there. I was very excited to try and hike it! We did a loop trail starting from Chantry Flat then up over Sturtevant Falls on the Lower Gabrielino Trail passing through Sturtevant Camp and then finally the Sturtevant Trail to Mount Wilson. The Observatory itself is worth spending a whole day exploring if you have the time. On the way down we took the Mount Wilson Trail to Mount Wilson Toll Road, back onto Mount Wilson Trail to Winter Creek Trail to Lower Winter Creek Trail and back to Chantry Flat. I really enjoyed this hike and although it’s a long one, I didn’t find it particularly difficult. Most of the time you’re hiking through shaded forest, and the Lower Winter Creek Trail is exceptionally pretty. My legs were tired at the end of the hike, but the scenery was worth the effort. We’ll have to do this one again sometime when the Cosmic Cafe is open so we can get ice cream cones at the top!
I’ve had this trail on my list for a while since the trailhead is right next to Descanso Gardens. It starts off on the appropriately named Descanso Trail which follows the fence that runs along the edge of the gardens. I parked my car just before sunrise and started heading up. The trail makes a pretty immediate ascent through some oaks and a series of switchbacks. Once you’re up high enough, you can actually look down into Descanso Gardens. There’s some nice views of the San Gabriels and the Verdugo mountains from the trail. The Santa Ana winds were pretty intense this morning and made walking interesting. As I was hiking four coyotes crossed over the trail ahead of me and headed down the hill. They seemed preoccupied with whatever they were tracking and not so much interested in what I was doing. At an intersection called Five Points, I headed east on the Cerro Negro Trail and then finally up to the lookout to check out the Chrysler-Bell Victory air raid siren. It was even more windy up at the summit. I found the summit marker, took some pictures and then headed back down. This is a nice short hike if you just want to stay close to the city. Not much shade at all on this hike, so definitely not one to do when it’s hot outside.Read More
The trek to Mount Hillyer in the central San Gabriels is a meandering hike through impressive boulder formations and flat sections of beautiful pine meadows. This land was once used by horse thieves, the most notorious was Tiburcio Vasquez. This area was the perfect hideout for bandits to escape from the law and pasture stolen horses. The trail starts off at Chilao just past the visitors’ center on the Silver Moccasin Trail. The first section is a series of switchbacks through rocky terrain. After about a mile, it smooths out and you’ll reach Horse Flats Campground. It’s a beautiful camp equipt with corrals and hitching posts for equestions who ride in and want to stay the night with their horses. From here you pick up the Mount HIllyer trial and this is where you’ll start a steady ascent through the ginormous boulders. We took our time on this hike and had a lot of fun climbing around the various rock formations. As for the summit, there are actually two. The unofficial summit stands at 6,215’ and the second official summit is 6,162’. You’ll come upon the unofficial first. Once you’re done enjoying the views from there, you can hike just a little further up the trail and find a short use trail off to your right that goes to the official summit. We stopped there and had some breakfast. There was absolutely no one on the trail today. After we were done enjoying the peace and quiet of the forest, we headed back down towards Santa Clara Divide Road. We followed the road back to Horse Flats and then back to the Silver Moccasin Trail and Chilao. Loved this hike today. Short on the mileage, but very big on the scenery!Read More
Of all the times I’ve been to Joshua Tree, this was the first time we drove south through the Pinto Basin all the way to Cottonwood Spring to see the transition from the Mojave to the Colorado Desert. You won’t find Joshua Trees at elevations lower then 3,000 feet, but the Colorado Desert has its own unique beauty. Here’s where you’ll find the spindly ocotillo plant. I’ve always seen them in photos, but never made it down that far to see them in person. Our hike today was a 7.5 mile out and back to Lost Palms Oasis. Lost Palms Oasis has the largest concentration of Fan Palms in the park. Let me tell you this was a BEAUTIFUL hike! Undulating hills, lots of ups and downs on the trail, sandy washes, rocky canyons, plenty of cacti and views of the Salton Sea. We even saw a rainbow along the way. Once you arrive at the oasis, you can either scramble all the way down into the canyon under the palms, or you can enjoy the views from the overlook. If you don’t want to hike in that far, there’s a beautiful oasis right at the trailhead at Cottonwood Spring. This is a hike to do ONLY in the cooler months. They actually remove the trail from the park map in the summer to discourage people from doing it because some have died on this trail. While this was a much more populated trail then the CRH, it was still incredibly enjoyable. If you want to extend your trip, when you pass the junction to the Mastodon Peak loop, it’s about 2 extra miles to the top. We’ll save that one for another day. Before we headed out, we stopped off at the Cottonwood Visitor Center. It just so happened one of the rangers was giving a talk about rattlesnakes. I think I learned more about them today then I ever knew! It’s wonderful that these programs exist to educate people and get them outdoors to enjoy this beautiful world we live in and enjoy it wisely.
I've also included in this post some photos of our visit to the Cholla Cactus Garden. It's on the way to Cottonwood. If you're passing through the Pinto Basin on the way to the southern end of the park, I highly recommend taking a walk through the Cholla Cactus garden. You can't miss it. All of a sudden you'll see a patch of cute fuzzy looking cacti. But don't be fooled. These suckers will bite! Just a light brush against them and the spikes will penetrate your skin. They even have a first aid kit at the trail head with antiseptic and bandaids. LOL These little guys are known as the Bigelow Cholla, Jumping Cholla and also Teddybear Cholla. Unless you're a cactus wren or a desert woodrat, enjoy the view from a distance.Read More
We were on part of this trail in November, and I wanted to go back and do more of it. I like this trail because it takes you into the backcountry and away from the more popular attractions in the park. You can really cover a lot of mileage in a short amount of time on this section because it’s mostly flat with only a 594’ gain/loss if you’re doing it as an out and back. Overnight backpackers will do the whole 35 mile trail in about 2 or 3 days. For this section, we parked at Juniper Flats, crossed Keys View Road and starting hiking. We past Ryan Campground and between Ryan and Lost Horse mountains. The trail leads up up from Lost Horse Valley to a pass and down the other side where it becomes more rocky and rugged. We passed the remains of an old prospector camp. There are actually quite a number of these located in the park and not just the ones noted on the map. The trail then took us down the other side of the pass into Queen Valley. We continued across the vast Queen Valley enjoying the immense open space. We’d gotten a late start today, so we gave ourselves a turnaround time since we didn’t have a car shuttle on the other end and would have to hike back the same amount of miles that we hiked in. We were just 1.7 miles short of Geology Tour Road when we had to head back. We still logged in a good 10 mile hike.Read More
This year my husband and I signed up for the 2018 Six Pack of Peaks Challenge. It’s a series put together by Jeff Hester of SoCalHiker.net of some of the toughest peaks in Southern California to help train for bigger hikes such as Mount Whitney. We have until September to complete the six required peaks. Since we’d already climbed several of the peaks last year, I decided we should officially take the challenge. This hike was also our hike #40 of the 52 Hike Challenge which we started last year.
Today was our second time up Cucamonga Peak. The first time was on Thanksgiving day of last year and I was tired and sore for 2 days afterwards. It was tough on my body and I wasn’t even sure if I’d want to do it today, but we decided to hike to Icehouse Saddle and then decide where to go from there since there are other peaks that branch off from that junction. Once we arrived at the saddle, it was confirmed we were going to climb Cucamonga again.
We skirted around the mountain through the rugged, narrow section of trail that leads from Icehouse Saddle to the saddle between Big Horn and Cucamonga. Easy enough. Then onto the rocky, relentless switchbacks. The nice part about this section is that you have amazing views down into the canyon and there is nothing but wilderness. It’s incredibly beautiful and it is completely silent, especially on a day like today when we had no winds. I’ve only ever experienced that type of silence in the desert. Up we went until we finally arrived at the marker leading to the peak. It was actually a lot better this time then the last. At no point did I feel like quitting. It was a challenging hike, but well worth the effort. We spent some time at the summit hanging out with the chipmunks who were bumming our pizza, and chatting with other hikers. After about a 45 minute break, we began our descent. One thing to remember when hiking any trails that lead back through Icehouse Canyon are the rocks. There will be plenty of them to negotiate on the way down and your knees and ankles will be feeling it. On the plus side, the scenery is some of the most beautiful in the area, so you’ll have something to keep your mind off your tired legs.Read More
Celebrated New Year’s Day by hiking to the top of Waterman Mountain. The Waterman Trail takes you along the edge of the San Gabriel Wilderness and has beautiful views of Bear Creek Canyon and the surrounding mountains. It's a very pretty trail with lots of pine trees and interesting rock formations. Around 8:15 am we heard the roar of the Stealth Bomber and its escorts. They flew right over Angeles National Forest which was really cool to see. At the summit, we had a champagne toast and took a little nap on the boulders in the warm sunshine before taking our time going back. It was nice, relaxing hike and a great start to 2018.Read More
A hike to Mount Baldy on a perfect day was a great way to wrap up the year 2017! I’d been wanting to hike this mountain again ever since our first summit in November when strong winds prevented me from being able to take as many photos as I would have liked. This time we could not have asked for more perfect weather! We did the same route as last time; up the Ski Hut/Baldy Bowl Trail and down the Devil’s Backbone. We took our time at the summit and savored the views from the Devil’s Backbone. It’s a challenging hike, but definitely one of the best! Here are some photos from our journey.
Our Christmas Day was spent hiking a section of the Pacific Crest Trail from Inspiration Point to Vincent Gap. The air was calm but crisp and scented with my favorite vanilla Jeffery Pines. The trek along this stretch of the PCT is mostly evenly graded and under the shade of pine trees until you drop down into Vincent Gap where you’ll lose about 1,000’ of elevation in less then a mile. If you do this trail, just remember to leave some extra gas in the tank for the climb back up later. Beautiful pine needles cover much of the path along the way and just before Vincent Gap you’ll pass through a flat section where there’s a pine grove. As the trail begins to descend the scenery then changes into a scene from Snow White’s forest and you’re suddenly in a fairytale forest of oak trees. We hiked almost 10 miles round trip stopping at Jackson Flat campground to have lunch. I can’t think of a better way to have spent our Christmas this year then on the trail in these beautiful mountains!Read More
The plan for today was to hike about 9.7 miles from Inspiration Point to Vincent Gap along the PCT. The temperature was 25 degrees according to the temp gauge on my car when we arrived, and the winds were blowing at about 30 mph. This was going to be a good test to see how well we'd fare on the trail during the colder months and see what else we were going to need as far as layers, gear, etc. When we got out of the car, there was one obvious thing that my husband realized he didn't have... gloves! I knew he wasn't going to be able to do the hike with those winds whipping around the mountain on his bare hands. But rather then abort the mission, we drove over to Grassy Hollow where it's a little less exposed. I gave him my gloves since my fleece has sleeves that cover up most of your hands, and we got on the trail. I really enjoyed hiking in the crisp mountain air. My layering system seemed to work pretty good. The only thing I need to add as far as I can tell right now is a good pair of base layer tights under my hiking pants and a balaclava to cover my face when the wind is kicking up. After about a mile in, we decided to turn around and save the trail for another day when we were more prepared for the weather. Besides, I'd been thinking about a nice cup of hot chocolate covered in sprinkles and whipped cream from the Grizzly Cafe. On the way there, we saw Mountain High Ski Resort was blowing snow. We stopped to check it out. Even though this was a short day, we had a lot of fun getting our first taste of winter in our local mountains.Read More
Another hike through the past up to Echo Mountain and Inspiration Point. Echo Mountain was once home to the Echo Mountain House, a grand resort in its day. Sadly it was burned to the ground along with many of the other structures constructed by Thaddeus Lowe, but you can still hike to the top and see the ruins including parts of the funicular that once brought guests up from Rubio Canyon to the resort. There are interpretive signs that will help you imagine how magnificent this place once was. From Echo Mountain we hiked up the Castle Canyon trail to Inspiration Point. There are viewing tubes here that are strategically placed to view local points of interest looking down on the sprawling city below. From there we also visited the site of Ye Alpine Tavern, another endeavor of Mr. Lowe which is also long gone, but not forgotten. The sites are loving taken care of by volunteers. It was a fun day exploring the mountainside and learning more about its extravagant history. You can learn more about the history here: http://www.mtlowe.net/Read More
With the cooler weather, it was a good day to explore the front range. We drove up to Eaton Saddle and started the hike up a fireroad and through the Mueller Tunnel. We took the trail to summit Mount Lowe first. There’s a lot of fire damage in this area from the 2009 station fire, but it looks like things are coming back nicely. I’d seen so many photos and read about the history up in this part of the San Gabriels, so it was exciting to finally check it out. In 1893 there used to be an electric powered railway here that was constructed by the ambitious Thaddeus S. C. Lowe. The Mount Lowe Railway would take guests back and forth from the Echo Mountain House (also constructed by Lowe), and today you can still hike to the ruins on Echo Mountain. We are saving that hike for another day. In addition, Lowe also constructed a tavern, an observatory and the world's largest search light. Lowe planned to extend his railway up to the summit of Mount Lowe, but sadly many of his endeavors were lost due to fires or natural disasters. Eventually, he ran out of money. Today you can look through the viewing tubes on the summit that are strategically placed at points of interest such as Mount Baldy and Mount Wilson. You’ll also see hitching rails where horses were once tied and there’s a sign with more information for anyone who cares to learn about the history of the mountain on which they are standing. After spending some time reflecting on the summit of Mount Lowe, we hiked back down and took the trail leading to Mount Disappointment and San Gabriel Peak. Interesting story about Mount Disappointment in case you don’t already know: In 1894, USGS surveyors climbed to the top of Mount Disappointment after viewing it from the San Fernando Valley. They thought it was the highest peak in the region only to be “disappointed” when they looked over at San Gabriel peak and discover that the mountain they’d climbed was shorter! So there you go. Another point of interest along the route is that you’ll pass by what’s left of a Nike Missile Defense System from LA’s cold war-era. We took the route up to Mount Disappointment first. The route travels up a fire road which, as much as I hate hiking fire roads, wasn’t too bad. The summit has some radio towers, a helipad and great views, so I feel like this peak deserves a better name. Anywho, after exploring Mt. Disappointment, we headed up to San Gabriel Peak. The trail is quite steep, but it’s a nice climb to work for your reward of even more great views from the top. I should also mention from these peaks we could see the billowing smoke plumes off in the distance from the Thomas Fire which as of this writing is still, unfortunately, burning. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this hike. We’ll soon be hiking Echo Mountain to Inspiration Point so we can take in even more history about our nearby mountain range.Read More