Angeles National Forest

Santa Anita Canyon to Mt. Wilson, 14.5 miles RT, 4,426' elevation +/-, 5,712' max elevation, April 1, 2019

Santa Anita Canyon to Mt. Wilson, 14.5 miles RT, 4,426' elevation +/-, 5,712' max elevation, April 1, 2019

I decided to take a vacation day on Monday so I could go hiking. We headed to Chantry Flats, but we weren’t sure whether or not we wanted to do a longer, more strenuous hike to Mt. Wilson or a shorter loop. We figured we’d decided when we got to the junction at Sturtevant Camp. Santa Anita Canyon was exceptionally beautiful today. There was so much water flowing in the creek. We took the Lower Winter Creek Trail that climbs up along the side of a rocky cliff to the top of Sturtevant Falls. The water was rushing strong and it looked awesome! As we hiked along the trail, we saw so many cascading pools of water. When we reached the junction near Sturtevant we made the decision to do the longer route to Mt. Wilson. I figured why not. I’d taken the day off and had no other place to be. As we started up that first steep mile, I was almost starting to regret my decision. My body was tired, but I didn’t want to turn around. We’d done this route last year, and I remember I really enjoyed it. We slowed up our pace which made it a little more bearable. It was a fun climb! Lots of beautiful scenery along the way. But I was very happy to reach to top because all I kept thinking about was sprawling out at one of the tables at the Cosmic Cafe and eating a ham and cheese croissant my husband had picked up at the donut shop before our hike! Once at the top, we had a nice rest. I took my hiking boots off to give my feet a break too. After we were finished refueling and recharging, we began the 7 mile descent back down the mountain. We took the Mt. Wilson Trail where you can still see quite a bit of fire damage to the Mt. Wilson Toll Road. There had been an avalanche since the last time we hiked on this road, and there were huge fallen boulders strewn across it. They were easy enough to get around, and I wondered what it must have sounded like when they came crashing down. We then reached the junction for the Winter Creek Trail and continued the long, steep descent on the switchbacks until we reached the bottom of the canyon. There were a lot of downed trees to hop along the way and there was also some trail erosion. The trail was still in good shape, but it does need a little TLC from the wonderful volunteers who help keep these trails passable so we can enjoy them. My knees and feet were getting tired, but the Winter Creek Trail is just so pretty. The final part of the hike was the grueling slog up the concrete road leading back to the parking lot. It seems to go on forever and it is steep! I was sweaty and tired by the time we got back to the trailhead, but it was so worth it. It’s been a while since we did any long, hard days on the trail so it felt really good to get out there and enjoy it!

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Icy Pacifico Mountain and Snowy Waterman Mountain Hike, 8.6 Miles, 1,729' total +/-, Maximum Elevation 7,824', December 9, 2018

Icy Pacifico Mountain and Snowy Waterman Mountain Hike, 8.6 Miles, 1,729' total +/-, Maximum Elevation 7,824', December 9, 2018

Today we set out to hike from Mill Creek Summit on the Pacific Crest Trail and up to the Pacifico Mountain Campground. I knew this mountain was a north face, and I had a feeling we might encounter some icy patches on the trail, but we decided to give it a go. I knew there would be some snow up at the campground after the recent rain, and I wanted to take advantage of that since we never know what kind of winter we’ll have here in Southern California. We were about two miles into the hike and we started to come across patches of hard packed ice. We had microspikes to slip onto our boots for traction, but if we were to continue, coming down would be sketchy. Neither one of us wanted to risk spraining an ankle, so we decided to turn around and head back. Since it was still early in the day, we drove to Charlton Flats, had some lunch and then drove up to Waterman Mountain which I knew would be reliable for a nice snow hike. It was about 12:30 when we started on the trail and I expected to see many more people hiking, but it was actually very quiet. Most of the snow play folks stayed on the fire road or over at the Buckhorn day use area and there were very few people hiking up the Waterman Mountain trail. The few people we past were hiking with dogs in tow, or rather I should say they were in tow of their dogs. That’s the one thing I love about hiking… seeing all the happy dogs on the trail. As we got higher up, we seemed to be the only people on the trail. The sky was gray with overcast clouds and the mountain seemed still and peaceful. It was around 2:15 when we reached the Twin Peaks junction which is about 3/4 miles away from the Waterman Mountain summit. At this point we both decided it was time to head back to make sure we returned safely before the sun set and the temperatures dropped and turned the melting snow to ice. We both went home satisfied after spending another beautiful day in our Southern California mountains.

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Switzer Camp to Bear Canyon, 4.8 Miles RT, 3,362' Max Elevation, 978' +/-, December 2, 2018

Switzer Camp to Bear Canyon, 4.8 Miles RT, 3,362' Max Elevation, 978' +/-, December 2, 2018

Sunday was our first hike in about a month since my husband and I were busy moving most of November. Late Sunday morning we headed up Angeles Crest Highway with a bunch of maps, but no real commitment to any particular trail. As we passed by the entrance to Switzer Camp the overflow parking along the highway didn’t look too busy. We turned in and headed down to see how it was looking. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too packed for a weekend. Some of the oaks were still holding onto their color, so it was a nice treat since we didn’t get to experience much of the fall weather this year. The stroll along the Arroyo Seco was very pleasant, and we crossed the stream a number of times. I think the last time we hiked this all the way to Bear Canyon Trail Camp last March, I counted a total of 50-something crossings round trip. It was a beautiful day. Perfect hiking weather; a little chilly to start, but we warmed up as we kept going. On the cliffs we passed by the ruins of the old Switzer-land chapel and then descended down towards Switzer Falls. We decided to forgo the falls this time and continue on to the Bear Canyon Trail knowing there’d be lots of pretty cascades along the way and a lot less traffic. We hiked in as far as the junction where the two streams intersect, and then continued on a bit farther to where the going becomes less maintained. We stopped about a mile short of the campground this time. It was getting later in the day and we wanted to make sure we got back before the sun started to set. It was a nice way to ease back into the hiking routine again, and we could not have asked for a more perfect day.

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Mt Lowe, 3 miles RT, 5,604' Max Elevation, 548' +/-, September 30, 2018

Mt Lowe, 3 miles RT, 5,604' Max Elevation, 548' +/-, September 30, 2018

My husband and I did a sunset hike on Mt. Lowe this past Sunday. We drove up to Eaton Saddle, followed the Mt. Lowe Fire Road through the Mueller Tunnel to Markham Saddle and then picked up the trail to the Mt. Lowe summit. I really like this area a lot. There’s never very many people and you get some great views of the rugged San Gabriels. The hike to the summit is a short one, but it was perfect for a day when we didn’t have time to do a long hike. The views are pretty great too. As the sun began to sink behind the Santa Monica Mountains to the west, we started to make our way back down the mountain. We reached Markham Saddle just 10 minutes before the sunset then stopped to enjoy the show as the light faded from orange, to pink and finally inky black. It was a little spooky coming back through the Mueller Tunnel in the dark, but the city below us lit up in a romantic, sparkling glow of lights. It was a great way to wrap up the weekend!

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Backpacking Test Run to Blue Ridge, Wrightwood, CA, 7 miles RT, 8,116' Max Elevation, 1,404' +/-, September 2, 2018

Backpacking Test Run to Blue Ridge, Wrightwood, CA, 7 miles RT, 8,116' Max Elevation, 1,404' +/-, September 2, 2018

I had my mind made up about wanting to transition from day hiking to backpacking. Once I get my mind set on something, I obsess over it until it happens. After spending a couple of weeks doing research, I felt confident enough to head over to REI and make the investment. We spent the following day setting up camp in the living room and practicing packing our backpacks. Sunday morning (also my birthday), we headed out with all our new gear to Wrightwood to hike the Blue Ridge Trail. The Blue Ridge trail was a perfect trail to get a feel for the new packs with the additional weight we’d be carrying on a backpacking trip. I picked this trail because it’s well maintained, it’s not too steep and there is no scree which makes it a great place for a worry free trial run. There’s also a bit of altitude (over 8,000’ at the ridge) and about 1,000’ of gain in two miles. Both of us carried over 20% of our bodyweight which slowed us down from our normal day hiking pace. But backpacking, to me, is a different mindset. It’s not about rushing to bag a peak or hiking to be at a certain place by a certain time. This is a quote from one of my hiking books that could not sum up how I feel about backpacking any better:

“Once you realize that the road is the goal and that you are always on the road, not to reach a goal, but to enjoy its beauty and its wisdom, life ceases to be a task and becomes natural and simple, in itself an ecstasy.” - Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

I believe backpacking is going to take us on exciting new journeys into the wilderness and offer us amazing experiences that will make our lives even richer. In a few weeks, we’ll be setting up camp for the first time to enjoy our first overnight in the forest. I’m really excited about all of this and looking forward to many adventures to come!

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Mount Williamson 8,214', 5 miles RT, 1,552 +/-, July 29, 2018

Mount Williamson 8,214', 5 miles RT, 1,552 +/-, July 29, 2018

The best time for hiking during the hot summer months is EARLY! I like to be on the trail either before sunrise or shortly after so I can enjoy my time on the trail before the day heats up. This is also the time of year when I like to stick to the high country or look for higher elevation hikes which are usually a bit cooler than those at the lower altitudes. Mount Williamson was the perfect hike for today; a short 5 miles from the Islip Saddle trailhead with a little bit of an elevation gain and a fun climb. The early morning sunlight was brilliant as we headed up the trail which starts off on the PCT. It wasn’t long before views of Mount Islip opened up to the south on the opposite side of the Angeles Crest Highway. The hike to Mount Williamson is a fun one. We did this last year in September and I really enjoyed it. The climb is mostly steady until you get closer to the top where you leave the PCT and the trail to Mt. Williamson becomes quite steep and rugged. Once at the top we had wonderful 360 degree views. It was only us on the summit so we took our time, had some snacks and after orienting my map, I spread it out and secured it with some rocks so I could use it to identify some of the surrounding features of the area. Many of the surrounding peaks were visible including Mount Lewis, Mount Baden-Powell, Throop Peak, Mount Hawkins and Twin Peaks to name a few. To the north I could see all the way out to the Mojave Desert and to the southwest I had a nice view of Williamson Rock, which was once popular with rock climbers until the area was closed off to protect the mountain yellow-legged frog. It was barley 9 am and already I could feel the sun starting to heat up the day, so we headed back enjoying our time on the trail and the sweet, vanilla fragrance of the Jeffery pines along the way.

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Eaton Saddle to Muir Peak 4,688', 9.5 miles RT, 1,358 +/-, July 4, 2018

Eaton Saddle to Muir Peak 4,688', 9.5 miles RT, 1,358 +/-,  July 4, 2018

Today we started out with a plan to do “just a short hike”.  Well, by now I should know that it rarely ever works out that way.  We didn’t feel like driving too far so we decided to stick closer to home and take a ride up to Eaton Saddle.  We hiked up the Mount Lowe Road, through the Mueller Tunnel (which I think is absolutely amazing) and reached Markham Saddle.  At that point we had several options to climb the peaks that we’d done before; Mt. Lowe, Mt. Disappointment, San Gabriel Peak or we could continue on the Mount Lowe Road.  I pulled out the map to see where it would take us.  It looked to be a little over four miles to reach the Mount Lowe Trail Camp and Inspiration Point (which we’d also been to before, but never from this direction).  We decided to give it a go.  What a great route!  I’m so glad we did it.  This area has so much history.  Not only was this a very low stress, no cliff hugging ledges kind of hike, but it also had a lot of butterflies.  After reaching Inspiration Point, we continued along the fire road past the crowd of people until we reached the junction to summit Muir Peak.  I knew we’d have the peak all to ourselves along with the views to boot.  My husband and I hung out up there for a while.  I chased around the Chalcedon Checkerspot butterflies trying to get some photos while my husband talked on his HAM radio.  There was a lot of California Buckwheat up on this peak, hence all the butterflies.  I even got one to sit on my finger.  The surrounding views were terrific; Pasadena and the city below, Mount Wilson, Occidental Peak, Mount Harvard, San Gabriel Peak, and Mount Lowe to name a few.  After we were done enjoying having the place to ourselves, we started heading back.  By this time it was getting pretty warm and much of the morning shade we had earlier was almost gone.  Thankfully, we always come prepared with plenty of water and there was a nice, refreshing breeze every now and then to help keep us cool.  As we hiked back, the road was buzzing with butterfly activity.  There were plenty of Blues, Swallowtails, Chalcedon Checkerspots, Hairstreaks and I was also able to find and photograph the elusive Great Basin wood-nymph.  As always, it was another great day to be in the mountains!

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Grizzly Flat Trailhead, 2N79, Hoyt Mountain, 4.32 miles RT, 3,904' Max Elevation, 912' +/-, July 1, 2018

Grizzly Flat Trailhead, 2N79, Hoyt Mountain, 4.32 miles RT, 3,904' Max Elevation, 912' +/-, July 1, 2018

Today we did a short hike in the front range from the Grizzly Flat Trailhead past the locked gate along 2N79.  2N79 splits off and you can continue northwest to Grizzly Flat or you can follow it north and then east as it makes a turn towards Hoyt Mountain.  The later was our destination.  We’ve hiked this trail many times before because it’s a hot spot for several different species of butterflies.  This was the first time we followed it all the way to Hoyt Mountain.  The trail continues to climb until it reaches a saddle after just a little over two miles.  Here there’s a split to continue on a rugged use trail up to the summit of Hoyt, or you can continue onto the very overgrown Telephone Trail which descends to Clear Creek.  We climbed up on the use trail about halfway to the false summit and decided it was too overgrown and steep to continue.  I was actually more interested in going back down to photograph all the Chalcedon Checkerspots that I saw at the base of the mountain.  I photographed Chalcedon Checkerspots near this area last year, but this year there were so many that they were practically landing on me as I took my photos!  It was about 9 am and the sun was really starting to warm things up.  We decided to descend before it got too hot and finish up the hike with a visit to DISH in LaCanda for some hot coffee, eggs, bacon and my favorite... pancakes!

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3 Peak Traverse: Mt. Baden Powell 9,406', Mt. Burnham 8,996', Throop Peak 9,137' via Dawson Saddle 10.4 Miles RT, 2,900' +/-, May 27, 2018

3 Peak Traverse:  Mt. Baden Powell 9,406', Mt. Burnham 8,996', Throop Peak 9,137' via Dawson Saddle 10.4 Miles RT, 2,900' +/-, May 27, 2018

We wanted to try out a different route to Mount Baden-Powell, so we decided to start our hike from Dawson Saddle.  It adds a little bit of extra mileage, but there are really great views along the route because much of this hike follows along the ridge once you reach the junction for the PCT.  It's also less heavily trafficked then the route up from Vincent Gap.  Since Baden-Powell was added to the Six Pack of Peaks Challenge, it's become increasingly popular.  We actually only planned on hiking to Baden-Powell, but we had the time and decided to go up to Mount Burnham and Throop Peak which were close by.  I should note that all of my photos were taken with my Android phone today.  Somehow I managed to forget my camera which was a big disappointment because I love doing my photography along the way.  I really enjoyed this route and trying out a new trail.  After the hike we drove into Wrightwood for a bite to eat.  On the way we passed by the trailhead at Vincent Gap and it was mobbed with cars!  I couldn't believe how crowded it was.  I was grateful we didn't go up that route today.  Looks like we'll need to save the Vincent Gap route for a weekday when it's less busy.  Baden-Powell is a lovely peak.  It's also nice to say hello to the 1,500 year old Wally Waldron limber pine that sits on the ridge just below the summit.  I'm sure he was pretty popular for photos today!  It was another great day to be in the mountains!

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Mount Baldy, 10,064', out & back on Baldy Bowl/Ski Hut Trail, 8.39 miles RT, 3,980' +/-, May 18, 2018

Mount Baldy, 10,064', out & back on Baldy Bowl/Ski Hut Trail, 8.39 miles RT, 3,980' +/-, May 18, 2018

We were due for a visit to the top of good old Mount Baldy, so I took the day off on Friday to do it. This was our 3rd time to summit this mountain, and it’s always a nice challenge. We took our usual route up on the Baldy Bowl/Ski Hut Trail with a short break once we arrived at the Ski Hut. Then on we went through the Baldy Bowl boulder field and up through the steep switchbacks making our way through the pine forest and the short reprieve at the saddle. Then it was onto the manzanita maze of use trails to find our way to the top. Thankfully, the markers are all still intact since the last time I was up in December which made finding the trail easier. About a half a mile from the summit we stopped to chat and take a breather with a fellow hiker named Karen and her beautiful chocolate lab, Frankie. For the rest of the way, Frankie became my hiking buddy as she went back and forth between Karen and I. I could feel her nudge my leg with her head from time to time as if to say, “Come on lady! Hurry it up!” Soon enough, my husband who was ahead of us reached the summit and I was not too far behind along with Frankie and a moment later, Karen. No one was at the top but us! It was beautiful! The weather could not have been more perfect; sunshine and a nice breeze. I wandered around the empty summit taking my photos then sat for a bit to have a bite to eat and and chat with Karen and a few other hikers who had arrived. Eventually, all of them including Frankie headed down the Devil’s Backbone. Octavio and I were the only ones on top of Mount Baldy for a while. How cool is that considering the amount of traffic this summit sees! Soon it was time to begin our journey back. Instead of going down the Devil’s Backbone which has been our usual route, we opted for a change of scenery and decided to head back on the Baldy Bowl/Ski Hut Trail. We’d never seen it in the opposite direction before and although it’s quite steep, we wanted to give it a go. So down we went. The trek down was much harder than it was going up and definitely much steeper then going down the Devil’s Backbone. Thankfully, the scenery is so beautiful, it kind of takes your mind off your aching knees! We slowly made our way down trying as best we could to be careful not to slip on the sections of loose rock. We also had to be mindful not to lose the trail going through the manzanita maze just before reaching the saddle, as I’ve heard stories of people going off trail here and ending up in the bowl where there’s wreckage from a plane crash and then they had to climb their way back out. Finally, we made it back to the ski hut. We took a break here to rest our legs. As we sat, a very bold Stellar Jay came up pretty close to me to scope out my food situation. What a bum! You can tell the birds and also the chipmunks up at the summit are spoiled from so many people hiking here and feeding them their snacks. After our last rest, we began the final descent. It felt so good when we got back to Falls Road and I looked back up at the mountain we had just climbed. I wondered, as I often do, how we even make it up such a steep climb. I guess somehow you just do! It was another wonderful day on a most beautiful mountain!

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Liebre Mountain, 5783', 7.3 miles RT, 1,877 +/-, May 13, 2018

Liebre Mountain, 5783', 7.3 miles RT, 1,877 +/-, May 13, 2018

I was super excited to explore a new part of the Angeles National Forest this past Sunday! One of the first hiking books I’d ever purchased was “Trails of the Angeles” by the late John W. Robinson. This hike is hike #1 in his book. In addition, Casey Schreiner of ModernHiker.com, recently posted a trail report about this hike, making it sound even more appealing.

The trailhead is about an hour and 20 minute drive from our home and is in the northwestern section of the Angeles NF. It starts off on the PCT, and we did pass a number of thru hikers headed to the Sierras as we ascended the mountain southbound.

The first part of the trail took us up switchbacks that were surrounded by blooming ceanothus (wild lilac) as well as patches of yerba santa. As we made our way up, we had wonderful views of the Antelope Valley, the Ventura mountain ranges, the San Andres rift zone and the Tehachapis. It’s a very interesting contrast considering the mountain we were hiking on was so lush and green.

As we continued, we passed through an incredibly beautiful pine grove filled with purple lupines. Various wildflowers were numerous along the entire route. As we climbed upward, Liebre mountain turned into a sprawling oak savanna and the clouds began to roll over us as they made their way across the mountaintop. We reached a junction where the PCT headed east, but continued along the trail (which was now more of a fire road then a single track) to reach the highest point of Liebre Mountain. To find the high point which is marked with a wooden stake and a pile of large rocks, we had to leave the road and do a little searching. We stopped here to relax, have a snack and enjoy the scenery. We also did a some exploring around the top of the mountain before making our way back taking our time as we did. As we descended, the temperatures had warmed up a bit and there was more wildlife activity; lizards warming themselves in the sun and insects enjoying the wildflower blooms. I stopped for a while to get some photos of a Clearwing Hummingbird Moth nectaring on the yerba santa at about 4,300’. It was quite a sight! I’d never seen one of these before! This was a lovely hike and another great day to be in the mountains!

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Sunday's 2nd Hike: Wildlife & Wildflowers at Grizzly Flat, 2.4 miles RT, 643 +/-, April 15, 2018

Sunday's 2nd Hike:  Wildlife & Wildflowers at Grizzly Flat, 2.4 miles RT, 643 +/-, April 15, 2018

On the way back from Devil’s Canyon today, we stopped off at Grizzly Flat so I could take some butterfly photos with my DSLR.  I don’t hike with my DSLR anymore because it’s too cumbersome on strenuous hikes.  I also don’t want to ruin it when I need to climb up rocks or navigate through tall brush.  I brought it along today just for this hike since it’s an easy one up a nice, wide trail.  The sun was in and out so it was mostly cloudy, but the hike was very nice.  There were lots of wildflowers in bloom, hence the butterflies were around them.  I didn’t see a lot of activity today, but I did see a few as well as some other critters in the short time we were on the trail.  One of these days I’d like to hike up this trail a little further although it’s hard when you’re searching for butterflies because you end up spending a lot of time just in one spot waiting for that perfect shot! 

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Trail Canyon Falls, 4.5 Miles RT, 981' +/-, April 8, 2018

Trail Canyon Falls, 4.5 Miles RT, 981' +/-, April 8, 2018

It was 6:30 am Sunday morning and we were on the trail headed to Trail Canyon Falls, a beautiful waterfall cascading 30 feet down into a rugged canyon.  What this hike lacks in distance, it makes up for in beautiful scenery.  The trail to the falls winds through the canyon and crosses the creek several times before heading up to the top of the waterfall where you’ll have spectacular views looking straight down.  If you’re feeling adventurous you can also descend a steep use trail where you can rock scramble your way down with the help of a rope tied to a tree to get to the base of the falls.  Today the water was flowing beautifully, the wildflowers were blooming and butterflies were on the wing.  Since we started so early, we shared the falls with only two other hikers.  It was a very peaceful morning.  As we headed back, I came upon a very hungry swallowtail who was so busy nectaring on Western Wallflower that he didn’t seem to mind me hovering over him with my camera to take some photos.  Also, if you keep your eyes peeled, there’s a picnic table nestled away in the shade off to the side of the trail that makes for a great place for a snack break or even a picnic.  We stopped there for a bite to eat before finishing up the hike.  It was an absolutely perfect day with temperatures at about 65 degrees at 10:30 am when we arrived back at the trailhead.
 

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Burkhart Trail from Devil's Punchbowl, 12 miles RT, 3,038' +/-, April 1, 2018

Burkhart Trail from Devil's Punchbowl, 12 miles RT, 3,038' +/-, April 1, 2018

The Burkhart Trail from Devil’s Punchbowl has been on my bucket list ever since the first time we hiked to Devil’s Chair and the Punchbowl loop.  I wanted to get this one out of my system before the weather got too hot knowing that much of the trail is exposed.  This hike is kind of like two for the price of one.  It has a lot of diversity along the way taking you from the desert floor to the alpine zone.  The first part of this hike drops you down to Cruthers Creek which is lower then the elevation from which you started at the trailhead.  This section is a beautiful trek unto itself, but you have to remember to save some fuel in the tank since you’ll have to hike back up out of the canyon later on.  Next, you cross over Cruthers Creek and from here on out it’s a long, steep haul toward Burkhart Saddle.  Personally, I didn’t find the climb all that difficult.  BUT… what I didn’t expect were the lengthy sections of trail with loose rock on sometimes very narrow and mostly exposed slopes.  This trail has all kinds of terrain to hold your attention from beginning to end.  We encountered soft sand, loose scree, talus, and pine needle covered track.  I really enjoyed hiking through the different plant communities in this unique transition zone.  As we continued onward and upward, there was a nice, cool breeze coming up out of the canyon to keep us comfortable.  The higher we went, the more the temperature cooled and trail seemed to become more and more rocky with very few breaks in between.  At about 6 miles in, just one mile short of the saddle, we hit our turn around time.  We looked over at the saddle which seemed so close, yet so far!  Then we looked at the trail ahead of us...  More rock!  Ugh.  We contemplated making the final push anyway, but we both agreed it would be even more slow going on the way down and decided we should start heading back.  We also still had to make the climb up out of the canyon.  Carefully we negotiated our way down the slope.  My trekking poles came in handy here.  When we arrived back at the creek, I got distracted by all the little Lotus Hairstreak butterflies.  I spent some time chasing them around trying to get a good photo.  (Or maybe I was just procrastinating the climb back up.)  As I tried to focus my camera on the tiny green butterfly who was posing so patiently on a leaf, a hummingbird mistook my bright fuchsia tee shirt for a flower.  He swooped so close I could feel the flutter of his tiny wings.  He swiftly flew away when I looked over my shoulder at him and he realized he was mistaken.  As we began the final climb up out of the canyon a hazy cloud cover kept the sun at bay, and I enjoyed snapping photos of the ever changing scenery on the trek back to the trailhead.  Overall, I really enjoyed this hike and would do it again.  Perhaps next time we’ll start a little earlier now that we know what to expect with the rugged terrain.

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Josephine Peak, 555,8', 8 miles RT, 1,841 +/-, March 11, 2018

Josephine Peak, 555,8', 8 miles RT, 1,841 +/-, March 11, 2018

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!  
 

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Snow Hiking on Waterman Mountain, 2018-03-04

Snow Hiking on Waterman Mountain, 2018-03-04

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.
 

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Three Points to Cloudburst Summit via PCT/Silver Moccasin Trail and Winston Peak 7,502' 12 miles RT, 2,014' +/- February 18, 2018

Three Points to Cloudburst Summit via PCT/Silver Moccasin Trail and Winston Peak 7,502' 12 miles RT, 2,014' +/-  February 18, 2018

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. 

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Vetter Mountain 5,909' 5.5 miles RT, (817' +/-), February 11, 2018

Vetter Mountain 5,909' 5.5 miles RT, (817' +/-), February 11, 2018

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!

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Mount Hillyer, 6,215', 6 miles RT (1,129 +/-), January 21, 2018

Mount Hillyer, 6,215', 6 miles RT (1,129 +/-), January 21, 2018

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!

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Testing out the Winter gear, 2 Miles RT on the Pacific Crest Trail from Grassy Hollow, December 17, 2017

Testing out the Winter gear, 2 Miles RT on the Pacific Crest Trail from Grassy Hollow, December 17, 2017

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.

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