PCT

Winston Ridge & Winston Peak, 5 Miles RT, 1,358 +/-, 7,618' max elevation, August 12, 2018

Winston Ridge & Winston Peak,  5 Miles RT, 1,358 +/-, 7,618' max elevation, August 12, 2018

We watched the sunrise from Cloudburst Summit as we geared up and got ready to hike to Winston Ridge and Winston Peak. We’d been to Winston Peak a few times before, but we had climbed it from the north side. This time our plan was to hike to Winston Ridge first (which we had not done) and then tackle the steep ascent up the use trail on the south side of the mountain to Winston Peak. We began the hike by descending the fire road and heading northwest on the PCT. When we reached a small saddle with Bump 6903 we had a choice to climb up and over the bump or hike around it to the left or to the right. From the research I’d done it seemed taking the use trail to the left was going to be our best option. The trail was quite rugged with soft dirt and loose rock that would give way if you weren’t careful. We had a number of downed trees to negotiate as well. There was one rather large tree that was particularly challenging. (I will talk more about that later.) This rugged section of trail tested our agility for sure, but it was definitely a lot of fun. When we reached another saddle, we continued northwest to reach the high point on the ridge. The hike along the ridge was undulating and lovely with views of Squaw Canyon to the south and Pleasant View ridge on the opposite side. We could also see the transition zone from forest to desert. We hiked past the high point on the ridge and came to a rock formation that reminded me of the back of a stegosaurus sticking out of the ground. I examined it looking for a way to get around it, but it looked a little sketchy, so I opted not to continue any further. We took a long break on the ridge and chatted about how nice it was to be the only ones here. For such a fun hike I was surprised it didn’t have more people on it. But being I like my solitude, I was not complaining. I explored some of the interesting rock formations and checked out the views in all directions while my husband made some contacts on his HAM radio. Before continuing the journey, we signed the summit register which was tucked away in some rocks marked by a rock cairn. We then started heading back enjoying the views and the scenery along the ridge. As we got closer to the saddle, I had a good perspective of that very large downed tree I’d mentioned earlier. We had climbed over it on the way to the ridge and it looked awfully menacing from this angle. When we reached the downed tree, my husband went over first (as we had done on the way to the ridge) so I could hand him my backpack making it easier for me to maneuver up and over. The footing here was loose, and we had to be extra careful. We continued along the slippery slope and at one point we diverted slightly off trail after negotiating another downed tree. We could see the saddle and Winston Peak right in front of us and were able to correct ourselves right away. Once back at the junction with the PCT, we had the choice of hiking back the way we came, or we could make the steep ascent up the south side of Winston Peak on a use trail. We decided to take on the challenge! The climb showed no mercy, but it sure was fun! The ground wasn’t nearly as slippery as what we’d experienced on the way to the ridge. I turned around to look back a few times to take in the wonderful views of Winston Ridge and snap some photos. This was also a good excuse to catch my breath. The climb seemed to go on and on, but I could see the top and I knew we’d be there in no time. Once at the top of Winston Peak, we gave each other a high five. We both felt pretty accomplished! I wandered around the summit for a while climbing about the rock formations and keeping an eye out for a summit register. I never did find one. We then descended down the north side of the mountain and back to Cloudburst Summit. I had actually wanted to include the short hike to Mount Akawie (aka Buckhorn Peak) on this trip, but both of us decided what we really wanted was a bacon cheeseburger and some fries! It was well earned after this climb!

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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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Mount Pacifico 7,134', 2,398' +/-, 14 miles on the PCT from Mill Creek, June 3, 2018

Mount Pacifico 7,134', 2,398' +/-, 14 miles on the PCT from Mill Creek, June 3, 2018

I’m always looking to escape weekend crowds and find new trails to explore. This Sunday our hike was to the top of Mount Pacifico in the northern part of Angeles National Forest. We planned to start the hike at Mill Creek and follow the PCT which runs through this area. It looked like the trek would be around 12 to 14 miles depending on whether or not we did an out and back on the PCT or did a loop. The day was going to be hot, but I figured since we were heading up to a higher elevation, it might not be so bad on the ascent. If it got too hot, we would descend and save it for another time. The trail was very beautiful. There were many wildflowers and so much ceanothus (California lilac) which made for a very pleasant fragrance along the way. There was lots of wildlife activity too; squirrels, chipmunks, songbirds, bees, insects and butterflies. As we climbed higher, we started to see beautiful, tall pine trees. Much of the area was burned in the 2009 Station Fire, and we could see the effects of that as we hiked this route. But the area looks as though it’s been recovering nicely. Eventually, we reached a junction where we left the PCT and headed southeast to a jeep road that took us up to the summit. There are outstanding views of the surrounding mountain ranges along the way making the road more interesting. After about a mile or so we reached the summit. Mount Pacifico Campground is also here. There are picnic tables, a fire ring and vault toilets. That’s quite a luxury to have up on a summit! There are also a lot of very interesting rock formations to explore. There wasn’t anyone here today, so we took a good long rest and relaxed and enjoyed the peace and quiet. Soon it was time to head back and get ready for the heat as we descended to a lower elevation. We opted to come back the way we came on the PCT for a more scenic and enjoyable route. Both of us had been keeping well hydrated throughout the trip and we had no problems with it being so warm. We were even gifted with an occasional breeze as we hiked back down the mountain. I found this trail to be very nicely graded so although it was long, it was very pleasant. A very enjoyable hike!

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Pacific Crest Trail, 9.7 miles RT, Inspiration Point to Vincent Gap, 1,827' +/-, Christmas Day 2017

Pacific Crest Trail, 9.7 miles RT, Inspiration Point to Vincent Gap, 1,827' +/-, Christmas Day 2017

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!

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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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Dawson Saddle to Mount Hawkins 8,925' and Throop Peak 9,138', 6 miles RT (1,480' +/-) December 3, 2017

Dawson Saddle to Mount Hawkins 8,925' and Throop Peak 9,138', 6 miles RT (1,480' +/-) December 3, 2017

My alarm went off at 4 am, but both of us were tired and needed more sleep.  I got up, fed the cat, gave him some playtime and then went back to bed.  About 6 am I woke up and knew if we didn’t hike we’d spend the day regretting it.  We suited up, grabbed the packs and headed out.  By 10:30 we were at the trailhead for Dawson Saddle, 7,901’.  This was the latest we’d ever started a hike, but at the higher elevation the air was chilly and the winds were about 30 to 35 mph.  I was glad we were starting off in the mid-morning sun.  Dawson Saddle is an absolutely beautiful trail.  It was built by the Boy Scouts in 1982.  My favorite section of this trail is going up over the ridge where the views are incredible on either side.  It’s also nicely graded so even though you’re climbing, you don’t really notice it much.  Soon we arrived at the junction for the PCT where you can take a left to Mount Burnham and Mount Baden-Powell, or you can follow it to the right and summit Throop Peak and Mount Hawkins.  We’d already done Throop over the summer, so our plan was to skip Throop and just stay on the PCT heading over to Mount Hawkins.  As the trail skirted around Throop, you could notice some fire damage.  It was still a very pretty trail and the views continued throughout the trek.  Eventually, we reached the fork where the PCT heads down or you can veer left to reach the rocky summit of Mount Hawkins.  Once at the summit we had nice 360 views all around.  We took a break to enjoy the solitude and crisp mountain air before heading back.  On the return, we passed by the use trail that heads up to Throop .  We decided since we were already here, why not check it out.  The trail was steep and faded in and out in spots, but it was just a short distance to the summit.  Right before the peak, the trail became well defined again and the plaque dedicated to Amos G. Throop became visible.  I think it may have been around 1:30 by this time, so we didn’t hang around for too long before heading back down.  We got back on the Dawson Saddle trail and continued another 1.9 miles before reaching our car.  After bagging two peaks in one day, sushi and sake seemed like a good idea.  It was a perfect ending to a lovely day.  

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Acorn Trail, PCT, Wright Mountain, 9.1 miles RT, 8,505', (2,227' +/-), September 3, 2017

Acorn Trail, PCT, Wright Mountain, 9.1 miles RT, 8,505', (2,227' +/-), September 3, 2017

This Sunday we left the unbearable heatwave looming over Los Angeles and headed to the higher altitude of the mountains in Wrightwood to hike the Acorn Trail and summit Wright Mountain. The Acorn Trail is a 2.1 mile trek with a 1,500’ elevation gain that leads to the junction of the PCT.  It starts off on private property at the end of Acorn Drive in Wrightwood, so you’ll need to park your car before the private property sign (there’s a turn out just before the sign that fits two cars) and hike about 3/4 miles up the steep Acorn Drive.  It’s a nice way to warm up those muscles and prep for the steady climb you’re about to take on.  Once you get to the proper trail, it climbs steeply through a shaded forest of oak and pine.  Some spots of the trail can be a bit precipitous, but no worries.  Take your time and keep on trekking.  At 2.1 miles you’ll reach a junction with the PCT.  Turn left (head east) and follow it, but keep you eyes peeled for the use trail leading up to the summit of Wright Mountain.  We missed this trail the first time because my original directions told me to hop on the Blue Ridge Truck Trail which parallels the PCT.  The truck trail does not lead to the summit, but it still has some outstanding views of Pine Mountain, Mount San Antonio and the Sheep Mountain Wilderness.  After we’d been walking for awhile with no indication that we’d be going up anytime soon, I pulled out the handy Tom Harrison map.  It showed that the truck trail would soon end, and at that point we could just hop back on the PCT and head back west to where we came from.  We were in no hurry, so we enjoyed the views and extra mileage.  On the way back, we found our destination.  Sure enough there was a use trail splitting off and leading to the summit of Wright Mountain.  This ‘trail’ (if you could call it that) is not maintained.  We had to bushwhack our way up through overgrown chaparral to get to the top which was actually a lot of fun.  This is definitely not a trail to do in shorts!  Just after we reached the top, the wind started kicking up and storm clouds started rolling in.  We took in our views and began our descent.  A light sprinkle began to fall and the forest became peaceful and still with only the sound and fragrance of fresh summer rain.  We could not have timed it any better...  Just as we got back to the car, the sky opened up and it poured!  There's nothing quite as refreshing as a good mountain rain!  It was a lovely day and as per our usual routine, we rewarded ourselves with a hearty lunch at the Grizzly Cafe in Wrightwood.
 

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Mount Islip, 8,250' (1,690' +/-) 7 miles RT, August 13, 2017

Mount Islip, 8,250' (1,690' +/-) 7 miles RT, August 13, 2017

I’m really beginning to enjoy these higher elevation hikes, and the trek to Mt. Islip had just the right amount of work to do in order to enjoy the views once you reach the peak.  We started this hike from Islip Saddle on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)/Silver Moccasin Trail on the south side of Angeles Crest Highway 2.  It was about 6:30 am and the air was crisp with a cool breeze -- just perfect for hiking.  The trail starts off climbing up steep switchbacks and you’re immediately submerged in a beautiful landscape of white yarrow, golden rabbitbrush and a view of the great pines that will soon be providing you with shade for most of the hike.  At this hour, the sun was still coming up over the mountain as we trekked along, and I was able to get some beautiful photographs of its golden rays peeking through the trees.  As we approached the Little Jimmy Campground, the trail leveled out and we began to smell the fine aroma of campfire and coffee mixed with pine and forest making this hike even more pleasurable.  At the campground, we stopped for a snack and sat for a bit to take in the beauty of the forest before continuing on.  I should note here that there is a spur trail that leads to Little Jimmy Spring, so you actually have to walk through the campground and past the outhouses to find the Mt. Islip Trail that will lead to the peak.  Once on this trail, we began to climb again and we started to see some of the damage done by the 2002 Curve fire.  As we continued higher and higher with the trail hugging the slope, we came around a bend that suddenly opened up to even more spectacular views then the ones we had been enjoying the entire way up.  Finally, as we reached the summit, we saw what remains of an old, stone fire lookout.  On the peak, you will also find a register box where you can sign your name to make it official that you’ve climbed another mountain.  We spent some time up on the summit enjoying the 360 degree views and had our lunch before returning the way we came.  It was a very pleasurable hike today!

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Charlton Flats - A Picnic with Swallowtails & the Lost Wolf Tree Nature Trail, July 30, 2017

Charlton Flats - A Picnic with Swallowtails & the Lost Wolf Tree Nature Trail, July 30, 2017

 

After our hike to Cooper Canyon it was just early afternoon.  My husband and I drove to Charlton Flats to have a picnic and take a short hike along the PCT and the Silver Moccasin Trail.  As we walked along the trail we were enveloped in the delightful fragrance of Poodle Dog bush flowers.  This is a poisonous plant, but I personally think the smell is divine.  To my delight, the blooms were also covered in swallowtail butterflies!  I’d never seen so many in the same place before.  It was a nice opportunity to observe them and practice photographing them in flight as they danced upon the flowers.  

Another point of interest I’d wanted to see at Charlton Flats was the “Wolf Tree Nature Trail”, but I wasn’t exactly sure where to find it.  While I was busy obsessing over the swallowtails, I noticed my husband was admiring a very vintage, very damaged looking sign just a few yards away.  I walked over to see what he was looking at and he had found the sign at the beginning of what was once the Wolf Tree Nature Trail.  We walked along it for a short distance until we couldn’t go any further.  It must have been a very pretty little trail it its day, and it makes me sad to think of how much damage the fire caused.  I found an article written about the trail in 2007 that described it as being shaded by conifers.  It mentioned a 100 foot tall Coulter pine that was once called the “wolf tree” which was the dominant tree of the forest.  Not much is left now besides some old wood, the old tattered signs and a lot of Poodle Dog bush.  At any rate, it was a nice little side adventure before we headed on home.

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Cooper Canyon Falls, July 30, 2017: Buckhorn Campground, Pleasant View Ridge Wilderness, Burkhart Trail to Cooper Canyon Falls, Little Rock Creek (776 ft. +/-) 3.7 miles RT

Cooper Canyon Falls, July 30, 2017:  Buckhorn Campground, Pleasant View Ridge Wilderness, Burkhart Trail to Cooper Canyon Falls, Little Rock Creek (776 ft. +/-) 3.7 miles RT

This is a very pretty, very green trail that starts at Buckhorn Campground and leads you into the Pleasant View Ridge Wilderness via Burkhart trail down to Cooper Canyon Falls. This is an upside down trail, so if you do it as an out and back you'll gain your elevation on the way back going all uphill. The falls were just a trickle, but it was a beautiful hike and fun to explore the creek at the bottom of the canyon. 

We started our hike around 07:25 AM from Buckhorn Campground on the Burkhart Trail leading into Pleasant View Ridge Wilderness, 26,752 acres of protected land.  You do not need a permit to enter this wilderness.  The moment you step onto the trail, you are engrossed in a forest of lush green.  Oak, Douglas Fir, Jeffrey Pine and Incense Cedar offer a canopy of shade along almost the entire journey.  As you walk, you can see and hear Little Rock Creek far below.  It’s very peaceful with only the sounds of flowing water and morning songbirds.  Aside from the campground which was very full, the trail itself was quiet and we had it mostly to ourselves the entire hike.  The trail makes a steady descent downward into the canyon.  It’s an easy grade and not too steep, although as you get closer to the falls, it can get a little rocky with some loose gravel.  It's nothing too difficult, just watch your step.  Along the way we crossed over two creek beds which were nice for photography.  We took our time to explore the area and did a little boulder hopping along the creek.  

It seemed we’d traveled a bit further then we should have to get to the falls, and we still hadn’t seen them.  I got out my map to take a look to see where we were.  As suspected, we had actually passed the area where they were supposed to be.  At this point we headed back the way we came, and I found the use trail which is a short, but steep scramble to get to the bottom of the canyon where the falls would normally be had it not been summer.  At this time of year, however, they were just a trickle of running water on mossy rock which is why they were so easily missed.

Although there wasn’t a rushing waterfall to see, we were not at all disappointed.  This hike was beautiful.  Satisfied that we’d reached our destination, we now continued our ascent all uphill now back to the trailhead at Buckhorn Campground.  We took our time to enjoy the scenery and peaceful splendor of the wilderness.  

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