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!Read More
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.Read More
Hit the trail early Thanksgiving morning to hike Cucamonga Peak. We started up Icehouse Canyon at 5:30 am. This was our third time up this trail to Icehouse Saddle which is a gateway to other trails including Cucamonga Peak. It used to be a challenge, but it’s getting easier every time. We entered the Cucamonga Wilderness just before the sun came up, and by 8 am we were at Icehouse Saddle. We stopped for a snack, and it wasn’t long before other hikers arrived. One of them was heading to the same destination as we were. He was using the trail to train for other peaks. After the break, we hopped on the next segment to Cucamonga Peak. This is where the real hike began. From here on out we were on much more rugged terrain with narrow sections, steep cliffs and rock scrambles. It was one of those hikes where you really had to watch your footing. Next came the switchbacks. Some sections were all scree and talus. It was a hard climb and my fear of heights being on a narrow ledge with loose rock and steep drops was starting to kick in. I had to stop and take breaks to keep my zen. I could see the peak, but it seemed a million miles away. Up and up we went moving slowly, but making progress with each careful step. We were less then half a mile away from the peak when we saw the young hiker we’d met at Icehouse Saddle coming down. “Almost there.” he said. “Take short steps and use your poles.” After a few more switchbacks I spotted the marker for the spur trail leading up to the peak just ahead. What a relief! We made our final ascent up a steep but well buffed out section of trail. Finally I saw the wooden sign, “Cucamonga Peak 8,859’”. Whew! That was rough! The views from the peak were vast and sprawling overlooking the city and all the way out to the San Jacinto and Santa Ana mountain ranges. We took a long break to rest our tired legs and celebrate Thanksgiving morning with yesterday’s leftover pizza! On the way down my overactive mind calmed down. Although I still had to be careful with my footing, I was in a much better headspace. The hard part was over. I was able to soak in the incredible views of the remote wilderness and enjoy the trek down this beautiful mountain. The switchbacks seemed to go a lot faster on the way down, but we still had to negotiate our way through rugged trail back to Icehouse Saddle. Once at the saddle, we still had about 3 miles to go to get back to the trailhead. Luckily, the canyon is so pretty, it makes those last miles go quick. We finished the hike (including our breaks and all my picture taking) in about 8 hours and 50 minutes. We’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving day on Friday knowing we earned those extra slices of pumpkin pie!Read More
Sandstone Peak is the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains at 3,111’. We got to the trailhead before 6 am and had planned to do the Mishe Mokwa 6.1 mile loop and then summit Sandstone Peak. But since the sun was rising and it was just so pretty, we decided to hop on the 3 mile out and back trail leading up to the peak, summit and then come back down to enjoy the Mishe Mokwa loop, another 6 miles, respectively.
Along the trail to the peak, the views were nothing less then stunning. The warm winds were blowing off the ocean and the sea air was filled with the scent of coastal sage. No one else was on the trail yet and we were able to enjoy a peaceful sunrise over a picturesque view of endless mountains.
As we continued onward and upward, we eventually came upon a set of steps with a sign pointing to Sandstone Peak. Before the steps, we saw a series of steep use trails leading to the same destination. We took a look at them and opted for the steps. After the steps ended, we had an easy scramble to the top of the first mountain where there is a cell tower. From here, we could see the actual peak off in the distance noted by a plaque dedicated to W. Herbert Allen. Allen was a donor of land to Boy Scout camps and also Camp Circle X nearby. From this point we were on our own to find use trails and make a challenging scramble to the peak. I had to put my camera in my pack because I needed use of my hands to finish the climb so I didn’t get many photos during this part of the hike. Once we made it up, we signed the register located under the plaque and started the very steep ascent down. I have no shame in admitting that I did the butt slide most of the way down, as I picked the steepest, but most direct way to get back.
Once down we could have hopped on the Backbone Trail and then picked up the Mishe Mokwa Trail, but we wanted to do it “by the book” and complete the whole thing start to finish. We went back to where we came from and started it from the beginning adding extra mileage to our journey.
Being that it’s the end of summer, I knew the day would soon be heating up. But since we’d gotten there so early, we still had some time to enjoy our hike without the blazing sun. Much of this trek is exposed and you’ll need a lot of extra water to stay hydrated. The trail was challenging, but there was a lot of different scenery to keep us busy. At one point it dropped us down into a riparian grove which was a completely different environment then what we had experienced so far. Had it not been summer, there would have been a flowing stream here. In this grove near the appropriately titled Split Rock (which is exactly that), there’s also a solitary picnic table. It was a welcoming place to take a break and fuel up with a sandwich before continuing on to complete the loop.
In retrospect, I’m really glad we decided to summit first. By the time we completed the loop, it was hot! It was sometime after 11 am and on our way down to the parking lot, we saw a good number of sweaty hikers just making their way up. I’m not sure how they could do it in the heat. My best advice would be if you are going to attempt this trail in the summer, suck it up and do it EARLY! You can always take a nap later, which is exactly what we did! It’s totally worth it!Read More