San Gabriel Mountains

Saddleback Butte State Park, 4.8 Miles RT, 1,037' +/-, 3,651' Max Elevation, April 14, 2019

Saddleback Butte State Park, 4.8 Miles RT, 1,037' +/-, 3,651' Max Elevation, April 14, 2019

We hiked Little Butte and Saddleback Butte this weekend. I was here last year, but had not gone during the wildflower bloom. It was magical! We started our hike on the Dowen Nature Trail which connects to the Little Butte Trail and eventually the trail leading up to the top of Saddleback Butte at 3,651’. I immediately began to see carpets of wildflowers blanketing the park and the Fiddleneck flowers were covered in thousands of caterpillars. We took our time and admired all the beauty being offered to us here at the western edge of the Mojave Desert. I took note of some of the many wildflowers we observed. We saw: Coreopsis, Fiddleneck, Desert dandelion, Sun cups, Desert candles, Davy gilia, Fremont pincushions, Dune primrose, Wild Rhubarb and in addition, the Joshua Trees were in full bloom. Eventually, the sandy trail gave way to rocky terrain as it began its steep ascent up the top of Saddleback Butte. The wind was strong as we climbed and after a few easy rock scrambles, we were at the top enjoying the 360 degree views. To the south we could see the snow capped San Gabriel Mountains and further off in the distance we could make out Mt. San Gorgonio and Mt. San Jacinto. This was a really wonderful hike and being able to see the park in all it’s wildflower glory was a special treat!

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Snowshoeing on Waterman Mountain, 3.8 Miles RT, 948' +/-, 7,713' Max Elevation, February 24, 2019

Snowshoeing on Waterman Mountain, 3.8 Miles RT, 948' +/-, 7,713' Max Elevation, February 24, 2019

I am really enjoying this snowshoeing thing! It was a beautiful day, so we decided to venture back into Angeles National Forest taking an alternative route around the recent rock slide on the ACH near Red Box and check out the conditions on Waterman Mountain. The ski lifts had recently been opened, so we knew there would be a good amount of snow. We past the lifts as skiers and snowboarders were just heading into the parking area and parked our car at the usual spot for the Mt. Waterman Trailhead. There was only one other car in the turnout when we arrived, and the air was chilly with an occasional gust of wind. We geared up (There’s a lot more to gear to deal with in winter.) and started up the Mt. Waterman Trail. At the junction with the Fire Road, we decided to head in that direction instead of our usual route. The snow conditions were mixed with sections of crusty ice on top of snow in the shade and a powdery mix in the sun. The snow was deep but packed and the fire road was a bit steep. We got a good workout as we enjoyed the views of snow capped Mt. Baden-Powell in the distance. We took our time and had the route mostly to ourselves. About two miles up we reached the junction with the ski runs. We stopped and watched some of the skiers and snowboarders do their thing. We could have continued on, but decided to take our time and head back. I thoroughly enjoyed every single second of another beautiful winter day!

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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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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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Exploring Mt. Akawie (aka Buckhorn Peak) 7,283' Max Elevation, 3.5 miles RT, 768 +/-, August 26, 2018

Exploring Mt. Akawie (aka Buckhorn Peak) 7,283' Max Elevation, 3.5 miles RT, 768 +/-, August 26, 2018

For my upcoming birthday I asked my husband for a Jetboil cooking system. It would be the first item in a long list of backpacking gear that we’re going to need to make the crossover from day hikers to backpackers. Since I’d been looking for an excuse to make the short hike up the little bump called Mt. Akawie (aka Buckhorn Peak if you’re using a Tom Harrison map), we headed up to the mountain to test the new cooking system and spend a quiet morning together.

We hit the trail just after 6 am. After a very short distance we took the path leading up to the peak. There appeared to be a number of fire roads around to explore, but we were ready to get cooking and I couldn’t wait for a hot cup of coffee. The Jetboil system did not disappoint! For breakfast I’d packed a couple of Eggo waffles (my favorite) and brought along a freeze dried breakfast scramble from Mountain House. Overall, it was pretty good. I definitely could live on this stuff for a couple of days in the backcountry. After eating, we got comfortable on one of the large, flat bounders looking towards Waterman Mountain and Twin Peaks and napped for a short while. After a peaceful rest and stomachs full of interesting freeze dried food, we packed up our gear and did some exploring around the mountain both on and off-trail. An unmaintained road/trail took us northeast around the bump and offered views looking towards Pleasant View Ridge. We also saw a lot of deer; mostly doe and one with a young fawn. The road/trail eventually disappeared and we made a scramble up the east side of the mountain before heading back the way we came. It was around 11 am when we got back to the car. We thanked Mount Akawie for the hospitality and headed home to enjoy what was left of our weekend.

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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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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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Devil's Canyon, 5.3 miles RT, 1,357 +/-, April 15, 2018

Devil's Canyon, 5.3 miles RT, 1,357 +/-, April 15, 2018

We’ve been doing a lot of canyon hikes lately.  Devil’s Canyon was another one I’ve had on my “to do” list since we’ve been driving past it on the way to other hikes.  The trail takes you down into the rugged San Gabriel Wilderness.  It follows a babbling brook into the heart of Devil’s Canyon where it opens up to flat, sandy trail next to sparkling pools, cascades and smooth boulders that make a great place to have lunch.  There’s also a primitive backcountry campground that you can stay at just a little further up the trail.  I liked this hike a lot.  The trail is quite narrow in many spots so you need to stay focused, but it’s not sketchy.  The grade is also gradual, so climbing up isn’t so bad since you’ll gain all your elevation on the way out.

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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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Cloudburst Summit to Cooper Canyon Falls via Pacific Crest Trail, 7.5 miles RT, 1,739’ +/-, March 25, 2018

Cloudburst Summit to Cooper Canyon Falls via Pacific Crest Trail, 7.5 miles RT, 1,739’ +/-, March 25, 2018

What a great weekend to chase waterfalls! We took advantage of the recent rains and snow melt and set out to hike to Cooper Canyon Falls. From Cloudburst Summit we picked up the PCT. This hike is an “upside down” hike so you gain all your elevation on the way back. The trail starts off by dropping you down into the canyon and takes you through the Pleasant View Ridge Wilderness. The views are quite lovely as you make your way around Winston Peak. Eventually, you’ll reach Cooper Canyon Trail Camp. We hiked past the camp and continued on the PCT to the junction with the Burkhart Trail (another really pretty trail and actually a shorter route to the falls.) From here you have to keep your eyes peeled and find one of the use trails that will take you down to the bottom of the falls. The trails are very steep, but there’s a rope tied to a tree to assist with the final few feet of rock scramble. The waterfall was absolutely beautiful today. When we were here last summer, it was barely a trickle. After we’d gotten our waterfall fix, we found a nice spot in the warm sunshine and had some lunch before heading back.

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Snow Hike #2, Waterman Mountain 8,038’, 6.13 miles RT, 1,332 +/-, March 18, 2018

Snow Hike #2, Waterman Mountain 8,038’, 6.13 miles RT, 1,332 +/-, March 18, 2018

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.

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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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Switzer Falls, Bear Canyon Trail Camp, 7.26 miles RT, 1,450 +/-, March 9, 2018

Switzer Falls, Bear Canyon Trail Camp, 7.26 miles RT, 1,450 +/-, March 9, 2018

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!  

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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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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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Mt. Lowe 5,604', Mt. Disappointment 5,963', San Gabriel Peak 6,161', 6 miles RT, 1,637 +/-, December 10, 2017

Mt. Lowe 5,604', Mt. Disappointment 5,963', San Gabriel Peak 6,161', 6 miles RT, 1,637 +/-, December 10, 2017

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.

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Mount Baden-Powell & Vincent's Cabin, GPS: 7.08 miles RT, 9,406' (2,907' +/-), October 15, 2017

Mount Baden-Powell & Vincent's Cabin,  GPS:  7.08 miles RT, 9,406' (2,907' +/-), October 15, 2017

This was our second time hiking up Mount Baden-Powell from Vincent Gap.  It’s a challenging 7.08 mile roundtrip hike with an elevation +/- of 2,907’ according to my GPS.  I was really excited to try this one again.  The first time we did it in July it seemed a lot harder and longer.  I also wasn’t used to being up on high mountains with precipitous drop offs.  I remember the first time I looked over the side of this one I nearly had a heart attack.  Now that we’ve gained more experience, the hike to the summit was easier, went faster (41 switchbacks and yes… I was counting them as we hiked) and I’m now able to enjoy myself at 9,406’!  I felt very accomplished!  I was able to go right up to the Wally Waldron tree, the 1,000+ year old limber pine that clings to the side of the slope, without my stomach doing flip flops.  

Aside from the steep ascent and the hard work you need to do on this trail, the journey to the peak is quite enjoyable and scenic.  There are great views the entire way and it doesn’t have many rocky or sketchy sections.  

The summit of Mount Baden-Powell can also be approached from Islip Saddle and Dawson Saddle.  It’s a much longer hike, although not as steep as the more traditional ascent from Vincent Gap.  I think I’d like to try the longer approach sometime.  

On the way down we past a couple of thru-hikers who had already come 18 miles and were just reaching the 1 mile marker up to the summit of Baden-Powell.  Both of them were carrying 45 pound packs and were on their way to Little Jimmy Camp.  We stopped and chatted with them for a while.  It’s people like that who make you humble and also inspire you.  They said they’d only been hiking now for 3 years, so maybe someday we’ll be able to do the same.  

After we got back down the mountain, it was still pretty early so we decided to hike the Mine Gulch trail to check out Vincent’s Cabin.  The cabin once belonged to Charles “Tom” Vincent who also discovered the Big Horn Mine that I described in our hike from last Sunday.  He built the cabin himself and lived in it for many years.  Some of his pots and pans and things are still there.  It’s definitely worth the quick 1.36 mile side trip to view the cabin if you have enough steam left after Baden-Powell.
 

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Angeles National Forest, Charlton Flats to Vetter Mountain 3.8 miles RT (525 Ft +/-) & Silver Moccasin Trail

Angeles National Forest, Charlton Flats to Vetter Mountain 3.8 miles RT (525 Ft +/-)  & Silver Moccasin Trail

Angeles National Forest is practically in my backyard.  I’ve visited a few times in the past, but it wasn’t until recently when I discovered the work of David Horner, a Santa Monica based photographer who specializes in wild butterfly photography (solardarkroom.com) that my interest was piqued.  His California Butterfly Project (over 10 years in the making) includes over 100 species that he photographed in the wild from sea level to 10,000 ft. from the border to Sonora Pass in the Sierra Nevada.  I took notice that many of his sightings were located right here in the Angeles National Forest.  About two years ago, I started a butterfly garden, Since then I’ve become somewhat of a butterfly enthusiast mostly observing them in my backyard and on my visits to local public gardens.  When I saw the number of different butterfly species we have here in California on David’s website, I was inspired to revisit Angeles NF not only in the hopes of viewing butterflies in their natural habitats, but also to take advantage of the multitude of hiking trails.  Years ago when I lived in Pennsylvania, I did quite a bit of hiking on solitary trails surrounded by nothing but the birds, the trees, the wildlife and peace and quiet.  But now that I’ve been living in a big city, I didn’t really think too much about what else was available here aside from the overly populated locations such as runyon canyon or hiking up to the Hollywood sign.  This past weekend I recruited my husband as my hiking partner (since you should never hike alone) and we ventured into Angeles NF.  The drive alone up the winding roads offers such spectacular views.  I’d planned ahead and decided our destination would be to hike from Charlton Flats to the top of Vetter Mountain.  As we climbed up the trail, I was able to see first hand some of the damage done by the 2009 Station Fire which burned more than 161,000 acres.  I also noticed lots of poodle dog bush which is a plant that causes skin irritation similar to poison oak if touched.  Much of this was located within the burn area perimeter and as I later learned, it’s usually found in nearly all habitats that have been burned.  Winding up the mountain, the trail was nothing less then spectacular with breathtaking views and wildflowers.  We detoured off the main path to do an out and back trek along the Silver Moccasin trail which traversed upward and down through oak-lined canyons and high ridges.  One day I’d like to take that trial a little further, as I didn’t want to get too side tracked since our goal was to reach the top of Vetter Mountain.  After getting back on the main trail, we continued our journey until we reached the top of the fire lookout at Vetter Mountain.  There we shared friendly conversation with forest rangers who were happy to answer our questions about the location.  These people stand guard daily over our beautiful forest with nothing but a small shelter.  The actual lookout tower was burned in the Station Fire.  I have to give them credit for being up there all day watching out for us with the wind and colder temperatures on the 5,903 ft. sumit.  We then climbed to the top of what remains of the old lookout and stood for a moment to enjoy the 360 degree view of the San Gabriel Mountains.  With mission accomplished, it was time to head back.  Round trip with our Silver Moccasin detour we did about a 7 mile, 2.5 hour hike.  My hope for the day was to possibly photograph at least one wild butterfly.  My wish was granted by a little common branded skipper who I saw fluttering along the trail as we got closer to where we started at Charlton Flats.  It was a great morning and I will definitely be visiting Angeles NF more frequently to take advantage to all that it has to to offer including butterfly sightings and more hiking adventures.

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