This weekend our plan was to hike a section of the PCT/Silver Moccasin Trail starting from Three Points and continue to the higher elevation of Cloudburst Summit. This section of trail sticks pretty close to the Angeles Crest Highway and crosses it several times, so you do hear a good deal of traffic noise when cars and motorcycles are traveling through. The scenery, however, makes up for the fact that you’re so close to the highway. The trail takes you along Waterman Mountain and into the Pleasant View Ridge Wilderness. It’s a beautiful trail with no lack pine trees and tons of fallen pine cones along the path. As we reached the higher altitude, we started to see some patches of snow along the trail Finally arriving at Cloudburst Summit, we were so close to Winston Peak that we decided to climb up and check out the views. Looking off in the distance we could see the snowy north face of Mount Baldy. It was about 1:30 pm when we started to head back and the winds were kicking up. We ended up doing about 12 miles out and back today according to my GPS stats. On the way home we stopped off at Charlton Flats to grill up some food. It was definitely feeling chilly by this time, but a warm bite to eat hit the spot.Read More
Silver Moccasin Trail
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!Read More
The trek to Mount Hillyer in the central San Gabriels is a meandering hike through impressive boulder formations and flat sections of beautiful pine meadows. This land was once used by horse thieves, the most notorious was Tiburcio Vasquez. This area was the perfect hideout for bandits to escape from the law and pasture stolen horses. The trail starts off at Chilao just past the visitors’ center on the Silver Moccasin Trail. The first section is a series of switchbacks through rocky terrain. After about a mile, it smooths out and you’ll reach Horse Flats Campground. It’s a beautiful camp equipt with corrals and hitching posts for equestions who ride in and want to stay the night with their horses. From here you pick up the Mount HIllyer trial and this is where you’ll start a steady ascent through the ginormous boulders. We took our time on this hike and had a lot of fun climbing around the various rock formations. As for the summit, there are actually two. The unofficial summit stands at 6,215’ and the second official summit is 6,162’. You’ll come upon the unofficial first. Once you’re done enjoying the views from there, you can hike just a little further up the trail and find a short use trail off to your right that goes to the official summit. We stopped there and had some breakfast. There was absolutely no one on the trail today. After we were done enjoying the peace and quiet of the forest, we headed back down towards Santa Clara Divide Road. We followed the road back to Horse Flats and then back to the Silver Moccasin Trail and Chilao. Loved this hike today. Short on the mileage, but very big on the scenery!Read More
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!Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More