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
Since I began hiking in Los Angeles, I’d always seen photos of the Wisdom Tree. But since I’d never really been interested in city hiking until now, I never considered hiking up to see him for myself. He’s kind of a celebrity to Los Angeles city hikers. There’s a huge trunk that sits underneath the tree where hikers can leave their “Wisdom Tree Wishes” in the hopes they’ll be granted. This tree is the only tree that survived the 2007 Hollywood Hills fire. Now that our days are getting longer, there’s more time for hiking on weekdays after work. We decided to make the short climb up Burbank Peak where the famous Wisdom Tree is located. This is a very popular trail and there was a consistent flow of all kinds people going up and down the entire time. In front of us, a girl who was wearing only chucks and hiking with a handbag was slipping and sliding on the rocky trail trying to make her way up. She finally realized that this may not be the best idea and asked my advice on whether or not she should continue. I politely let her know it would probably be better to come back another day with a pair of hiking boots. She took my advice and turned around. I felt relieved she did so that she wouldn’t twist an ankle. The climb up was a lot of fun. It was a warm day and I worked up a decent sweat. As we made our way to the top, I saw a few people trying to come down on the rocks wearing sandals. Yikes. In just a short time we reached the top and the Wisdom Tree came into view. I walked up to him, made my introduction and then explored all around the summit taking in the 360 degree views of Burbank, Griffith Park, DTLA, Warner Bros. Studios, Universal Studios and the surrounding mountain ranges. To the east, there was a trail to continue on to Cahuenga Peak and Mt. Lee. We’ll try that one another day. After taking it all in, we carefully began our descent down the rocky trail. Now when I look up at the Wisdom Tree which I can see from the studio where I work, I can finally say that I have met him in person.Read More
Our first hike of 2019 was to Mount Hillyer. I love this hike. There’s so much going on. Lots of great rock formations and change of scenery along the way. It was 39 degrees at Chilao where we picked up the Silver Moccasin Trail with wind gusts up to 50 mph expected at the summit. We had a great hike up. The breezy day was refreshing and there’s not much exposure on this trail with all the boulders, so we were protected from the wind for most of the route. There was a downed tree on the switchbacks of the Silver Moccasin trail. I’m not sure if it was caused by the winds, but luckily it was easy to maneuver over. As we continued our journey upward, the winds became stronger. My core was warm with all my layers, but for some dumb reason I didn’t wear a bottom base layer under my hiking pants. I don’t know where my head was this morning. I knew there would be a wind chill, and I’m usually the one who is over prepared with too much gear. When we reached the gusty summit, I could feel the tops of my legs getting numb. We hauled butt pretty quickly down off the exposed mountain top. I haven’t felt that numb feeling set in since Pennsylvania when I would spend the entire day at the barn riding and taking care of my horses in temperatures below zero some days! Once out of the big gusts, my legs warmed up and we continued our descent. About 1:30 pm, we heard a loud roar in the sky. As we looked up we saw two B-2 Spirit Stealth Bombers flying overhead. They were probably headed back to base after the Rose Parade. Last year we got to see one of them from the top of Waterman Mountain. I didn’t think we’d get to see that this year, but we actually got to see two of them! It was a great way to begin the New Year!Read More
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.Read More
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!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
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!Read More
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.
Big Horn Mine has been on my list of hikes to do, and Sunday was the perfect day to do it. We arrived at the trailhead at Vincent’s Gap plenty early. It was still dark and since this was a short 4 mile hike, I wanted to be able to enjoy the scenery and take some photos along the route. We waited until about 6:30 when dawn began to turn black skies to blue and began our trek. Some people parked on the opposite side of the parking lot fired up a grill and started cooking breakfast. The delicious smell of bacon in the air made my stomach grumble, but we had a mine to explore.
This hike starts out on an old wagon road that winds around Mount Baden-Powell. The last time I was here we had hiked up to the top of that mountain which stands at 9,406’. Today we were on the lower slopes, and I took some lovely photos of the moon up over the ridge. After about 200 yards in, we came to a split with two signs: Mine Gulch left and Big Horn Mine right. I later learned that taking the Mine Gulch trail would have taken us to Vincent’s Cabin. I’d like to check that out someday.
I should note a short bit of history about the mine: Big Horn Mine was discovered by Charles “Tom” Vincent in 1895. He lived in the log cabin that you can still visit today. The mine was profitable from 1903 to 1906. Eventually, it was tapped out and abandoned.
The trail to the mine is pretty easy as you wind along the mountain on the wagon road enjoying views from some of the tallest peaks in the range. However, as you get further along, the trail begins to narrow and sections become steep and rocky with loose gravel. Some areas were so narrow that there was only room to place one foot. Rather then give myself time to think about the plunging descent to my side, I chose to focus on moving forward and getting to our destination. In just a few moments the trail widened again, and soon the mine came into view just as the golden rays of morning sunshine were coming up over the San Gabriels.
Just one more sketchy scramble to get through to get up to the structure and we had arrived! No other hikers in sight yet, so we enjoyed exploring the outer structure and the views of the surrounding mountains. We did not go inside the mine. While you can crawl through some boards to get inside, it is not advised because the mine is deteriorating and subject to collapse.
After we were done exploring, we headed back the way we came. We veered off the main trail to do some quick exploring on a use trail that led us to what looked like the remains of another structure. Not sure what that was, but we eventually made our way back to the main trail and back to trailhead. As per usual, we stopped by the Grizzly Cafe for some delicious coffee and breakfast. Great hike today with a lot of history!
What a beautiful day to be in the mountains! My husband and I took the day off to hike Icehouse Canyon though the Cucamonga Wilderness to Icehouse Saddle and this time our final destination would be Ontario Peak - 13.34 miles roundtrip. We hit the trail at 5:30 am with only the light from our headlamps to guide us. This was the first time we ever hiked for a significant amount of time in complete darkness. I loved it! The forest was so peaceful. The only sounds we heard were the occasional chirp of a bird, the rustling of a forest creature and the rush of the flowing creek below us in the canyon.
It was still dark when we reached Cucamonga Wilderness, but as soon as the sun came up we were treated to the vibrant colors of Fall. We continued onward through the rocky canyon and then on to the switchbacks and finally Icehouse Saddle. The trek to the saddle seemed easier for me this time. Maybe I’m getting stronger.
At the saddle the wind kicked up. We took a quick 5 minute snack break and decided just to push forward onto the Ontario Peak trail to Kelly Camp. We had a long day ahead of us, and I didn’t want to make too many stops to be sure we had enough time to complete our journey. The trail to Kelly Camp was a nice stretch of trail winding through the fragrant pines. We did, however, have to hop over a few downed trees on the way, but nothing too difficult. When we arrived at Kelly Camp, we stopped to watch two foraging deer and took a short rest before continuing up to the ridge. Kelly Camp is a backcountry campground named after John Kelly, who established the camp in 1905 as a mining prospect. It was then turned into a trail resort in 1922. Today, all that remains are some foundations. After leaving Kelly Camp and the shade of the pines, we entered a matchstick forest. This area was burned during a fire in 1980 and left a forest of dead trees. It didn’t seem long before we got to the ridge, where we had spectacular views in all directions. These views stayed with us all the way to the peak. On one side, our sprawling city and the other, the San Gabriel mountain ranges and all the major peaks.
As we hiked along the ridge we had to be careful of false summits. There were a few points where it looked like we were approaching the peak, but we were not. We kept following along the ridge until finally the real Ontario Peak came into view. We climbed up a series of switchbacks and topped out at 8,694’. Success! We took off our packs, snapped our summit selfies and soaked in the views before chowing down on some much earned grub. With not a soul in sight, we had the whole mountain top to ourselves! This sure beats sitting behind a desk!
Now it was time for us to begin our descent. Having completed the mission, I could take my time and focus on taking some great pictures. However, going down still presented us with the challenge of negotiating all the rocks we had climbed up to get here once we got back to the canyon. After we past the wilderness boundary and reached canopy of shaded oak and bigleaf maple trees, I was in awe of all the beautiful colors! We had missed all of this on the way up because we were walking in the pitch black dark. It was absolutely gorgeous. I snapped my photos and by 3 pm we were back at the trailhead. It was an awesome journey!
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
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.