The mountains are filled with snow! I wanted to take advantage of it while I could sans the crowds of people I knew would be heading up over the weekend. I took the day off on Friday and my husband and I drove to Palm Springs where we took the Aerial Tramway to Long Valley Station to go snowshoeing. We loved it so much the first time we went a few weeks ago, that we purchased our own snowshoes. There was over three feet of snow on top of the mountain and the conditions for snowshoes were excellent. We spoke with the rangers as we filled out our permit before taking off into the wilderness, and they advised to not go any further than Round Valley due to the potential of avalanche. I’d originally planned to go to Wellmans Divide, but since the rangers know these mountains a lot better then we do, we of course, took their advice. The weather was fantastic! It was a bluebird day with not a cloud in the sky. The fresh mountain air felt great and the snow was fresh powder most of the way. We took our time and savored the journey soaking in the beautiful winter scenery. These are the moments I live for! It seemed we reached Round Valley much faster this time. We ventured into the meadow floating atop three feet of powdery snow and breaking trail. It was my favorite part of the day. Just glorious! All too soon it was time to start heading back. We were about a half a mile from Long Valley when my husband’s snowshoe broke. Somehow the rivets popped out and he was left with just the crampon strapped to his left foot. Luckily, we were not too far away from the trailhead, and he was able to hike back without a problem. Lesson learned -- Always carry a field repair kit. Although we both had microspikes with us, they wouldn’t have been very useful with the depth of the snow. Aside from that minor mishap, it was peaceful day to be out on the trails. I left the big mountain with a feeling of gratitude; so happy to have been able to enjoy another perfect day in this beautiful wilderness!Read More
It was a beautiful overcast day in Los Padres National Forest. The weather at this higher elevation was a nice break from the warmer than normal temperatures we’d been having back home. Our plan was to hike to Mt. Pinos then Sawmill Mountain with the possibility of also climbing up Grouse Mountain if we felt up for it. We got to the trailhead just before 7:30 am and got started. The hike to Mt. Pinos took us through beautiful pine forests and wide open high elevation meadows. I can imagine how beautiful it must look here when more wildflowers are blooming. Mt. Pinos is easy enough to get to since it’s mostly hiking up a gentle fire road. At the top, there are some radio towers, but the views are great. It’s said that the Chumash Indians thought that Mt. Pinos was actually the center of the universe. Interesting that now we have a radio tower up there. After Mt. Pinos, we continued on the road to the Condor Observation Site. We didn’t see any condors today, but the views continued as we hopped on the single track Vincent Tunamait Trail and headed to Sawmill Mountain. The trail starts off with some long, gently graded switchbacks that make the descent quite enjoyable. You’ll be able to take in the surrounding views as you make your way down. Eventually that nice easy grade changes and the trail becomes steeper as you continue downward into the forest where it levels out again. I really enjoyed all the bendy Limber pines and also the vanilla scented Jeffery pines throughout this whole hike. After reaching the saddle, the trail climbed steeply upward and we eventually reached the spur trail for Sawmill Mountain. We made our way up to its wide, flat summit where there’s a really big rock carin with prayer flags that have been tattered by the winds. It was quite windy today making it a little chilly, but the views were incredible! We could see all the way out to the Sierras and could even spot Mount Whitney! Amazing! After Sawmill, we headed back down into the shelter of the forest and decided to continue on to Grouse Mountain. The trail descended again and eventually, we crossed the junction to Sheep Camp and a few other trails. Before long we found the spur trail heading up to Grouse Mountain. (The Vincent Tunamait Trail keeps on going and heads downward.) The spur trail to Grouse was steep and the trail was covered in soft pine needles, but it was easy enough to follow. At the summit, there’s a register hidden in the rocks that you can sign if you so choose. It was a lovely, peaceful place to break for lunch. After our break, it was time to start heading back. We knew we had a lot of up and down climbing left to do to get back to the car. It was an extremely relaxing day in this peaceful scenic forest and a very enjoyable hike.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.