The trek from Onion Valley to the top of Kearsarge Pass was a spectacular day hike! The Kearsarge Pass Trail heads west from the trailhead at Onion Valley entering the John Muir Wilderness at approximately .7 miles. On this 11 mile round trip journey, we passed through foxtail pine forests, crossed over boulder fields, hiked alongside waterfalls and aquamarine colored lakes filled with golden trout. A final rigorous high altitude ascent up a barren, rocky slope lead us to Kearsarge Pass where the trail crests the Sierra at an altitude of 11,835 breathtaking feet! We were rewarded with the most sublime views I have ever seen; the glaciated Sierra peaks, sparkling turquoise pools of water and views into Kings Canyon National Park. Here are some photos with captions below each to describe our incredible journey.Read More
On Wednesday morning we drove up to the White Mountains/Big Pine area to spend a day exploring the land of the ancients at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest where a 4.5 mile hike journeys through the oldest living trees in the world. This is a high altitude hike starting out at over 10,000’ feet where the gnarled and twisted trees that look like something out of a Tim Burton movie cling to steep, arid, rocky slopes. The trees thrive in this severe environment and usually survive for over 2,000 years. Incredible! The trail makes its way down a canyon and into a grove of the ancient trees. As you hike down the south facing slope, you’ll note a dramatic transition where there is a wider variety of plants including sagebrush and mountain mahogany. Eventually you will enter the Methuselah Grove. This is where Edmund Schulman in 1957 discovered the Methuselah Tree which is over 4,600 years old. How amazing is that?!
Methuselah’s exact location is not disclosed to keep the tree protected from vandalism, but if you ask the rangers they’ll tell you that the best place to hide something is right in plain sight so you will walk right by the Methuselah Tree along the trek, but you may never figure out exactly which one he is. After the hike we stopped into the Schulman Grove Visitor Center to get some souvenirs and check out the interpretive exhibits. Ranger Dave gave us an informative talk about the Ancient Bristlecone Pines and I am pretty sure I learned more about trees in that 30 minute chat then I ever did when I was in school! I highly recommend stopping in if you want to learn more about these magnificent ancient trees.Read More
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!
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.
This was an exciting weekend for me. I experienced for the first time the natural butterfly habit that exists right here in Angeles National Forest. It was incredible if not a little overwhelming. Around 8 am we arrived at the trailhead and began our hike. The weather was already heating up due to the current heatwave, and as we began our ascent up the slope we started to see all the activity. Along the trail was an abundance of California Buckwheat which is both a host and nectar plant for many different species. It was covered in different butterflies; Bernardino Blues, Hairstreaks and Chalcedon Checkerspot to name a few. It was breathtaking seeing so many different butterflies all together in their natural habitat. After I stopped “ohhh-ing and ahhh-ing” I did my best to get some images. Photographing butterflies can be a real challenge unless they’re still warming up or they’re preoccupied sipping nectar. I was so enamored “chasing butterflies” I hardly noticed how hot it was getting in the beating sun on the slope. I could have stayed up there for hours observing and looking for different species. It was the most amazing and educational day!Read More