A Hundred Peaks - page 3


The next bite

Spring Break, 2009 - my first chance to get back out there.  I decided to try some of the western peaks in the San Gabriels, as they are closer to home and as of April, snow-free.  So, April 2, I started out from the Red Box parking area on the Angeles Crest Highway, at 10:23, making for Lawlor and Strawberry Peaks.  Walking a few yards east along the highway, I started up trail 12W05 on the north side.  This parallels the road for a while, gaining elevation gradually, then turns north.  this is a delightful trail, traversing an exposed slope with chaparral vegetation then running alongside a canyon through a very pleasant Mount Lawlor live oak woodland.  The day was perfect, warm in the sun and cool in the shade.  At 10:55 I arrived at a trail junction, with the cross trail ascending to an unnamed peaklet to the left and Lawlor to the right.  That way looked a bit steep, so I followed the instructions from the Mount Lawlor  website and skirted around to the left of the peak until the saddle, at 11:21.  This is at a trail intersection, 2.3 miles from Red Box.  The use trail up the ridge to Mt Lawlor, to the right, was obvious, and it had the nice feature of being signed as well.  It's a fairly good climb in a couple of places on very loose dirt, something to consider when coming back down.  The only real pause for thought on the way up, though, was a gendarme reached about 15 minutes up the ridge.  The only way past it was up and over - trying to go around ran into the problem of it being on a narrow ridge.  From there a nice stroll up to the peak, arriving at 11:53.  An incredible view from the top of Mt San Antonio (Mt Baldy), still with a little snow at the top.  The other notable feature was the number of Western Tiger Swallowtail butterflies - spring is here.

From Mount Lawlor, backtrack down to the saddle (about 1.2 miles round trip) and go straight over the intersection up the signed use trail to Strawberry Peak (2 miles round trip).  I started up that at 12:19.  This is another nice trail, with a mix of traversing the slope Strawberry Peak and going straight up.  There is only really one place when you lose elevation, which to me is the mark of a good trail.  What looked at one point like an up-and-over from below, that had me muttering about trail design, turned out to be all up, with only a few feet lost having crested the mini-summit.  I made the peak at 13:09 and rested for a while, enjoying the view and a nuts-and-dried-fruit lunch.  I also took my shirt off and draped it over a rock - worked up quite a sweat.  I did a bit of exploring while up there, and found the trail down to Josephine Saddle, which is mentioned on the Hundred Peaks website.  I wasn't really tempted to take it though, because of the warning about the Class 3 climb and the fact that my day would have ended up quite a bit longer than I planned.  Josephine Peak on another day.   By the time I'd rested, the clouds were starting to blow in over Josephine Peak, and they were headed towards the saddle.  I figured that even though I would have trouble getting lost on the way down, it would be less fun if enveloped in cloud, so I headed back down the way I had come up.  

Strawberry Saddle The walk back to Red Box was very pleasant - at the start it was cool, since the clouds were coming in, and from Strawberry Saddle it was a nice steady descent, nothing to strain the knees.  I did notice that while traversing Mt Lawlor, the terrain looked perfect for a mountain lion ambush, but, happily, no such thing occurred.  It was along that stretch that I encountered the only other human of the day (except at the parking areas, which doesn't count).  He didn't seem to be being eaten by a mountain lion either.  I did see quite a lot of scat of smaller animals, of which bobcat seemed to figure prominently.  It would be fun to go up at night and check that out.  The bird highlight of the day was spotting three mountain quail in the oak-clad ravine close to Red Box.  I had never seen this quail before, and like, all quail, they're fun to watch.

I made it back down to Red Box by 3:07, a round trip of about 8 miles in somewhat under 5 hours - a nice relaxing pace.  It was still early enough, so I drove east along the highway for a little under 5 miles and parked at the Shortcut parking area to go up Mt Sally.  The trailhead is a few yards east of the parking area, on the south side of the road.  It goes perpendicular to the road for a few yards Mount Sally then turns left up the ridge, parallel to the road, quickly gaining the elevation to be seen by the fact that the road at that point is bordered by a cliff.  The geology here is weird - where this morning all was granite, this looks basaltic.  I wondered whether this was road-bed material hauled in, because it looked like clinker, but there is soil up there.  Soft, spongy, brown or red soil.  I haven't seen that on any of my other climbs.   There are also a couple of balds, and I think these must be the remnants of the firebreak mentioned on the website.   The hike is straightforward, although after 15 minutes I summited what I thought was Mt Sally and turned out to be a false peak, having deviated a bit to the right of the correct route.  The worst part of the hike was the concentration of yucca, of the aptly named Spanish dagger variety.  Even though the route is only a little over a mile each way, it probably works out to twice that because of the zig-zagging needed to avoid getting impaled.  Which I didn't entirely do.  At one point my leg felt damp and I looked down to see a fairly extensive red stain on my right trouser leg.  Nasty stuff. 

Mount Sally  

As an aside, I'm not sure that naming this peak Mt Sally was the best decision.  The story on the Hundred Peaks webpage is that it was named for a Forest Service employee by an admirer.  That was then, this is now.  The hike up Mt Sally now is weird, thorny, and relatively easy.  I have no doubt that the original Sally was none of those things, but that the peak approach has deteriorated over the years.   Still, is was a good way to spend 1 ¼ hours at the end of a day's hiking, and it was my 12th peak.  Onward and upward.


Well, after that, on Friday I could scarcely walk, and unfortunately I had to spend the whole day sitting at my desk, so my muscles really seized up, especially the quads.  Saturday was quite a bit better, and I got out and about, so by Sunday I was ready to get back into the mountains.  My target was to do four peaks, one "stand-alone" and the other three short excursions from the road.  Well, that didn't quite work out, but the day was one of the best hiking days I've had.  I'm really happy that I started on the Hundred Peaks thing, because it forces me to get out and on my feet.  If I didn't have this goal, I would probably have spent Sunday working on stuff for school and missed out on a real treat.

It being a Sunday, I didn't have to wait until the rush hour passed before heading north through downtown Los Angeles, so I got an earlier start than Thursday.  I left the Clear Creek Forest Service station (where Angeles Forest Hwy to Palmdale turns off from the Angeles Crest Hwy) at 8:43.  The instructions for Josephine Peak on the website are flawless - head down (north) the Angeles Forest Josephine Peak Hwy for a few yards and turn right up a dirt road (gated) 2N64, labeled "Josephine Road."  Couldn't get much simpler.  This is a lovely walk, starting off through a shady, wooded ravine and then switchbacking, as roads are wont to do, at a gentle gradient up and around, going out into chaparral at times, and always climbing.  According to the website, this peak is a 1900 ft gain, but it doesn't feel that much on the way up.  On the way back down, I was wishing for some level or, better yet, slightly uphill bits - my feet took quite a pounding, but I still have both of them, so no harm done.  There were spectacular views back over the Los Angeles basin - the best I have ever had, partly because of where I was, but mostly because the sky was (relatively for L.A.) clear.  I Josephine Peak could see all the way to Santa Monica and the sea, and to the Santa Ana Mountains in Orange County.  Nice.  I guess the lack of traffic on Sunday mornings has something to do with that.  At 9:45 I arrived at Josephine Saddle, and I could see back along the ridge to Strawberry Peak.  There does look like a rather steep bit close to the peak, so I'm glad I did it this way instead of hiking it from Strawberry Peak.  On the next bit I met two people hiking down, and then found a whole mess of folks at the peak, which I gained at 10:24.  This is apparently a 4-mile hike, so under 1 ¾ hours didn't seem bad.  I headed back down, meeting three hikers and two cyclists (nuts), which I thought was pretty good for a Sunday.  When I got back to the car at the trailhead, it was only 11:46, so plenty of time for the second peak of the day, Barley Flats.

Now, it strikes me that a place with the name "Flats" is probably not going to be too imposing as a peak.  I had looked for the trail to it (described on the HP website as an old roadbed "very brushy at times") from the Strawberry Peak trail, but it wasn't obvious, so I decided to try an alternate route, which involved driving to the gate of a religious camp and walking about ¼ mile around their perimeter.  Unfortunately, the forest road to the camp was gated, and I did not feel like substituting a 2.5 mile drive with a 2.5 mile hike (each way) to see a peak called anything Flats.  So I passed on that one, and drove a few more miles to Charlton Flats (not masquerading as a peak) to attempt Mount Mooney.   The instructions for this said "From the parking area (5380'), cross to the north side of the highway and hike north up the brushy ridge to the summit."  Sounds fine in theory, but I couldn't see the summit form the road, so I tried multiple times based on a compass heading and became hopelessly entangled each time.  Brushy, indeed.  I only noticed the alternative route on the website after I got home, so next time.  So, now batting one for three, I decided to have a try at what was supposed to be the fourth peak of the day.  That required driving for 1.5 miles on a Forest Service road which was, of course, gated.  I Vetter Mountain am extremely grateful to the FS for having it locked, because the walk along that road through Charlton Flats was absolutely wonderful.  I would have missed the whole spirit of the place if I had driven, and as it turns out, the hiking trail up to Vetter Mountain is only the icing on the cake.  I hope (but doubt) the closure is permanent, because I want to walk it again, and if there's a steady stream of cars it just won't be the same.  Anyway, off from the parking area at the side of the road at 12:58, arrived at the trailhead at 1:24, and at the Lookout on Vetter Mountain at 1:38 - 40 minutes (for a little over 2 miles) of sheer joy.  The vegetation is open pine and oak, very reminiscent of Southeastern Arizona, the day was sunny and clear, cool in the shade.  And the lookout on the top is adorable - it just needs blue chintz curtains and a welcoming tea lady to be absolutely perfect. 

Back to the car at 2:43, having lunched at the lookout, and home.  Peaks 13 and 14, and each one of them so far has had something different about it.  I'm really enjoying this.


Deception, Disappointment, and San Gabriel

No, not a commentary on the day (May 24, 2009), just the names of the peaks.  They were apparently named by those who first surveyed these mountains, and I would take issue with them - nothing deceiving or disappointing among View from Mt Deception them.  These three make for an easy day, with trails that even I can find without any problems. Deception starts from a parking area on the road to Mt Wilson, shortly after the Red Box turnoff from Angeles Crest Highway. The trail (2N52) is a dirt road that loops around the mountain up to a saddle between Mts Deception and Disappointment. The spur to Deception is narrow and leads up steep gruss (decomposed granite) at first, then it opens up. There is one minor false peak, but Mt Deception is very easy to find. When I was there it gave some lovely views, albeit a bit hazy. The hike up took just 50 minutes.

Then, back to the saddle and along the dirt road to the next saddle and a quick steep climb up the road to Mt Disappointment. That, actually, was a mild disappointment because it is the site of a set of radio masts, which detract from the wilderness experience a tad.

Mt Disappointment

But, no matter, on to San Gabriel Peak, along a very pretty trail from a large concreted area (looks like an old trailer park, but that can't be right). The trail alternates View from San Gabriel Peakbetween open chapparal and closed oak woodland, which is nice and cool. Given that I was hiking on a Sunday, I bumped into more people than usual - three pairs. So, can't complain.

The hike back from San Gabriel backtracked to the bit of road between the saddles, then I took trail 12W24, the San Gabriel Trail, back to the car. This is a delightful walk, gently traversing hillsides and descending a canyon, all in some very nice oak woodland. I would recommend this one for a relaxing stroll some time.

I arrived back at the car just after 3:00, having started the morning at 11:50. I estimate the hike at 7 miles, more or less. So, with the day still young, and the mileage still low, I decided to pick up a couple of peaks I had missed earlier. The first was Mt Mooney, that I attempted cross-country back in April. I had done a closer reading of the instructions and found a different route that turned out to be very easy - drive down a dirt road, park, and a quick out-and-back up a jeep road. Barley FlatsSo, I did that, a Barley Flats20-minute round trip. Unexciting, but pleasant enough. Then, since it was still early, and I still had mileage left in me, I bit the bullet and set off to walk along the road (still closed) to Barley Flats. That darn gate adds 5 miles and 1000' to what would otherwise be a half-mile walk with 100' elevation gain. Still, the walk along the road was pleasant, and the hike on the trail around the perimeter fence of the closed property was fairly straightforward. The camp there is a very odd place - it was a military installation at one time but now appears well abandoned.

Anyway, back to the car with a lowish sun angle at 6:40, after a 7-hour, 13.4-mile day. Five peaks - the best so far.


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