Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Mount Harwood (9,552') via Devil's Backbone

     Mount Baldy's kid brother, Mount Harwood, sees only a fraction of the visitors that its bigger brother counterpart does, but it is indeed no less an inspiring summit.  While hundreds will make  their way up Old Baldy on a fair-weathered weekend, you can expect to have Harwood, only a short 300' scramble off the main trail, to yourself for hours.  Its solitary nature, moonscape terrain, windswept ridge, and excellent vistas make Harwood a peak well worth your visit.  In addition, it is the 5th highest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains standing just below Mount Baldy at 9,552'.  

Category: Strenuous
Miles: 10
Elevation Gain: 3300'

: Angeles National Forest

Directions: From the I-210 in Claremont, exit Baseline, and turn right off the highway, then turn left on baseline. Soon, make a right on Padua Ave, and after 2 miles turn right onto Mount Baldy Road. Stay on it for about 15 miles (through the small community of Mount Baldy, and up some windy turns) until you reach MANKER FLATS CAMPGROUND. Go by it. There is a island in the middle of the road; park there or on the side of the left side of the road, and look for a locked street called Falls Road (this is the trail).

The Trail: From the new trailhead (same location, new features), you begin your adventure

by ascending the paved Falls (Baldy) Road y crossing the locked gate. In about 0.75 miles the road becomes unpaved and makes a grand switchback where you will get an inspiring vista of Mount San Antonio (Mount Baldy), protruding thousands of feet above the triple-cascade falls, San Antonio (Angel) Falls. A side trip to the falls is well worth it. (See my post on that trip here). Continuing on, you pass by junction of the Ski Hut Trail, which also leads to the Register Ridge Pathway, a straight shot up to Mount Harwood, but insanely steep gaining over 1000' per mile. For the more moderate hikers, pass by that fork and wind for about 3 miles until you reach the Baldy Notch, where you will find the end of the ski lifts (if you are short on time you can take that option, cutting out 1,600' of gain), clean, real, bathrooms, a restaurant, and a water fountain.

 From the rather city-like Notch, take the trail left towards Mount Baldy and follow it as it

winds quite moderately about 600' before the climb on the narrow Devil's Backbone commences. Lots of people think that this section of the trail is "super dangerous" and "vertigo provoking" ...like I've said many times, it's not bad at all. It looks really intense, but it's really just an very fun part of trail. The trail is plenty wide. After crossing the Backbone, you steeply gain some more elevation as you enter into the sub-alpine section of the trip, coasting between Lodgepole pines, Limber Pines and some hardy junipers and Sugars.

 Before you arrive at the Baldy-Harwood Saddle there is a use-trail which climbs the south-face of Mount Harwood on your right, just 300' up. Take it up through the small talus fields and barren slopes, until you find yourself on the wide summit. The views are quite good; I don't think you could get a better picture of Baldy anywhere. To the direct north over 100

miles away is Telescope Peak (11,030') the highest point in Death Valley National Park. To the north right in front of you are the third and fourth highest peaks in the San Gabriels, Dawson Mountain and Pine Mountain. The great gash of Lytle Creek cuts through the mountains 5000' below, and behind it is the San Andreas Fault and the High Desert. Looking east is the Cajon Pass, the I-15 Freeway, the San Bernardino Mountains, and the San Jacinto Mountains. To the south is the Cucamonga Wilderness and the western Inland Empire, with distant Santiago Peak in the background. After enjoying the views and time on this quiet summit, return the way you came - or, if you have time, add a quick trek up Mount Baldy before returning. (+700' of gain and 2 miles to your trip)

Breathe in us, O Holy Spirit your gifts like the wind of the mountains. 
Hiked 5-26-2015, San Bernardino County, Adventure Pass Required.

The Falls and Mount Baldy
San Antonio Canyon from the Trail (road)

Still patches of snow almost in June

Thunder Mountain (lower) and Telegraph Peak (higher)

Don't take this slope....take the trail. 

Eastern San Gabriels and the San Bernardinos

Looking South from the trail

Devils Backbone begins and Mount Harwood (back)

Don't fall


Entering Sub-Alpine

Mount Harwood as seen from the beginning of the use-trail

At the crestline

Baldy from Harwood's summit

Dawson and Pine (respectively)

Cucamonga Wilderness

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Inspiration Point (4,525') and Echo Mountain (3,250') from Altadena

     While the sights and sounds of Professor Robert Lowe's Echo Mountain Resort and Inspiration Point tourist traps are now long gone; the sights and sounds of nature, which has reclaimed these places, still beckons.  This is a wonderful half-day trip to sample the beautiful natural wonder of the San Gabriel Mountains Front Country.  The first half of this trek, from the trailhead to Echo Mountain is flooded with hikers and mountain bikers each weekend,but the 2.5 mile section from Echo Mountain to Inspiration Point, though Rubio and Castle Canyons, with their steep granite and metamorphic outcroppings, should be relatively void of crowds.  Many extensions are available see HERE for more information.   


Category: Moderate/Strenuous 
Miles: 10.6
Elevation Gain: 2700'
Location: Angeles National Forest 
Directions: From the I-210 in Psedena, exit Lake Ave. and head towards the mountains.  Follow this street through Altadena until it ends.  Park here and enter through the Iron  Gates of Cobb Estate.  

The Hike:     From Cobb Estate (1780') trailhead follow the trail signs and obvious route Echo Mountain 2.8 Miles and 1400' higher.  From there, back track a bit to the Castle Canyon Trail which drops off to the east into Rubio Canyon.  Follow the trail over a few ups and down and across a brook, until you enter the next vale over, Castle Canyon; with its high rocky ramparts and noble firs crowing them looming high above you.  From here the trail stays predominately in the shade, before its sweet grade ends and the abrupt switchbacks commence.  After about fifteen switchbacks you will have gained the crest and found yourself at Inspiration Point (4,525'), with its telescopes and shelter.  Enjoy the stupendous view from Huntington Beach to San Fernando, and either add on more (see link above), or return the way you came.  

It should be noted that I had a late start on this hike, finishing at 10:30 pm.  

Hiked: 4-19-2015, Los Angeles County, No Adventure Pass Required.    

Castle Canyon

In the canyon

Castle Canyon outcroppings 

Firs and Los Angles from 4000'

Inspiration Point (4,525')

Mount Lowe from Inspiration Point

Mount Wilson, Occidental Peak and Harvard Peak

Neat view-finders

A setting sun

Wierd rock formation on Echo Mountain

9 PM: Echo Mountain Summit, Pasadena and LA

East San Gabriel Valley and OC

La Canada, Glendale, Burbank, West LA 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

East Fork of the San Gabriel River: Bridge to Nowhere

     While mountain peaks and passes are my preferred destinations while hiking, watersheds and river-canyons can be nearly as spectacular as well.  I had been wanting to do the East Fork of the San Gabriel River to the Bridge to Nowhere for quite some time, but never actually found the right time for it.  I have hiked from Wilson to Baldy and from San Gorgonio to Whitney, but I was still missing this hike: my last quintessential Southern California trip.  Part of the reason I had put if off so long was for the notorious crowds in a fair-weathered weekend for Bungee Jump America's new attraction at the destination, and the reputation it has for attracting "hikers"; namely unprepared, boom-box blaring flip-flop wearing teenagers from the Basin who want to test their "Big Hike" endurance (and other hiker's nerves) in a federally designated Wilderness area, the Sheep Mountain Wilderness.  Surprisingly while I was there I left early enough to avoid the majority of the weekend crowds and chaos, and I found myself wondering many times if I was in fact on the correct trail.  Happy to say, I was, and I found it to be a most enjoyable half-day hike.  As hiking legend Jerry Schad acclaims, "The trek to the old bridge is in the same league as the climb up Old Baldy."--  If this is true, how can you miss out?    


Category: Moderate 
Miles: 9
Elevation Gain: 1000'
Location: Angeles National Forest, Sheep Mountain Wilderness
Directions: Here  

The Hike:  From the rather large parking lot (if you arrive after 7 am on a weekend good luck getting a nice space), go north and enter onto a locked fire road, and follow that down 0.5 miles to Heaton Campground.  Here there is a toilet, a trail sign, and trail split (to Allison Saddle) and a self-issue wilderness permit kiosk (required, no limit on people).  After filling out a permit continue on the trail as it looms above the rushing river below, and soon enough you will have your first opportunity to cross it.  It should be noted, that for first-time hikers, the trail is very hard to find because of the river's overflows and use-trails made by fisherman and prospectors.  With this in mind, try to follow what appears to be the main trail, but other wise follow the river, and if you do find yourself lost retrace you steps until you are at the trail.  Even I got lost numerous times, as I was the only person around that early in morning, and I could not follow where other hikers were going or using as a path.  Nonetheless in total en route to the bridge the only required river crossing number around six. 
Anyhow, as you progress further in to the canyon you enter into the Sheep Mountain Wilderness, marked with a sign, and impressive views of Ross Mountain towering high to the north above the canyon walls.  For a large section of the trip you are hiking not directly near the water, but about 20-100' above it an an overhanging cliff, usually to the east of the river.  Take in the fresh mountain breeze, and let it breathe into your spirit.  Watch the Alder trees and seasonal grasses dance in its breath below, while the San Gabriel cascades down from the summits to the cities.  The escarpment of solid igneous walls around give testament both to the river's mighty rampages throughout the ages and the mountain range's ever-active geological faults.  All are precious gifts from the Creator.  
   After four miles, you make a sudden turn east and in no time at all, you will be at the infamous Bridge to Nowhere, complete now with a rather tacky Bungee Jump concessionaire, which because this bridge is an island of private property in a sea of designated wilderness, is technically and most unfortunately legal.  Many ask why there is a solid vehicle-worthy bridge in the narrows deep in San Gabriel Canyon.  The Answer is that back in the 1930's there was a road proposal to complete a highway from Glendora to Wrightwood through this canyon.  The idea was abandoned after the great flood of 1938, as the great, wild, untamed upper  San Gabriel River stood too much in the way of modern progress.  Thus it remains in the shadows of the past.  You can continue on into the Narrows, deepest gorge in Southern California with peaks rising over 5000' above the canyon on either side.  I because of time constrictions, did not proceed.  When done, return the way you came.    

Saint Faustina, Pray for us! 
Divine Mercy Incarnate, Raise us to You!

Hiked: 4-11-2015, Los Angeles County, Wilderness Permit Required and Adventure Pass.  

Trailhead: 7:22 am

Heaton Campground and Allison Saddle Split

First Crossing

Solitary Tranquility

The might shoulders of Iron Mountain (8,007')

Spring  grasses

Wilderness Sign

Ross Mountain (7,402')

Almost there!

Tacky Bungee stuff.....

The Bridge after crossing it.

Bungee Jumping...

View of the River from the Bridge

Wow!  During my 20 minute break  look at how it fills up!  I hiked ahead of the crowds all morning!