Monthly Archives: June 2011

Timber Mountain via Icehouse Canyon

I had been wanting to hike up Icehouse Canyon for a while now and finally made it out there on Saturday. I had never been there before and wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Upon reaching the parking area around 9am I found that we should’ve showed up a lot earlier because there was no place to park! We had to park down the road and hike up to the trailhead; oh well, extra mileage!

It was pretty much all incline from the very start of this trail. The beginning of the trail was really nice though; there were lots of trees that provided shade and a cool looking creek that flowed beside it. There was also a bunch of cabins along the start of the trail; some looked habitable and others looked like they had seen better days.

Eventually the shade of the trees started to thin out and we were more exposed to the sun. It was a lot hotter than I expected it to be up in the mountains.

When we made it to Icehouse Saddle we found a nice spot in to sit down and have lunch. There were a lot of people hanging out up there.

After a short break we decided to go ahead and hike up to Timber Mountain which was just under a mile away.

On the way up to the peak we saw some “snow flowers,” or Sarcodes sanguinea if you wanna be technical. I had never seen these plants before this year; they look really strange popping out of the ground like they do.

Once at the summit we took another break to soak in the view and have a beer.

Apparently if we had brought bottles the summit register was appropriately equiped with a bottle opener. How convenient!

We all signed the register and made our way back down. The trail was pretty much all downhill from there.

When we got back down into Icehouse Canyon we started spotting clusters of ladybugs on some of the plants. I’m not sure why this was happening but it looked cool. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many ladybugs all in one place out in the wild before.

I’ll probably go back out to Icehouse Canyon again in the future to go backpacking and stay at Kelly’s Camp or Cedar Glen. It was a really nice area; a lot of people though.

Switzer Falls and the Bear Canyon Trail

Upon hearing that CalTrans just reopened the Angeles Crest Highway on Friday, it just made sense to go check it out. We stopped at the first major parking area which happens to be the Switzer Falls picnic area and trailhead. The parking lot was full when we stopped but we were lucky enough to get a spot from someone who was leaving. The road down to the actual picnic area was still closed, so we had to walk down the road from the highway (that part sucks coming back).

I hadn’t been to this area in years due to the various closures and was excited to be back. It looked like the Forest Service had made some recent improvements to the area including new stairways, picnic tables, and bathrooms. I’m not sure if they were damaged by the fire or if it was just time for an upgrade.

We decided to do a little exploring and went off the beaten path to a cool overlook where we were at the top of a waterfall.

After the detour we got back on the main trail that takes you up to the Switzer Falls lookout, however there was barely any water coming down the falls. While we were at the lookout some forest rangers and volunteer trail builders were on their way out. They had just finished clearing the trail that goes down to Bear Canyon, but they said past that the Bear Canyon Trail gets bad.

Of course we decided to go for it. The part of the trail that had just been cleared was really nice; we got down to the trail junction in no time.

Once we got onto the Bear Canyon Trail we could definitely tell the rangers were not lying about the condition of the trail. There were many parts where we had to bushwhack our way through and there were many stream crossings.

It was worth it though; there was no one else down in the canyon with us and the scenery was amazing. As we got further down the trail we kept coming across awesome pools of water. I could only imagine coming here on a hot summer day; it would be pretty nice.

The trail was virtually non-existent in some places as we pushed on, but it made for a fun adventure down into an area that looked like no one had been in a while.

Eventually we came to an area where a huge downed tree laid across the trail and there was a thick growth of bushes where the trail once was.  At this point we decided to turn back and kick back at a cool spot we had found earlier. Snacks and beers on a mini peninsula next to a waterfall I will classify as a succes.

We had been hoping to find the Bear Canyon Trail Camp but failed to do so. I’m not sure if we might have passed it or if it was further up the trail. I am probably going to go back some day to try and find it; I think it would be an awesome spot to camp. Below is the roundtrip track of our hike.

Backpacking to Big Cone Camp via Santa Paula Creek

Friday afternoon before Labor Day weekend we headed out for Santa Paula Creek in the Los Padres National Forest. We tried to beat the weekend traffic but that didn’t really happen. None the less we got to the trailhead around 5:30pm. Well, actually, the trailhead is behind Thomas Aquinas College, so we had to walk through the campus and then through some ranch.

There were signs posted on the college campus telling hikers to stay on the paved road, this was actually quite helpful. There were other signs as well pointing us in the correct direction.

After passing the ranch and then some oil wells it seemed like we were starting to get into the wilderness.  We ran into Santa Paula Creek and started following the trail upstream.

It didn’t seem like we were too far in and the trail started to get gnarly. At some points it was hard to follow, some parts partially washed out, or there would be various off-shoots. We kept debating if we should cross the stream or not, but we decided to stay to the right side and just kept following it up. This ended up working out; every time we thought we were off track we’d push through and then find the nice defined trail again.

There was one difficult part where we had to push through a grove of fallen trees. Not always easy with large backpacks on.

As we got further along the trail we started noticing orange spray-painted arrows. They seemed like they were pointing us in the right direction so we started following them. There was one point where the arrows took a turn and started leading us up into the hills away from the creek.  We were a little skeptical of this since we were headed for a trail camp, and trail camps are usually next to a water source. We decided just to trust the arrows and follow them up into the hills. The trail eventually leveled out and we finally came into Big Cone, the trail camp we were shooting for.

There was only one other group at the camp so that left us with plenty of other spots to pick from. We got a spot in a corner under a nice sized oak tree. Now the interesting part of this story is that our friends Nader and Lauren were going to attempt to meet us at this camp, however they would be navigating the confusing trail in the dark.

I think it was about 3am when I heard people outside my tent. I thought, “Did they actually make it? How??” I kinda thought I was dreaming. Sure enough in the morning I awoke to see Nader in full pajamas cookin’ up some breakfast. They shared their story of navigating the confusing trail during the night and how they came across a snake dangling from a tree branch right in front of their faces. Sounded like something out of Indiana Jones.

After breakfast we hiked up the trail to where the creek was to check out the area. We had read about other trail camps that were further upstream and thought we’d try and find them.

We came across this pretty neat waterfall where a lot of day hikers were headed. Unfortunately there is a lot of graffiti on the surrounding rocks.

There were only more confusing trails upstream. We were unable to find any other trail camps, but even if we had it would have been a hassle getting all our gear to them due to the stream crossings.

It was cool exploring the surrounding areas though. There was this almost water-slide looking part of the stream that was pretty cool.

Nader and Lauren, who had stayed behind, went down to go swimming at the waterfall after we got back to camp. I ended up checking out some of the awesome vistas near our camp.

It was a pretty fun day for everyone, and we all agreed navigating the crappy confusing trail was worth it.

The trek back to the car on Sunday was a lot easier and quicker than the way in, now that we knew the trail. There was still a lot of poison oak to avoid.

Poison oak was not the only thing we had to be on the lookout for. We ended up happening upon a large rattlesnake basking in the sun near the creek. By the look of the lump in it’s body, we guessed it was digesting a recent kill; it was very inactive.

What better way to end a good backpacking trip than with margaritas?

More pictures from the trip can be found here. Below is the route we took from the college to Big Cone trail camp (oneway).