Category Archives: Hiking

A Snowy Icy Hike up Mt. Baden-Powell

Saturday morning a few friends and I cruised up to Vincent Gap off Hwy 2 to hike Mt. Baden-Powell. We noticed a lot of snow patches still lingering in the mountains and hoped we wouldn’t hit too much snow on the trail since we were not quite prepared for it. Despite the possible snow and ice we might encounter, we hit the trail with high hopes.

This trail quickly gained elevation and started giving us great views right away. It was a great day to be hiking in the mountains.

It wasn’t long on the trail until we started encountering icy patches of snow that were very slippery if you walked on them. We did our best to walk around these areas but in some cases it was not possible so we had to tread carefully over them.

Eventually the icy snow patches started becoming more frequent the further we got up the trail. Walking over snow and ice started to become the norm. We ran into a solo hiker who was coming back down the trail and said he was turning back due the large amounts of ice on the trail. We decided to push onward.

Some areas we just decided to cut straight up the mountain through large blankets of snow to avoid the icy parts on the trail. Although very tiring, this approach worked out quite well for us and was better than traversing across the slippery ice.

The views got excellent as we climbed higher.

We kept following tracks in the snow up the mountain. It started becoming a very exhausting climb through the snow but we gradually drew closer to the summit.

Since we were without proper snow gear, a few of us ended up with soaked shoes and socks; the only thing keeping our feet warm was the movement we got from hiking. We trudged along and finally made it to the Mt. Baden-Powell PCT Junction; now there was just a little ways to go until we reached the summit.

The last leg of the trail to the summit was windy and cold, but with less ice and snow which was nice.

There were a couple small switchbacks right before the summit. It was nice walking up and having the Boy Scout Monument and summit register come into sight.

Now it was time for some well deserved summit snacks.

It was pretty nice on the summit, not to cold or windy, and the air was clear so the views were great. We could see all the way to downtown LA.

Since we had a time constraint we didn’t spend too much time on the summit. After finishing our snacks and signing the summit register we started our decent back down.

The trip took us about 5 hours all together. In retrospect we realized we should have came prepared for snow and ice, but the hike was still a lot of fun despite being ill-equipped.

Hiking Mount Wilson via Chantry Flat

I had been wanting to hike Mount Wilson for a while, and since I had just hiked Mount Baldy last weekend, I figured it was a good time to go for it. I knew the Chantry Flat parking area was going to be out of control so we tried to get there early, but we still didn’t get there early enough and had to park down the road and hike up to the trailhead.

We took the Upper Winter Creek Trail which headed upwards right away but was mostly shaded and pleasant to hike. We quickly gained elevation and started to get great views of the surrounding hills.

We continued up The Upper Creek Trail winding through the cool forest; it was perfect hiking weather.

After 3 miles we came to a trail junction near Hoegee’s Campground, however we kept heading towards Mt. Wilson which was still 4 1/2 miles away.

After the decent to the trail junction, the trail headed back up again and was a lot more tiring. There were lots of switchbacks up through the forest, but fortunately the trees provided a nice shaded canopy to hike under.

At about 5 miles in we came upon Manzanita Ridge and could see radio towers in the distance atop Mount Harvard. We still had a ways to go to get to Mount Wilson.

A little further up the trail we met up with the old Mount Wilson Toll Road. It was cool to hike along the historic road which was littered with fallen boulders and tree branches. We caught another trail that spurred off from the road which led further up the mountain and led us up to a large gravel paved lot near some radio towers.

We took a short break and checked out the views and then headed towards the Mount Wilson Observatory. The road to the observatory area was closed for the winter so most of the people there were just hikers like us which was kind of nice.

After exploring the observatory area for a little bit and filling up on water we headed over to the Sturtevant Trail to start our decent. 6.7 miles back to Chantry Flat!

Coming down this trail from the summit gave us some awesome views down Santa Anita Canyon. Eventually the trail descended back down into the shaded canopy of the forest.

After a lot of hard down hill leg stomping we past by Sturtevant Camp where one of our favorite forest rangers works. Shortly after Sturtevant Camp we came to the Spruce Grove Trail Camp where we took a short break on one of the picnic tables. Then it was down the canyon and up the dreaded steep driveway that leads back up to Chantry Flat.

This 13 mile hike was a definite butt-kicker but made for an amazing daylong hike. If you ever plan on heading to this area be sure to check out the website for Adam’s Pack Station for a lot of great info.

Hiking Mount Baldy

I thought it would be good to start the new year off with a day hike up Mount Baldy. I conjoined with some friends in Ontario and we made our way up towards the mountains. On the way I got a call from my buddy Eric who got a late start but said he would meet us on the summit. We parked at the trailhead near Manker Flats, geared up, and hit the trail around 8am.  There were still some icy patches near the trailhead.

It was a cold morning in the mountains which made for some good hiking weather. We made our first stop at San Antonio Falls and then continued up the trail. We were planning on going up the Ski Hut Trail but we ended up missing the trail junction so we continued on the road that leads up to the Mt. Baldy Ski Lodge.

We took a quick break near the ski area and then headed up towards the Devil’s Backbone Trail. As we headed up we could see there was a good amount of snow in the mountains near the ski area.

We started coming across more patches of snow and ice at this point but nothing that would impede us.

It was a little cold and windy at some points up on the ridge.

We quickly made our way across the Devil’s Backbone which had a few patches of snow and ice.

Then we headed past Mt. Harwood and drew closer to Baldy.

As we got closer to the final climb to the Mt. Baldy summit I saw a red speck in the distance in front of us on the trail. I thought, hey that is probably Eric!

When we made it to the summit my suspicions about the tiny red spec were confirmed. Eric had taken the ski lift up to Baldy Notch and had been in front of us the entire time. We had some snacks on the summit and took the obligatory group summit picture.

It was a nice day to be on the summit; not too cold or windy and with clear views all around.

We decided to make our decent on the Ski Hut Trail since we missed it on our way up. There were a lot of patches of ice in the shady sections of the trail on the way down we had to negotiate. There was one point were I slipped on some and only caught myself from tumbling downhill on a large tree that I ran into.

When we made it to the Sierra Club Ski Hut we found that it was open (even though it was a Monday) and we were able to go inside and check it out.

The inside of the hut was a lot roomier than I had imagined and had an upstairs area with a bunch of bunk beds. Downstairs there was a kitchen area with a wood burning stove and a sink which continuously ran with mountain spring water (no need to filter). This was nice since I needed a refill on water.

After chilling out at the hut for a little bit we hit the trail again and returned to the trailhead near Manker Flats. The hike took us around 7 hours all together. It was an awesome day to hike Mount Baldy and was even cooler that we were able to meet up with Eric on the summit.

Lewis Falls & Crystal Lake

Monday I headed up highway 39 with a group of friends for a short hike to Lewis Falls.  I had recently read about this hike on Modern Hiker and thought it would be good for us to do since we didn’t have a lot of time.  When we arrived at the trailhead we noticed a large boulder in the middle of the road and other large rocks and debris that had fallen down near where you were supposed to park.  We took this as a warning to park our vehicles a little further down the road.  The last thing I want when I return from a hike is a smashed car.

The trail was nice and pretty easy to follow for the first half.  It followed a creek and passed by some old cabins.  Some of the cabins looked in good repair and some were in ruins.

When we started to lose track of the trail we just kept following the creek upstream. There were some areas where we had to climb up rocks and cross the stream on a large fallen log which was kind of fun.

When we arrived at the falls we discovered a grip of folks there which explained all the cars at the trailhead. We hung around the falls for a bit and then quickly made our way back out.  This was definitely a short hike.

Since the hike took less time than we thought we decided to hop in our vehicles and drive a little further up the 39 and hike to Crystal Lake.  We found a spot to squeeze into and park and took another short hike to the lake.

The water level in the lake seemed low but there were still a lot of people there hanging out around the shore and I even saw a couple people fishing. It was the first time I had been to the lake and I felt like it would be a cool spot to kick back with a few brewskis, but it might be better to come around springtime when the lake is fuller.

Be sure to check out http://crystallake.name for updates and info about the Crystal Lake area if you plan on visiting.

Smith Mountain via Bear Creek Trail

Saturday we headed up highway 39 out of Azusa to the Bear Creek Trailhead for a quick day hike up Smith Mountain.  We got to the trailhead around 7:20am and although it was still early we could already tell it was going to be a warm day.

We headed up the Bear Creek Trail from the highway and started sweating immediately!

Despite the heat we were getting great views of the morning sun coming onto the mountains as we climbed higher on the trail.  It was really nice to be out in the mountains that early in the morning.

After huffing and sweating up the almost all incline trail we made it to Smith Saddle. Here the climb to the summit of Smith Mountain really starts to get hard. The trail practically goes straight up.

Now I guess I kind of underestimated this mountain since you can’t see the actual summit from the saddle.

So when I finally climbed to what I thought the summit was, I saw in the distance a higher point. So I climbed some more and when I got to that point I finally was able to see the actual summit. The last 500ft to the summit was a fairly easy walk through brush and rocks.

Summit views proved worth it however I slightly wished I was still down under all the cool cloud cover I could see below.

The summit register was tucked in a bush behind the rock with the USGS marker on it.

I was pretty hot and tired on top of that mountain so I quickly signed the register and got down as fast as I could without slipping and killing myself on all the loose dirt.

I wasn’t able to track this trip on GPS since technology wasn’t liking me that day but the milage is supposed to be about 7 miles round trip. It took us about 6 hours from start to finish.

Backpacking Cottonwood Lakes

It was that time of year again where we headed off to the Sierras. This year we decided to go to the Cottonwood Lakes area near Mt. Langley. Early Friday morning we hit up the Eastern Sierra Interagency Center and got a “walk-in” wilderness permit with no problem, then up into the mountains we went.

We stashed any scented items from the car and our extra beer in the bear lockers at the trailhead and then hit the trail. It wasn’t long until we entered the Golden Trout Wilderness Area.

The beginning of the trail were pretty easy going with not much elevation gain and decent shade cover. There were also some cool log bridges we used for creek crossings.

About 2 miles in we came across this great meadow which Cottonwood Creek flowed through. Some marmots were there checking us out.

After a couple more miles of hiking we came to a trail junction where someone had left a poop shovel on the trail sign. We thought it was strange that the shovel was just abandoned there so we decided to adopt it and named it “Poopie.”

After some uphill hiking the trail brought us to Cottonwood Lake Number One where we got our first view of Mt. Langley. It was at this point we also noticed the dark clouds coming our way.

After a short break we headed further up the trail to where we would find a place to set up camp. The clouds were looking more ominous as we hiked.

We ended up experiencing a quick and cold little hailstorm before we were able to set up camp; luckily we were able to find a nice little rock shelter which we were able to throw all of our gear under until the storm passed.  It probably didn’t last more than 15 minutes.

After the short storm we decided we better set up camp as soon as possible just in case mother nature wanted to give us a second dose. Of course once camp was set up the skies cleared and the weather was beautiful for the rest of the trip.

The morning views from camp were great, especially the early sun creeping onto Langley.

We also spotted a couple of deer cruising by the lakes in the morning.

Eventually once everyone was awake and we all had breakfast we decided to head out for a hike up New Army Pass. Just after leaving camp we came across a moon-like boulder field which had a small pond of water and a beach leading down to it. It was pretty nice and I dubbed the spot “Cottonwood Beach.”

After checking out the little beach we headed up to Long Lake and ended up taking the long way around it. That was okay though because we found some great camping spots towards the west end if we ever decide to come back.

Since we went the wrong way around the lake we were a little off course and decided to just cut straight up through the snow to where the trail was. This was our first major snow traverse of the trip.

We followed the trail further up towards New Army Pass and that’s when we encountered more snow and the trail became harder to follow. We finally came to a point where the trail up through the pass was completely covered in snow. We tried to find an alternate route up some rocks but that didn’t work. It looked like we’d have to go up the snow.

None of us had brought crampons along so we weren’t really prepared for that steep of a snow ascent, however we did have our ice axes which significantly helped the steep climb.

We all finally made it to the top of the pass which is at about 12,300′ above sea level. It was a pretty epic moment.

Once over the pass we could see Mt. Langley in the distance and at that point making it to the summit didn’t seem as intangible as I thought it would, so we decided to go for it.

Unfortunately we came about a 1/2 mile from the summit and made the decision to turn back. It was starting to get late in the day and we were worried that the snow in the pass might ice up, and without crampons that would make for a difficult descent.

We decided to take a look at Old Army Pass on the way back but decided it looked even harder to go down than the way we came up. Luckily for us the snow in New Army Pass was still soft enough for us to dig our boots in and we made the descent without any problems. I’m not going to lie though, it was kind of scary at some points.

There were some great views of the lakes below from the top of the pass.

The rest of the hike back to camp was quick; we made great time getting back.

Although we didn’t make it to the summit of Mt. Langley I felt like we still had a great hike and I really wasn’t too disappointed about it. I think if we had actually planned to summit it from the very start we probably would have. I was happy enough just getting up New Army Pass. Below is the track of our trip for the first two days (I ran out of battery for the last day).

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).

Hiking the PCT to Blue Ridge via Inspiration Point

On Sunday we hit a section of the PCT that passes through Inspiration Point off the Angeles Crest Highway. I figured the hike from there to blue ridge would make for a nice day hike.

From the very start of the hike you get great views of the surrounding mountains: Blady, Iron, Badden-Powel, ect.  But as you go down the trail you also get views at the back side of the Mountain High Ski Area.

The trail traversed through brush and exposed areas, but also passed through shaded areas with trees.  There were even some patches of snow still on some parts of the trail.

When we got to Blue Ridge there was a great view of Mount Baldy, however there was a cloud hanging around it’s summit most of the time we were there.  Still, it was a nice area to stop, have a snack, and take in the views.

On the way back we took some of the Blue Ridge Truck Trail (3N06) and passed through the Blue Ridge Campsite which seemed pretty nice.  All together the hike was about 7 miles round trip.  You can see the route in the map below.