Category Archives: running

Manzanita Morning

Manzanita

A day that begins on a trail winding its way through manzanita and Jeffery pine is probably going to be a good one. You’re in the mountains, and most likely starting a hike, run, climb, or some other adventure. In this case, it was the San Gabriel Mountains, and I was on the Pacific Crest Trail, near the start of a 20 mile run that began at Three Points and would circuit Mt. Waterman.

From Three Points (5,920′), I followed the PCT up to Cloudburst Summit (7018′), and then down into Cooper Canyon (~5735′). Reminiscient of a Rousseau painting, Cooper Canyon is one of the most idyllic spots in the San Gabriels. The old roadbed the trail follows into the canyon is a telltale sign of its lasting popularity. One of its attractions is Cooper Canyon Falls, which is on the PCT a short distance beyond where the Burkhart Trail, and my run, branched off and climbed to Buckhorn Campground (6300′).

The last time I had done this run, the linkup from Buckhorn Campground to the Mt. Waterman trail had been a little unclear. This time I knew I had to follow the camp roads to the entrance of the campground, rather than the exit. From the entrance of the campground, if I turned right onto Hwy 2, the Mt. Waterman trail could be picked up a few hundred feet north along the highway.

The Mt. Waterman trail winds a couple of miles through open yellow pine forest to within about 0.7 mile of the Mt. Waterman summit. At this point, a spur trail leads to the peak, and the main trail continues to the junction with the Twin Peaks trail. This spur trail leads to Twin Peaks Saddle, and from there to Twin Peaks.

The rocky, isolated summit of Twin Peaks is a worthwhile ascent, adding about 4 miles and 1700′ of elevation gain to the loop. It has a unique character, and is one of my favorite summits in the San Gabriels. On one ascent, as I reached the summit, the music of Bach wafted in on the wind from a subsidiary peak. Played with skill and feeling on a concert flute, the notes seemed to dance among the trees and rocks, and fill the expanse that lay beyond the peak.

There would be no Bach on the summit of Twin Peaks on this run. At the junction with the Twin Peaks trail I briefly debated the ascent, but continued on my way to Three Points.

Here’s a Google Earth image and Google Earth KMZ file of a GPS trace of the loop.

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Pleasant View Ridge

Peak 8248, the highest point on Pleasant View Ridge

The photograph is of peak 8248, the highest point on Pleasant View Ridge, viewed from the saddle northwest of the peak. Located in the San Gabriel Mountains, Pleasant View Ridge extends northwest about 8 miles from  Mt. Williamson to the vicinity of Indian Bill Canyon.

When hikers refer to Pleasant View Ridge, they are usually talking about a 3 mile segment of the ridge that runs from the southeastern summit of Mt. Williamson (8214′) to Burkhart Saddle (6959′). From Mt. Williamson, the ridge follows along a series of 8000’+ summits, then crosses a deep gap to the broad summit of Pallett Mountain (7760’+). From this point, Burkhart Saddle and the Burkhart Trail are another 0.6 of a mile to the west.  There is no maintained trail on the ridge, but over time a use trail has developed and is generally (but not always) distinct. In this photograph of the ridge from the PCT, Pallett Mountain is the peak on the left, in the distance.

Mt. Williamson is in the peculiar situation that the register for the peak is not on the peak labeled “Mt. Williamson” on the Crystal Lake topo. According to the Sierra Club Hundred Peaks Section Peak List, the register is normally located on peak 8244, which is the next peak along the ridge to the northwest. What is even more peculiar, peak 8248, which is a little further on the ridge, is the highest point of all three!

The section of Pleasant View Ridge between Mt. Williamson and Burkhart Saddle is commonly done as part of a 13 mile loop from Eagles Roost. In order to protect critical habitat of the mountain yellow-legged frog, the Forest Service has closed the PCT between Eagle’s Roost and the Burkhart Trail. In addition, Angeles Crest Highway (SR2) is now closed 0.25 mile west of Eagles Roost. (Update May 27, 2007. Angeles Crest Highway has since been re-opened to Islip Saddle. It was open to Islip Saddle on May 27, 2007, but closed beyond this point. It looked like the road past Islip was being resurfaced.) If the PCT detour suggested by the Forest Service is followed, the loop length is increased to about 14.4 miles, and it is necessary to hike/run a 2.4 mile stretch of Angeles Crest Highway. Done this way, the route has an elevation gain and loss of 4000′ or so.

I usually like to do the loop in the counter-clockwise direction, and that’s what I did on this day. It’s nice to get a big chunk of elevation gain done in the morning while it’s cool, and then have a net elevation loss doing the ridge. Also, except for a few downed trees, the running is outstanding from Burkhart Saddle down to Little Rock Creek. Some Western Columbine (Aquilegia formosa) was blooming along Little Rock Creek.

Here is a Google Earth image and Google Earth KMZ file of a GPS trace of the loop with the PCT detour through Buckhorn Campground. The ridge parallels the San Andreas Fault zone, whose linear features can be seen in the valley below. This Google Earth image shows the approximate position of the fault zone in relation to Pleasant View Ridge loop. It also shows the section of Pleasant View Ridge northwest of Burkhart Saddle.

For more information regarding the PCT detour see the News section of the Angeles National Forest web site.

Updated May 5, 2008. Added elevation profile.

Google search: $g(Pleasant View Ridge), $g(Mt. Williamson), $g(Pallet Mountain), $g(Burkart Trail), $g(trail running), $g(mountain yellow-legged frog), $g(PCT), $g(Pacific Crest Trail), $g(San Gabriel Mountains)

Related post: Peaks Along Pleasant View Ridge

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Vincent Tumamait Trail

Mt. Pinos from the Vincent Tumamait Trail

Mt. Pinos from the Vincent Tumamait Trail

There are several options for runs and hikes in the Mt. Pinos area. On the long side is the 25+ mile run from the lower McGill trailhead to Mt. Abel (Cerro Noroeste) mentioned in Snow Plant Still Life. Another valley-to-summit adventure is the approximately 20 mile out & back run/hike to the summit of Mt. Pinos from Three Falls Boy Scout Camp in Lockwood Valley.

This day I was looking to escape the heat of the San Fernando Valley, but do something a little less ambitious than either of those runs. The North Fork would be too hot, and McGill to Abel too strenuous. Instead, I opted for a third alternative, the Vincent Tumamait Trail between Mt. Pinos and Mt. Abel. By doing a short side trip to the spring at Sheep Camp, I could carry one water bottle and keep things simple.

The route, including the spur to Sheep Camp, works out to be about 14.5 miles, with 3000 ft. or so of elevation gain. There’s a lot of up and down as the trail works its way along the forested ridge, and past the broad summits of Sawmill Mountain and Grouse Mountain.  The trail ends at the Cerro Noroeste road, but it is not difficult to find a way up the steep slope above the road to the summit of Mt. Abel.

In kayaking there is saying that you “never run the same river twice.” The same is true of trails. Each experience on a particular trail is unique. This would be a day of unblemished blue skies and tired legs, the subtle scents of sun-warmed pine needles and Jeffry Pine on the air. A day of bounding deer, Paintbrush reds, and Wallflower yellows. It would be one to contemplate the fallen trees of Cerro Noroeste, the peculiar shape of the Larkspur leaf, the intricacies of the snow plant, and the hummingbird flight of the Bee Fly.

The photograph is a glimpse of Mt. Pinos from the saddle west of the peak. With sufficient snow cover, and the right conditions, I’ve enjoyed good skiing on these slopes, as well as along the ridge leading to Sawmill and Grouse Mountains. Here’s a view of Grouse Mountain from near Mt. Abel.

Here’s a Google Earth image and Google Earth KMZ file of a GPS trace of my route.

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Spring Growth

New growth on a Big Cone Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga macrocarpa) in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Bright green highlights new growth on a Big Cone Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga macrocarpa) in the San Gabriel Mountains near Josephine Peak and Strawberry Peak.

These peaks are popular lower elevation summits, that can be snow-free in Winter, or a blast furnace in Summer. Josephine Peak (5558 ft.) was once the site of fire lookout, and a fire road leads from Clear Creek Station to its summit. From the west, via Clear Creek or Colby Canyon, Strawberry Peak (6164 ft.) is a more difficult ascent that requires careful route-finding and rudimentary rock climbing skills. Many hikers prefer to do Strawberry from the east, starting at Red Box.

The day this photograph was taken, I wasn’t climbing Strawberry Peak, but instead was running a circuit around the peak. Part of the Angeles National Forest Trail Race course, the circuit is an excellent 15 mile loop with an elevation gain/loss of about 2700 ft. Here’s a Google Earth image and Google Earth KMZ file of a GPS trace of the Strawberry Peak Circuit. A longer variant of this route is described in Fall Leaves on Bear Creek and Strawberry – Bear Canyon Loop.

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Chumash Rock


Rock formation northwest of the Chumash Trail.
Rock Formation Northwest of the Chumash Trail


Practically any objective can make a good excuse for an adventure. Each time up or down the Chumash Trail, I pondered the prominent rock formation northwest of the trail, and wondered what I might find there.


My first thought was to find a direct route across the deep canyon that parallels the Chumash Trail. Recons from a couple of points on the trail revealed that the this was a bad idea. Sections of the canyon that looked passable from above were incised, with crumbling, near-vertical walls. A Plan B was required.


A look at a topo map suggested it might be possible to access the ridge on which the formation was located from Las Llajas Canyon. An advantage of this approach was that, if it worked, it would be part of a loop. A cool January morning, I decided to give it a go.


From Las Llajas Canyon, an old overgrown roadbed led up a side canyon to a point where there was no obvious route. The canyon bottom did not look promising, and steep slopes bounded both sides of the canyon. After scrambling several hundred feet up a south-facing slope, I found a deer trail that seemed headed in the general direction I wanted to go. This game trail was the key. Its route reflected the cumulative experience of deer in dealing with the terrain issues I faced. It turned out to be remarkably efficient, and appeared to represent the path of least energy needed to reach the main ridge. That is, if you’re a deer. At one point I was forced to backtrack and climb above the trail when it crossed a steep, exposed slope better suited to those with four legs and cervid hooves.


Once up on the main ridge, it didn’t take long to reach the rock formation. According to the Dibblee geological map of the area, the formation is positioned on the south branch of the Simi Fault. The steeply inclined beds of river cobble seen in this photo might have been deposited as part of a fan delta some 60 million years ago. This Paleocene age cobble is also encountered at several places along the Chumash Trail.


Near the summit of the formation some chiseled inscriptions  were found. They were very weathered. The most prominent might be either a “93” or “33” over the top of a “W,” and another is perhaps a “DH.” It’s hard to tell.


Of the three high points comprising the formation, I scrambled to the top of two. The eastern-most summit (on the far right when viewed from the Chumash Trail) is wholly comprised of cobble and looked like an accident waiting to happen. Here’s a photo from near the summit of the formation, looking back down the ridge.


As I climbed down from the summit to a saddle northeast of the rock formation, I spooked a deer and it bounded into a brush filled gully. Continuing up the ridge, it eventually intersected Rocky Peak Rd. at its high point near some bivalve fossil beds. According to the Dibblee map, these are much younger than the rock formation’s river cobble, and may have been deposited in shallow marine conditions or lagoons a couple million years ago.


At Rocky Peak Rd. I had the option of returning via Las Llajas Canyon, but opted to complete the approximately 8 mile route via the Chumash Trail. This Google Earth image  shows most of the route. (Photographs from hike & run on January 29, 2006.)

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Olancha Peak Sierra Panorama

Part of the Panorama from Olancha Peak.

Part of the Panorama from Olancha Peak

Olancha Peak (12,123 ft.) is the prominent, pyramidal peak seen on the Sierra crest from Hwy 395, south of Olancha. Its rocky summit is above tree line, and in some years snow can persist in the east-facing summit gullies and other sun-protected areas into late June, or early July.

There are better choices for a run in the Sierra, but early in the summer when the passes on other routes are blocked by snow, Olancha may be passable. Views from the summit of Olancha Peak are expansive, and the running on the PCT was enjoyable. Round trip, the distance is an arduous 20 miles, with over 6300 ft. of elevation gain and loss.

The trail starts at Sage Flat, at a relatively low elevation of 5800 ft. As a result, in warm weather it can be hot and dusty. In addition, the trail segment up to Olancha Pass (9200 ft.) can have a lot of pack train traffic. To lessen the chance of encountering horses or mules on the trail, I opted to follow a very steep and rough “cow driveway” that shortcuts 1.3 miles of the trail up to Olancha Pass. It’s hard to imagine driving cattle up this swath, and judging from the cow femur I saw sticking up from the rubble, the cattle don’t find it so easy either.

Beyond Olancha Pass, the aesthetics improve, and a spur trail is followed northwest along Summit Meadow to a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. The PCT eventually leads to the west slopes of Olancha Peak, and from here the summit is a short second class scramble. Here’s a Google Earth image and Google Earth KMZ file of a GPS trace of my route.

This summit panorama is from a run on June 26, 2005. The view shows the headwaters of the N.F. and S.F. Kern River, and the high peaks of the Southern Sierra. From south (left) to north (right) are the Little Kern, the N.F. Kern near Hole in the Ground, Kern Peak, the Great Western Divide, the Kaweah Group, Junction Meadow, Mt. Whitney, and Mt. Langley.

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