Category Archives: san gabriel mountains

Twenty-Plus Years Running the Strawberry Peak Circuit

Large boulder near Strawberry Protreo marking the Colby Canyon Trail.
Can’t miss trail marker on the Colby Canyon Trail near Strawberry Protreo.

The repeated cries of a falcon called from high on the north face of Strawberry Peak. Along the sandy trail, lupine, paintbrush, penstemon and yarrow bloomed in a profusion of blues, reds, and yellows. Tracks from running shoes, bikes, boots, and a black bear proclaimed the trail to be truly multi-use.

I sighed and took it all in. I’d been doing this classic 16-mile route for more than 20 years. A favorite of mountain bikers and runners alike, the loop can be broken down into the following segments.

Josephine Fire Road Climb
Scarlet bugler along Josephine Fire Road. (thumbnail)
Scarlet bugler along Josephine Fire Road.

From the Clear Creek Trailhead, Josephine Fire Road climbs about 1250′ over 2.5 miles to a divide connecting Josephine and Strawberry Peaks. At the junction, the route turns right (east) onto a trail along the divide that goes to Josephine Saddle. A left (west) turn goes to Josephine Peak.

On the way up from Clear Creek, the switchbacks on the fire road look intimidating, but the climb goes relatively quickly. There are good views of Strawberry Peak along the way. In the Spring and early Summer, the bright yellow flowers of invasive Spanish broom line the road.

Clear Creek Trailhead from Josephine Fire Road. (thumbnail)
Clear Creek Trailhead from Josephine Fire Road.

An out-and-back ascent of Josephine Peak from the junction adds about three miles to the loop.

There is a Remote Automated Weather Station (RAWS) at Clear Creek Station. The “2.0m Temperature” is more or less the temperature in the shade and the “Fuel Temperature” is a good indicator of the temperature in the sun.

Colby Canyon Trail
Colby Canyon Trail northeast of Josephine Saddle. (thumbnail)
Colby Canyon Trail northeast of Josephine Saddle.

The route joins the Colby Canyon Trail at Josephine Saddle. A large cistern is found here. Just past the saddle, the climber’s trail to Strawberry Peak branches off the main trail and goes up the ridge. The Colby Canyon Trail contours along the left (northwest) side of the ridge and traverses a steep slide area. After that, it works around the shoulder of Strawberry, then turns east and descends, winding in and out of the small canyons on the northwest and north slopes of Strawberry.

In the Spring and Summer colorful patches of lupine, paintbrush, and other wildflowers are found on this stretch of trail. Long-limbed big cone Douglas-firs grow on these cooler north-facing slopes.

Lupine and paintbrush along the Colby Canyon Trail. (thumbnail)
lupine (violet) and paintbrush (red) along the Colby Canyon Trail.

The bare trunks of trees burned in the 2009 Station Fire are mixed in with surviving trees. Today, I was surprised to find another reminder of the Station Fire — poodle-dog bush. The plant can cause a poison oak-like rash and was much more common following the 2009 Station Fire.

On this stretch, the large rock face on the north side of Strawberry Peak comes into view, and shortly after, the trail passes a huge boulder. The flattish area that follows is Strawberry Protreo. The “meadow” reminds me of lower elevation areas of the Southern and East Side Sierra.

North face of Strawberry Peak. (thumbnail)
North face of Strawberry Peak.

Several climbing routes have been done on Strawberry’s formidable north face. The consensus seems to be that the rock quality is poor and the risk high.

Beyond Strawberry Protreo, the trail descends along the margin of a moraine-like landslide. Then it turns south, reaching a flat, sandy area just before the Colby Canyon Trail – Strawberry Trail junction. I’ve often seen bear tracks on this stretch of trail. The loop takes the right fork onto the Strawberry Trail and climbs to Lawlor Saddle.

Climb to Lawlor Saddle
Yerba Santa along the Strawberry Trail. (thumbnail)
Yerba Santa is a close relative of Poodle-dog Brush.

The Strawberry Trail gains about 750′ over two miles on its way to Lawlor Saddle. As the post “Trail Games” mentions, this stretch will tell you a lot about how your day is going. It dips in and out of side canyons, passing Strawberry Spring along the way. Today, Strawberry Spring was running, but the spring was dry during our recent drought.  It is generally not a dependable water source.

Lawlor Saddle to Red Box
New growth on a bigcone Douglas-fir seedling. May 2024. (thumbnail)
New growth on a bigcone Douglas-fir seedling.

The 2.5 miles to Red Box are enjoyable single-track trail. Most of it is flat or downhill. On the weekend, numerous hikers are on the trail, heading up to climb Strawberry Peak. It is by far the busiest trail on the loop.

There’s a water faucet at Red Box at the Haramokngna American Indian Cultural Center which generally (but not always) has water.

Gabrielino Trail to Switzer’s
Josephine Peak from the Gabrielino Trail between Red Box and Switzer's. (thumbnail)
Josephine Peak from the Gabrielino Trail between Red Box and Switzer’s.

The 4.4 miles down to Switzer’s include some fast-paced stretches and some of the most technical sections of the loop. It is popular with mountain bikers and V-ed and rutted in places. At one point, the trail drops down to the stream (if it’s running) and crosses the creek twice.

Among the many wildflowers found along this trail is crimson-spotted rock rose.

As the trail nears Switzer’s, derelict nature signs are seen along the trail, which the Forest Service apparently can’t afford to repair or remove.

Nature’s Canteen Trail to Clear Creek

The Nature’s Canteen Trail is roughly half a mile long and connects Switzer’s to Clear Creek. It starts a third of a mile up the steep access road between Switzer’s and Angeles Crest Highway. The trail is sometimes overgrown.

Strawberry Peak Variation

There is a more adventurous variation of the Strawberry Peak Circuit that goes over the top of Strawberry Peak instead of around it. This variation requires good route-finding and rock-climbing skills.

This interactive, 3-D terrain view shows the classic Strawberry Peak Circuit and the Strawberry Summit Loop variation.

Some related posts:
Showers on the Strawberry Peak Circuit
Strawberry Peak Summit Loop – Spring 2023 Update
Strawberry Peak Circuit

Condor Peak Trail Run – April 2024

Condor Peak Trail above Fusier Canyon.
Condor Peak Trail above Fusier Canyon.

After climbing Condor Peak, I paused along the trail between the peak and Fox Mountain to take a photo. That’s when I heard a loud rattling behind me. I slowly turned around… A very upset snake was in the brush about 15 feet away and continuing to buzz.

Many rattlesnakes I encounter don’t rattle — even if directly on the trail. But for some reason this well-hidden snake was really agitated.

Josephine Peak and Strawberry Peak from the Condor Peak Trail. (thumbnail)
Josephine Peak and Strawberry Peak

The rattle sounded like that of a mature snake. I briefly considered looking for it. But, I reasoned, if the snake had been kind enough to rattle, then I should return the favor and leave it alone. It was already amped and clearly knew where I was. While I was curious, I didn’t need to see THIS snake. I turned and continued down the trail.

It had been one of those runs where everything goes as planned. Other than the first 50 yards or so of the Vogel Flat Trail — which was in terrible condition — it had been a nice change to be on a “normal” trail. By that, I mean a trail that (generally) wasn’t rutted, overgrown, or washed out. Consecutive wet rain seasons have been hard on lower elevation trails in the Los Angeles area.

The San Gabriel Mountains from East Condor Peak. (thumbnail)
The San Gabriels from East Condor Peak.

I was the first up to the peak, and on the way down passed several small groups of hikers. The topmost group was resting in the shade near Fox Mountain, and the others working up the trail farther down the mountain. All were enjoying the day.

According to the Tempe thermometer on my pack, the temperature climbed steadily from 60 degrees at the start of the run to around 75-80 degrees on Condor Peak. The day wasn’t forecast to be particularly hot — around 85 in the warmer valley locations. But on the return from Condor, the temperature in the sun in the south-facing bowl at the head of Fusier Canyon was in the 90s. This was offset somewhat by the shaded little streams in the corners of the canyon. In some years these have been completely dry.

Paintbrush mixed with bush poppy along the Condor Peak Trail. (thumbnail)
Paintbrush and bush poppy.

As elsewhere this Spring, the wildflowers along the trail were spectacular. Some of those in bloom included woolly paintbrush, yellow monkeyflower, chaparral whitethorn, hoary-leaved Ceanothus, bush poppy, collarless California poppy, chia, and black sage. The paintbrush and bush poppy were especially striking.

Here’s an interactive 3D-terrain map of my GPS track (yellow) of the route to Condor Peak, starting near Vogel Flat on Big Tujunga Canyon Road. It’s a strenuous 16-mile run, hike, or ride, with an elevation gain of about 4000′. The summit of Condor (either one) is at about 5441 feet.

Some related posts:
Condor Peak and Fox Mountain Adventure Run
Condor Peak Out and Back Adventure Run
Condor Peak Trail Run

Three Points Loop Following the Reopening of Angeles Crest Highway

Bracken fern turning color at Waterman Meadow is a sure sign of Autumn.
Waterman Meadow

I was beginning to wonder if I would get a chance to do the Three Points Loop around Mt. Waterman this year. Angeles Crest Highway had been closed from Red Box to Vincent Gap for many months, and CalTrans projected it might not open until Thanksgiving.

That’s why Friday (November 3) I was excited to hear Angeles Crest Highway had reopened between Upper Big Tujunga Rd. and Islip Saddle.

Alpenglow on the San Gabriels' Front Range peaks.
Alpenglow on the San Gabriels’ Front Range peaks.

At dawn, a couple days later, I pulled into the Three Points parking lot, put on some sunscreen, grabbed my pack, and set out to see what was happening on the Three Points loop around Mt. Waterman.

I’d done the loop many times and in many situations — clockwise, counterclockwise, after the Station Fire closure, after the Bobcat Fire closure, with snow at the higher elevations, in hot weather and in cold. When the trails are in good shape and the weather isn’t too hot, the 20-mile loop is an outstanding trail run. Today, it was a challenge just to complete the loop.

Gilia along the Burkhart Trail. November 2023.
Gilia along the Burkhart Trail.

In many areas of Southern California, a wet 2022-2023 rainy season and Tropical Storm Hilary’s rain produced two seasons of Spring-like growth. One of the effects of the rain was the growth of wildflowers usually seen in the Spring, including seep monkeyflower, golden yarrow, gilia, grape soda lupine, and little paintbrush. It was strange to see a bumblebee buzzing from flower to flower of a Grinnell’s penstemon at 7250′ on Mt. Waterman in November.

At lower elevation, sections of Three Points – Mt. Waterman Trail (10W04) were overgrown with mountain whitethorn — requiring several “grin and bear it” passages. Higher, long stretches of the little-used path were covered with a second season of grass. This made route-finding difficult, particularly where the trail descends to the Twin Peaks Trail junction.

Twin Peaks from the Buckhorn - Mt. Waterman Trail.
Twin Peaks from the Buckhorn – Mt. Waterman Trail.

It was an intriguing puzzle to solve, and eventually I made it to the junction of the summit trail and the trail down to Angeles Crest Highway, near Buckhorn (10W05). The trail down to Buckhorn sees much more use than the trail from Three Points and is much better defined. Besides a couple of downed trees, the run down was one of the more enjoyable parts of the loop. The trail is usually very busy, but I didn’t encounter anyone coming up the trail.

As expected, Buckhorn Campground was closed and no water was available. It was a warm day — around 75 degrees — but with the November sun low in the sky, not as warm as 75 degrees in July. If I needed more water, there were several places I could refill.

Cooper Canyon Falls, November 2023.
Cooper Canyon Falls (video)

The Burkhart Trail (below Buckhorn) was the only place I encountered a few hikers. They were returning from Cooper Canyon Falls. When I got down to the PCT and saw how much water was in the creek, I did the short side trip to the falls and took this video snapshot. It’s unusual for the falls to be flowing this time of year.

After checking out the falls, I resumed my westward journey on the PCT. Within feet of the creek crossing, an ugly tangle of fallen trees completely blocked the trail. This was just the first of several problems on the PCT between the Burkhart Trail junction and Cooper Canyon Camp. There were the usual downed trees, but there were also several sections of badly overgrown trail. These green thickets were generally adjacent to the creek, where the trail had been (or still was) wet.

Willows along the creek near Cooper Canyon Trail Camp.
Willows along the creek near Cooper Canyon Trail Camp.

Needing water, and to empty the debris from my shoes, I stopped for a few minutes at Cooper Canyon Trail Camp. Several campsites are nestled in a pleasant area along the creek. With Angeles Crest Highway open, I thought I might see someone here, but like Buckhorn Campground, it was empty.

After reaching Cloudburst Summit, the remainder of the run was more or less usual for the loop. There was some Poodle-dog bush and a small rockslide along the PCT on the way to Camp Glenwood, but neither were an issue. The run was more challenging than usual — and a bit slower — but it had been (mostly) fun and fascinating to work through it.

Here are a few photos taken along the way.

Some related posts:
After the Bobcat and Station Fires: Three Points Loop Around Mt. Waterman (Slideshow, 3D Terrain Maps)
Cool Weather, Old Trees, Grape Soda Lupine and a Restored Trail
Lemon Lilies, Tree Rings and More Heat Training on the Three Points Loop
Three Points Loop Adventure – July 2020

Woolly Bluecurls Blooming Out of Season Along the Ken Burton Trail

Woolly Bluecurls blooming out of season along the Ken Burton Trail, in the San Gabriel Mountains.

The blue of the woolly bluecurls was just stunning. The plant was along the Ken Burton Trail, in the San Gabriel Mountains, near Los Angeles.

Arroyo Seco below Royal Gorge at Gabrielino Trail crossing.
Arroyo Seco below Royal Gorge at Gabrielino Trail crossing.

Woolly bluecurls normally flowers in the Spring, but rain from Tropical Storm Hilary, combined with Spring-like conditions caused it to bloom this Fall. Such blooms are usually not widespread and the flowers are often less robust than their Spring counterparts. Other Spring flowers that were blooming included Ceanothus, bush poppy, and golden yarrow.

The Ken Burton Trail connects the Gabrielino Trail, near Oakwilde, to a saddle at the top of Brown Mountain Road. Today, I was doing a longish out and back trail run to Wella’s Peak from Clear Creek via Switzers and the Gabrielino and Ken Burton Trails. Wella’s Peak is a bump on the west side of the saddle. Brown Mountain towers above the east side of the saddle.

An idyllic section of the Gabrielino Trail on the segment that bypasses Royal Gorge.
An idyllic section of the Gabrielino Trail

Explore the scenery and terrain on the out and back trail run to Wella’s Peak from Clear Creek using our high resolution,  interactive, 3D viewer. The imagery is so detailed, it’s almost like being there! To change the view, use the control on the upper right side of the screen, the CTRL key and your mouse, or touch gestures. Track and placename locations are approximate and subject to errors. Snow, ice, poor weather, and other conditions may make this route unsuitable for this activity.

Related post: Red Box – Bear Canyon Loop Plus Brown Mountain

Three Bighorn Sheep, a Solar Eclipse, and a New Peak

Bighorn sheep blend into the rocky terrain near Windy Gap in the San Gabriel Mountains
Bighorn sheep blend into the rocky terrain near Windy Gap

Had they not dislodged some rocks, I doubt I would have seen the three bighorn sheep in the photo above.  They are easier to see in this zoomed-in photo of the sheep descending the rocky slopes just below Windy Gap (7,588′) in the San Gabriel Mountains. They crossed a brush-covered rib and disappeared from view.

A partially-eclipsed sun crests a ridge east of Windy Gap.
The partially-eclipsed sun crests a ridge east of Windy Gap.

A few minutes after seeing the sheep, I reached Windy Gap and stopped to put my arm sleeves away. It had been cool at the trailhead — about 40 degrees — but the temperature had warmed as I worked up the trail. As its name suggests, the wind can be fierce at Windy Gap, but this morning there was almost no wind, foretelling nearly ideal weather for today’s adventure.

Windy Gap was still in shade, and the sun was just peeking over the ridge to the east. You couldn’t tell, but the eclipse had already begun. The eclipse would be nearly total in parts of Oregon, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas. In the Los Angeles area, the moon would obscure more than 70% of the sun’s disc.

Partially eclipsed sun from the PCT in the San Gabriel Mountains
Partially eclipsed sun.

From Windy Gap, I headed east on the Pacific Crest Trail toward Mt. Hawkins. From time to time, I would stop and check the progress of the eclipse using eclipse sunglasses. In sunny areas, I looked for lensed images of the sun in the shadows of trees but didn’t see any. Having needles instead of leaves, conifers don’t produce the myriad images of the eclipsed sun seen under trees with leaves.

A few minutes before the eclipse reached maximum, I took this photo of the eclipse with my iPhone, using eclipse glasses as a filter.

With nearly three-quarters of the sun obscured, the light from the sun had become enfeebled. The feeling was more than that of a cloud passing in front of the sun. I stopped and listened… to nothing. It was eerily quiet. No birds called or sang, and only chill zephyrs of wind wafted about the area. Somehow, the sun was broken.

The south ridge of Mt. Lewis can be accessed from the CalTrans shed at Dawson Saddle.
The south ridge of Mt. Lewis can be accessed from the CalTrans shed at Dawson Saddle.

As the eclipse slowly waned, I continued east in the corrupt light, past Mt. Hawkins and Throop Peak, to the PCT’s junction with the Dawson Saddle Trail. In what seemed fitting for the day, instead of continuing to Baden-Powell, I turned left and headed down the trail toward Angeles Crest Highway (Highway 2).

Why? Angeles Crest Highway was closed from Red Box to Vincent Gap, transforming Dawson Saddle into one of the more isolated areas of the Angeles National Forest. I hadn’t been on the Dawson Saddle Trail in years, and with Highway 2 closed, it would be a quirky way to climb Mt. Lewis. Instead of having one of the shortest approaches in the San Gabriels — a few feet from the CalTrans shed at Dawson Saddle — it would involve a trail run of nearly eight miles just to get to the base of the peak.

Angeles Crest Highway from the shoulder of Mt. Lewis.
Angeles Crest Highway from the shoulder of Mt. Lewis.

The eclipse was nearly over when I reached the bottom of the Dawson Saddle Trail on Highway 2. From the trailhead, I ran up an empty Angeles Crest Highway a short distance to Dawson Saddle. Mt. Lewis’ south ridge was accessed from here.

Only about a half-mile long, the south ridge isn’t technical, but the first third is steep and rocky. The elevation gain from the saddle to the summit is about 500′. Offset from the crest of the San Gabriels, the flat summit of Mt. Lewis has unique views of the crest extending from Mt. Baden-Powell to Mt. Islip and beyond.

After a few minutes enjoying the summit, I turned southward and began working my way back down to Angeles Crest Highway, up to the PCT, over to Windy Gap, and back down to the trailhead in the Crystal Lake Recreational Area.

Here are a few photos taken along the way.

Some related posts:
Solar Eclipses, Saros Cycles and Chumash Rock Art
Boney Mountain Eclipse Run
It’s Mid-July And There Is Still Snow in Los Angeles County!

Manzanita Trail Plus Mt. Baden-Powell

Approaching Dorr Canyon wash on the Manzanita Trail, on the way to Vincent Gap.
Wash in Dorr Canyon

Update September 3, 2023, 1:15 p.m. Caltrans Quickmap is showing Angeles Crest Highway (Hwy 2)  is now open between Grassy Hollow and Vincent Gap.  Caltrans Road  Conditions says the closure is “5 mi west of Big Pines.” Google Maps and Waze still show the section between Grassy Hollow and Vincent Gap as closed.

Update August 23, 2023. The Big Pines RAWS recorded 6.26 inches of rain, and Lewis Ranch RAWS 7.04 inches from T.S. Hilary. The heavy rain on the north-facing slopes of the eastern San Gabriels may have produced debris flows in the washes crossed by the Manzanita Trail. Excessive runoff may have done more damage to stabilized sections of the Manzanita Trail where it crosses steep slides above Paradise Springs. According to CalTrans, the previously open section of Angeles Crest Highway (Hwy 2) between Grassy Hollow and Vincent Gap is currently closed.

Bigcone Douglas-fir cones, dripping with protective resin.
Bigcone Douglas-fir cones, dripping with protective resin.

I’d been thinking about doing the South Fork Loop, a challenging loop that I usually start at Islip Saddle. The route descends the South Fork Trail to South Fork Campground (4,565′) and then climbs all the way to the top of Mt. Baden-Powell (9,399′), using the Manzanita Trail and PCT. From the top of Baden-Powell, the PCT is followed back to Islip Saddle.

But there were a couple of problems with this idea. First, the road to Islip Saddle — Angeles Crest Highway — was closed. More importantly, parts of the South Fork Trail were burned in the Bobcat Fire, and heavy snow and rain may have damaged the South Fork Trail or Manzanita Trail.

One of the washes crossed by the Manzanita Trail, about a mile below Vincent Gap.
Wash crossed by the Manzanita Trail, about a mile below Vincent Gap.

The road closure would be easy to work around — the loop could be started at Vincent Gap. But I definitely needed to check the condition of the South Fork and Manzanita Trails. The loop is difficult, even when the trails are in good shape.

I decided to check the Manzanita Trail first. If that trail had issues, then the condition of the South Fork Trail didn’t matter.

So that is what I was doing today. The plan was to run the Manzanita Trail from Vincent Gap down to South Fork Campground, then turn around and — just like on the South Fork Loop — take the Manzanita Trail and PCT to the top of Mt. Baden-Powell.

Brush and debris deposited on the Manzanita Trail a couple of miles below Vincent Gap.
Manzanita Trail obstacle course.

I woke early on Sunday and arrived at Vincent Gap at about 6:45 a.m. With much of Angeles Crest Highway closed, I shouldn’t have been surprised that the main parking lot was already full. I nabbed the last spot in the overflow area across the highway. I could only imagine what it must be like on the trail up Baden-Powell.

But I didn’t have to worry about that — not for a while. I grabbed my pack from the back of the car and started jogging down the Manzanita Trail. On that trail, I probably wouldn’t see anyone!

Gooseberries along the Manzanita Trail.
Gooseberries along the Manzanita Trail.

As would be expected on a little-used trail after a hard Winter, the Manzanita Trail was a bit of a mess. In addition to being generally overgrown, there were fallen trees, brush deposited on the trail by runoff or avalanches, minor washouts, and other damage. These slowed the pace but weren’t too much of a problem.

On the other hand, there is a section of the Manzanita Trail that could be a serious issue. It is where the trail crosses several steep, loose, stabilized slides. This area is about 4.4 miles from Vincent Gap and 1.4 miles from South Fork Campground. This section of the trail is almost always damaged, but on past adventures, had always been passable. How bad was it going to be today?

Damaged section of the Manzanita Trail about 1.4 miles above South Fork Campground.
Damaged section of the Manzanita Trail.

The answer is — pretty bad. As I started across the first slide, it looked like it would go just fine, but then I looked closer. One of the abutments on the down-slope side of the trail had completely given way. The trail had collapsed, leaving only a narrow slice of crumbling dirt along the base of the up-slope barrier. I would have to use the barrier to get past, and it wasn’t in the best shape. I’m sure people have done this, but it seemed like a bad idea. I could see no straightforward way around the collapsed trail. Disappointed, I turned around and started working back up the trail toward Vincent Gap.

Spiral scar on a tree on the Manzanita Trail that was recently been struck by lightning.
Tree on the Manzanita Trail that was struck by lightning.

I’d been running for a few minutes when I came across a “lightning tree.” These are trees that have been struck by lightning and have a scar spiraling down their trunk. I’ve photographed a number of them. Some are in a location that you would expect to be struck by lightning, but just as many are along seemingly unexposed sections of trail. Once, I was running down the PCT below Mt. Hawkins, well below the crest, and a tree 50 yards down the slope was smoking from just being struck.

On the way back up to Vincent Gap, there would be a little route-finding fun. The Manzanita Trail crosses some small debris-filled washes. Over time, paths develop through the rubble but can be intermittent and indistinct. Debris flows can destroy a part of nearly all of a path.

Debris-filled wash in Dorr Canyon that is crossed by the Manzanita Trail.
Dorr Canyon wash.

The wash in Dorr Canyon is the largest crossed by the Manzanita Trail. Keeping in mind that Tropical Storm Hilary may have changed things, on August 13th, the path across the wash was mostly intact. One gotcha was that on the west side of the wash, the path ended short of the Manzanita Trail.

Did I mention the gnats, stinging nettle, and Poodle-dog bush? Oh, the gnats. On the way down the trail they weren’t too bad, but as the temperature warmed, they became increasingly annoying and persistent.

Blue Ridge and Pine Mountain from the PCT on the north side of Mt. Baden-Powell.
Blue Ridge and Pine Mountain from the PCT on Mt. Baden-Powell.

When doing the South Fork Loop, I usually stop for water at the stream that feeds Icy Springs. The trail was overgrown near the stream, and mixed in with the greenery was some stinging nettle. Even knowing it was there, I managed to brush against it on the way down the trail and then again coming back up.

There was also a little Poodle-dog bush on the trail about two miles down from Vincent Gap in a small area that had been burned. As long as you noticed it, it was easy to avoid.

The Wally Waldron Limber Pine, near the summit of Mt. Baden-Powell.
The Wally Waldron Limber Pine.

What the heck? As I topped out at Vincent Gap, the sounds of revelry came from across the highway. It was party time in the Baden-Powell parking lot! A large group of people were gathered at the west end of the lot, near the trailhead. Were they preparing to do a mass ascent of Baden-Powell? I quickly refilled my hydration pack, grabbed some food, and headed up the PCT.

San Gorgonio Mountain, and Pine Mountain, from Mt. Baden-Powell.
San Gorgonio Mountain, and Pine Mountain from Mt. Baden-Powell.

Once I escaped the craziness of the parking lot, it turned out to be one of the most pleasant ascents and descents of Baden-Powell I’ve done. Even with the machinations of the Manzanita Trail earlier in the morning and the additional vertical gain, Baden-Powell couldn’t have gone better. Very few hikers were on the trail, everyone was super-friendly, and when I reached the summit, it was empty — at noon, on a Sunday, in August!

Some related posts: Manzanita Trail Morning, South Fork Adventure, Bear Cubs on the South Fork Trail, San Gabriel Mountains Running Adventure