There are some places on a map that beckon you to explore. The graded topo lines just giving enough information for ones imagination to run wild with thoughts of the next place to uncover. Noted historian, John Robinson & climbing legend John Mendenhall's words only aided the desire to explore a guarded section of the San Gabriel Mountains.
| North Face Strawberry Peak |
Never one to appose any proposed ideas, mustache aficionado, Carlos is along for an overnight trip to Strawberry Meadow. Making final checks at Red Box, loading two days of water, cooking & all, we set off from the lot. In all the preconceived visions of this trip I had, none of them included what the first 10 minutes brought.
| Local Hunters, Info Below |
Around the bend before we even had a chance to adjust out straps comes a hunter wearing camo & a sequined teal hat. Briefly mentioning that more hunters were ahead. Not more than two minutes go buy & we cross a young man with his kill (above). He & some of his family that were bushwacking down the game trail to meet up. It was their first kill of the season & this was my first encounter with any hunters in the Gabriels. These were also the last people we saw till getting back to the car the next day.
The first portion of the trail around the lower rocky enclaves of Mt. Lawlor have be worked by a trail crew sometime over the 2012 year. Rock falls have been smoothed & filled in solid & bushes cut back. This only lasts for the first mile after the first saddle.
| Nicely maintained Strawberry Peak Trail |
While closing in on Strawberry Saddle I kept looking at the deceptive ridge route that leads up to the peak. Knowing now it's rollercoaster up & down rock scramble. Favoring not to summit any peaks on this trip, we crossed onto the north east side of Strawberry Peak, losing elevation as the saddle disappeared behind us.
| Fern Waterfall |
We knew from our previous Strawberry Peak experience that people tend to sign into the register about once or twice a month. There was not a single human foot print in the dirt anywhere on our journey. In 2009 the Station Fire ravaged this area & over the years has been recovering with nature taking over. There were deer prints throughout the entire hike, leading in all directions.
| Last views into the inner Gabriels |
The trail tends to go as follows for some time, descending the shaded recesses were over grown & head high with several types of poking & prodding bushes, leaving their itching remnants stuck all over. On the other hand, the exposed sun sections were still manageable by normal hiking standards. As we progressed more fallen trees & soft rock wash outs in certain gullies.
| Lower Strawberry Meadow |
Rounding the last ridge we get our first glimpse of Lower Strawberry Meadow. Still bringing a great smile to our face, even lacking a single living green blade of grass. The last switchbacks down to the Colby Ranch Trail/Meadow Junction are a good combination of all the bushwacking skills & solid footwork that have been building up. I assume this entire trip with a day pack would be about 40% easier.
Stepping into the meadow we can't help but marvel at the views of Strawberry Peak. It's north face, seldom seen up close by travelers. Knowing from the beginning our goal was the upper meadow Carlos & I walked on into the canyon, following a very indiscriminate trail up a wash that would be full of snow in the coming months. Using the trail up the ridge, we encountered the worst section of overgrowth on the whole trail. The last 1/4 mile is over 7ft tall of dead flora & more that one huge downed tree.
| Middle Strawberry Meadow |
Does it sound like complaining? Because I truly was having the time of my life. Finally emerging onto the Upper Strawberry Meadow we reached our destination, hidden away from the millions of city dwellers in Los Angeles.
After exploring the area before nightfall, from a distance I saw an area of rockfall that looking like a nice cave. Moving closer due to human curiosity, I started to notice many large pine cones eaten to the core, then wasit & head high branches were broken on almost all the trees in the area. Still a good 30 ft from the "cave" I decided there were too many signs of larger animals to investigate further.
| North Face Strawberry Peak At Night |
The night ended with another interesting note for Strawberry Meadow. It seemed that it's positioning receives the moonlight fairly late after the sun setting behind the ridge. The darkness that falls over the area is like no blackness I had ever experienced in the outdoors. For almost two hours if one of us turned off our headlamp, we were gone.
The morning brought promising signs of winter coming. Frost covered the meadow in a small way, but beautiful none the less. I grabbed for my new down jacket & thanked myself for spending just a bit more for this techno comfort.
| One of many tree falls |
Armed with knowledge, we dawned pants & hardshells to tackle the worst of the bushwhack in the cool morning. BEST IDEA EVER! Making our way through the meadow section, past the Colby trail Junction & up the switchbacks to the long stretch of winding trail to Strawberry Saddle. On the way up hill we encountered; tree falls, bushwhacking, wash outs, rock slides & a large swarm of what could have been bees or hornets?
The last section from Strawberry Saddle to Red Box parking lot was uneventful, but stunningly beautiful all the same. Looking back towards Mt Disappointment, San Gabriel Peak & down into the LA city basin.
| Can You See The Hiker? |