Shouldering our packs amidst the 1920's cabins that line the entrance to Gold Creek, our imaginations can't help but wander of the lucky few who own these stunning retreats strewn throughout the Gabriels. Collin, Carlos, & I are set for an overnight in a region we haven't visited & with a possibility of all types of weather. Following the path in search of a true San Gabriel pioneer, Barefoot Tom. An early grizzly bear hunter & one of the very first forest rangers for the Angeles National Forest.
A standard brown forest service sign at the beginning warns this is not a maintained trail & has not been for some time. The whole are was burnt over in 1975 by the Big Santa Anita Fire, but has made an amazing come back that we will soon be punished by. Many trees still line the canyon floor completely bare, but standing.
The first portion of the hike to Trail Canyon Falls is quite easy going & nice. I'm certain that if more weekend LA hikers knew of this waterfall it would be over run similar to Stuervant Falls on a weekend. A graceful whisping wall of water is rolling between a huge cut of boulders, plunging through green ferns lining its steep walls.
| Can you see Collin hiking? Left of center |
Once we had past the falls the trail easily falls into the "unmaintained" category. We begin more of a boulder hop up the creek, spotting small rock cairns that other hikers have placed. At times following the river banks to move around large plant crops in the river bed. With the recent rains, Gold Creek was flowing beautifully & cold.
| Beautiful canyon cuts looking towards Condor Peak |
| Some really nice yellow & green fall color in this corridor |
Here is a major factor for those that have never traversed this trail, bc we did meet people on our exit on a 2nd attempt. Past the falls a ways someone has place orange tape up as trail markers, eventually those markers split right & switch back north east up onto a ridge that eventually leads to Condor Peak. You will know these b/c the switch backs look home-made & are un-godly steep at first. The trail to Tom Lucas camp at this point cross the creak north west, up a tributary stream for about 30 feet & then follows the west bank up the creek.
| Dropping down towards Trail Canyon Falls |
Back on track now our group is growing to encounter more & more poison ivy. This is not small two or three plants of the whicked stuff though, we are wading through sections that are the size of a two car garage. There is a thin path of downed foliage every once in a while to help know that others have walked here some time in the past few months. Sometime after about 2.5 miles we dubbed one area the "Poison Ivy Staircase" due to two switch backs being covered in poison ivy ascending from the banks on to a bluff.
About a half mile after the falls the rock cairns had become non existent. Stopping for lunch, we looked closley over the one & only map we had, plus the John Robinson description of this hike, which seemed to be from something like 1986.
Gathering our things, we began to set up cairns every time we dropped away from the banks & at river crossings & trail junctions. The path was pretty much up to the traveler at this point. At times we could see paths animals had made going off in other directions along the creek, but we would just forage ahead best as possible.
| Orange markers leading to Condor Ridge Use Trail (more details in text) |
Eventually opening up to a confluence of a couple canyons we could really look & access our goal. Standing on a large rock pile, all three of us could tell we needed to head more north east up the canyon below the unnamed peak coming off of Condor's summit. At this point our first problem is that this canyon twits & turns a lot & one can't see more than a 100 yards or so down the canyon at a time.
| More thick business |
We begin our best at following the loose path that it seems one other person had hiked in the past few months, there was only one rained out boot print we would see ever 1/4 mile or so. The poison ivy became less frequent, but in larger growth when it showed it's teeth. I write this 7 days later, still itching on my lower legs. Since leaving the falls up to this point we have come across only two semi-flat spots that could serve as camp if the impending growth takes over our hike too much.
| Point where we turned around. Notice the thick brush up canyon |
We reach a nice upper portion of the old trail that is washed out, but runs 10ft above the creek, easily better than the walking in the canyon floor. By this time we have easily crossed the creek for the 20 some odd time, dropping more cairns, & continuing up on the north east side of the river.
For the first time, encountering a large field of actual grass, that was over head high. Once again, opening onto a river bend with large trees turn their fall colors. With another opportunity we take a look at the map & judge or best move. However, the waning sunlight, the unknown curves of the canyon & the general lack of trail are all slowly weighing heavier on all our shoulders. Fifteen more minutes we gave ourselves. Bushwhacking past this open field and back into the stream bed, we gained about 60 yards in that 15 minutes.
Looking up towards our goal, the canyon walls are carved in just a way so as to hide what is around the next bend. Though tough to concede, it was time to make a break for one of those flat spots we saw back down stream a ways. Collin found lots of dry grass while heading back towards camp, with a large rain storm just the previous day we needed as much dry tinder as possible. Quite possibly the saving grace for getting the evening started once we squared away some flats places next to the creek deep in Trail Canyon.
| Camp in the upper reaches of Trail Canyon |
The evening passed, the three of us well fed on chicken mac n cheese & beef stroganof (spelling). We continued reminiscing of many places we had visited this past year & the lessons we had learned walking amongst mother natures wonderful mountains. I look fondly back on two local trips in particular; one to Pleasant View Ridge as an overnight & also hiking the Three T's as an overnight trip with a fun hitch hike involved. The clouds came & went that night, at time revealing the starry nights wonderful brilliance.
The next morning we woke to a light mist that fell from the clouds that hung low, disguising the upper reaches of the peaks above us. Not truly certain if the clouds would burst into a down pour or hold strong for our exit, we dawned our hard shells & began our bushwhack back to organized city life.