Wednesday, May 29

6 Peaks Overnight Trip - San Gabriel Mts

Setting up a car shuttle for a backpacking trip means two things, it guarantees whatever trip has been planned is of good quality & it is going to make everyone so damn anxious to hike from all the driving it is incredible.

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| Standing on top of Middle Hawkins Peak, looking into Crystal Lake Basin |

Carlos & I were real lucky to have three new people from San Diego to spend the weekend with us on a new adventure in San Gabriels. Our plan was to head out from Islip Saddle & tag six different mountain peaks before ending the next afternoon at Vincent Gap, a small south bound portion of the PCT.

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| Day 1, heading towards Little Jimmy Camp & Mt. Islip |

After all the mountain driving we were walking the usual 2 miles to Little Jimmy Camp, always gets people breathing quickly on those few switchbacks away from the highway, soon to be tucked away in the forest on the north flank of Mt. Islip.

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| Admiring views into Crystal Lake Basin, heading towards Mt. Islip |

Within a short time we had wished a few thur-hikers a good journey on the PCT & pulled off to Little Jimmy Camp. I could say this camp is a local favorite, but when you show up & there are literally 35 to 40 tents (think two people per tent!) littering the possible acre of land that the camp encompasses it is more of a so cal hot spot! This would be our 5th trip to the camp and only one other time there wasn't two or more boy scout troops. This must have been five or more different troupes.


Hightailing it for the upper reaches of the camp, the five of us found a small basin that blocked all the sound from the circus below, but lay only 25 ft from the nearest scouts. One of those moments when Mother Nature works out just right. After filtering some water & setting up camp, we were off the grab our first summit. The hike up to Islip was really nice, once around a couple bends in the trail the views open up into Crystal Lake Basin & on to Middle & Sadie Hawkins Peaks.

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| Historical remnants on Mt. Islip & one of tomorrow peaks in background |

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| Peak 1 - Mt. Islip 8,251ft |

Day hikes had brought me to many of these summits, but this overnight trip was a chance to link them all together. This was the first time in the Gabriels for two of our friends, so they were amazed to say the least at the views of the surrounding mountains. The old hut was an added bonus for the experience. I enjoyed the expanse east, observing our goals for the next day.

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Back down at camp the plethora of mixed dinners started to reveal itself & all methods ensued. I enjoy one night trips for many reasons, but experimenting with food & different cook styles is always a good time.

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| Day 2, Getting leg work in off trail |

A lot of the motivation for this trip came from the fact that I hadn't seen a couple of these guys in several years, but we had grown up together in the San Diego area. The time we spent sitting around that eve, laughing about everything under the stars, was really the experience I was looking forward to.

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Through the night the wind had picked up & was pulling & pushing at all the pines overhead. Waking early we all set about getting packed & walking. We had something like 11 miles to cover & five more summits to stand atop.

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I wish I had the poetic penmanship of Muir or the legendary hiking tongue on William Thrall, but I will attempt to describe the invigorating zealous that Mother Nature was bestowing upon our humble walking group. What I could only imagine starting as a slow creeping breeze, barley able to move the hot Mojave sand it blew over thousands of feet below, was now a salubrious torrent of blasting wind that made us sway & waiver on the rocky trail. I don't feel that everyone enjoyed the experience as much as me, but those first few hours of hiking will forever be etched in my mind.

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| Peak 2 - Middle Hawkins Peak 8,505ft |

Dropping our packs behind a large fallen tree, we all snagged some water, our cameras & we headed south along Copper Ridge for Middle Hawkins Peak. Not labeled on all maps, but it's one over 8,000ft that we need to stand on.. those were my first thoughts, but the views from this peak were truly unique. The rock formations along the upper ridge like are real interesting with great places to sit on the summit, looking our towards Mt. Islip from the day before on one side & Mt. Hawkins on the other, our next goal.

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| Peak 3 - Mt. Hawkins 8,850ft |

Before dawning our packs we chatted with another PCT hiker, she was on day 26 and was aiming to take care of the San Gabriel section in four days. Nice! Climbing now to Mt. Hawkins was the days first real work it seemed. A bit steeper trail & then a longer spur trail to the actual summit. Once again, another group photo & three peaks down. Later I would claim this as my favorite summit of the trip, but in reality while writing this, it was Middle Hawkins.

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| Peak 4 - Throop Peak 9,137ft |

The next peak on the list could have possibly been achieved a bit easier with some further research. The natural trail to the summit of Throop Peak takes you past the peak only to switchback uphill at a junction the same direction you came from. Lots of plants covered this particular mountain, so there may or may not be a way to climb it's western slope from the PCT. It could have saved some time or could have been a futile effort (for another time).

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| Mt. Baldy, West Baldy, , Iron Moutain #1, Cucamonga Wilderness peaks in the background |

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| Throop Peak one way, PCT another, Dawson Saddle the other, Baden-Powell our way |

Scarfing down various lunch meals from our perch on Throop, we could see our final two summits off in the east, Mt. Burnham & Mt. Baden-Powell. All five of us felt renewed after lunch & ready to tackle the heavy elevation loss, before gaining it all back heading straight up Mt. Burnham off trail. My morning's love affair with the hollowing wind had faded, now a benign breeze accompanied the strengthening mid day sun.
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| Desert thousands of feet below |

Flashing another group photo on top of Mt. Burnham we spent the least amount of time here, our final & sixth summit was within reach & everyone still had smiles. Let's keep walking. Straight up the spur trail on the ridge of Baden-Powell, everyone walked slowly to their own victory at the top. Carlos & Dave plopped down on the monument while others walked off in search of views into the East Fork. We had made it to our final summit.

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| Peak 5 - Mt. Burnham 8,997ft |

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| Our group heading towards Mt. Baden Powell. Look closely, below center for people |

The patient switchback journey down Baden-Powell was a bit of torture after having so many trails just go one direction on this trip, either up or down. Now back to the anxious car shuttle business, everyone wants a burger & beer at this point, but we have to go get the other dang car. More patience back in the modern world.

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| Peak 6 - Mt. Baden-Powell 9,399ft |

All in all, it was fun to wander the San Gabriels & have some old friends create new memories amongst our local gem.

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Monday, May 6

Ontario & Big Horn Peaks Overnight - San Gabriel Mts

"All you're doing is reading a book with your feet."

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| Hello from above 8,000ft |

I heard the above sound-byte on This American Life (NPR) the other day, spoken by a man of wise age to a twenty three year old kid that was undertaking a walk across America & it was just a nice sentiment to mule over while walking down the trail.

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Many that are familiar with Icehouse Canyon know the stampede of cars on the weekend that bombard the parking lot & the almost constant flow of hiking enthusiasts & newbies walking the trail to Icehouse Saddle. Understandably a popular trail due it's wonderful beauty & it's mild grade for much of the first couple miles, with a good hearty switchback section to get the sweat going. Named for it's early history of Ice production & ability to hold snow longer than other areas of the Gabriels.
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| Several section's still with snow at Kelly's & on the way |

A good portion of hikers end their day at the Saddle & return to their cars, but this is a 5 way trail junction over 6,000ft, there most certainly is much more to explore. In the past we have gone over the Three T's from this point which is a stunning hike of total seclusion & also another time on a solo trip to Kelly's Camp

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| How could anyone sit on the couch? |

Our goal this time was to bag Ontario & Big Horn Peaks, so off our group went towards Kelly's Camp (well marked). This next mile or so to the camp is such a stunning section of trail. It slowly brings us south on the flanks of Big Horn & in plain view of Mt. Baldy across San Antonio Canyon. There are amazing rock formations standing thirty feet over head at times, layered in brightly colored lichen.

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| Ridge trail to Big Horn Peak (on left). Can you see three hikers? |

Along the trail up to the saddle we passed two different boy scout troops eating lunch, we learned they two would eventually be heading to the same camp. A crowded nights sleep was our main motivation to make it to camp fast. Perched high above the camp floor, we set up for the night's stay with no one around. 

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| Final climb to Big Horn's summit |

 After filtering water & making a few new friends we decided to check off one of these peaks. The trail out of Kelly's Camp climbs nicely to a beautiful saddle (un-named?) with a sign pointing in both directions, one for Ontario & the other for Big Horn. We opted for Big Horn & set out on the gorgeous ridge trail that lay before us.

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| Left to Right: West Baldy, Mt. Baldy, Mt Harwood, Telegraph Peak  |

Wrapping around a few roller coaster bumps, we found ourselves looking right up at the peak, only about 5 more minutes of some steep uphill. The sun was beginning is descent in the Western sky behind us, setting up for a magical summit experience.

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| Big Horn Summit |

Resting easy at 8,441ft on Big Horn, the four of us looked off towards Cucamonga & Etiwanda Peaks, growing majestic with the waning light, pondering further travels soon to come. Wrapping up with a group photo we set off for camp, deciding for a cross country route that proved to work out well. Arriving just in time to meet our friends Bud & Krista that had just walked into camp, happy to drop their packs & relax.

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| Trail leading out to Ontario Peak |

Now our group was complete with all six & what would become infamous as our most bountiful backcountry meal to date could commences. Still baffling to us, the shared dinner meals just kept coming for close to two and half hours. Everything from crispped brussel sprouts to teriakyi chicken salami burritos.

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| Rock formations & Cucamonga Peak in the back |

The next morning, four of us set out to tackle 8,693ft Ontario Peak. Marching once again to the first saddle with the wooden sign pointing 1 mile to the peak. But others have scratched in another .7 to add to that mile. Does anyone know if this is true?

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| Looking south from below Ontario Peak |

From the saddle the views of the entire Baldy/Telegraph region only grow each bend in the trail. We slowly gain ground to a great false summit, at which point you can actually see the real summit off in the distance. All that means is more stupendous ridge walking. At times the trail follows close to very exposed edges (with no danger) that gave us such wonderful show in all directions.

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| On top of Ontario Peak, looking north (& a hint west) |

Reaching Ontario Peak was a great feeling. Riding the high of mother nature's bounty laid out before us was exhilarating on this peak. We could see Mt. Baden-Powell far off in the north west & our recent nemisous, Iron Mountain, standing rock solid & "unassuming" from this vantage... but we know better now. My thoughts wandered to the PCT hikers that were slowly making their way into the Jacinto, Bernadino & Gabriel ranges now & what a wonderful life changing struggle that would be to accomplish.

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| Timed photo: Ontario Peak |

Still snapping pictures away & trading stories with other hikers that have now summited, the views only unfold more as we take our time to really drink them in. Telegraph Peak has got to be one of my favorites in the entire Gabriels. While observing it from any far off trail it's craggy chutes & elusive deep summit are such a wonder. The views from atop (& the entire Three T's hike in general) are out this world.

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Back at camp we knew it was time to throw on our packs & make our way back down Icehouse Canyon to our cars. Our trip had been a success on many levels, even helping out several hikers that didn't quite know what they were getting into setting out into the CucamongaWilderness. With all experienced hikers it is amazing what you can accomplish; a comfortable excursion into the upper elevations of our local world can be such a welcomed escape from city life. On our exit we managed to hike the 4.6 miles back down canyon in one hour and fifty minutes. Felt damn good.

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Till Next Time.