03 October 2009

Sawmill Mountain area

Angeles National Forest

Locate the trailhead.

With half the southern section of the Angeles Forest burned and all of it closed, it seemed a good time to go exploring in the smaller northern section of the forest. Although small sections of the southern section were opened up just before this, I kept to the plan and found something on the desert side of the mountains. The instructions in Afoot and Afield in Los Angeles County were a little off, so trying to find a small campground off a short dirt road didn't work on the first try. The road to Upper Shake, which the loop goes through, was very shortly after and I was expecting the lower campground to be around it but didn't see anything promising. Turns out the road doesn't like signs, except the one at the bottom. Promising turn offs were unsigned and sometimes locked. The only signs were the occasional "not maintained for low clearance vehicles" which sometimes marked a section on one side and not the other. I found my way back to the road I'd come in on without seeing a campground.

The forest map does show a short dirt road coming out a little short of the one I'd gone up that has a trail headed out the end of it. Trying again, I looked very closely for any indication of an old dirt road headed south and found one, so parked. The start of the dirt road was overgrown. A twisted gate lay on the side of the post it used to lock to and two more posts were set between the posts, but beyond was an unmistakable wide, flat, and gravelly roadbed. In sight, a sign board lay against its supports, anything that had once been on it completely removed by time. Following that found a campground of sorts in that there was a two seated pit toilet so little used it had lost its stink with a single area suitable for a campsite near it. At the far end of the campground, if you can say that about a campground with one site, was a post declaring that here was a trail and these are the people who are allowed to pass on it.

The road in.
The road into the campground, no longer accessible from the main road by vehicle.

The trail headed up a small canyon with a small stream. As usual, pipes are found here and there bringing the water down from the source. Except that they broke at one spot and we could listen to the water dribbling out the end. It was all quite nice. Quite soon we found Upper Shake, with many more sites and signs, many even with information on them. We followed the instructions in the book and came upon a sign pointing us to the Pacific Crest Trail along the road out of the campground. A trail headed off the road without a sign pointing to it, but the book mentioned it. We followed this up to PCT.

A bit of trail along the way to PCT from Upper Shake Campground.
The trail up from Upper Shake Campground was better traveled than the one between the campgrounds.

View of some hills to the north.
As we climbed and the canyon sides shrank away to gentle slopes, a bit of the view could be seen.

Pacific Crest Trail crest.
The only marking for our trail when we came upon the Pacific Crest Trail was the crest used to mark the trail.

We were promised a saddle, but hadn't quite got out onto the other side of the ridge at the PCT, so continued on over on some use trails to see the other side and eat. That was our only view of that side, except for during the drive on the road, which was just on the other side. Judging by the spot on the road, the campground road was the second locked gate on the way. A good, stiff, cold breeze was going through the saddle as we ate.

Distant, rolling mountains.
Shrubbed mountains rolling away below viewed on the other side of the saddle.

There were many views of the northward directions on our way back. The PCT meandered downward just a bit as it went.

Slope with shrubs along the trail route.
A bit of leaf covered slope along the trail.

A canyon along the way.
A canyon seen below the trail as we were expecting to have a trail down but weren't finding one.

Roads and such in the distance.
Looking out over the close hills with some roads and the far desert. Down in the trees in the valley is Upper Shake campground.

Desert and mountians and trees along the ridges.
Trees lining the ridges and desert beyond and mountains even further.

A patch of PCT.
A piece of the Pacific Crest Trail, the narrow part of the route.

We traveled the PCT for a bit longer than claimed in the book to a second trail between it and Upper Shake Campground. It was a bit annoying that it was longer than advertised only because the instructions claimed the trail we were headed to was easy to miss and the trail we were on was much less used than the trails we'd been on so we weren't sure how much trail we were looking for. It was actually easy to spot and even had informative signs. The tromp generally downhill along the ridge line was fun but with finding the trail it was time to go back.

The hike back down to Upper Shake was quick, and back into Lower Shake equally so. A bunch of quail acting birds went running up the hillside as we came at the same spot we'd seen similar activity going up. Silly birds. There was a puddle of water in the creek there and a few other places but nothing was flowing.

The hikers were:
Alice up on some rocks. Valerie plus some view.
Alice, post "Queen of the mountain" pose. Valerie, up on a bit of hillside.

©2009 Valerie Norton
Posted 10 January 2010

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