30 April 2011

Sawpit Canyon

Monrovia Canyon Park

Locate the trailhead.

I was looking for an overnight backpacking trip with plenty of sights and settled upon a plan heading out of Monrovia Canyon Park up Sawpit Canyon. We would go up to Stone Cabin Flat, probably about 9 miles. In the morning, hike back via Mt. Bliss, about 1 mile off the trail, and stop in Deer Park for a while including dinner, then hike back along the road in the evening. This way we'd get to see quite a bit and really have 2.5 days, sort of, since there's a nice long rest in the second day before the evening hike out, which should be quite safe along the road.

Of course if, say, we'd not been backpacking for too long and hadn't quite got everything together so needed to go about getting a few things in the morning and had overestimated our ability to carry extra pounds, etc, there was still the option of only going to Deer Park and being a touch on the lazy side the second day. So a bit after lunch we parked on the street outside the park so they wouldn't have to call search and rescue for us when they found the car in their lot and if we really got to all that next day stuff, we'd be back down too late to get out again.

The hike along the road was the regular dreary and flat bit. Shade from time to time, a car from time to time. Just past the kiosk, the road up to the dam and points beyond turned away from the park road. We turned up it. It climbed enthusiastically with a great many tight turns. The up was tough and some reshuffling of food items happened. There were still cars from time to time. When we got to the Boy Scout camp, it was quite rocking. Further on, we finally left pavement.

a wild pea on the road side
A sweetpea along the side of the road. There were a few of these blooming.

a wild butterfly on the road side
Plenty of butterflies fluttered here and there.

make a choice
A fork in the road: two ways up to Deer Park, the site of the Overturf[f] Cabin.

Soon after the pavement ended, the Overturff trail started. We took the trial, figuring it would have more potential for shade and be more interesting to look at. Also, that had been the plan for this portion of the hike. Of course, that does make the hiking a little harder since it goes up and down some little canyons. Thistles and caterpillars and monkey flower was all out in abundance.

I poke you!
A bright and happy thistle ready to stab all who pass too closely.

a green land
Looking out from Sawpit Canyon.

daddy long legs
Saw a blurry spot coming toward me and took off my hat to find this fellow with the long long legs.

higher up is not so green
This is some fairly rough terrain. As we get higher up, the land is not so green as down into the valley.

Monkey flowers and a few others hosted all kinds of these caterpillars.

The trail climbed and fell and climbed and fell. Each time it fell, we fretted over the loss of hard won elevation. It also passed by quite a few bay trees which were sampled. Sites seem to go on about how this trail has a cut through a ridge like roads do but trails rarely do... not sure that was much to write home about though. It also goes over a natural bridge... which may not really be much to write home about.

natural bridge made of dirt, we think
The natural bridge the trail passes over. We couldn't actually see the hole, but water is flowing through it quite nicely. Since I am standing next to a spring to take this photo, Nathan offers up this possible explanation for the structure: the spring used to exit down there, or maybe even further down, but at some point the parts that weren't well held up by tree roots collapsed giving the spring a new exit and a bridge to pass under.

Shortly after the bridge is the first opportunity to go back to the road. Continuing gets a little climb, a drop, and another opportunity to get to the road which includes a restroom (at the road). A short climb later is the cabin site. We settled in and had some dinner. We probably should have gone up to the old cabin site, but it was already getting dark.

a very shadowed valley and a sky beginning to change colors
There's all kinds of shade now!

The next morning we were quite lazy. There's really no place to get down to the stream from the cabin, so I hiked down to where the trail had crossed it and filled up the water bladders I had and brought up a pot of water for cleaning up the dishes from the night before. I went up to the old cabin site and dallied in the sun a bit and once Nathan got up, we made way too much oatmeal and dallied in the sun some more.

dallying in the sun
There's nothing wrong with dallying in the sun according to this character.

old pipes from a century ago
Some large pipes at the site. The rivets date them to over a century ago, according to the sign.

what little is left of the original cabin
Ben Overturff's first cabin up here which was converted to a barn when he built the one we stayed "in".

thistle growing up in the corner of the old cabin location
He doesn't seem to have had a floor as it is all grasses and thistle in there now.

corral made of pipes next to the old cabin
A corral constructed of leftover pipes next to the barn. He's made it so that the smaller pipes slide into the bigger ones to open and close it. The pipes still slide, mostly, but there's a lot of tree litter inside the big ones now. The tree to the left has fallen perfectly to complete the enclosure, but does not look like it was there originally.

another lizard
The lizards were also quite abundant.

We had some lunch and packed up everything and started down the trail, promptly bumping into a set of well armed search and rescue officers. One was friendly and one was business demanding to see our boots so they could cross off some of the tracks they were following. A man had shot a friend of his a few days before in Chantry Flats, just over that rough section photographed above. The car was found at the top of Mt. Wilson. Someone down in Sawpit had heard a gunshot early in the morning, so the Boy Scouts were evacuated and canyon closed although Monrovia was still open. The shooter was found in another couple days in Chantry Flat where he'd taken his own life. So that was our bit of excitement for the trip. They warned us to try not to sneak up on any armed people we'd be meeting as we walked out and took off sight-seeing toward the cabin site. I'd been expecting to see hikers fairly early on coming up, now I knew why none had come.

Continuing down, we stopped for some more water and met armed folk at each intersection. We decided to go down by the road at the second intersection. It turned out to be a hop, skip, and a jump down to it. We took one look at the road, so wide and flat and sunny, and decided that was a bad choice and took the trail instead. We quickly came pipes on the hillside and one pouring out water which are near the natural bridge.

pipe spewing water
An old pipe put here long ago for some purpose that has long passed away.

new exit
The spring letting out a bit of water.

fluffy tail pointy ears
Nathan was happy to see the grey squirrels playing about instead of the brown squirrels.

bees coming out of a bit of pipe
The trail follows where the old pipe was laid, so bits of pipe could be seen being useless all along it. This bit has been put to use as a bee hive, evidenced by the stream of bees flying in and out.

caterpillar on white sage
Hey! Caterpillars don't belong on white sage!

caterpillars on monkey flowers
Monkey flowers are much better places for caterpillars.

poppies and things along the trail
Some of the blooms along the trail side.

bays growing up around a big pipe
Pipe along the trail now held in place by some bay trees.

looks a little minty
Down in the creek through Sawpit, the plants are lush.

As we came into view of the Boy Scout camp, it was much quieter. Everyone had cleared out. No parents tried to run us down on the road on the way out. It was a very pleasant walk down. We called out "halloooo" to the last officer at the bottom of the road and finally saw the rest of the general public, wandering their way up and down Monrovia Canyon. The rest of the road walk to the car had a few more vehicles as the park was closing very soon. Oh, and I reduced the backcountry litter by one mylar balloon.

bi-colored poppies in a clump
Some bi-colored poppies down in Monrovia Canyon.

©2011 Valerie Norton
Posted 3 June 2011

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