17 July 2011

Mount Islip

Angeles National Forest

Map the trailhead.

I tried to interest Abbie in an overnight to Bear Canyon past Switzer falls, noting that the moon would be close to full to help entice her into it. She decided that an evening hike for the moon might be fun, but it seemed odd to go down into the canyon to see the moon. The hike I was planning to go on if she didn't come hiking that weekend was much more suited to moon viewing. At 8250 feet, Mt. Islip really is a nice moon viewing spot. I thought the shorter hike from Crystal Lake would be nicest, but we decided upon the shortest route up heading from the 2. With sunset just after 8PM, we would have to leave by 6PM to get up the mountain for all the light displays.

By 6:30, it was clear it hadn't been communicated well enough that we really had to leave by 6. We arrived with the sky turning colors. The trail up from the highway directly to Windy Gap was identified as a "use trail", and it was clear that it was. With its internet advertising, it is now a well used use trail, but it is still a narrow and steep route up a ravine with frightening moments when it isn't in the bottom of that ravine. It is also only about a quarter of a mile, so is quickly over. We arrived safely at Windy Gap where it was plenty windy.

south from Windy Gap out over the Crystal Lake area
Arriving at Windy Gap, we had a colorful view to the south.

all kinds of signs at Windy Gap
All kinds of trails head off from Windy Gap. It's just 2.5 miles down to Crystal Lake and the cafe, or the PCT can be followed east to some more peaks, some over 9000 ft, and eventually to Vincent Gap, or going west to Jimmy Little Campground past a spring, or climb the mountain.

use trail back down to the car
Or the use trail can be followed north to quickly join with the highway. This part of it isn't too steep, but it quickly changes.

We turned up the trail that would take us directly to the peak instead of the one that would stop by the campground first. The grade was much easier and I stopped questioning if I'd put too much in my pack. I actually felt lighter once I was on the maintained trail with the regulation grade. We made quick time up this easier trail. As advertised, the signs are in the wrong order so that when we met up with the trail coming from the campground we mysteriously had longer to go.

The night closed in as we climbed. When we were on the south side of the mountain or in gaps, the wind blew, chilling us more than the night. We pulled on some long sleeves and I totally failed to pick the camera back up afterwards. A couple trees were across the trail, the first had a trail down to get around it and we decided it was time for lights because setting your foot wrong while headed downhill on a steep slope like that can be bad. The second had plenty of room to pass under although most seemed to go around. The next turn was made scary by the night as the trail suddenly had a black gap ahead. The turn after, we could see the shelter.

Walking around the shelter, we came to the peak. All sorts of lights from the city could be seen from the south. There were more city lights to the north. They seemed to twinkle more than from lower vantage points. I looked to see what a flag had on it and found the peak logs. Settling down to look at them, I took off my pack and finally realized my camera wasn't with me. I grabbed a tube that protected the log and found that there was a second log in the form of a hard covered book in a ziplock bag under it. I flipped a little through the two logs and then Abbie wrote a little bit in it about coming up to see the moon and I put down a few lines of color to represent the moon rising over a tree spotted mountain.

We tucked ourselves inside the shelter for some dinner and waiting for the moon. It is a shelter purely in a historical sense. The roof is long gone, one panel of metal is outside the west door. Doors east and west are also long gone. Windows north and south just let the wind come through. Much of the floor has found debris to hide it well. It still provided some protection from the wind.

We nibbled and watched the sky. Even with all the city lights visible north and south, there were far more stars in the sky than in the lower elevations. A few shooting stars passed. Then I noticed a bright light had been turned on off to the east. After a moment I managed to adjust that reaction to the correct one and we watched the moon rise over a few bushes into our star studded sky. It chased a few of them away and it was a little past full, but it was still a very good moon.

We finished and headed back down again. We came to the spot that must have been where the camera was and looked around carefully before continuing on and finding it just 10 feet further along the trail. Coming to the gap, we took deep breaths and started down the use trail with good spacing. Neither slipped, so the precaution was unneeded. We made it back to the car safely and proceeded back down the long and winding road home.

©2011 Valerie Norton
Posted 24 July 2011

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