Angeles National ForestMap the trailhead.
This is Crystal Lake campground to Mt. Islip via Windy Gap. The second part is Mt. Islip to Crystal Lake campground by Islip Ridge.
Not even a full cycle of the moon later, I really did climb up Mt. Islip again, this time by a trail that was quite a bit longer. Since Dan Simpson's writeup of the shortest route describes alternate routes with their vitals, I knew there were actually two routes from Crystal Lake. I thought I might do these as a loop while seeing what this mountain was like in the day time and maybe even stopping by the spring along the way. He also noted (and for this hike the datum was only a week old so likely acurate) that the roads were not open above the visitor center, so the larger lot near the proper trail head was inaccessible. Third, he notes that the ridge route is not on the topo.
I grabbed my printed up piece of incomplete information from USGS and headed for the visitor center. I grabbed the last spot in the lot behind it, dodged a batted tennis ball playing at being a cricket ball, and walked in. I asked them where I should park for hiking up Islip and the ranger said he wasn't sure as it was his first day back in 15 years. However, they did have a map drawn such that the mountains are smaller than the campground area that included all of the trails close at hand. Between my exact topo segment and my entirely absurd projection, I had a good idea of where the trails were once I found the common "here" point. Since the campground was closed off, the visitor center was the closest spot.
Well, I had it almost figured out. Once I got to the place that seemed to be where the trail took off, it wasn't quite there. The details were slightly off on what I could see. I headed up one road that should have been the far side of the trail then saw something trail-like a little further along. Going to it, it was a trail. Checking the sign back at the start, it was even the right trail.
|Here is the start of the trail and the start of the first segment not on the USGS topo. It is 2.5 miles up to Windy Gap and no mention of Islip by either route. The campground bathroom might be handy sometimes, but it is in the same state as the campground.|
The trail through the campground areas is nicely shaded. It looks like the area can have significant flooding events and there are washes on either side. It quickly comes to and crosses a fire road, coming to the start of the trail according to USGS.
|It's getting a bit sunny as the trail makes its first crossing of the fire road to S. Mt. Hawkins. Now it is only 2.1 miles up to Windy Gap.|
The trail climbs slowly up the valley, swishing a little to make it even slower. It crosses a tiny stream of cool water. I was feeling warm, so I dampened my shirt and a scarf to make the further hiking a little cooler. I had already noticed I'd forgotten my hat in the car and was getting suspicious I'd be a little sorry about that. I wasn't after the stream. Once it dried, I was high enough to be out of the heat.
|Burned (living) trees among flowers by the stream.|
|Sometimes traveling through stands of burned trees while other spots are full of green.|
|Reaching the one mile marker. Just 1.5 to go to the ridge.|
There were mile markers along the trail to help me know how far I'd got. The first was just before the second crossing of the fire road.
|Crossing the road again. It was well signed, just in case you missed the trail for the road.|
Just after the road crossing, the ridge trail joins the Windy Gap trail. The sign for the older trail has vanished, so there's no indication of Windy Gap at this point.
|The trail up to Islip Ridge, just 1.8 miles along, then a little more to the top. It is just 1.2 miles back to the start. Windy Gap is the unnoted direction.|
The land the trail is on gets a little more serious about climbing and the view just extends. More of the ridge comes into view and a fire break can be seen along the top of it. The bit of water that is Crystal Lake can be seen as well as the much larger reservoir in the blue-grey distance. A bit of the road in, more mountains in the distance and the valley beyond that. There's occational trees crossing the trail, but not many. Well, maybe a dozen.
|The Valley opens up as it is seen from further and further above.|
|Looking up at the ridge where the land gets even more serious about going up. Some trees are hanging on and happen to help show just how steep it is up there.|
|The two mile marker and Windy Gap is just around the corner already. Not far to go at all.|
|Off in the distance, the San Gabriel Reservoir makes a large, artificial lake.|
|While standing among the very noisy crickets, a small hawk alighted upon a distant tree at the end of the switchback.|
|Crystal Lake reflecting the ridge line below with trail behind climbing up to that ridge.|
Reaching the Pacific Crest Trail at Windy Gap presents all kinds of choices. There is the sliver of use trail up from the road and the direct route up to the top of Islip that I took the last time and a slightly longer route to the top via Little Jimmy Spring and then campground along the PCT. In the other direction, the PCT heads out for three more peaks, each one higher than the last, and more. I decided to see the spring and campground, then follow the trail up the mountain from there, a detour that only added about 0.3 miles and the delight of water to the loop.
|Two possible routes up to the top of the mountain. One is direct, but the other has delights for a very small fee in mileage.|
|The road below and a look at the far side of the gap.|
|The spring is this way. For the PCT completist, the trail at the other side is the better route down to the spring.|
|Little Jimmy Spring has been plumbed so that it doesn't move around and has a number of simple structures and trough built around it. Of course, that water is good for flowers.|
|A good place to pick up some more water so long as you've got the means to treat it.|
|Flowers growing by the spring, except it's getting a little far from Spring for these flowers.|
|A second pipe, this one broken at some point, fixes the exit of a bit more water from underground.|
|There is trail all the way through forming an alternate route to the PCT. This side is an easier, fairly flat, bit of trail.|
|Some small red flowers make a streak of color by the trail.|
Little Jimmy Trail Camp is a well established area with sites all over the place and not one but two seperate biffies for your toileting pleasure. It seemed to be set up for large groups as each site had two stoves built of rock and iron, tables with benches, and a serving table. I sketched a couple of the stoves. An old road came up from the other side and through the campground. Following it, a sign pointed the way to the top of the mountain while the road continued another direction disappearing over a small saddle. There were even more campsites up the trail as well as a funny looking thing that apparently was a rain gauge.
|Information sign for the campground so you know it's bear country, biffy so you don't have to go in the woods, and tables and stovepipes of one of the sites at Little Jimmy Trail Camp.|
|The signed trail out the far end of the campground, or at least it seems to be the far end before finding there's more sites up it.|
|This is apparently how one measures precipitation in the backcountry.|
|Some nice flowers along the side of the trail.|
|The trail up from windy gap joins the older trail from the campground. Someone has put rocks across even though both are sanctioned.|
|Shortly before the top, another trail joins up. This is the ridge trail that I followed down to make a nice, big loop. The sign at the junction says 0.1 to the top but doesn't mention what's down this way.|
As the trail rounds the mountain top, an old cabin comes into view. The roof is gone (although part of it can be seen on the ground next to the cabin and another part on down the trail), the doors are gone, the windows are gone leaving only stone walls. Then there is the top with a foundation of an old fire lookout. A mighty gap is off to the west while higher mountains are to the east. To the north there are a few foothills and then vast flat desert with the San Andres running down by the bottom of those hills. The south has a few more hills and then another expanse, not quite as flat or dry, full of cities. The late summer day was a typical one where the air is a little bit thicker than would be ideal.
|The old cabin at the top of Mt. Islip.|
Continue to the second part...
©2011 Valerie Norton
Posted 27 October 2011