16 September 2011

Mount Hawkins Loop

Angeles National Forest

Map the trailhead.

When doing the loop of trails out of Crystal Lake that brought me up to the top of Islip, I noted that the map I was handed marked a trail along Hawkins Ridge as well, allowing for another loop that stops by the two Mt. Hawkins. To do it, I again traveled up to Windy Gap, then turned east along the Pacific Crest Trail, the only direction I hadn't yet traveled from Windy Gap that contained a trail. Climbing up, the ridge trail leaves to the south, then a trail to Lily Spring. The mountain rises as a cliff to the south and at the far side, a trail proceeds up the top of Mt. Hawkins. Proceeding back to the ridge trail, I traveled down along the ridge down to South Mt. Hawkins. After taking in the view from there, I traveled back along the fire road until it crossed the trail and followed the trail back down from there.

The lot in the campground next to the trail head was still closed with most of the campground, so I parked behind the Visitor Center again. It is only manned on the weekend, so no one was there but the handouts were in small cases so that people could grab them if needed. Proceeding along the main road into the camp and taking a right eventually, I came to the trail head and could start climbing off of pavement. Crossing the road when it came paved and when it came again in gravel, I made my way up to Windy Gap again, hopping over the same dozen or so trees.

sunny valley and cloudy bigger valley
Clouds over the San Gabriel Valley just peaking over the mountains into the local valley, but here it's nice and sunny. Hawkins Ridge is up to the left and Islip Ridge on the right. One of the smaller trees stretches over the trail for an easy obstacle.

looking straight up
A cliff above the trail with a ravine along it and the plants trying to hang on.


Just short of the gap, I met the only other person I saw on the trail that day, a fellow sporting the same ultralight "overnight" backpack as I've been using for day hikes. At the gap, I turned east along the PCT and climbed with the trail. It wound along with occasional views out to the south, but mostly with views north. It switchbacked through a little bowl and passed just north of a number of peaks along the ridge line that generally didn't tempt one to think it was the mountain.

trail meandering through a stand of dead trees as it passes through a bowl of land
Trees standing dead in a bowl of land and a bit of the desert to the north as the trail winds its way through.

high trail
A bit of the trail as it winds along the climbing ridge. The stout trees of the higher elevations are starting to be seen.

The ridge trail was easy to spot. A sign along the PCT informed travelers coming up along Hawkins Ridge about what options they had, but there was no indication of where the trail went to PCT travelers. There was finally a bump the trail was passing that was starting to look big enough to be the peak, but it was quickly shown to not be by the real peak. The trail down to Lily Spring was also easy to spot, although its sign was not doing well and the trail looked like it might fade out. Then the mountain started to the right. The map shows that the trail is much closer to the peak on the far side and the mountains along here are formed like teeth. North and south faces are cliff like while east and west stick out a bit at a much more gentle slope. The west slope did not look inviting and there was no indication of travel by that slope up to the top. The north slope looked more and more dreadful as it rose up. Coming to the far end, a well traveled and very tame trail proceeded up to the top for the peak.

sign at the end of the ridge trail
Sign facing the ridge trail noting the various local destinations. It is 1.4 miles back to Windy Gap and 4.3 to continue on to Badden-Powell.

shell of a tree trunk that has burned
A burn remnant along the way.

sign against a tree and a faint trail leading downward
The sign says "Lily Spring 1/2", which looks correct from the map. It also looks to be 500 feet down. The trail is visible at the start, but not could be hard to follow.

trail coming to a saddle
As the trail comes to a saddle on the far side of the mountain, a well worn use trail travels up the side to the peak.

lots of green trees on mountains
Green trees stretching off down the slopes and a blanket of yellow flowers blooming nearby.

reaching the peak
Coming up to the peak.

mountains and clouds
A few clouds remain in the valley even though it's lovely and sunny up here. They're seen over the ridge that is the route back.

looking back to the next mountain
The mountains get taller to the east, which dwarfs the achievement of climbing this mountain just a little.

bald mountain in the distance
San Antonio is the tall one of the the range being too tall even for the hardy little trees up here to grow, leaving it bald.

not much mountain to see
A distant Mount Wilson is only distinguishable by the structures adorning its top.

The top of the mountain offered spectacular views. The day could have been clearer and the air less thick, but for a late summer day before the rains have returned, this was very good visibility. Even so, the nearby Throop Peak, about 300 feet taller and a bit over half a mile away, dampened the peak experience a little. I drew some a the top, the proceeded back down. With that larger mountain mocking me and so close, I would have liked to go to its top too, but it was already getting later than I would have liked. I took too long to get up this far. The little extra trips to Throop or the spring didn't seem like good choices. Instead, I backtracked to the ridge trail and proceeded down it.

here be ridges
The ridge the trail follows. It doesn't follow the edge exactly, but tends to travel to the east of the various bumps on the way.

red and orange flower with thin petals
One of the flowers along the way although not the most plentiful one.

rocky trail on the side of the mountain
A bit of rocky trail built along the side of the mountain.

little blue and grey bird
It isn't entirely lonely up on the trail with no people.

looking over to windy gap in a gap
A spot to look back into the valley and to Mount Islip.

The ridge trail was very easy to follow at first. Many sections had rocks lining the sides to increase the ease of following it. Then the fallen trees started. In the steeper sections, they're not bad. They cross the trail and the trail finds a way to cross them and it's very clear where the trail ends up after. But there came to be a meadow area with fallen trees and the options for trails were more and it was a little harder to find it again on the other side. Then there was a bigger meadow area with a number of fallen trees. Trails crossed them in different ways until I found I'd quite lost it. I looked over a hillside down to more meadow and saw two deer traveling along a section of trail. Was it my trail or theirs? I've seen deer using people trails before, but was someone certain that this wasn't one of those times. Still, I could see no other trail.

two alert deer looking backward toward the camera
Two deer following a trail. They stopped to wonder what the silly human was doing.

I joined the trail as continent and followed it. It seemed much more willing to jump over narrow trees instead of going around as the trail had previously done, so suspicions grew. Coming to another slope, it split into many trails, none of them going toward another trail I could see further down and on the other side of a shallow ravine from where I was. This was indeed not the trail. I followed a reasonable route around the grassy slope and down toward the ravine. Coming to the bottom of the slope, I saw two paths from other people coming this way before me and trying to join up with this trail just as I was. Without much difficulty, I found myself on the trail again. From there, it was easy to follow the final short distance to the roadway marked on my map as leading to a heliport. Some people follow the road up and over the bump the heliport is on, but I figured it would be much nicer to go around the side to the road. A narrow trail came down the far side of the bump looking a little difficult.

forest and meadow grasses along the ridge
A flattened spot along the ridge is an opportunity for many trees and a few grasses at their roots to grow.

large mountainside where the twisted layers of rock are visible
Layered rocks make up much of the mountains and sometimes the twisting and folding that thrust the mountains up out of the ancient sea can be seen over a whole mountain side.

road to the helipad
At the saddle the trail (already joined with the road to the helipad) joins with the fire road there is a sign to help direct travelers. It says the last section was 2.3 miles.

Coming to the road, I found that there was a little more trail at the other side of the saddle. This trail was signed as a half mile to the top of the mountain and goes more directly there while the road spirals up around the mountain once. I also found that although this was a fire lookout on one map, that did not mean the road was maintained. Just below the saddle, a tree completely blocked the road. Taking the trail, I found it to be somewhat less used than the previous section of trail. There was one spot that was a little scary to cross, even, but not so much that I turned back and I got to the top without event.

sign for the trail up to the top of S. Mt. Hawkins
The sign and trail to the top of S. Mt. Hawkins. It says it's half a mile to the top and 0.1 miles back to the ridge trail although it's not more than 100 feet.

a bit of fire road up until the tree
The road stretching back down the mountain and quickly blocked by yet another downed tree.

small tree growing from a hollow stump
A tree that's found a protected spot inside a hollow stump to take root.

Getting to the top, I found why no one was concerned with keeping the road clear. The lookout is now some kind of automated thing. At some point, a fire has been through this area and poorly removed the previous structures that used to serve the people here. I poked around the structures and the piles of burned wood that were once walls and found a space to rest and eat a bit more. I also found the log book for the peak among the rocks a little north of the destroyed structures. It was even very near the very highest point, which doesn't seem to be where they usually are.

burned structures
The end of the road and the previous lookout. It looks like it burned and afterwards the remains of the wood was stacked up at the side of the road.

more destroyed buildings and one that isn't
Along in the other direction, half a picnic table seems to have survived, another structure with detached biffy are indicated by the concrete foundation, then there is the new sensor station out on the edge.

what is left of the vault toilet
A biffy with a view. It still has a door, but the walls seem to have gone.

The road wiggling away below in the late afternoon sun.

glass pieces, mildly reformed
A collection of glass pieces were stacked up in the middle of the old lookout, each melted into strange shapes.

a bit more of the mountains
The backside of the ridge as the shadows start to get long.

a brown painted metal thing with a crossbar
Way down the hill from the automated lookout is this thing. It might be some sort of sensor to go with the lookout.

more mountain in the afternoon sun
Down the south slope in the late afternoon sun.

I followed the road around the mountain and back down to the saddle, then on down to the spot the trail crosses it, then followed the trail down. The trees across the road were numerous. Sometimes the trunk was high up and could be walked under, sometimes it didn't go all the way across, but usually it had to be climbed somehow to get around. As I went, the sun went down. There was a wide spot where cars could turn around, if they could get there. Then there were two spots where the road was washed out. The first one had some small bit for a trail, the second required careful stepping and there was even water in the crevice there. As I reached the trail shortcut of the fire road, I had to get out the lamp to see where I was going well.

sun dropping behind the mountains
The sun drops down below Islip ridge. Now it will be getting quite grey.

a bit of the mountains with the glow of the setting sun over them
The world turning red all around.

I was quite hungry when I got down and it was rather late. I was able to camp the night, so found a spot among the loops that were open of the campground. I got my tent up and food cooked and it really hit the spot after the hiking. Unfortunately, I had an empty spot next to me that got taken by a very loud couple of families who got in after quiet time, shouted throughout setting up their tents and then never managed to quiet down until well after midnight. So it goes.

long shadow down the slope
The reporter, feeling tall walking along the ridge line.




©2011 Valerie Norton
Posted 19 November 2011

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