03 September 2011

Waterman Mountain

Angeles National Forest

Locate the trailhead and the end of the trail.

After hiking over to Big Horn Mine, I stopped at Buckhorn to look for a camping spot so that I might hike around one of the many trails in the area again the next day as well completely neglecting that it was a three day weekend and the campground would be a madhouse. The sites were overfull with people packing three cars and over a dozen humans into sites that only allow two cars and eight people. I walked down the trail a short way to read for a bit, then turned to go home and found the sun to be at a level that completely blocked my vision when going in the direction the road goes. In the campground, I could just stop and get a view of where I was going, but I wouldn't want to miss a turn at speed. I decided to really see where the road at the end of (what is now) Buckhorn's exit really got to.

I parked in the turnout in front of the old road and made my way up its water rutted route to near the saddle, then followed it further. At the top when it turned, it still becomes a very good road traveling along the ridge. Again, I saw no indication of the spring listed on the map as I passed where it should be. The road splits, and I decided to try the upper leg of the road. It continued along by rounded boulders and sparse trees. As I went, I found I was following tire marks from a mountain bike showing other people do come up here. There was a downed tree or two along the way, but otherwise the roadway was perfect as it travels approximately along the contours.

some rounded boulders among a few trees
A few of the rounded boulders that abound.

trees high on the crest of the ridge
A dry landscape.


trees on white rocky land
Some more landscape. This made me think more of the Sierras than the landscape around here usually does, so I started feeling more like there could be bears around.

Eventually the route came upon the ski area that is on Waterman Mountain. Ropes were strung between the trees, generally high up, with pulleys here and there. Signs were nailed to trees to indicate the difficulty of runs. The road started to look like it got used in the maintenance of all of this stuff, or at least the original building. Other roads went here and there, and then it met up with a trail. I thought this must be the Waterman Mountain trail from having a map of it before, but didn't have the map with me then. I decided I would go ahead and pack the peak.

ski slope rubbish
Coming into the ski area, there's evidence of their winter operation everywhere.

Following the trail, it climbed up near a cliff like side. At the edge, markers with the word "wilderness" on them designated this area as a specially protected zones where nothing motorized could be used. These were every few hundred yards and continued next to the trail for quite some time, usually following the trail more than the cliff.

flat plastic post with wilderness on it vertically
Wilderness boundary. Hand tools only beyond.

mountains obscured some by pine boughs
A southward look out from the trees.

trees across the land
The land rolling to the north, well adorned with trees.

last of the sunlight on the southward ridge
The ridge that is somewhat south going with one last bit still light by the sun.

spines on a distant mountain
The mountains by the city seem to develop funny hair.

north again
The somewhat northern mountains again with a bird flying past.

I came to a signed junction in the trail. This confirmed my suspicion that I was on the Waterman trail. It was getting late and threatening to get dark for some time and I knew it was well time to turn back, but the thought of getting to the peak was keeping me going. I was also starting to wonder if my water was low. The sign said it was only 3/4 of a mile to the top, and I decided that if I really hurried, I would actually be able to catch the sunset at the top. I turned down the trail.

sign at the junction
The somewhat worn sign at the junction says this is the Mt. Waterman Trail. It is 3/4 of a mile to the summit if I turn right and if I continue to the left, I can get to Twin Peaks and Chilao. Buckhorn R.S. is 2.5 miles and someone has added a downward arrow to indicate that this is back the way I came. The summit elevation is 8038, it adds.

reddening sky above the mountains
The sky is getting quite red as sunset nears or maybe is already happening.

rounded mountains with pink sky above
Still getting colorful with the setting sun.

It became clear I would get there after sunset. There really hadn't been much chance I did make it in time. The trail passed many bumps along the way that looked like they could be the peak. Eventually a trail branched off to the left and up at a bit of a steep angle but nearly as well traveled as the trail that stayed level. I decided to climb it. It got a little steeper and then leveled off again as it came to the top. I poked around the rocks there as the sky darkened around me. The peak was wide and was a playground of boulders. It was hard to say in the dark which bit was the very top, but I could see that the nearby bumps were not higher.

not steady moon photo
The moon had risen a few hours before the sun set. I made a poor attempt at photographing it, but it didn't work out.

city lights behind tree silouettes
A flat area near the top with trees surrounding. The city lights could be seen glowing below.

I settled down to snack since it was so late. I got out my fleece and found out why I'd felt a little more sweaty at the small of my back than usual. I had managed not to get the tube on the Platypus correctly. They make it so easy, but this day I got it to leak a bit. It did turn out that I had plenty of water left, but I also had more than I liked in my fleece. I set it out to try to dry a bit, then just had to pull it on. It was even colder than without at first, but it quickly got better and even helpful.

red to blue of the leftover light of the sun
Some of the leftover sunlight through the silhouettes of trees.

red to blue of the leftover light of the sun and some city lights
My view while I got my fleece drier and snacked on dried fruit. The rock split and weathered made a nice effect.

Turning back, I followed the spur back down to the trail. I followed it a bit further and got to a campground area before very long. I mostly lost the trail here and thought it might have been going here. I did not have my map along to tell me that it did actually continue through somehow and would go all the way back down to the road by a different route if I continued along it. I turned around and retraced my steps. I had a worrying moment when I thought I'd gone further than I should have and must have missed the turn to go down, but then there was the intersection not far beyond.

At the near intersection with the old road, I decided to go down by the regular trail. I rationalized it thinking that I'd see what the trail was like, but it was dark so I would see very little of it. I thought I didn't really want to navigate the eroded section of the road in dark as some of it was treacherous. It is, but I didn't know what I would find with the trail either. If I'm honest, I was just the victim of superstition. My gut was telling me "Here Be Bears", so I turned the other way not wanting to meet them in the darkened evening that was getting well into night.

The trail didn't really seem to be concerned with dropping downward. It was heavily forested and often rocky. It was very good, so much safer to walk when doing the walking at night than the start of my route up. At the bottom, it crosses a dirt road a couple times, the second actually going upward away from it. Since that was only taking me further from where I parked the car, I turned down the very good dirt road and followed it to the road, then the road back to the car. I got down without incident, not counting when I caught a rock while driving, whacking a huge dent in my rim while the tire remained intact and then getting to experiment with how the car handled with the compact spare. Oops.





©2011 Valerie Norton
Posted 20 November 2011

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