09 March 2014

Gold Hill and Bear Mountain

Los Padres National Forest

Locate the trailhead.

After Gold Hill Guard Station, Gold Hill Camp, and Gold Hill OHV Trail, maybe I should actually hike Gold Hill. The peak is near to Snowy Creek OHV Trail and even nearer to an old track used by prospectors, part of which makes up a portion of the trail. To judge by the map, Gold Hill was ultimately a bust, but people tried really hard to make it work and put a lot of holes in it. There is another high gate to climb over to get onto Snowy Creek OHV Trail, which is not so hard to find after all. Just hang a right just before the biffy in Kings Camp and it is at the end of this spur of the camp on the far right. There are lots of footprints on the trail for the first half mile, but then most of them seem to turn back at a dry creek crossing before any substantial climbing. It does not take much climbing to get some views, which is good since there is not much to climb.

foothills heading north
A few low hills off to the north. The old guard station is behind stuff to the left and the use trail may go there. Behind, part of the ridge I climbed yesterday and Frazier Mountain.

Alamo Mountain with snow on the ground
Alamo Mountain got some snow in the last storm, but it is already looking thin on the north side and vanished from the south.

Mojave Desert
The view along Piru and out over the Mojave Desert. I think that might actually be San Gorgonio out there, with a shadow of San Jacinto behind it.

The trail climbs with it looking like the peak is just at the top of the next up, but then drops and climbs again. It passes by a random bench placed without any view and then comes to the old prospector's route. That route can still be seen climbing to the right, and I follow it a short way until it turns down the mountain again. Then there is deer trail with some evidence of people on bikes trying it. I get to the top stabbed only once by yucca, the dreaded sword bush. The top is covered in loose rocks and has a few trees. There is no sign of the prospect the map shows at the peak.

Gold Hill's peak
The peak of Gold Hill.

From Gold Hill, the next destination is the next named peak along, Bear Mountain. Snowy Creek Trail continues down to Trail Canyon, then drops to Piru Creek mostly along that old road. My plan for Bear Mountain is to start up the ridge where the trail meets the road and follow it around to the high spot. It proves unnecessary to get stabbed by the yucca on the way back to the trail again, which is great since once is more than enough. There are more prospects marked along the trail which are very evident as I pass. The older map actually marks some of these as shafts. Over and over again, there is a hole in the ground surrounded by tailings. Two more spurs to the right, still visible in the dirt, head out to more prospects. The trail makes a sharp left turn at the last and drops slowly to the road.

a disturbance in the surface
Rocks pulled up from below ring a hole that has collapsed inward showing where someone once had a prospect. A second hole is next to it.

mountain lion prints in the mud
Sharing the trail with a mountain lion again.

part of the trail as it starts to descend
The view out over Hungry Valley as the trail starts to descend to Trail Canyon.

Arriving at the road, there is no ridge line in front of me to climb. A gate stands wide open a short way to the north. Assuming the gate is at the section boundary, the trail once came in just north of it. A short bit of fencing climbs a ridge line there, so I climb up just south of the fence.

gate standing open
A generic gate on the road through Trail Canyon stands open. Although the locks are all closed, the post to lock it to has fallen.

A tree on a high spot looks like it might be near the peak, so I keep trying to go toward it. Between me and the tree, there is a deep bowl and I keep having to head north to keep along the ridge line. It is a fairly steady climb at an easy slope along more deer trails. Getting to some trees, there are many old cuts from firefighting efforts.

a bit of tree up on a high point
The high point that I can see and the tree that I make my goal for the moment in navigating to the peak of Bear Mountain.

steep hillsides down to an invisible creek
To the south, the slopes leading down to Piru Creek become quite steep.

As the ridge starts to turn south, there is a recent burn up ahead. The burn was small, but where it reaches the top, the entire area has been cleared. The fire does not seem to have gotten very far. Getting to the tree I had seen at the apparent peak, it is still a quarter mile or so to the actual high point. There is not much climbing over that distance, but eventually I get to a point that seems higher than all the ones around it. It is amazing how flat the top of this mountain is. Mount San Antonio is part of the snowy tops that I can see again once I am high enough.

small burn on the Hungry Valley side of the mountain
The side of the mountain facing Hungry Valley has burned recently.

a look back over the ridge line
Looking along the ridge line back the way I came.

Hungry Valley from the top of the burn
Standing in the cleared area at the top of the burn and looking down on the numerous trails of Hungry Valley.

Pyramid Lake
Pyramid Lake can be seen in the distance.

Bear Mountain Peak
A bit of clear dirt at the high point of Bear Mountain.

I drew a bit of Hungry Valley and the desert, then turned to go back. It is foolish to head down in another direction, but it has always worked out eventually for me no matter how worrying it is in the middle. It will be much shorter and I want to go a bit down Trail Canyon anyway, so I set off down a different ridge line. I do not want to go directly south as Piru has many cliffs in this area. Moving over to a more western going ridge line, I manage to find a bit of cliff anyway, then head northwest somewhat difficultly to get to the road. Contouring is difficult as it takes me through some quite rough dry stream beds. Eventually there is a slope that looks safe to get down to the road.

a single shed antler
Still following deer trails that go everywhere.

a look down Trail Canyon
Trail Canyon is rocky with sparse plants.

Coming to one curve, there is a track heading upward and a bit of cut wood that looks like it was once a sign post. There is a trail shown on the map, but it is further along the road. This is below where a number of mines are shown, high up the hill. The track may be no more than an animal trail, but it looks like it is being used more regularly than the other animal trails are. Looking up, I can't see any of the tunnels. Going down the trail to have a better view of the canyon wall does not help either.

more rugged, but sparsely vegitated, hillside
No tunnels seem to be apparent in this hillside marked with about four on the map.

Having gone as far as I wanted to go, I turn and start climbing again. The unsigned junction up to Gold Hill is easy to catch again. I check out a little of the first spur and find more holes, then finish off the hike.

foot of Alamo Mountain with a stream running down it
Another look at Alamo Mountain on the way back.

On the way back, I can hear the unmistakable sound of target shooting from near the campground. It has enough of a muffled character that it probably is not someone shooting toward the trail and spends a lot of time between spurts of shooting, but it is still unnerving.

©2014 Valerie Norton
Posted 13 March 2014

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