21 August 2014

Mountain Row: Mount Islip, Mount Hawkins, and Throop Peak

Angeles National Forest

Locate the trailhead.


DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3

(Day 2 of 2 3.) It is a long night with no sleep and I am up with the moon to check out the Devil's Chair. The spur trail is mostly surrounded by metal, especially at the end when it leads out onto a sandstone outcrop with cliff sides. The sliver of moon is insufficient to take in the fullness of the thing even after waiting a while for my eyes to adjust. I head back, grab the pack, and finish hiking back along my egregious mistake.

trail dropping into the dark
Dropping down along a dark trail under a sliver of a moon.

I am back at South Fork Campground for the sunrise. The trail I had dismissed as coming from the campground before travels along the side of the sites, joined many times by trails from it, but keeps going. A major trail heads out from the end of the campground to join this one. It looks built, unlike the others, but is without any signs. The rock lined track continues up the creek, then seems to cross over and join another rock lined track that climbs a little on the western side of the canyon. There is purple paint on many of the rocks. Graffiti is a problem in the Devil's Punchbowl area and it looks like it seeps out to here. The paint is quickly left behind.

wash of South Fork
Starting up Rock Creek's south fork from South Fork Campground the trail is defined by rock lining.


trail climbing the side of the canyon
As the trail starts to climb the side of the canyon, there is plenty of evidence that not all people catch it.

The trail is in some disrepair as it climbs up the wall of the canyon for short segments. Soon, it really starts to climb as the canyon narrows and is much more clear of rockfall. It looks like plenty of people miss the start of the climb and there are a couple desperate trails that come up from the bottom to join it. The remnants of power lines are visible in a couple spots, but otherwise it is just the trail cut into the side of a steep canyon.

sping in a far cliff wall
A trickle of water seeps down the east side of the canyon, probably from a spring.

trail cut into the rock
Looking back north along the trail. There are some mildly worrisome areas and the bottom of the canyon is lost below.

The sun breaks over the top of the canyon and it is quickly warm. Mile markers can be found here, too, but only at 2, 4, and 5.1 (the top) miles. The surrounding slopes are not so steep once the trail has climbed up near the top of the canyon. There is a spring marked above the trail and I could use a little more water, but there is no evidence of water near the trail.

less a cut and more a dig of a trail
Looking back down (north) along the trail again, but now the canyon sides are not so steep.

small, purple bloom
Some few flowers remain from the season.

It is a little cooler again by the time I have climbed up to Islip Saddle. The closed PCT climbs up toward Pleasant View Ridge near to my exit. Signs nearby explain the closure. On the other side of the road, it climbs to Little Jimmy Camp and Mount Islip and, very importantly, a very reliable spring. The trail crosses a service road for the camp on the way up. The camp is full of flat spots for sleeping, tables for eating, and even bathrooms. It would have been a welcome sight last night. The spring is flowing well off a short signed trail, although the seeps I have seen nearby are dry this year. It is a very welcome sight as my nursed water supply went dry a mile before. I finally have enough water to cook breakfast. It is nice to sit by the spring drinking down much needed water and watching the little birds drink and bathe in the runoff. I leave with enough water to dry camp again.

Islip Saddle view
The new view from Islip Saddle, down the south side, although more west looking.

tables and stoves at the camp
A small part of Little Jimmy Camp.

water pouring from a pipe in a rock wall
Little Jimmy Spring seems to be very reliable.

It is a short way from the spring to Windy Gap and the ridge trail with a spur up to Mount Islip. The first of five named peaks! It is and longest detour and one I have already been up three times before and it is tempting to leave it, but I am determined to do them all as I go along. This one has the remains of a stone cabin and footings for a removed fire lookout at the top. A station and two reference marks were placed in the footings after the lookout was removed, but someone has taken off with all of them now.

Crystal Lake area
The view down into the Crystal Lake area. It looks like the lake itself is no more than a mud puddle and even the reservoir is dry.

mountains and SR-2
Off to the west, the highway twists its way around the peaks.

lookout footings on the peak
The footings for the removed fire lookout are at the very top of Mount Islip.

Back to the gap and climbing again, I am headed toward Mount Hawkins, which I have also been up before. This one is best climbed from a spur on the far side of the mountain where the path climbs easily and is not very long. The burned remnants of the 2002 Curve Fire are most obvious through this section. The dead trees seem to stand out more starkly than before, perhaps because they have lost most their bark now. The sign for the trail down Hawkins Ridge seems to have gone missing. I meant to visit Lily Spring on the way, but the faint trail that was here before has almost entirely vanished. The sign for it still rests against a tree. Being a half day behind, it is easy to leave this lost half mile to continue to be lost.

mountain with many downed trees
Looking back toward Mount Islip, a bit shorter than Hawkins, past a bit of the old Curve Fire burn area.

Hawkins Ridge
Follow the ridge south of Mount Hawkins and you can pad your HPS list with sometimes unofficial, but included, peaks.

rock outcrop at the top of Mount Hawkins
The outcrop of rocks at the top of Mount Hawkins.

After Hawkins is Throop Peak, a new one for me. There is only a little bit of a drop as the trail climbs gradually to the new peak. There are good views of Mount Baldy (San Antonio) along the way. A faint trail climbs the slope of the peak from the southwest, but a well used trail climbs from the northwest just short of the junction with the trail up from Dawson Saddle.

mountain without any trees on top
On the other side of the San Gabriel River, the treeless peak of Mount San Antonio, the highest peak in the range and generally referred to as "Baldy", rises into the clouds.

My arrival on Throop Peak comes with the sunset. There is a good camp a short way up the trail to drop my pack in before continuing up to the peak. The spur trail to the top has been maintained in the past. The top of the mountain is marked with a plaque pointing out that Throop founded the university that is now the California Institute of Technology. I already know that since that is where I was when I was hiking up the neighboring peaks.

metal rectangle with words beside a rock pile with a shovel head
The plaque at the top of Throop Peak.

checking on the shorter peaks
From up on Throop Peak in the sunset, Mount Hawkins is not even a particularly distinctive peak.

south faces of peaks, one taller and one shorter
A peek at the peaks to come.

After taking in the view from the peak, it is back to camp for the night. I am glad I kept the second supper when I was shedding weight, because now I get to enjoy it.

Continue reading: day 3




©2014 Valerie Norton
Posted 31 August 2014

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