29 October 2015

Waterman Mountain and Twin Peaks

Angeles National Forest

There are a number of places to start hiking up Waterman Mountain and I chose a more conventional one this time. The day is a dreary grey that I am sure will burn off and I have let the start go a little late waiting for some of that to happen. My previous trip up to the top was an exploration of an abandoned road, and while I managed to put a loop together in the end, it did have a bit of road walking in it. This time, I am starting at a turn out just east of one of the ski resort roads. An unmarked trail climbs the hill a short way and splits, one side heading off east somewhere and one crossing the road to head west. I am going for the west part first, so I take that. Without a lot of ceremony, it delivers me to a second trailhead at the next turnout west, where information boards have been nearly wiped clean by the weather.

blue boards
The well marked trailhead. Sort of.

There is no other well used trail from here, but there is a lesser used abandoned road. There are a lot of old road beds on this mountain. They are a maze, but in some ways all roads lead to the resort. I turn up it and eventually find myself on a much better used road again. At another junction, I opt for the lesser used road to the right again and follow it until it returns to the main road in sight of the resort. It has gotten bitingly cold with a little elevation gain and the wind helps it cut in further. There are islands of wet along the way and as I go through them, I find they are still getting wetter with scattered rain drops.

hill to the west
Finding a little sun as the clouds clear a little, but the wind still bites at me and I need to get out a little cover.

lesser used road
A lesser used road around the mountain. Short corridors of wet give the impression of shadows across the road.

Waterman Mountain ski resort
Arriving at the Mount Waterman Ski Resort.

There is a wall clock and a wall clock sized thermometer at the top of the ski lift. It is nearly 10 AM and has not yet cleared 40°F according to these instruments. There is a Frisbee golf course on past the ski lift and information for mountain bikers. The ski run information looks almost as bad as the signs at the trailhead. Past another cabin, the road splits again, and for the first time I choose left since it climbs more. This one only leads to another really good GPS monitoring the motion of the continents. I drop back down and take the other fork.

very accurate GPS
One of hundreds of stations that monitor continental drift and the last piece of civilization on this hike.

The road ends quickly, but a cairn helps direct the hiker to the trail. It climbs ever so slightly along the rather flat ridge line toward the peak while flirting with the San Gabriel Wilderness boundary. The trail actually travels just north of the peak, but a second trail has formed that goes over it and I follow this. At the top, there are a couple rock outcrops. I climb my way over them to sit briefly on top of the one that seems the tallest. Then I duck behind them to get out of the wind. It is nice in the sun behind the rocks. While snacking in the sun, I call out a cheery hello to a head that pops over the rock causing a great start to the only other hiker who seems to be out today.

TWIN benchmark
West along Waterman Mountain at the TWIN benchmark near the top.

Waterman Mountain high point
East along Waterman Mountain at the high point.

Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks from Waterman Mountain.

Continuing along the trail, I join up again with the built trail. It winds its way downward to a junction. My original plan was just for Waterman Mountain, but I had inflated the distance by a factor of two in my memory and am not ready to finish the hike. The junction offers a little more hike going for a second peak. Why not go for it? Well, besides the rather substantial drop to the saddle that is the highest point between the two peaks. Also, the trail only technically goes to that saddle, not all the way up the peak.

Pleasant View Ridge

Mt. San Antonio
Mount San Antonio (Baldy) peeks out of the clouds.

Chilao before me, Buckhorn behind me and the summit off to the right.

It is not even noon and the 1000 foot climb back out does not sound like so much since we regularly hike 3000 feet or more on our local trails. The trail is to Chilao rather than the peaks and travels along the side of the mountain until a bulging shoulder pops out, then makes its way down that. The next junction is marked only with three orange flags. I take the trail down and find the sign some 50 feet along where someone has chucked it into some light brush. It marks this as a dead end at the saddle. I continue down.

water trickling down
Water trickles down the hill a short way below a small spring.

dropping to the saddle
Looking out to Mount San Antonio. The drop between mountains is sufficient for the vegetation to change.

red tailed hawk
Hawk on a stag in the wind.

There is another sign at the end of the trail, except it is not quite the end. It is a quarter mile up to a heliport that rests on a small hill between the two mountains. A bit of track seems to go up from it, but the trail south through the saddle is most obvious and covered in footprints. This curves around the hill with very little climbing. It seems like built trail at first, even having a tree cut away from it, at first. After a short bit of climbing up Twin Peaks, it turns more directly uphill and disbands any notion that this might be built trail. I climb the rocky slalom in short and constant steps. From time to time, I look across to judge my progress against the rise of Waterman Mountain.

summit block on Twin Peaks
At the top. Looking across the Twin Peaks summit block to Mount Wilson.

There is quite a view from the top of Twin Peaks. Today it extends right out into the ocean where Catalina sits. Some further island is also visible, just barely. On the other side, Mount San Antonio looks so close it must be an pretty quick hike across the vast valley of the San Gabriel River. It has not warmed up any, though. It was warm in the saddle and just cool enough for comfort for the first half up, but the air is colder and the wind still blowing up at the top.

western Twin Peak
The other peak of the Twins. It is a little lower.

Angeles Crest
East along the Angeles Crest.

Catalina Island
Catalina Island rising from the sea about 100 miles away.

San Jacento
The bulk of Mount San Jacinto rises from the mist and city below. Mount San Gorgonio is also visible.

Eventually, I head back again. I take a slightly different route, but end up back at the same one before a set of trees leaning against a third and sounding like they are ready to come all the way down in the wind. Just hurry past as quickly as the steep slope will allow.

sharp ridges heading south
The land south of Twin Peaks just seems to drop away.

Waterman Mountain
Waterman Mountain is a fairly bland one to look at.

At the bottom, I decide to cut up to the heliport. I expect it would be easier to wait for the trail and take it up, but head off cross country anyway. As suspected, it is just a somewhat flat area cleared of the few trees that were growing on it. It leaves the few east nice and clear. An outcrop of bright white rocks catch my eye and I am sure they are the same ones that seemed to glow extra bright when I was coming down off Islip a few years ago.

Manzanita is reclaiming the heliport.

The trail down is only visible for a short way by following the cut trees. It really would not have been easier after all as it is virtually gone. I just contour around and drop to the trail instead. It is nice and comfortable in the saddle and even while climbing in the sun. I cannot see leaving the sign out of sight at the first junction and haul it up the few feet to place by the junction. The second junction marks the last of even slight climbs. A little wind can be felt here. As the trail wraps around the mountain and down, it wanders into more biting cold wind.

quite a slope
Boulders and trees on the north slope areas.

Gloves and sleeves and a windbreaker are minimal protection against the cold wind. I get down those last two miles of trail quickly. As I get lower and deeper into trees, it is a lot easier to take. Tucked in one bunch of trees is a picnic table, which is a surprising find. Then I am back at the very first split and only a few feet from the finish.

pink mountain tops
The light is fading as the trail flirts with the road.

The finish is right around 13 miles and the effort to climb Twin Peaks was very much worth it for the unique viewpoint it gives. But it must be remembered when approaching that there is nearly as much climb on the way out as on the way in.

©2015 Valerie Norton
Posted 8 Nov 2015

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