Monday, October 4, 2010

Hike 90: Mt. Wilson via Toll Road

Unstable weather over the past few days has made planning hikes a little tricky. But since it had been several days since my last hike, I was leaning towards doing a Mt. Wilson hike on Sunday. Part of it had to do with my craving for humus.

What? Well, a pine nut hummus, pita bread and cucumber dish was on the menu at the "Cosmic Cafe," up at the top of Mt. Wilson. I saw it on the menu last time I was there, and had a funny craving for it for weeks.

The other nice thing about the cafe was I could carry a little bit less stuff to drink on the way up, and replenish on the way down (Well, of course, even without the cafe, I could have refilled an empty container with water at the top, but that wouldn't have been as fun. Plus, I wouldn't be indirectly supporting the Mt. Wilson Institute with the proceeds of my purchases.

Parked on Crescent Drive (just off Altadena Drive, and adjacent to Pinecrest, which has access to the old toll road). This would be the same route as my second hike of my series, and one I've done a few times since then. Normally, I think of this as the easiest route up Mt. Wilson.

Checked my cell phone as I left the car: 9:30am.

For some reason, I started off walking at a very brisk pace. Had to slow down about halfway up. Also, that wore my legs out a little, and they felt pretty tired most of the way up. Arrived at Henninger Flats in one hour and ten minutes. Rested there about ten minutes, drinking fluids, munching on a Balance bar, and trying to cool off. Then up, up, UP.

There's a little bit of color in the forest, now. Sycamores are starting to turn yellow and/or brown. And the poison oak is turning red. Parts of the road were literally covered with red and dried up fallen poison oak leaves. I don't know if or for how long the irritating qualities of these leaves last, but I can imagine a dog walking over these leaves would probably be bad for the dog.

Not many flowers this late in the season, although I the red flowers that were blooming way up near the summit were still blooming, as were a few Spanish broom.

I was expecting the overcast to last longer than it did. Instead, the sun burned through the marine layer earlier. Fortunately, there are good sections of the toll road that are shaded by trees and mountain crests. It's definitely not as exposed as the Mazanita Ridge portions of the approaches from Chantry Flats or the Mt Wilson Trail. Still, I was dragging at a pretty slow pace before I even reached the Bailey Canyon fire break.

Also, although the forecast left open the possibility of thunderstorms, my whole hike was dry. There were plenty of thunderclouds out near Baldy, but it didn't look like it was raining out there, either.

Arrived at Mt. Wilson just about 2pm. Ordered my hummus, and two cans of lemonade. I also ordered a clearance t-shirt of the Mt. Wilson observatory, a coffee mug, the Huell Howser "California's Gold" episode about Mt. Wilson, and a 2010 calendar. Yeah, I know it's October. It's mainly to support the observatory, and maybe learn a little history.

Lunch was delicious. In addition to the two cans, the cafe lady also gave me a cup of ice. Cool refreshment! The first can went down in about 24 seconds. The second one lasted through lunch. Then I chipped the ice cubes down the throat of my remaining (mostly full) bottle of Powerade. Cool drinks just taste better than warm drinks.

Got back to the car about 5:45pm, or a little over 8 hours from when I started.

I think they have a docent-guided tour of the observatory grounds at 1pm on weekends, so I suppose that means I should leave before 8:30am if I want to make it in time for that.

By the way, I noticed that the Idelhour trail was no longer posted as close. This one starts from a mile or so past Henninger and would cut west, over towards Inspiration Point. However, I'm pretty sure it's in the Station Fire Recovery Order still applies to the section near Inspiration Point, so I suspect that, officially, this route is still off-limits. Probably someone just took the sign down, similarly to the closure signs that used to be posted up near Echo Mountain.

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