Saturday, August 16, 2014

Hike 2014.045 -- San Antonio Falls Road to Baldy Notch

Hiked Friday, August 15. As the day began, I had it in my head that I might try to hike to the summit of Mount Baldy (Mount San Antonio). However, I was starting somewhat late, and had to be home somewhat early, to have time to pack up the car for a sidewalk astronomy event. So, after going up about 3/5ths of a mile, and having spent a lot of time shooting around San Antonio Falls, I decided to make the Notch my destination for the day.

This hike starts where San Antonio Falls Road (gated) splits west, off of Mount Baldy Road. Mt. Baldy Road is divided, here, with random space for parking in the island between the north and southbound lanes. This is a fee area, so an Adventure Pass is required for parking.

Hike on up around the gated entry to San Antonio Falls Road. On the day I went, there were two porta-potties right near the gate. No other facilities (except for the trees, themselves) until you reach the Notch.

As noted above, San Antonio Falls is just under a mile up the road, near where the pavement ends. It's quite a drop-off, and the falls has many parts.

At the base of the falls is a whole lot of gravel and rock shards. Last week, the water would have come gushing over the falls, and there was no greenery immediately at the base. But there were bushes not all that far down. They handled the deluge, I guess.

On the cliff wall adjacent to the falls were a handful of flowers: some columbine and some California Fuchsia. Higher up on the cliffs were tuffs of California buckwheat.

By this time, I had already pretty much determined that I wasn't going to try for the summit this day, so I took my time at the falls, shooting plenty of pictures. It's a short spur (maybe 1/10th of a mile?) from the road to the base of the falls.

I enjoyed the sound of falling water as I finished my picture taking break. Then I headed back up to the main trail and continued on my way.

The trail here is now a dirt road, wide enough for the SUVs and occasional truck that services the ski lift and structures up at the Notch to drive on up here.

After a total of 9/10ths of a mile from the gate, there's a non-obvious trail that takes off from the road and heads up on the left. That's the most direct trail to the Baldy summit. I chose NOT to take that turnoff, and, instead, continued on the Notch.

There is no signage at this trail junction, but there is usually a small "duck" of rocks marking the trail. It's easy to miss if you're not looking for it, though. In fact, if hikers weren't coming down that trail as I passed beneath it, I might have missed it, entirely.

Since the trail is wide and on the side of a cliff, there's a lot of sun exposure on this route, unless you start really early or finish really late. But I had applied sunblock and had my floppy hat on, so I felt fine.

Despite the sun exposure, as I gained altitude, I felt the air cool noticeably as I made my way up towards the Notch, which sits at about 7800 feet. Because it's a notch that separates the Los Angeles Basin from the Mojave Desert, and with substantially higher mountains on either side of the notch, winds are pretty common at the notch.

Down where I was on the trail, however, there wasn't much wind. Still, I continued my climb, with the canyon to my left most of the way.

When you cross over from the west side of the canyon to the east side, you cross right under the ski lift that provides an alternate route up to the Notch. I think I've only ridden the lift once, and that's when I hiked with friends back in college.

But I have to admit to thinking now about maybe riding it up some day to make bagging Baldy a much easier trip.

During the summer months, the lifts run Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Sometimes, the operators have "moonlight hikes" and dinner/show combo tickets. I've also seen them offered on Groupon, although the one time I bought that, I never managed to navigate their website successfully to use the coupons, and ended up requesting a refund.

After passing under the lifts, the trial then heads back south for a while, before making additional twists and turns to get you to your destination.

Near the end, you pass a road that provides an alternate (and longer) route up to the top. I also saw a small man-made lake in the pocket down below, which I assume they maintain to power their snowmaking equipment in the winter time.

Once at the notch, I continued a bit further north, to the Desert View overlook. There's a trail sign there with mileages to various destinations further up to the east or west of the Notch. but, for me, this was the end of the road.

I then returned to the top of the lift, where the Notch restaurant is located. Because I was going to use their facilities and sit on their table, I felt an obligation to buy a drink here.

I selected a bottle of cranberry juice, which wound up costing me $3.24. The one positive to come out of this was my change included three Arches National Park quarters. :D

So I sat on their table, ate a sandwich I had brought up with me, and drank their overpriced cranberry juice. I also sipped a bit from the Gatorade that I had also carried up with me. Then I returned the way I came.

Decent workout, and the cap to a very active week. In addition to wrapping up my jury duty on a very long trial, I also squeezed in three other hikes that week. It's the most hiking in a week I have managed in a long time. I am now even further behind in my hike blogging, so I'll try to fit some time to blog those earlier hikes over the next week or two.

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