Friday, May 21, 2010

Hike 61: Timber Mountain

Hiked Thursday, May 20. Timber Mountain is the shortest "high peak" out of Icehouse Canyon. From the 210 Freeway, take the Baseline Exit, head west, then make a quick right on to Padua. North a few miles and you hit Mt. Baldy Road. Follow Mt. Baldy Road north, through the town of Mt. Baldy. The Icehouse Canyon trailhead is difficult to miss. In fact, the road going up Mt. Baldy is such that you're more likely to turn accidentally right into the Icehouse Canyon trailhead than you are to miss it.

There's a large parking lot and pit toilets at the trailhead, but I did not see any running water. Leashed dogs are allowed on the trail. A wilderness permit is required (free, from the visitor's center in Mt. Baldy Village).

Because of my late start that day, I did not hit the trial until almost noon. As a result, most hikers were ahead of me, and I would estimate I passed 20-30 people heading down as I headed up. Many were in groups of 4-6 and were "mature." On the return trip, I passed about ten people heading up, nearly all during the last mile or so. On a weekday! So I'm sure the lot fills up on weekends.

The trailhead is at 4,900 feet, and the whole trip is uphill. I took it very slowly on the way up, because past experience tells me that, at altitude, if I let my heart rate get too high, I'll get a headache. As a result, it took me about three hours to get to Timber Mountain. The return took about 2 hours of walking time.

The first mile of walking is along a roaring stream. Because of the steepness of the terrain, the water is rushing quickly down. However, there are some larger pools that look like pretty good trout habitat. Didn't see anyone fishing, however. I don't know if this means fishermen know about this area and know there aren't any fish here, or if fishermen don't know about this area and so there are lots of fish here. :D

Like many other river bottoms in the San Gabriel Mountains, there are both occupied cabins and unoccupied ruins that used to be cabins along the lower stretch of the trail.

There are also tall piles of rocks that have fallen from the cliffs around you.

After one mile, there's a fork in the trail. The Chapman Trail peals off steeply to the left, while the main Icehouse Canyon trail continues straight ahead. By the way, there are metal stakes pounded in the ground every mile, so you know when you've walked one mile, two miles, or three miles. Curiously, there's also one stake with a "5" on it, between Icehouse Saddle and the 3 mile stake. I don't know where it's measuring from.

Just before mile 2, you pass a sign welcoming you to the Cucamonga Wilderness Area. Shortly thereafter is the "2" stake. And shortly after that, on the opposite side of the canyon, is an impressive (in late spring) cascade, dropping through several steps on the way down to the canyon floor.

About 3/4 of a mile later, the Chapman trail rejoins the Icehouse Canyon trail. Six-tenths of a mile later, you reach Icehouse Saddle.

There are three choices at this saddle. One trail heads south, then southwest, to Kelly's Camp (1 mile) then on to Ontario Peak (8,693 ft, 2.5 miles). There's also a variation that heads from Kelly's Camp to Bighorn Peak (8,441). Another trail heads east, then south, to Cucamonga Peak (8,859, 2.3 miles). Because both of these trails run along the north end of the respective peaks, there's snow and ice between Icehouse Saddle and those destinations. I'm pretty sure that's Bighorn Peak on the left of this shot, with Ontario Peak behind it and to the right.

I took the third trail choice, which heads mostly north. After .7 miles, there's a spur that heads .2 miles east, to Timber Mountain (8,303). If you ignore the spur, you'd have another 2 miles to Telegraph Peak (8,985), and another 1.2 miles beyond that to Thunder Mountain (8,587).

Because of their higher altitude, I decided Timber Mountain would be the destination today.

In this shot, taken from the trail heading towards Timber Mountain, I'm looking back to the south. I'm pretty sure Bighorn Peak is the rounded, snow-covered mountain to the left, while the mountain behind Bighorn and a little to the right is Ontario Peak.

The top of Timber Peak is a rounded summit, with plenty of trees. There's a wooden sign that looks like someone wrote "Timber" on with a crayon.
Behind that sign is a metal stake driven into the heart of a large tree. This stake has "Chapman MT" written on the top, and contains several small notebooks that are the summit registry. (Timber Mountain used to be known as Chapman Mountain).

On my return trip, I headed a bit north on the trail to Telegraph Peak. It looks like those two miles would be pretty tough, because, although the trail more or less follows the ridge, you still yield about 400 feet from Timber Mountain to the low point on the ridge. Then you need to gain about 1,100 feet to get back up to the taller Telegraph Peak.

I also explored around Icehouse Saddle a bit. As of yesterday, the path for the trail to Kelly's was not obvious. There's enough ice and snow on the ground that few people are hiking there, so the trail is not yet well-defined. I expect in a few weeks, that will change.

By the time I made my way back to near the trailhead, the sunlight was getting softer. I saw some nice backlit scenes along the way, although not all of them photgraphed as I perceived them.

The building clouds mixed with the lighting to give some interesting effects.

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