Thursday, June 3, 2010

Hike 65: Mount Wilson Trail

Hiked Tuesday, June 1. 15 miles.

I'm pretty sure this was the first trail I ever hiked in the San Gabriel Mountains, back when I was in high school. As for the current drive for 100 hikes in 2010, I hiked up the lower part of this trail on hike 33, when I looped up the Mount Wilson trail to the old Toll Road, then looped down on the fire break, over Hastings Peak, down to Jones Saddle, then down to Bailey Canyon Park.

I also hiked down the very lowest part of the Mt. Wilson trail on hike 8.

Tuesday was about the fifth time I've walked up to Mount Wilson this year, though the first time I went to the top after starting at Lower Santa Anita Canyon. I'm convinced this is the hardest way up, although the current sign at the trailhead claims it's just 6.8 miles each way (plus 1/4 mile or so each way to get from Mira Monte Avenue to the actual trailhead).

There's lots of southern exposure the whole way up (that's what makes it so hot--and the heat plus the steepness makes it tough and long). Plenty of lizards sunning themselves in the morning. Later in the day, and higher up the trail, I passed through some thick flowers that were providing a virtual smorgesborg for butterflies, sipping nector from the flowers.

On the other hand, there are also some deeper canyons that cut through the southern face of Mount Wilson. Many of those canyons have perennial streams with pretty cascades. The sound of gurgling water can be soothing, and, for those inclined, are a nice place to cool off and rest. You can admire stream-side flowers and the filter sunlight of a maples, alder, walnut, and other deciduous trees.

I wanted to get one more trip up here before it got too hot. To try to beat the heat, I started at about 9am. It was hazy or overcast for most of the way up, so this plan mostly worked. Also, it didn't get as warm as expected--probably only the mid-60s at the summit, which I reached at around 1pm. Back in the car a little after 4:30pm. This was with my slow-slog pace up the hill, and time to snap a LOT of pictures both ways.

The change in season meant different flowers blooming today versus back in February. No western wallflower, for example. But plenty of familiar friends, including larkspur, lupine, morning glory, cliff aster, and several plants I did not recognize. One of the plants I did not recognize included these pretty pink flowers that I saw along the toll road. They looked great in backlight.

The other big difference is at the top. The large parking lot in front of the pavilion has been appro- priated by a construc- tion company. There are stacks of telephone poles and pipes, plus room for semi-tractor trailers to pull in, plus a landing area for helicopters. It's all fenced off, so when you reach the top, it isn't imme- diately obvious which way to go. Turns out you're supposed to go right at the top. This takes you along the edge of the summit, with the San Gabriel Valley to your right. Along part of this walk, you'll actually be between a pair of fences--one to keep you out of the construction area, and one to keep you from falling off the cliff.

As you turn up the east side of the lot, you'll pass a rock with a plaque recognize Don Benjamin (Benito) Wilson, who re-blazed the trail to the top of the mountain that now bears his name. Two towers of the solar telescops are also easily visible as you make the turn. That's the picture at the top of this post.

After I got back home and took a shower, I stepped on a belt buckle (my own fault for not putting that where it belonged). My foot's still a little sore, so I wasn't up for hiking on Wednesday or today. (Kind of a shame, since this morning is starting out overcast, which I wasn't expecting--should keep the temperatures down on the front range, at least in the morning). Probably heading for Telegraph Peak on my next hike, unless I end up settling for something short because of foot pain.

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