Monday, November 22, 2010

Hike 103: Heaton Flats Trail

Hiked Monday, November 22.

Today's hike started at the end of the East Fork Road in the San Gabriel River Canyon. As yesterday, I took the 210 Freeway, exited at Azusa (CA-39), and headed north. About nine miles into the canyon, I again turned right on East Fork Road. However, this time, I took it all the way to the end.

There's a little bit of a tricky spot near the end. When you reach Glendora Mountain Road, the road makes a sharp hairpin turn to the right. If you stay on the "main" road, you'll be on GMR, and heading back down into the Basin. Instead, you need to make half of the hairpin turn, then make a left, across a lane of traffic, on the right side of a pine tree, to continue to the end of East Fork Road.

At the end of the paved road, there's a locked gate and a very large parking lot. Even on a weekday, many cars were parked there. I don't know how many were left by backpackers, how many by people camping near Heaton Flats, and how many by people practically living up here.

Pass around the locked gate and proceed 1/2 mile up stream. When you reach a bathroom, it's time to turn right. The trailhead sign is there. There was no wilderness self-permit material here, however. I assume now you need to get that at the San Gabriel Canyon entry station.

The sign at the trailhead says it's 1.2 miles to the Sheep Mountain Wilderness, 5 miles to Clearwater Saddle and 6.2 miles to Clearwater Canyon. That makes it a total of 1.7 miles from the parking lot to the Wilderness boundary one way, or 3.4 miles roundtrip. With a bit of extra wandering I did on the trails today, I probably did about 3.8 miles. Again, very short for me. However, the climb out of the East Fork is pretty steep, so it did get my heart pumping. Looking at the topo, it seems to be a 1,200 foot gain.

It's a little hard to be sure, however. If the Sheep Mountain Wilderness is accurately portrayed on my map (Tom Harrison Maps: Angeles High Country Trails), then it should be a good bit further than 1.2 miles from Heaton Flats trailhead to reach the Sheep Mountain Wilderness. Yet, there was the sign, from which it only took me about 30 minutes to get back to the trailhead sign (not my car).

In any event, from the area around the signed boundary of the Sheep Mountain Wilderness, there are some nice views east and west. To the west, I could clearly see the road cuts where Shoemaker Canyon Road ran, high above the north side of the East Fork. To the east, I could see up what I believe was Coldwater Canyon (a few aspen or cottonwood, narrow and yellow, were visible way down there).

I could also see a whole bunch of clouds, which obscured what I assume to be the top 3 or 4 thousand feet of West Baldy.

To the southeast, I could see Glendora Ridge Road, which connects with Glendora Mountain Road a bit south of where I stood and runs east, past Cow Cattle Saddle and all the way down to Mt. Baldy Village.

Along the way, I passed some colorful sycamore. I also took a few shots below the clouds that obscured the late afternoon sun, showing some of the ridges to the southwest. Despite the shortness of the hike, it felt good to get outside, and the views were definitely worth it. On a clearer day, I'll have to return this way with a wilderness permit so I can explore further to the east.

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