Monday, August 20, 2012

Hike 2012.057 -- Winter Creek Loop

Hiked Friday, August 17. Took me about 70 minutes to get from work to the trailhead. I had to work about ten minutes late, as well, so add in the traffic, and the time to lace up the boots and change my clothes, and I didn't get get off the pavement until about 5pm.

It's been long enough since my last hike up Mt. Zion that I don't remember exactly when I would have reached it. I actually think I was within 150 yards or so of the part where you head off the main trail and up the ridge to the flat summit of Zion. However, time was getting short. Because they lock the gate of the road up to Chantry Flat, I didn't want to mess with the possibility of getting locked in. So, once it got to 6:20pm, I turned around, taking the shorter route back to Chantry.

Made it back to the car around 7:20pm, so I probably did have time to go the extra ten minutes or so to the summit. Oh, well.

Distance for this hike was somewhat over six miles. The sign where the trail to Mt. Zion splits off from the Winter Creek loop, says it's three miles to Chantry Flat via the Upper Winter Creek trail, and 2 miles via the Lower Winter Creek trail. It also says it's 1.5 miles to Mt. Zion. I'm quite confident I went over a mile up the trail before I turned around, so I probably walked closer to seven miles in the 2 1/2 hours I walked. So six miles is my conservative estimate.

Funny thing about my new job is I get an e-mail pretty much every day that tells me when sunset is. Tomorrow (Aug 21), local sunset is 7:32pm. Last Friday, it would have been a little after 7:40pm. Because of the canyon-ous nature of the Winter Creek loop, plus the sections of thick forest canopy and the fact that the ridge is to your west, and it starts getting dark on this trail much earlier than it would in a more open location. So even if I try to finish this hike tomorrow, it will be a tight finish. Maybe if the traffic looks light, I'll give it a try.

The other thing I noticed was that sycamore leaves are already turning yellow and falling. It's been a tough summer and those trees are looking stressed.

The Chantry Flat trailhead is located at the top of Santa Anita Avenue. From the Foothill Freeway (I-210), exit at Santa Anita, and drive north, through old town Sierra Madre and the residential areas north of old town. Then wind along the two miles or so to the end of the road.

There are three parking areas at the top (four if you count the store). There's also limited parking along the road itself, just below the parking area. A USFS Adventure Pass is required, unless you park in the store lot, which also charges $5 or more. The lot fills quickly on weekends, but I'm always surprised by how empty it is in the late afternoon of weekdays. I got to park in the first space on Friday.

The Upper Winter Creek trail starts off from the west end of the uppermost parking area, passing a locked gate. The Lower Winter Creek trail would be reached by heading down the Gabrielino Trail, which heads north from the southeast end of the lowest parking area. You would go down the paved road, cross the bridge at the bottom of the paved section, then make a left up the Winter Creek Trail. Heading straight at that junction would take you to Sturdevant Falls, and also access several other trails, several of which could be taken on up to Mt. Wilson.

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