Saturday, August 9, 2014

Hike 2014.036 - San Gabriel Peak from Red Box Junction

Hiked July 1, 2014. I mentioned previously that I recently bought a new car. So here's my new Prius at the trail head for San Gabriel Peak. I got quite a collection of my old Saturn at trail heads from Kentucky and Tennessee all the way to California. I'm not sure if this Prius will turn out to be as well-traveled.

To get to the trialhead, take the Angeles Crest Highway (CA-2) to Red Box Junction. That's where the narrow, winding road to Mount Wilson splits off from the ACH. Head south 4/10ths of a mile. On your right will be a paved road that bends sharply to the right, then steeply up a hill. You won't necessarily even know it's a road when you reach it; it looks more like a turnout than a road.

And, in fact, for all practical purposes, it is a turnout, because there's a locked gate not 100 yards form the start. Just before the locked gate is a wide dirt area for parking. About a half-dozen cars could fit here. There are a couple of very busy ant colonies here, with large red ants. Never been stung by one, but I don't want to find out if they hurt or not.
Park here. Rather than hiking along the paved road, you'll probably prefer to take the trail, which goes very steeply in switchbacks up a ravine. If you're in the dirt parking area, look, look across the pavement for the trail.

The trail takes you under a rather thick canopy of trees--largely live oak, but some large conifers, as well. You'll never be all that far from the paved road that heads up to Mount Disappointment, but you should stay on the trail for a more scenic hike.
After 1.3 miles (at least that's what the mileage is on the sign facing the other way), you join the paved road. Don't go climbing up any use trail to join it early; stay on your trail until you see that little metallic sign facing the other way.
From the pavement, it's probably just a 1/4 mile or so to the saddle between Mount Disappointment (on your right) and San Gabriel Peak (on your left). You should have enjoyed nice views to your north on the way up. At the saddle, the pavement widens, and many Spanish broom cover the flat area. You'll also see some poodle dog bush, whitish-purplish flowers on tall stalks. They are supposed to be irritating, so avoid contact with the flowers and leaves.

On this day (now almost a month ago), yucca were still in bloom. Several large "candles" were right along the saddle, and you can see one I've photographed, both from below and from the side.
From the side, you can see the candle shape. Sometimes, in June and July, you can see whole hillsides dotted with these yucca candle.

In addition to the flora, you'll also be able to see back over into the Los Angeles Basin from the saddle.

If it's clear, you'll see clear out over the ocean. if it's not, you may barely be able to see back to urbanization. Either way, you probably will be able to see a very clear dirt road that climbs along the face of the ridge below you, heading down towards Pasadena. I always want to know where that road starts so I can try another way up towards these mountains, but I'm not sure where it starts.
To get to the top of San Gabriel Peak, go left at the saddle. On the northeast side of the wide area is a trail that will take you to San Gabriel Peak. It's probably only another 1/4 mile or so from there to the top.

You'll see many dead and standing snags along the way. The Station Fire burned over this area very thoroughly. That's also why the poodle dog bush is so dense here (thought it was much denser a few years ago)-- It's one of those plants that recolonizes burned areas the earliest.
From the top of San Gabriel Peak, you've got a wondeful, 360-degree view. You're standing on basically the tallest peak (6161 ft) in the front range, just three feet shorter than it's neighbor to the northwest (and, thus, not necessarily on the "front" range), Strawberry Peak.
On the day I stood atop San Gabriel Peak, it was clear out of the basin, but with a marine layer moving into the basin. That meant lots of moisture in the air and not great visibility to the south and west, but very clear views to the north and northeast.
Of course since you're on the tallest peak in the front range, from the top, Mount Wilson is below you. The white observatory domes and radio antenna are prominent. Antenna are also visibile on Mount Disappointment, to your west.
This is a great after-work hike in the summer. It's only about four miles long (roughly--I didn't gps this or anything!), so you just need a couple hours of daylight to do it. In these cases (for this hike, to San Gabriel Peak, and the next one I'll blog, to Mount Disappointment), I could start around 6pm and still finish before dark. Of course, with days getting shorter, time may soon be insufficient to do this after work.

As noted at the top, this was hiked back in early July. I still have many old hikes to catch up on blogging.

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