Danger! Danger, Will Robinson! I am a clothing-optional kind of guy.
Taking CA Highway 2, aka the Angeles Crest Highway, north from Glendale to a few miles shy of Wrightwood, you will cross Dawson Saddle. At 7901 ft., It is the highest point on the ACH. You will see a long parking area on the left next to a road maintenance shed. About a hundred meters past the divide, the Dawson Saddle Trail climbs up the side of the hill to the right.
A few yards up the hill you encounter this sign commemorating the unchained gangs of Boy Scouts who performed voluntary servitude to build the path.
I continue on my quest. This stuff is Mountain Magnolia, aka Hell’s feathers. Cowboys on horseback would ride into clouds of the fluffy seeds blowing in the wind, experiencing extreme levels of skin and eye irritation.
En route, I encounter two huge groups of day hikers coming down. The parking area empties out. Now I pretty much have the trail to myself. (Trail privacy is important to me.) It is an advantage to starting late. I also get to hike thru the warm part of the day – it must be all of 65 degrees at the summit! (Back home it got to 95.)
This is not a long hike. The forest service map puts it at 4.3 miles RT and the signs say it is about 4 miles. The vistas from the top are spectacular!
The trail up is not that bad. Initially, it was a little steep but soon leveled out to a 10% grade for about the next mile and a half. Overall a 12.5 % slope. You get a sense of the enormous amount of work put into the building and maintenance of the trail. Beautiful vistas all along the way. Most of the trail is just below the ridgeline on the eastern side. The air was sparkling clear, not a touch of haze or cloud and the shadows were crisp and dark.
Many of the trees were showing signs of drought stress but no obvious bark beetle infestation.
At an elevation of about 8800 ft, the trail tees into the Pacific Crest Trail. Just beyond we see Sheep Mountain and the eponymous wilderness area. But rather than head along the PCT, my route goes up the side of Throop Peak on a “use” trail. (That’s a trail that doesn’t have a numeric designation by the forest service and never gets maintained.) I start developing an allergy to clothing.
Made it to the top! Until you get to the top you are serenaded by the sounds of loud motorcycles on the highway miles away. Along the way, the ridgeline is buffeted by strong winds. At the very top is silence, at least as far as human noises go. A couple of unidentified birds scold me.
There is a little known art to lacing boots. I stop to re-lace my boots for the trip down. (As long as I have everything else off, I might as well.) I do a heel lock lacing on my way up. On my way down I tighten the front of the boot to keep my toes from sliding forward. That way I can do without liner socks to avoid blisters or buying hugely oversized boots to avoid black toenails.
Always bring my SPOT communicator with me. If something happens, I can get help in hours instead of the next day after I am reported missing. The resolution is amazing. You can see the cairn at the top of the mountain just to the left of the red pointer where the SPOT unit was. Accuracy was within 8 feet.
And now what some of you have been waiting for – my peak-bagging ceremony!
Just as I return to the camera to stop recording a guy who was even older than me came tromping up to the peak from the east side and said, “Where’s the woman?!?!” What a fun day!