If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. And get up there earlier, dammit!

A week later from the last time I posted (To Hike…) I went back up to the mountains determined to get to Grouse Mountain for my trophy shot. I joke about how fat and out of shape I am but it is all relative.

It is relative to who I meet on the trail. Most people I meet are in better condition than I. If you look at the profile, right around mile 2.35 there is an insanely steep section of trail that is nothing but an eroded mess. Among the several groups and couples and individuals I met that day one happened to include a lady who is a fellow docent at the nature center near where I live. She and her friends are just trucking along, taking this 25-degree slope of loose sand and rocks in stride.

Hiking from right to left and back again. Average grade is 10 %  Steepest grade is 25%

When I come back this way I will climb 20 feet and rest. Rinse and repeat a half dozen times. I’ll lose my footing at least once from fatigue. I suppose walking sticks or staff might help a little but the last time I used them I ended up re-inflaming an old case of “tennis elbow.”

This particular lady has ten years on me.

It is also relative to what I could once do myself. But reminiscing about one’s glory days is not conducive to living in the present.”I used to be able to run up hills like this!” doesn’t make the climb any easier.

OTOH 90% of people would not even attempt such a hike. And for people in my age group it must be a much smaller percentage. When I get back to the car my knees will swell up and ache. It is only by the miracle of modern medicine I can do this.

According to this hiking calculator, I burned somewhere between 2690 and 3304 calories on just this hike. That is very close to a pound of fat. I checked my weight the morning of the next day and it really was a pound less. Two days later it was still a pound less, so I’m really confident it wasn’t just dehydration. That kind of exercise kills my appetite and I probably ate less that day than I normally would have. If I keep this up I won’t be a fat old man anymore. Just old.

Can’t decide if I want to feel unwarranted pride in what I’m doing or pointless regret for what I didn’t do when I could. Decisions, decisions!

You think you have back problems!

I met a lot more people on the trail this time. Probably because it is the Thursday before Labor Day. There was a Hispanic couple, early 60s. He was carrying a beautiful hand made machete in a beautiful hand made scabbard on his belt. I admired it and thought about the Swiss Army Knife I had in a pouch. She was barefoot because she felt more comfortable hiking that way. I thought about my 3 lb. Lowa Renegades. We got into a discussion of their trip to Egypt and Israel and climbing the pyramids.

Tumawait
Vincent Tumamait was an elder and spiritual leader of the Chumash Nation. He helped preserve their culture.

There was a lady on one horse and leading another. She was there just to exercise them and get them used to the trail. Very friendly and a good chat.

If whoever I pass is wearing a mask, I’ll slip mine on. It just feels friendly and polite. If they don’t have a mask, mine stays velcroed to my shirt. Everyone looks healthy. People under the weather just wouldn’t do this. There is far more distance than 6 ft. between us, brilliant sunshine, and a decent breeze. I believe the chances of COVID-19 transmission out here approaches zero.

San Emigdo Mountains
View of the San Emigdio Mountains to the northwest. They are in the 7K ft. elevation range.

A group of 3 people was returning from where I was going. One of them carrying a small black poodle. Seems the poor doggie had climbed up a big rock and hurt its leg when it jumped off. Wanted to know if I knew of any veterinarians in Pine Mountain Club where they were staying. I didn’t. Suggested that if they can’t find one locally, Santa Clarita had a lot of them but it was an hour and a half drive to get there. Lucky it was a very small dog as they had two miles and a big mountain to hike up before they’d reach the parking lot.

That’s something that worries me and sometimes prevents me from bringing a dog. If I am that far back I will not be able to carry 50 lbs. of dog very far.

Took the detour up Sawmill Mountain. I’ve been here before but it was on my way and I had time. I never turn down a mountain top view. Then back down to the main trail.

Continuing west I pass the intersection with the North Fork trail and reach the trail to Grouse. It isn’t an official numbered trail and is not on most maps. No trail sign but the path is visible and people have laid sticks down to further delineate the intersection. From this point on it is very familiar.

Sawmill viewed fom Grouse Mountain.
Looking back from Grouse to Sawmill mt.

At 8583 ft. Grouse Mt. is the lowest of the named 8000+ peaks in the area. At least it has a name. Sawmill is just above the treeline and Pinos has large broad areas without trees but Grouse isn’t quite tall enough for that and is thinly forested. I set up the “trophy” picture by the cairn at the top when I noticed an error in the sign someone had left. They had transposed two digits to turn 8583 into 8853 ft. The transposition would have made it the tallest peak in the range.

Trophy shot! Typo on the sign, though.

About a mile and a half to the northwest is Cerro Noreste, yet another 8000+ peak in the area. I had no intention of going there today.  I felt pretty confident that I was alone at the time, so off came the clothes. Grouse has two peaks, maybe 100 yds apart. I rested and sunned and checked out both peaks before dressing up an heading back.

Heading back on the Tumamait trail, I realized I was right next to yet another named peak. This one is Sawmill West at 8749 ft. I followed the ridge to keep the steepness of the climb manageable. Looks like other people had the same idea from the very faint markings of a rarely used path. I’ve “bagged” it but I was too exhausted to set up the photo. I just crumpled onto the ground and rested and then trudged on my way. Trophy photos will have to wait.

West peak of Sawmill Mountain
Badly exposed photo of the west peak of Sawmill Mountain. To tired to try to get a decent photo, let alone a trophy.

Nearby there was a witness tree and a National Forest boundary marker. A witness tree, also known as a bearing tree is an old surveying marker. Some of them identify township corners. Some of them are backups in case another marker is destroyed. In this case, most of the information on the yellow sign is long lost to age.

Boundary tree
Boundary marker

The boundary marker is where the red dotted line and the black dotted line intersect. Kern and Ventura County. The red line is a range boundary. Back east it would have been a township boundary because the counties in the mid-west are all divided up into townships hat are most often 6 miles by 6 miles. Townships are political entities with a very small amount of self-governance under a county. Out here, a range (R 22 W) is just a way of designating a particular area on a map.

Both the tree plate and the marker have R 22 written on them.

You might notice that the entire trip wanders back and forth across the Kern-Ventura county line. I continued on my way and fought my way up Pinos. The switchbacks were easy. It is that first couple hundred foot of elevation gain, an eroded mess straight up the hill at about 25 degrees, that is a killer. (Yeah. I already mentioned that.)

Mt Pinos from Sawmill Mt.
Looking at Mt. Pinos from Sawmill Mountain

Made it back to the top of Pinos at about 5:30 pm with a couple of hours to spare before sunset. Thanks to a very distant cell tower that looks like a pine tree twice as tall as any other pine tree, I had two bars flickering to one bar. Called home to let my wife know I was not dead yet but still an hour from the car. Once you reach here the trail is a broad gravel and dirt road. If I needed to, I could hike it at night without concern.

A middle-aged couple on their way out asked whether they had time to make Grouse Mountain and get back. (Seemed to be a very popular location today.) From that point, it is a 7-mile round trip up and down steep slopes and sunset was in 2 hours. I suggested discretion and they said they’d watch the time and went on.

North View from Mt Pinos
North View from Mt Pinos

Heading back to my car I passed several couples and groups on their way out to catch the sunset. Made better time than I had thought and hit the lot at 6:15, just as a van full of amateur astronomers was setting up. These are the darkest and clearest skies within a hundred miles of LA. Saturday night they own the place and if you pull into the lot late at night with your headlights on you are risking your life.

Despite their amateur status, Astronomers out here don’t seem to be very social. Very serious and doing “important” stuff with setups that cost from 5 figures. I brought my kids up once to see a close approach of Mars once through my cheap 3-inch reflector without a clock drive. Not much response to, “Hi! How’s it going? Kids are interested in what you’re doing.”

If I were an astronomer and I met kids who were interested, I’d be all about getting them involved.

Ah well.

Astronomers on Mt Pinos
Astronomers on Mt. Pinos