Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hiking Mt. Wilson- With WTC

If there is one thing I have learned in my 34+ years is that the sun rises early my friends, much too early. If the sun took a break and rose at, let's say, 9am, that would suit me just fine. However, since it insists and rising at godawful times, then I must deal with it as everyone congregated at the Chantry Flats trailhead in order to hit the trail as soon as the sun rose on a recent Saturday morning.

The goal? To hike Mt. Wilson, sure but also to put some of our navigation skillz into practice, to make sure our legs are in shape for the other outtings the course holds for us and to generally have fun with each other out on the trail.

First things first, we had a mandatory "gear check" to make sure we had all the necessary gadgets and doodads in case we became stuck out in the wilderness.

While I don't normally hike with nearly this amount of stuff in my pack, I think it is a good to have a certain amount of emergency gear with you just in case. I now have a stuff sack full of stuff (what else would be in there?) that I will take with me on all of my adventures thanks to this class.

The first part of the trail, we ducked down and headed toward Sturtevant Falls (I won't bore you with the details of this part of the trail, you can read about it all here). Then, the excitement began as we climbed above the falls

and went up canyon on this beautiful singletrack paralleling the stream and the little waterfalls that inhabit the upper canyon. I am sorry I don't have more pictures of this section of the trail but with a group of 30 going over a narrow section of trail, you don't really stop to photograph the scenery but I highly recommend this section of the trail.

Then its a straight climb up to Wilson.

A long climb up, that is not necessarily straight as there are many a switchback to be had (especially during the last 2 miles). There are plenty of campgrounds along the way which were inviting to me to stop and curl up in a tent for an hour or 3 rather than pressing on to the summit

but press on we did. Mt. Wilson is one of the "must do" peaks in the area but it will punish you with its length (I think it clocks in at 12.2 miles but most have it at 14 miles) and its elevation gain of 3,000+.

What Mt. Wilson gives you in addition to the calves workout is several different environments to hike through. The lower part of the trail is waterlogged and then as you make your way up the canyon, you go through a lot of oaks

and then higher still is the alpine pine tree "zone" (a scientist, I am not).

which THEN makes its way up through a sandy windblown section of the mountain.

What I am saying is Mt. Wilson is a "land of contrasts".

Another surprise about the trail up to Wilson is how enclosed the tree canopy was over the trail. There were very few opportunities to see the sights as you only broke through the canopy a few times.

The real payoff is on the summit. While Wilson has its share of radio towers like several summits surrounding LA

the real manmade feature of note is the crazy observatory array if the summit. There are numerous telescopes that are all linked to each other through a complicated mirror system and as a fan of astronomy, it was a treat to what the observatories were packing.

Of course, you don't normally summit a mountain for its man-made features, you want to see some OTHER mountains and this mountain has views in spades:

(I spent a lot of time identifying these mountain as part of the WTC navigation skills, go ahead, quiz me!)

(Baldy was in knockout form on this day)

After lunch and more navigation practice, we headed down the Wilson trail making a loop back to Chantry. You have the option of either taking the road or a goat trail and I always argue for the goat trail (which we took).

The only downside of taking the loop trail is that the next 3-4 miles is poison oak central and while the leaves aren't out yet, it can still get ya so be careful taking this trail.

The downhill portion of the trail is loooong and when all you want to do is to get to celebratory pizzas and beers, those minutes just seem to drag. Still, made it we did and then the race was on to pizza. It could have been the worse pizza in the world but it sure didn't taste like it after 14 hard mountain miles.

As you loyal readers might know, I tend to hike solo so hiking with 30+ people was a real interesting situation for me but it worked out for the best as I made fast friendships with many people which made the trail miles go much quicker. The WTC outtings are off to a whizbang start, next up, Joshua Tree!

Here is a terrible Youtube video by yours truly:


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