Leaders: Alan Coles, Frank Goodykoontz
The first mistake I made was having everyone meet for this trip on Sunland Blvd. near the 210 freeway at 7am. It is a no parking zone all the way down to the intersection with Foothill Blvd. Maps showing the location of the ending point of the hike were handed out and drivers were instructed to go directly there. The 2nd mistake was not sending the sign-up sheet along with the first cars. Once the short car shuttle over to Trail Canyon Trailhead was accomplished, the 31 participants patiently waited (and shivered) on a cold, clear morning to sign in. That done, things got going very quickly.
There was little water in the normally bubbling creek and only a trickle could be seen over the waterfall that's about 1 mile up the trail. A very typical winter 'fire and ice' day, one was either very cold in the shade or quite warm in the sun. The pace moved very well making the 4 1/2 mile walk up to shady Tom Lucas trailcamp in less than 2 hours. After a pleasant rest break at this enchanting spot, the pace slowed on the steep ascent up to the saddle. Fortunately, this portion of trail has recently been cleared to a 6' width but expect it to grow over quickly due to the concave tread exacerbated by trail bikes.
After a "catch up" break on the saddle, the old fire road over to the base of Condor was traversed and after the final push up the steep trail to the top, lunch was taken promptly at noon. Most everyone was impressed by the majestic 360° view from the middle of the western San Gabriels.
Leaving around 12:45, it took about one hour to get over to Fox. Jim Fujimoto led the steep ascent swiftly for his 200th peak. Congratulations! Once the rest of the group caught up (and their breaths) a little bubbly was shared.
From Fox, we headed east down to the saddle and took the standard cross-country route down to the Condor Peak Trail. This trail is in very poor shape and definitely needs some work. We did our best with what clippers we had but it's going to take a lot of work to clear the brush and fix the wash-outs along the way. Further down, the trail was in better shape which helped us get back early around 4:20pm. Jim had a small celebration back at the cars but many were tired from the day's workout of 16 miles, 4,000 feet gain and opted for home.
Many thanks to all participants and especially to co-leader Frank Goodykoontz who almost (literally) didn't make it.
P.S. I highly recommend this alternative route especially in this direction for both the views and walking ease. We parked the cars on Big Tujunga Rd. on the turnout opposite the side road to Vogel Flats Ranger Station. The Condor Peak Trail begins about 100 feet up the road from there.