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Smith Mountain

12 December 1998

By: Susanne Weil


Leaders: Frank and Ruth Dobos, Susanne Weil

For those of you who haven't yet added Smith Mountain (5111) to your personal peak list, we have a suggestion: mark your calendars for either March 13, when Haven Fearn and Frank Goodykoontz will take an HPS group to its summit or April 25, when Charlotte Feitshans and Tammy Solko will lead this terrific day hike. Last December 12, after carpooling from the Azusa rideshare point, eleven of us set out at about 9:30 toward the summit, which someone thought resembled a towering green hard-boiled egg. The day was sunny and so warm that within a quarter mile, everyone stripped down to shirtsleeves, some even wishing for a cooling breeze: the kind of December morning that makes one feel especially blessed to live in Southern California.

The trail climbs quickly, yet is so nicely banked that the three miles and about 1300' to Smith saddle passed remarkably fast. At the saddle, we enjoyed the view down into Bear Canyon to the west, the variety of birdsong, and even a few late-blooming wildflowers before tackling the rugged use trail to the summit. The bouldering on this final approach requires some care, but added an element of challenge to these last 700' of ascent, leaving us all ready to devour a good lunch after signing the register. Frank and Ruth had thoughtfully brought along a box of fudge cookies which, I should report, did not survive for more than fifteen minutes.

The view from Smith commands a fine 360° perspective of the San Gabriel Wilderness. We enjoyed spotting peaks like Waterman, Twin Peaks, the Hawkins ridge, Baden-Powell, Rattlesnake, and more, and all admired the many stark yucca spires silhouetting against the backdrop of ridges, receding into distant haze. One minor drama bears reporting: a hiker found a tick embedded, which we promptly smothered with Neosporin and then extracted with needle nose tweezers. (Take only pictures, leave only footsetps, kill only time ... and, well, OK embedded ticks.) As someone noted, even in winter, it always make sense to check for hitchhikers of the insect kind.

On the way down, we particularly admired the striking rock coloration along the trail: dramatic cream and russet striations that made us wish we had a geologist along to explain in detail how they got that way. We were back to the cars well before 3 PM, and Frank and Ruth distributed HPS brochures. A number of experienced hikers, but relative newcomers to the HPS, had been along on the Emma/Old Emma hike several weeks earlier, they reported that they were well on their way to their 25 peaks to join our section. All in all, everyone had a great day on Smith Mountain - a matter of particular relief to me, as this was my provisional leader's trip for my 'O' rating! Thanks to Frank and Ruth for coleading, and to all the participants for being such a cheerful group.

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