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Topatopa Bluff, Hines Peak, Chief Peak

9 September 2001

By: Christopher Davis


Leaders: George Wysup and Frank Goodykoontz

I tuned to CNN when I sat down to write this trip report and saw that the world had changed forever on September 11, 2001. I am reminded that the song "America the Beautiful" was composed on the summit of 14,409' Pike's Peak (originally as a poem, by Katharine Lee Bates, in 1893), and my own experiences of the great views from many of the peaks I have climbed with the Hundred Peaks Section give me some idea of what inspired her to do so.

This hike was the occasion, at last, of my 100th peak. Eight eager hikers, ably led by Frank Goodykoontz and George Wysup, started out on this very enjoyable, mellow and scenic outing, though our number increased to nine for the return from Hines when we met John Wilson on his way up soon after we left the summit. John had hiked solo up Sisar Canyon, 16 miles and 3500 feet more than our relatively lazy 8 mile, 3000 feet gain amble, bagging challenging Cream Puff before climbing Hines.

Six hikers, "Bill" Banks, Joanne Calli, Christopher Davis, Gene Mauk, Mary McMannes and Jean White joined the leaders at Rose Valley Campground for a cold 0700 start. Frank, Gene, Mary and I had camped at Rose Valley the night before and had been treated to an incredible display of stars, the skies being really dark this far from Los Angeles. At around 0100, we were also treated to the arrival of a truck full of hunters, who proceeded to rouse the camp, running around with rifles, bright lights, beer bottles and general high spirits. Gene and Mary reported that they put on another show at 0400, though somehow I managed to sleep right through it, even though I awoke to see a visiting black bear foraging around the car an hour earlier. When the sun came up the hunters were long gone, and it was time for coffee, chilled pineapple juice and bacon and sausage cooked over mesquite.

At 0730, we piled into two warm Toyota 4x4's for the drive via the Nordhoff Ridge Road (22W15) to the Topatopa Bluff trailhead. Already the views were magnificent, with the tops of the Channel Islands visible above the marine layer undercast. We reached the top of Topatopa Bluff, ascending via the west ridge and descending the other side to join a dirt road to the saddle below Hines Peak. The narrow ridge up Hines Peak was negotiated with ease but great care by everyone present, and soon we were on the summit and were once again presented with delightful vistas in every direction. This peak was Joanne's second ever HPS peak, and a great peak on which to exercise the skills that she had picked up climbing 11,048' Telescope Peak in Death Valley the week before. On the descent down the knife edge backbone, many of us couldn't keep up with her.

After a short drive to the Chief Peak trailhead, we climbed the brushy use trail to the summit where I broke out a frozen strawberry cheesecake that I had brought to share for the occasion. While munching on cheesecake, we watched a California Condor circling the peak a few hundred feet above us, perhaps hoping that one of us would stay for dinner. I had spent several days the previous two weeks solo peak bagging and sleeping in my car to be positioned to climb my 100th on this outing, and was glad it was time to slow down a bit. Thanks to everyone I have hiked with during the past few weeks, and a special thanks to all the leaders who have made the hikes so enjoyable and relaxed by being so generous with their time and experience.

I enjoyed the views from Chief Peak as much as the dramatic vistas from the summits of Antsell Rock and Dragon's Head. Since September 11, I think of the inspiring words of "America the Beautiful" on each summit I visit, and I encourage you to do the same. Katharine Lee Bates wrote: "O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain, For purple mountain majesties," and "A thoroughfare for freedom beat, Across the wilderness! America! America!". Let us all honor the thousands who over the years have made the ultimate sacrifice, and those who will in the years ahead, so that we can have the freedom to enjoy the wilderness and the purple mountain majesties that we have in the USA, and especially in Southern California. I am proud to be an American. Land of the free, and home of the brave.

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