A Different Kind of Obsession
Shortly after I discovered HPS I joined what appeared in the schedule to be three hikes: Burnt, Sawtooth and Liebre. It was an ugly day but the turnout was huge -- I now know that these peaks are rarely led (and, in the case of Burnt, deservedly so). We climbed the rollercoaster Sawtooth, the unimpressive Burnt and then... What was this? It slowly dawned on me that we were going to mount Liebre in vehicles! This was my first exposure to the mechanism of drive-ups and I instinctively rebelled. I wanted to HIKE! Imagine my horror when, upon arriving at the summit, I observed grown men running back and forth between a little can and their vehicles over and over again. No question: I would have to return to Liebre to cleanse the slate by climbing to the summit. (Two other peaks on which I was an unwilling passenger in a drive-up -- Cuyama and Piute -- I also subsequently climbed; those tales have been told in other articles in the Lookout.)
I became a woman on a mission: even if I never finished the list, I was going to find ways to hike each of the drive-ups. There are, for the record, 30 plus peaks that are almost always done as drive ups of which, it is fair to say, over 20 are ALWAYS done in that manner. An additional 10 peaks or more can be driven up but rarely are. (Let me pause here to try to explain what I mean when I use the term "drive up." For me, the crucial criteria is whether there is an alternative way of getting to the peak. The length of the hike remaining after one has parked is not as important. For example, Monrovia can be hiked all the way or driven to within about 1/2 mile steep climb to the peak. Since the full hike is a good cross country romp, I would call the alternative a drive up. There are several other peaks with hikes from the parking area not much greater than 1/2 mile but where there is no decent alternative for getting to the parking area. If this makes no sense, think about the cliche: "I don't know anything about art but I know what I like when I see it." You don't need to quantify a drive up in order to know when you're doing it.)
So this is the story of how I fulfilled my obsession. Along the way, I discovered some very lovely hikes and a few peaks that require more exploration to find a good hiking route. Taken in the order of our list, here they are: the duds and the gems.
Piute. The reader is referred to the very fine account written by George Wysup elsewhere in this issue of the Lookout. This story has a happy ending as it appears that Mountain Records will designate the very lovely peak George describes as the HPS summit.
San Emigdio. I was fortunate that Karen Isaacson -- who knows this area of our peaks better than anyone -- was interested in testing routes to hike San Emigdio in tandem with Brush. We did some dirt road hiking in the interests of time but could see that trekking through the woods would be feasible. Karen and Mars are leading this hike during Oktoberfest weekend.
Cerro Noroeste. This was the only peak where I actually hiked up the paved road - I don't recommend it - but the best way to reach Mt. Abel, as it is also know, is in combo with Pinos, Grouse and Sawmill, something I expect to do shortly and which is also a choice for Oktoberfest weekend.
Mt. Pinos. Just hike from the parking area up through the woods, meet the dirt road and continue. This is done frequently and is now included in our peak guide.
Tecuya. This little hike is often done as a drive up. Don't miss the hike. It's pretty and, as Karen confirms, a lot more fun.
Peak and McPherson. The trail to McPherson is very beautiful, moderate in difficulty, and more enjoyable than sitting in a car. From McP, you have to hike the dirt road for a mile before taking the short scramble up Peak.
Cuyama. This is my personal favorite. If you read my piece in the last issue of the Lookout, you already know how to hike up the ridge from Brubaker Canyon to the peak in lieu of driving up the bumpy ugly dirt road.
Frazier. Karen and I hiked up a dirt road a mile or so. This was makeshift and I look forward to an exploratory hike George is leading during Oktoberfest that will test a cross county hike all the way up.
Reyes and Haddock. The way these are usually done involves a fair amount of driving on yucky road before parking and doing a nice fairly short hike to the two peaks. Kate Rogowski and I wanted a more challenging expedition so we took the Chorro Grande trail from route 33 up to the parking area and then proceeded as usual. There are some really interesting rock formations along the Chorro Grande trail and the entire trip (about 18 miles round trip) goes through at least three different types of environment. Try it.
Chief, Topatopa and Hines. Don't drive to these peaks (I know that you hike a few miles or so at the end - don't nitpick). For Topatopa and Hines, the trail up from Sisar Canyon is a nice challenge that goes through some pretty woods before switchbacking through chaparral. Just don't do it on a hot day. Chief is another one that's on my "find a better way" list: I hiked the dirt road from the route 33 side - not very rewarding but better than driving. So I need to go back and find a better route.
Liebre. Hey, it's a darn nice trail. Try it - but not on a hot day.
Mt Gleason. Why not take the PCT all the way up from the Angeles Forest Highway? Because you want to do Iron, Fox and Condor the same day? Do Fox and Condor another day from Big Tujunga road. By the way, Iron has a nice trail from that side as well.
Vetter and Mooney. I stretched these hikes as long as I could without actually going in circles. The hike to Vetter, while short, is very lovely. Can't say the same about Mooney.
Pinyon Ridge. Zobeida Molina and I discovered a new route just by chance. We started to go up the trail from the camp as described in the peak guide but, observing that we could much more efficiently go straight up the ridge to the summit (I can't bring myself to call the little cairn at the top a "peak"), we did so. WE came down the switchbacking trail. Either way is better than driving the dirt road.
Monrovia. See the beginning of this article where I use Monrovia to illustrate a point.
Santiago and Modjeska. Many, many ways to hike these either separately or together. I recommend the Holy Jim Trail up Santiago -- but don't drive to the trail head in anything less than a tank. I lost the suspension on my sports car.
Cleghorn, Sugarpine and Monument #2. Martin Parsons and I (with some hints from Sluggo Prinzmetal) planned an elaborate hiking route incorporating these three plus Cajon (which, while short, is an OK hike). When we arrived on the scene, we discovered that the combination of snow and brush made the plan infeasible. We did the usual short hike to Cleghorn, which remains on my "to find a better way" list.
On another occasion I returned to the scene, this time approaching from the other side, to attempt a route to Sugarpine and Monument described in John Robinson's book. Unfortunately, access to that route was prevented by a large water obstacle in the road. So we explored around for a while, met some nice folks who gave us permission to cross their land, and hiked up a use trail to the dirt road that runs by the two peaks. We turned one way to hike down the road to Sugarpine (how did such an ugly summit get such a pretty name?), and the other way down the road to Monument. This route cannot be easily duplicated. Along with many other folks, I would support deListing these duds unless we can find an interesting way to hike them.
Butler Peak. Another "find a better way." I hiked up the road about 2.5 miles. It's a pretty hike but a road nonetheless. (Others have snow-shoed from Crafts when the snow was deep enough to cover the brush.) I'd like to find a hiking route but I didn't see any obvious possibilities.
Keller. This was the toughest peak not to drive up. In the end, I persuaded George, Zobeida and Roxana Lewis -- with whom I was hiking that day -- to abandon the car and bushwhack through the burnt-out manzanita for about half a mile to the peak. We looked pretty awful by the time we reached the lookout. On the "find a better way" list.
Tip Top. A group of us hiked up the road in the dark with our favorite after-dark leader, Mars Bonfire. I have been told that this is terribly ugly in the daylight, but has been led cross country together with Mineral.
Indian. This is another unjustly maligned peak. People have been know to severely scratch their vehicles rather than getting out and using the feet they were born with. The trick here is to hike from the "vista point" on highway 243 to the dirt road; then, as you go along, look for opportunities to go cross country in the places where the road loops around. It's kind of fun.
Black Mtn #1. You must hike the Black Mountain trail! It's beautiful. Don't drive. Don't.
Rouse and Thomas. Both of these have hiking routes in the peak guides which are really very nice. Thomas is a beautiful woodsy kind of hike cross country after following a regular trail through chaparral. Rouse is one of my favorites. The trail follows the rim of a canyon on the dry side for a while, dips steeply down to the stream, and then switchbacks up the wet side of the canyon through a rainforest-like environment. When you reach the top of the canyon, you're in cow patty country and just kind of follow your nose (so to speak) to the peak. The last half mile or so is on the dirt road that others have spent boring hours driving up.
Santa Rosa. I ended up hiking this one cause I was late for a hike to Sheep and Martinez (Virgil has never let me forget) and wanted to do something while I was in the neighborhood. It was winter and there was a fair amount of snow on the road. I climbed from the bottom, trudging through snow the last few miles, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. This is beautiful country that you can't appreciate from the windows of a car. About half way down, I hitched a ride with a motorcyclist and got an idea of what it was like to be in a vehicle on that rough road. (Driving down is not a bad thing in some circumstances.)
Boucher Hill. I stretched this into a five mile loop hike. From the guard station, I hiked northwest along a trail that eventually ended up at a campground. From there, I took another trail southwest and then west to reach the lookout. I returned to the guard station along the route that runs westish straight down the ridge. Believe it or not, this is worth doing.
Palomar High Point. This can be done from the Observatory by hiking along a dirt road that is not open to traffic. It's likely that there is a way of doing it off road but I couldn't figure it out.
Hot Springs. I arrived at the entrance kiosk to the Hot Springs road in my little sports car with the intention of driving up the dirt road to within a few miles of the peak and then hiking the rest of the way either on or off road. I explained my plan to the woman who was collecting the "toll" who replied, "In THAT?!?" Undaunted, I carried out my plan. On this one, I found several places to get off the road and there is a nice little jaunt at the end to the peak.
Garnet Peak. Another one where the only way to stretch out the hike is kind of artificial. I started out at a picnic ground off the road a mile or so south of the drive up road to Garnet. From the picnic ground, I hiked the PCT along a stretch with spectacular views of Anza Borrego to the parking area for the drive up. From there, I did the usual short hike.
So that's it. The conclusion from this is that many of these are really worth hiking and, personally, I would take those that aren't off the list rather than drive them. I'm very interested in HPSer's sentiments on this whole issue.