Monday, August 6th, was a very special day -- I got to meet the famous
Barbara Guerin, who's getting mighty close to a list finish, for the
first time. Brian and I collected Joanne Griego at the Flying J at
the Frazier Park exit from I-5, then headed through Lockwood Valley
to the Pine Mountain Summit, meeting Barbara and Mars there. Brian
said he could do that drive in an hour, I was skeptical, and he made
it in fifty minutes or less. We didn't even skid on any of the
curves on the mountain roads, or scrape bottom in the dips.
It was already warm, and Mars (generous guy that he is) promised us
the possibility of record breaking temperatures. I'd already heard
how awful it was for Dorothy when she'd done nearby Hildreth in
July, uh oh. But this would be a shorter, easier hike, so if we
took it slow, we should do fine. Right? Right.
Mars had the secret code for the gate (which was hanging wide open,
but who wants to get locked on the wrong side of it?), so we all five
piled into his car, and were off, overtaking almost immediately
a pickup load of hunters. Yes, it's already hunting season. In fact,
the reason we were doing this on Monday, rather than Sunday, was that
there were no permits available for Sunday, they'd all been issued
I can be a bit overly literal at times (when I first read of ducks in
the climbing guides, I assumed they had feathers, and was curious to
know how HPS convinced them to hang around in dry washes and be
landmarks for hikers), so had assumed the Gendarmes meant a checkpoint
where the USFS law enforcement types would check our permit before
allowing us to proceed. Der. Wrong-o. They turn out to be very
interesting rock formations, with no interest at all in our permit.
Eventually, we came to a locked gate. Mars apparently isn't as
well-connected as George Wysup, who (rumor has it) found it wide open
on a recent trip to these peaks. Now it has a shiny new chain and
padlock, so we had to walk. Not that it's that bad of a walk -- a bit
sunny and exposed, but the road is definitely easy to follow, even for
one of my limited navigation skills, and the grade is gentle. We were
atop Monte Arido (no register) in no time.
It was a really clear day, we could see the Channel Islands. And the
advertised heat wasn't too bad, and was moderated by a mild breeze.
We strolled down the road, and eventually had a super view of Old
I was reassured to learn that the right (western) one of the two
high peaks was the taller, that we'd not have to negotiate that notch
to get to the eastern peak. The approach was up that barish ridge
whose intersection with the road is occluded in the photograph.
Barbara suggested we go up and fetch the register down for her to
We took it slow (the heat!) and let Mars lead (to deal with the
occasional brush -- the use trail was actually in quite good
condition). Barbara explained that with snakes, it's the person who's
in third position who's most at risk of being bitten (dunno where she
learned that), so we spent a lot of time jockeying to not be in
Not that it mattered, we saw no snakes. Very few bugs, either -- I
think they were all over on Mt. Gleason being monopolized by George.
We did see some lovely (Brian alleged man-eating) butterflies.
On the way back, Mars stopped to do some work on the trail -- the same
false passage through the brush has lured him astray three times
running, and he was going to make sure it didn't happen again. So the
other four of us headed back down, navigating by democracy whenever
the trail seemed obscure. (That, and following the ducks.) Barbara
led for the last bit down the hill, and pulled a tad ahead of Brian.
Karen to Brian: "Don't lose Barbara!" Brian to Barbara: "Barbara,
don't get lost!"
We took the road back up to Monte Arido slowly, enjoying the occasional
breeze. I carefully didn't share with anyone the numbers I was reading
on the little thermometer that hangs off my pack -- if no one knew how
hot it really was, they'd not get too warm, right?
It was still reasonably early when we got back out to the highway. Joanne
mentioned she'd done most of the Los Padres drive up peaks, but had somehow
missed Frazier Mountain. And since we drive right by the turn off on
our way back to Flying J, well then! There's no register there currently,
so Brian took a picture to prove we'd bagged this troublesome peak:
Barbara, Brian and I had increased our peak counts by two that day (I
was up to 74), and Joanne by three. Definitely a success! Though
Barbara had made the biggest percentage difference in the number of
peaks remaining to collect. (Oh, and Byron? I'll put my money on Ping
to win the race to finishing the list! With Barbara a close 2nd...)