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Monte Arido, Old Man Mountain, Frazier Mountain

6 August 2001

By: Karen Isaacson Leverich

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 to hunters.

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 Man Mountain:

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 sign. Tsk!

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 third.

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...)

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