Leaders: Wolf Leverich and Karen Isaacson Leverich
Peter Glover and Susanne Weil lead some of the most "user friendly"
hikes on the HPS list. The very first Lookout I ever received
(July-August 2001) included this paragraph by Susanne:
Sad, but true, in these days of Dilbert: there are times when work
interferes with one's hiking! The Lookout arrives in the mail and,
wistfully, one gazes upon delightful descriptions of exciting hikes to
peaks yet unbagged in Los Padres or Desert Divide, only to realize
that a six day schedule of labors precludes that long drive to a
strenuous hike on one's only day off... at least, if one would like to
stay awake on the way home! To offer peak-bagging diversions during
these (let's hope, short-term) phases of the working hiker's life, we
thought we'd better pitch in and start leading moderate weekend walks
here in our own gorgeous backyard: the Angeles National Forest.
And since then, I've followed their exploits, to wonderful peaks like
Akawie, the Winstons, Waterman, introducing many many new people to
the joys of our local mountains and welcoming many new members to HPS.
Recent health problems have (we hope briefly!) interfered even worse
than the work schedule with Peter and Susanne's hikes. So when Susanne
asked if Wolf and I would cover for them on their 15 February outing
to Strawberry Peak and Mount Lawlor, we readily assented. We'd much
enjoyed our adventures with Mars last summer leading folk up some of
the easier peaks of the San Gabriels. Strawberry and Lawlor are a bit
more of a commitment than, oh, say, Sally or Mooney, but sounded like
a nice way to ease back into leading. (See, I've restrained myself
from whining about our long trip to Houston and not hiking for days
and days and days!)
On the other hand, while most of you probably think nothing of an 8AM
meeting in La Canada, for Wolf and I it means leaving the house at
6AM. Not only do we lead a lot of those exotic Los Padres peaks, we
happen to live out here in the middle of them! But we anticipated a
good turn out -- our phone had been ringing, as had Susanne's, with
hikers wanting to know if the hike was still on. That tremendous
mid-week rainstorm (something like 6" fell out here in the boonies)
might have meant trouble. And in fact, Highway 2 was closed somewhere
before the ski areas. But we only needed to make it as far as Red
"How will I know I'm at Red Box?" asked one of our ten or so
participants, as we prepared to leave La Canada for the mountains.
"There's a red box there," said Wolf, helpfully. (Actually, he gave
her the mileage and a bit more detail.) There is? I'd never noticed
that before. But indeed, there IS a red box at Red Box.
Last time we did Lawlor (not a scheduled lead), we came down the short cut
ridge (if you can call that chute a ridge!) from the summit of Lawlor.
We decided then and there we would never take a group that way, and probably
never do it ourselves again. When we passed below that option and pointed
it out, most of our hikers were gratified they'd not have the opportunity
to experience that steep yucca-filled descent. Two, however, were intrigued,
and ultimately signed out to return that way. They lived -- we found a note
from them under our wipers.
But that was later! Since we were neither going up nor down that
steep loose ridge, we continued contouring around Lawlor on the trail.
While not as posh as the PCT, this is normally the part of the hike
where you can really scamper along, being neither steep nor rocky.
The recent deluge had changed that equation a bit, though not
dramatically: here and there the hillside had washed across the trail,
or the trail had washed down the hillside, or both. One of our hikers
was a bit nervous about heights, and was disturbed by the seemingly
precipitous dropoff to the side. We were all cautious, especially on
the narrower bits where it looked as if the trail hadn't decided yet
whether or not to slide on down the hillside.
There were definitely fewer mountain bike tracks than the last time I
did this hike, though I expect once a bit of trail maintenance has
been done, they'll be back.
It's all very civilized now at the Strawberry-Lawlor Saddle, with a
lovely sign (our Adventure Pass dollars at work?) indicating various
potential destinations, including Strawberry Peak (1.0 miles) and
Mount Lawlor (0.6 miles). One would almost think that meant there
were trails (you, now, TRAILS!) to those two peaks. Nicely graded,
maintained, easy to follow? Well, they are a bit more traveled, as
use trails go, than some of the ones on offer up here Los Padres-way,
The use trail up Strawberry is pretty easy to follow. Steep and rocky
in places, and ambiguous in others (but just keep going up and it will
all work out), we persevered over the intermediate bump just out of
the saddle and on up. There were several other hikers at the summit,
though we'd not seen a lot of others out hiking -- while it was indeed
a pretty day, and a pleasant change from the preceding rainy days, it
was a bit hot and muggy. One man particularly attracted my admiration:
he'd lugged up a stove and a coffee pot and was enjoying a nice cup
of freshly brewed coffee while taking in the vistas!
We debated whether it was lunchtime (still early) and headed back down
to the Saddle. Along the way, the hiker most spooked by heights
queried us about the route up Lawlor, which she could easily see from
the side of Strawberry. Would it be rocky? Cliffs? I didn't
remember anything too dramatic, but then, I'd never noticed the
steepness of the dropoff to the side of the trail approaching the
Strawberry-Lawlor Saddle, so honestly wasn't sure. She decided to try
it -- since we were going to simply retrace our steps back down from
Lawlor, once we got there, if she freaked she could just sit down and
await our return.
As it turns out, there are a few spooky bits on the ascent of Lawlor.
The good news is that they're really quite short. Just when she was
ready to give up, Wolf called down from all of ten feet above her head
to relay the happy news: this was the last of the rock, and from then on
to the summit, it was simple hiking. Up she went. Up we all went.
On Lawlor, we had our long anticipated lunch. I'd lugged a batch of
freshly baked cookies up to the Saddle, thence to Strawberry, back to
the Saddle, and finally up Lawlor. I was much gratified to be able to
coax the group into eating every last cookie, thereby substantially
lightening my load.
Then back down the (civilized) ridge to the Saddle, and back around Lawlor
to Red Box. It had been a full day -- we met at 8AM at La Canada and
got back to Red Box around 4:30PM or so.
To (for Wolf and I) an annoying surprise. Besides the note under our
wiper from the two who had checked out atop Lawlor, to let us know of
their safe return, there was a ticket from the Forest Service. They
hadn't seen our Adventure Pass! How could they have missed it? After
systematically forgetting over and over and over again to hang it
whenever we stop, we'd finally affixed it to our bumper so we'd never
have to think about it again.
I don't know if it was stolen, or washed off by the rain, but our
Adventure Pass is now missing in action. We noticed another Wrangler
in the lot at Red Box -- it had an Adventure Pass on its bumper,
but mounted under a bolted on piece of Plexiglas. Apparently our
experience wasn't unique. Oh well, at least there's now a nifty sign
at the Strawberry-Lawlor junction! And we've done our bit to support it.