Sewart Mountain, Snowy Peak, Black Mountain #2, McDonald Peak, Alamo Mountain, Cobblestone Mountain, White Mountain #2
23 May 1992
By: David Eisenberg
Leaders: David Eisenberg, Joe Young
Everything was going on this trip until I got a call the week before from Carleton Shay informing me that there had been a washout on the road to Alamo and that the gate was locked until further notice. As the SASE's had already been mailed out, I was forced to call all the participants and inform them of the possibility that the trip may change into a backpack. In the meantime, I made daily calls to the Pinos District Ranger Station inquiring about the condition of the road. Thursday afternoon, 2 days before the trip, I managed to contact the road supervisor, Keith Ginn. He informed me that he was planning to repair the washout to the road himself, but that he would be unable to do the work until late Saturday or Sunday, too late for our purposes. Not wishing to make an unplanned backpack, I suggested that our group would be willing to do the work on the road for him and he enthusiastically accepted our offer. We also talked about the Cobblestone Trail and he accepted our offer to clean it out.
Friday afternoon, I went out and picked up the key, a wheelbarrow, and 5 shovels and drove them to where the road crosses Piru Creek, our new meeting place for the trip. Keith drove by that evening and, while we were talking, recruited some of the ORV people to help us in the morning!
We met at 6 am at the creek. Some of the late arrivals had missed one of the turns due to an error in the peak guide mileages and because of the dark, didn't see where the road turned. We decided to wait a while to see if we had any stragglers. At 6:30, we headed up the road about 1/2 mile to where the road had washed out. A culvert had been improperly maintained earlier and there was a sinkhole in the center of the road. With 19 people helping, we quickly dug out the sides of the hole and filled it in with rocks and soil from the bank. 20 minutes later, we were back in our cars heading up the road. The road is in horrible condition. However, Keith told me that there are plans to repave the damaged section of the road sometime this summer. We consolidated cars at Twin Pines Campground below Alamo Mountain and headed for the trailhead to Snowy, Black, and, of course, Sewart.
We had thought that our work was over, but we were 3 miles from the trailhead when we ran into a 1-1/2 foot thick tree that had fallen across the road. Because it was still rooted in the ground and had fallen from below, we were not able to push it off the road. We were saved by David Jensen who had brought a medium sized ax. 3 or 4 strokes later, we discovered that the ax was too dull to cut wood. Frank Dobos had a file in his truck (I didn't ask why either of them had these tools!) and had the ax sharpened in short order. The tree was cut and off the road in short order. Judging by the way the group attacked this obstacle, I suspect that we would have chewed through the tree with Swiss Army knives to get the peaks!
Back in the car, someone jokingly suggested the possibility of another tree on the road. We laughed it off until we rounded the next corner. Another tree! This one didn't require any chopping, just a shove off the road. A short while later, another tree! Then number 4! And 5! and 6! Then a pile of rocks. We were out of our car so much, we decided that it would be faster for the passengers to walk ahead of the cars and clear the road. Of course, the trailhead was just around the next bend when we did this!
The walk over Sewart and down to Snowy and Black was fairly easy. However, I had not remembered encountering the large amount of brush that we found on the trail when I led these peaks last year. We encountered fresh motorcycle tracks from a couple of riders who were in the area illegally but we saw no traces of them. We slowed down a bit when we had to reclimb Snowy and Sewart to get back to the cars.
Jack Haddad and David Jensen decided to stay at the trailhead while the rest of us went to do McDonald. Joe took over as leader and led a brisk walk up to the peak.
As it was cooling off, the front end of the group passed us on our way up. Driving back to the campground, we admired our work on the various trees that were no longer blocking the road. We celebrated the day's accomplishments with a potluck dinner. After dinner, Joe led a moonlight hike up to Alamo with Charlie Knapke sweeping. They report returning in less than an hour, but I was sound asleep by then. The ranger was to come by that evening and pick up the equipment and key, but he did not show up.
Sunday, we repeated the drive to the trailhead and prepared for the grueling trek to Cobblestone and White. We loaded up with lots of water and our loppers. Facing a hot day, the plan was to leave water at the Snowy Peak junction, the base of Sewart, the junction with the Buck Creek Trail, and the takeoff point for White.
The trail needed only occasional clipping until we reached the takeoff point to White where the trail cuts diagonally down to the White-Cobblestone saddle. This trail was just bad last year but was totally impassable this year. We set to work with gusto. In some spots, it took over a minute to advance 1 foot. Finally, we reached the saddle, 1 hour later, where we left the loppers and ascended Cobblestone for lunch.
The return to the White Mountain ridge was much easier as there was now a well clipped wide open trail. There is still some need for shovel work retreading some of the washed out places.
We left our loppers at the trail junction and took off for White. We knew we were at the top because of the can, but there was too much heat and too many bugs for us to stay in that brushy spot. So we descended to the saddle just below the summit where there was a breeze and shade for a well deserved rest.
Unfortunately, we had already been over the trail we had to take back so we knew that most of the gain was still ahead of us to return to the cars. Good thing we had all the water stashed. We were back to the cars by 7 pm, with some running up the hill while others slogged up slowly.
Frank Goodykoontz and I led Walia Ringler up to Alamo in what was to be an evening hike but turned into a night hike while the rest called it a day.
Thanks to all for their great help in maintaining the road and trail and for making this a truly great weekend. Thanks especially to Joe Young for his able assist.
Participants were: Charlie Knapke, Roy Stewart, Ruth Dobos, Frank Dobos, Paula Peterson, Bruce Peterson, John Southworth, David Jensen, Greg Gerlach, Pete Doggett, Jack Haddad, Walia Ringler, and Frank Goodykoontz.
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