21 January 1995
By: Alan Coles
Leaders: Alan Coles & Diane Dunbar
It was one of my first trips with the HPS and there was quite a crowd. Everyone seemed very excited about this "new route" to Monrovia Peak but the leader said that this was the same old route he always used. We started hiking up Sawpit Canyon in Monrovia and came to the top of a dam where a big gate with a "NO TRESPASSING" sign blocked our progress. Surprised, our leader exclaimed, "This was the way we used to do it 10 years ago."
Fortunately a person came out from the dam building and reluctantly let us through, saying that he could get in trouble for doing it. We completed the hike and had to jump the gate on the way out.
That was over 10 years ago and, for a change, this story has a happy ending. The old road up Sawpit Canyon was opened to the public again a few years ago. Somehow this news has not cycled around HPSer's and many people still do the steep ridge route not knowing that there is a very scenic and more gentle alternative. As an added bonus, the historic Overturff Trail which parallels the road for about 2 miles, can be included as part of the trip.
After a very wet week, our trip nearly had to be canceled due to a fierce winter storm. The storm had the good sense to break up on Friday evening allowing the trip to go as planned. Charlie Knapke was unable to go, so Diane Dunbar agreed to assist. All seven participants which included Martin Feather, Cristy Bird, Don Slocum, Tony Trull and Kit Ross, were at the gate to Monrovia Canyon Park before the 8:00 a.m. opening time. Once the gate was promptly opened, we drove to the first parking area near the building where you pay a $2 per car parking charge. The gate closes at 5 p.m. so we had to be out by then (it is possible to park outside the park and walk in if you don't have enough time).
We set off quickly up the road under partly cloudy skies. After 100 yards we turned right and walked over a bridge and up the paved road that leads to the dam. About 1 mile further we passed the turnoff to Trask Boy Scout Camp where volunteers were busy doing construction work. About 1/4 mile further, 2 stone pillars and a map mark the beginning of the Overturff Trail which was restored by volunteers 2 years ago. One can take either the road or the trail (there is very little difference in distance) so we took the much more scenic trail which descends slightly to the canyon and crosses the stream. A 2 step jump was sufficient to get across which all made without incident. The trail then switchbacks up the slope and goes over the "Razorback", a thin ridge with vertical drops of 80' on either side (not very scary). It then begins a long ascent for about 3/4 mile before passing through "The Gap" (all named on the map), a narrow slit in the ridge.
After a slight descent through a thick forest of bay and oak, we came to "Twin Springs" which has (as its names suggest) 2 springs, one flowing down the canyon and the other emerging out from underneath a large rock. Old pipes and other relics lie strewn about. The spring, which has a rather healthy flow, was once tapped and sent through a pipe to a resort below.
Just beyond the spring is a trail junction. The right fork leads to the road in about 100'. We stayed on the left fork ("Cabin") and continued steeply up and over a ridge and down slightly to another junction. The left fork ("Cabin") leads to the ruins of an old resort at Deer Park in another 1/4 mile. We took the right fork which drops down to the road in about 200 yards.
Back on the road we continued climbing another mile up to White Saddle where we took a well deserved break. This is the half way point and has fine views into Sawpit and Cold Springs Canyon. The road to the right leads to Cold Spring Canyon, Mt. Bliss and Van Tassel Ridge. It seems to be an ideal place (and we saw only a few of them) to take a mountain bicycle.
We continued on the left (north) road as it climbs steeply around Cold Spring and up to the Rincon Red Box Road in 3 miles. Those who wish to get peaks in the easiest way possible can drive the Rincon Red Box Road in autumn to reach this point. We turned left and headed west going in and out of clouds which occasionally granted us a view into the West Fork of the San Gabriel River.
Upon reaching the power lines in another 1/2 mile, we turned onto a path that follows the ridge. The flat area under the power lines was a little confusing in the whiteout conditions but we managed to get on the right trail up the steep ridge to the summit. After a good, steep climb of 600', we reach the summit around 12:30 and had lunch.
We had occasional glimpses of the view to the north but the clouds were persistent and one Cumulus Ominous soon descended upon us and engulfed the peak. About 12:55 we left the summit giving ourselves plenty of time to get back before 5. We followed the ridge back to the road and put our feet on overdrive on the way down.
We skipped the first turnoff to the Overturff Trail and took the second one which is about another 1/2 mile down the road near the spring. The occasional uphill stretches reminded us that we had a good workout. Once we regained the road again we quickly descended back to our cars reaching them at 4:05. The clouds were darker but we didn't get more than an occasional drop of rain all the way down.
Everyone who had done the peak by the steep ridge agreed that this route was much more preferable. Many thanks to all participants for making it a good day.
To get to Monrovia Canyon Park, take Myrtle Ave exit from the 210 FWY and go north 1.6 miles to Hillcrest (stop sign). Turn right and go 0.2 miles to Canyon Blvd. (stop sign). Turn left and go 0.5 to Oakglade Dr. Park here if you plan to enter/leave the park after hours otherwise drive all the way into the park (gate at 0.7 mi.) to the pay station (1.0 mi.). Park in the lot near the station. Park is open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily except Tuesday. The Overturff Trail is closed Tuesday and Wednesday due to target practice at the shooting range in Sawpit Canyon. For info call 818-357-5046.
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