Agua Tibia Peak, Eagle Crag, Brown Mountain
7 February 1999 (Private Trip and List Finish)
By: Tom Hill
This was to be HPS list finisher Richard Whitcomb's Lower Peaks finish on Agua Tibia Mtn (4779'). As it happened, however, when Richard and I went out to get him ready two weeks before by trying for Brown Mtn (4485') and Mt Zion (3575), a winter storm warning in the San Gabriels limited us to Zion, the "hard" way. The road to Chantry Flat was locked. Richard got out in the downpour, mumbled some noises about his need to get used to hiking in the Pacific Northwest, donned his formidable raingear, stood outside as calm as can be, and looked at me in his special way ("You got a problem with this?") I personally was excited, not because I have any designs on rainy Seattle but because this was my chance to test out my GustBuster umbrella - huge, guaranteed windproof! About 15 miles later we made it back; if you're tired of crowds at Chantry, hike in a storm (snow above 3000'). We had the place to ourselves.
And so it came that nine of us early birds assembled at Dripping Springs Campground at 6AM on February 7, ready to test the uncharted waters of the Dripping Springs Trail. The stories had preceded us: entire forests! nightmare deadfalls! But -how difficult can a ROAD be? Well, Richard showed off his fireman's form by pushing two smallish trees off the trail, leaving some thirty-five others for his future trips. About half of these woodsy barriers were formidable, centuries-old horizontal monarchs demanding gymnastics. One saving grace. If a trunk is more than head high, you can probably crawl underneath it.
And there we were, around noon, just below the summit of Agua Tibia ("shinbone water" was our affectionate translation). An incredible ocean of manzanita, dead and alive, seemed to surround the peak, along with assorted vigorous new growth (thanks again, El Niño) of doubtful attitude. Doubling back on the "road" our searching eyes found a plow-through chance from the northwest. We proceeded through a surreal thrashfest, arriving at the top about 30 minutes later. This quarter mile was much easier on the way out, thanks to our soon-to-be-overgrown instant use trail. The register can is at the Agua Tibia Benchmark, some 50 feet west of the class 2-1/2 summit rock.
Judy Hummerich, Gabriele Rau, and Dorothy Danziger "celebrated" with Richard while Mars Bonfire, Janet Yang, George Wysup, and Virgil Popescu checked out to continue onward to Eagle Crag, which beckoned 3 miles to our east along the overgrown road. These intrepid ones braved a threatening sky, short daylight, and the unknown condition of the Wild Horse Trail for their 23 mile, 4500' gain loop hike. They reported that the Wild Horse is in great condition compared to Dripping Springs, but much longer, about 10 miles from Crosley Saddle back to the trailhead, with a curious, meandering up-down flavor.
The next day, Monday, was almost an anticlimax. Richard and I rambled to Brown Mtn from Eaton Saddle, installed a new register can for his list completion, and then took out his cellphone to call in to Santa Ana. Talk about Murphy. The overseers of the venerable Lower Peaks List had unexpectedly called a meeting, after two years, to consider what, why, and how to change their operations. Richard's phone refused to connect the call.
All worked out. We ran back to Richard's truck, then down to La Cañada where the call was placed 15 minutes after the meeting had begun, but with the voting on hold. Yes! They added 5 new peaks to the list. You Lower Peakers now need to reach 63 fine summits, many of them challenging and unusual.
#1 Jean Hermansen
#2 Eric Siering
#3 Tina Stough
#4 Richard Whitcomb
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