Mount McDill

17 July 2001

By: Tom Hill


Mt McDill (5187') is hikable again. This peak was on the original 1946 HPS list but was delisted in 1973 after some dangerous encounters with the property owners at that time. One report (ca 1982) mentioned that a gun club claimed ownership of the summit and was enforcing that claim. Well, things can change in 20-30 years. On our visit we found no signs of any recent activity nor any evidence of a gun club.

What we did find is a fence 3/4 mile to the west of the summit with two gates, the outermost with an announcement, "Santa Monica Mountains Nature Conservancy." A partial "No Trespassing" sign is found attached to the fence south of this sign. If you take the northern fork in the dirt road, following along on the west side of the fence, you quickly find an unposted, wire-ring standard hiker's gate for passage through the barrier. Pass through and hike along the ridgeline road (improved dirt) where you encounter four bumps marking the Mt McDill plateau. The first bump has a benchmark "Mint." The second bump has a three-boulder arrangement marking the ruins of an old benchmark, with the HPS register can in the center. The third and fourth McDill bumps offer good views to the east of the ridgeline punctuated by electronic sites rolling off toward Odell Peak (5217'), the high point of the Sierra Pelona, and Hauser Peak (5200+) one mile farther.

This cluster of named peaks occurs along the 20-mile long hogback ridge of Sierra Pelona, which divides Mint Canyon from Leona Valley between Saugus and Palmdale, north of the Antelope Valley 14 Freeway. This destination is less than 25 miles from the Sylmar rideshare point. Our research found that the 4234-acre Ritter Ranch/Sierra Pelona Open Space donation is indeed one of the Conservancy properties. It was set aside as a result of a development initiative begun in 1989.

Back to our trip. With no idea of what to expect, Hugh and I set out on an all-day touring exploratory that began on Bouquet Canyon Road, which we accessed by taking Hwy 126 exit east from the I-5 in Santa Clarita. There were three potential access roads from Bouquet Canyon. The first (about 9 miles from Hwy 126) was Forest Road 5N14 into Texas Canyon: Gated. The second (3 more miles north) was Forest Road 6N07, the road that follows the entire ridgeline: Open for business. We turned right (east) on this dirt road and began the ascent in Hugh's more-than-adequate SUV. Passenger cars not recommended.

The road climbs quickly through chaparral-choked canyon slopes into broad grasslands along the main ridgeline. The slopes drop off gently and then more steeply for 2000 feet on both sides of the ridge making for quite a heady experience. The road itself is a dual system along the entire ridge. The main road goes around the many ridge bumps. A parallel track follows the actual ridgeline, sometimes in rather dramatic fashion, and appears to have seen much use by 4x4 enthusiasts.

We encountered two side roads that provide alternate driving access. First we noted Forest Road 5N18 heading right (S) at 5.7 miles. After a stop at 9.2 miles at a minor saddle for a short walk west to the remains of the Sierra Pelona Lookout (4850') we continued to 9.7 miles. Here we noted a second access road 6N08 heading left (N) to Artesian Spring Campground. This road was open and would have saved 5 miles each way of dirt road driving. (It meets Bouquet Canyon Road 1/2 mile before the eastern tip of Bouquet Reservoir.)

Then we enjoyed the views and exploration of the McDill summit plateau on foot, 3 miles, 600' gain, before driving back to the junction with 5N18. A 3.5 mile downhill brought us into Texas Canyon, where we noted the 5N14 gate closed on our right (west) to match the closure at Bouquet Canyon. Now we had a surprising bonus 1.1 miles farther east into Texas Canyon, where you can take a breather from admiring the unusual rock formations by stopping to visit the Silver King Mine at a road pullout (alternatively reached by backtracking from Rowher Flat ORV Area for 0.9 miles). The mine is easily identified by its two open-mouthed caves just above the stream on the opposite side of the creekbed.

It's unusual to find unblocked mine openings - particularly when they are easily accessible to the public. Examination solved the mystery. The opening on the left is the entrance to a hard-rock tunnel more than 100 feet long into utter darkness and appears to be bombproof; the opening on the right is much shorter.

Our driving journey then continued to the Rowher Flat ORV area where we turned right on 5N13, soon passing a downhill use-trail to impressive Table Rock, and then 3 more miles out to paved Sierra Highway north of Vasquez Rocks and the 14 Freeway.

Mt McDill
Register placed 1/5/64
Sierra Club Angeles Chapter
Roy Gumm 100 Pks I 5-18-74 / Windy-

The lines above are found on the cover of a register book found on Mt McDill on a scouting trip July 17, 2001, by Tom Hill and Hugh Blanchard. The nested red cans remain on the summit, but not the book. Please bring a replacement book when visiting this delisted peak.

The historic but heavily weather-damaged old register book now resides safely as part of a large, private HPS archive maintained by Hugh Blanchard.

Register Book labeled "For Geolograph Service I Call the nearest Geolograph Office" Cover has baby blue border on white surface. Binding consists of five red plastic bands. Size 2 3/4" x 4 W.

The register is severely damaged from 37 years of field exposure. Several hundred people, mainly HPSers on section-sponsored trips, signed in on its sixty pages over the years.

One striking difference from modern practice is the great many children and entire families who signed in. Another difference is the large number of participants on some of these trips.

First sheet
1/5/64 W. E. von Pertz, Bruce Collier, Very windy but beautiful
2/29/64 B. Hanson, Barbara Estin
3/1/64 Peak #13
Sierra Club Members Cal & Mary Turner - Glendale Very windy & cold - clear view of snowy peaks
5/30/89 Pete Hanson, George Egbert Quartz Hill High teachers Biked up from down ridge 5 miles
11/4/93 Taking lunch break. Ken Moss SCE meter reader [Note: This entry is the most recent one in the book.]

Second sheet
3/7/64 Cold clear windy Bob Hawthorne, Roger K Mitchell, Janis Hawley, Mark Goebel, Mary Anne Pidgeon, Paul Ferguson, Gene Andreosky, Julius M Zetterbaund, Bob Franson, Anne M Carison, Henry P Amstatz, John Nienhuis, Bob Schull, Parker Severson, John A Danielson, John Danielson, Robert Davis, Raymond Fagg, Suzanne Danielson, Teresa Clark, Marvin Siddel

Third sheet
Roy Arnold, Ottmar Goebel, Les Gampp, Laura Oard, Mark & Franci Shpink, Larry E Shpink, Dorothy Cutler, Norma Diamond Francis, W E Van Dagel, Martha Mullin, Bob Hawkinson, Cliff Parks, Eleanor Faulkner, Ron Eckelsmann, Dave Bingham, George 0 Hale, Phil Clarke, Richard Raskoff, John Frost, Dave Frost (old), Age 9 Barbara Frost [Note: This was the final entry for the 3/7/64 trip]

We stop here with the full record and list only a few entries from the rest of the book. As you begin to see, the register is completely full and signers have rummaged through to find sign-in room. Other entries in order of their appearance:
3/29/64 (Easter) How Bailey, beautiful & warm but hazy
12/4/71 In Wind Joseph Young
6/25/66 Bernie Petitjean #100 Finally Lu Petitjean #100! (Now open the champagne!), Sandra Petitjean #61, 10 years Suzie Petitjean #46, Don Petitjean #62, 8 years
12/11/66 G Palmer, put new register can here. Old can full of water & rusting. Jerry Russom, Feb 19 group left can upside down. Full of water. I'll leave plastic cover off.
8/19/6 Art Rich
5/9171 HPS Trip, Duane McRuer, Leader... Ron Webster.. .John Backus, Leader
5/31/71 Bill Russell #59, Pat Russell #12
10/8/72 John Robinson, cold, windy, foggy
5/21/73 Barbara Reber #93
4/15/72 Fran Smith HPS DPS
7/8/72 Harry Brumer#72, Henry Heusinkveld #133
12/8/75 Jon lnskeep, La Cañada
24 Nov 68 Gordon MacLeod #139, Barbara Stacy MacLeod #90 1/4/69 John Backus #142, Paul Lipsohn #147


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