HPS Historical Hikes, June-July 2004 Sugarloaf Mountain; Grouse Mountain; 10K, Lake, and Grinnell; Waterman Rendezvous

June-July 2004

By: Karen Isaacson Leverich


I celebrated HPS' 50th anniversary by participating in not one, not two, but FOUR of our historical events in the past two months. Had a really great time, met new people, met famous old people, of course saw some of the most spectacular scenery imaginable in all of Southern California. Don't despair if you missed them, though: read the schedule of upcoming outings and you'll see there are still some left. Come join us!

JUNE 6: SUGARLOAF MOUNTAIN. Where were you on June 6th, 1982? June 7th, 1987? June 2nd, 1991? June 4th, 2000? June 6th, 2004? Most of us don't know the answer to that. The few of us who do may be suspected of having a serious Life Style Problem. With some exceptions like: Stag Brown, Bobcat Thompson, and Joe Young. The first Sunday of June, every June since forever? 1981?, these young men have been leading a hike, the famous First Sunday in June with Stag hike.

The very first Sunday, they went to Sugarloaf. And in 2004, they returned. While many have joined Stag many times on these hikes, for Wolf & I, it was a first. Other participants and leaders included Art Schain (Nevada), Kent Grynicht (?) from Florida, Nami and Reina Lee Brown, Dave Cannon, Mary Bagan, Frank Dobos, Mia Yang, Lynda and Tom Armbruster, Winnette Butler, Annick Wolf, Julie Rush, Julie Rush's dog, and our dog Pecos.

A group that size, a trailhead that obscure, of course things were a tad confused. We regrouped at Mill Creek (bathrooms) and thought we had everyone (we did have Julie), but we didn't. Following a truly slow truck seemingly unaware of the custom of slower traffic using the pullouts to let the faster traffic by, we eventually regrouped near Heart Bar Campground. We thought we had everyone. We didn't: we had somehow lost Julie (a good trick, in the middle of a caravan of cars trailing a slow moving truck).

Elsewhere in Southern California, there was a heat wave in progress. Actually, there was heat wave in progress on Sugarloaf Mountain, too. But surely at such a high elevation, it'd be OK. Well ... maybe. Though given the relatively late hour when we started moving, I have to admit to having felt a tad warm. It's possible the rest of the group felt the same, as we moved slower and slower nearing the summit, and the group got fairly spread out. With so many leaders, and a very nice trail, I think we all enjoyed our mellow saunter through the lodgepoles, with sweeping views, to the summit of Sugarloaf, where the early arrivals got to laze around for longer than I'll confess to before I arrived, and another goodly interval before the sweep swept in with the last hikers. What a fine place to have a nap, though, and eat. And eat. And eat. Have you ever noticed how everyone else's food is better than whatever it is you carried up? I love these potlucks!

After resting up from the strenuous climb, we all straggled back to the cars. Well, some of us straggled. One of us thought she'd left her wallet behind a tree at a split break, and fair sprinted back down. Uh oh, no wallet! Well, maybe Joe was guarding it at a critical trail junction. No joy... All's well as ends well, though: turns out her wallet had simply sat out the hike in the back of one of the cars. Whew!

What to do after such a successful outing? That's a no brainer: most of us drifted down the highway to Angelus Oaks, and had a fine meal. Our choices were a bit constrained (the grill wasn't working), and the early orderers made do by ordering soup and boring stuff like that. Not so our end of the table, where Joe and I and some of the others devoured some very good pizza. Those of you who thought it was too hot to hike on the first Sunday of June, 2004 ... missed a VERY nice day!

JUNE 27: GROUSE MOUNTAIN. In June of 1946, Weldon Heald climbed Grouse Mountain (about two miles south of my house) with Jack Bascom. It was his 100th peak, and the beginning of the game of Hundred Peaks. Less than a decade later (1954, 50 years ago), the Hundred Peaks Section was formed. What better way to celebrate the anniversary of our Section than to revisit the peak where it all began?

I had the idea that it'd be fun to climb Grouse directly from the north, up a ridge from Pine Mountain Club. It'd mean a drive of less than five minutes from my house to the trailhead, what's not to like? I had prehiked it with the dog (who insisted on bumping every pinon pine along the way, sending up veritable clouds of yellow-green pollen, so that I looked like a very odd blond when I eventually returned home), and it is quite a nice ridge. Joe Young and Stag Brown were going to lead the main group to Grouse on a more normal route, across Pinos, and I figured Wolf and I could meet them there with our group.

Things didn't work out quite the way they were planned. The day of the hike, Wolf was under the weather. I had no co-leader. So the obvious thing to do would be to meet my group of hikers, and tell them the rendezvous wasn't going to happen quite as planned. Rather than ascending "my" ridge and meeting everyone atop Grouse, we'd kill a little time and rendezvous with the other group at the trailhead, and all hike in together.

At first, it seemed like my group was all of one hiker: Joanne. Clearly the concept of doing Grouse the "hard way" required better marketing. But then as she and I were leaving the parking area, another hiker popped up from the pavement. So then we were three. And when we arrived at the traditional Pinos trailhead (which I had NOT intended to use for my hike), darned if there weren't two more hikers who had planned to be on my hike.

We still had a few hours until Joe & crew were to arrive from Sylmar, so we sunbathed, strolled in the woods, admired the slightly-over-the-hill Douglas irises, and actually had a very pleasant wait. It was a lovely day. Eventually, Joe arrived with the Sylmarian horde (half an hour before the earliest time I could imagine they would arrive -- I was scared to ask how fast they had driven), and we were ready to head for Grouse. Well, almost. We were all in the big parking lot near the Chula Vista campground. In Joe's experience, the gate on the Pinos road is open every summer. In my much more limited experience, it's never open. I think maybe it USED to be open every summer, and now they don't do that anymore. This meant, though, that the hike was longer and higher than planned. Not everyone had budgeted food, energy, water, for the longer hike. Most of the group (but only half the leaders) made it all the way out to Grouse. I'm pretty sure everyone had a good time, though. Even if Joe didn't bring back quite enough beer from Viet Nam for everyone to share, tsk!

The route across Pinos and Sawmill to Grouse really is more historically appropriate. When Heald did the hike in 1946, he and Jack drove to the end of the dirt road (now paved) in Cuddy Valley, and hiked up Pinos from there. We probably started a bit closer to Pinos than he did, and of course had road and trail to follow. But I expect the Jeffrey pines, white firs, Douglas iris, and Maricopa lilies we admired along the way, not to mention the dramatic views in all directions (the Chumash consider the summit of Pinos to be the center of the universe, and I think they have that right), were probably similarly enjoyed by Heald and Bascom. The summit of Grouse is virtually unchanged, except there's probably a tad more pine sap on the rocks there. (Anyone have any bright ideas how to get it off my dog?) Joe had hoped that Bobcat and Stag would recreate the famous handshake. Um, that's not Stag in the photograph, but you probably guessed as much.

Maybe next year I'll lead the ridge route to Grouse. Later in the year, so the hikers don't come out all yellow-green. Talk about lucky, casting my lot in with the "traditional" group.

JULY 3, 10K, LAKE and GRINNELL. What's so historical about these peaks? Well, Grinnell (spelled Grinnel) was on our original peak list. But the official name was apparently Fish Creek Mountain. When I climbed Gorgonio with Mars Bonfire and Edith Liu on September 12th, 2001 (the day after the world stood still), she brought along a topographic map that just fascinated the heck out of me, because it had the "old" names. But HPS went to bat with the Board of Geographic Names (like Tom Hill is doing now, to promote Southwell Peak), and succeeded, and now the names on the map match the names and our peak list.

Nowadays, we often do 10K Ridge when we're in the neighborhood of Lake and Grinnell. (The excuse? The usual: it's on the List.) The first few times I did 10K Ridge, we hiked up the Fish Creek Trail to Fish Creek Saddle (now we know why it was once called Fish Creek Mountain, huh?), nipped over and did Grinnell, then scrambled up Lake and followed the ridgeline out to 10K, before shortcutting down a steep ridge back to the trail and out. Last time I did it differently, and liked it so well, Wolf & I inflicted it on our hikers this time.

Thus: follow the Fish Creek Trail briefly, until you pass the first creek, but before the meadow (called, can you guess?, Fish Creek Meadow). Leave the trail to the left and ascend the ridge. And ascend the ridge. And ascend the ridge. There's actually almost a use trail, it's not very steep in most places, there's shade, there is the occasional flat spot where one can catch one's breath. And none of the usual false summit teasing some of our peaks indulge in: 2000' or so of this ridge, and voila!, you are at the summit of 10K ridge, signing in, having done most of the work for the day.

We celebrated by having a nice lunch, then followed the ridge down and across, through the fallen forest created by some awful fire, enjoying (or at least noticing and commenting on) the distinctive smell of the pennyroyal (which one couldn't not avoid stepping on). In the neighborhood of Lake, I was slightly perplexed. Which rock pile was the summit? I vaguely remember being faked out last time by the wrong one, so held out until I saw one that looked right. Two of our hikers were equipped with GPS. One said we weren't there yet, that it was still a short distance along the ridge. Well, that was credible, I'd been faked out last time, it would be par for the course to be faked out again. But wait, we had a second GPS voting, and it said we were there. Hmmm, I thought GPSes were supposed to help us? Better climb this pile of rock and find out if there's a register...

As indeed there was. So we had another lovely long break, signed in, and then headed down to Fish Creek Saddle, where the Fish Creek Volunteer Ranger confirmed our possession of a Wilderness Permit to hike on the Fish Creek Trail. Having established our credentials, one hiker opted to have another siesta, while the rest of us headed up Grinnell (not Fish Creek) Mountain. I know from earlier trips that when you get to the top, you should turn right, go through the butchered trees (is it a helipad or what? ugly, anyhow), and voila, there will be the summit. But did I say we had hikers along with GPS? Well, when we got to the top, the devious devices said we were there, or it was too the left. After scrounging around on random rockpiles, trying to keep the GPS's happy, everyone eventually gave in and followed me to the right, through the butchered trees, to (you guessed it) the summit.

Thence back to Fish Creek Saddle to collect our rested up hiker, and down down down the long switchbacks of Fish Creek Trail, eventually crossing Fish Creek, passing by Fish Creek Meadow, passing by the place we had initially left the trail (Doris and I were both watching for the place, and neither of us saw it), across the other stream, up that hill that didn't seem like much of a hill in the morning when we went down it, and back out to the Fish Creek Trailhead.

The road in to the trailhead, by the way, is getting bumpier by the year. Plan on high clearance if you're driving it anytime soon.

Which brings us to: JULY 24th, THE WATERMAN RENDEZVOUS. Compared to the First Sunday in June with Stag, the Waterman Rendezvous is a relatively young tradition. I think this year was the 11th. What a good idea Diane Dunbar had when she first proposed this event. There a so many wonderful ways to get to Waterman!

This year, we sampled 1) coming up the trail from Buckhorn, 2) some devious concoction by Southern and Rosemary), 3) coming in from Three Points, 4) arriving after ascending Twin Peaks, and 4) coming up the dirt road on mountain bike. Tom and Lynda Armbruster were going to lead the hike from Three Points, but Lynda unfortunately ended up in the hospital instead, and Wolf & I did our Tom & Lynda imitation. Unfortunately, we did it at Wolf & Karen pace, standing tradition on its head: the Twin Peaks hike is supposed to be the last to arrive. Instead, our group was the one that straggled in last, just as the party was winding down. (And rumor has it, Twin Peaks was first or almost first.)

Well, almost as the party was winding down. Actually, I had a great time chatting up old friends. Ralph Turner was there, but he wasn't the oldest. Unfortunately, I lost the name of the oldest attendee, who is a sprightly 87. Why do I think I won't be on Waterman when I turn 87? Someone had lugged up a 5-liter box of wine, which he was delighted to later discover had been totally consumed. (He apparently was tired of lugging it about). There was the usual spread of fried chicken, cheese and crackers, cookies, fruit, chips... This time, someone (Peter, I think) had planned ahead and brought up a new register.

One truth about Waterman that I think everyone instinctively understands: last people on the peak get to clean up the trash. Because it's like someone hits a light switch: there's this great party going on, and then, boom!, almost everyone is gone, but there's still some trash remaining. Seriously, not that much trash. Most of the participants on our Three Points hike had opted not to hike back to Three Points, but had instead rolled their own car shuttles, signing on to one of the other hikes and getting a lift from Buckhorn down to Three Points. So when all the dust settled, standing next to the picnic rock were Laura Webb (HPS Programs Chair), Frank Hernandez, Rosina Mueller, Wolf, me, and our dog. Obviously, most of the trash had been packed out if this small group managed the rest of it. And manage it we did. Gabriele, if you're missing a very pretty towel, I think Rosina is keeping it safe for you!

So the five of us (and the dog) had a quite pleasant saunter down the dirt road (following the bicycle tracks when in doubt, since Mars & Kathy and crew had just gone out that way) to where Laura had parked her truck. No way did she have room to cram all of us into her pickup. So while she drove Frank and Wolf down to Three Points, Rosina and I and Pecos sprawled happily in the shade, drinking water and watching the world go by. "That sounds like Don Cwik," I muttered, hearing someone approaching from my left (towards Wrightwood). Don's a very fast hiker, it made no sense at all that he'd be there, then. But as the speaker walked into view, he not only sounded like Don Cwik, he looked like Don Cwik. In fact (surprise, surprise!) he WAS Don Cwik. Turns out that several hikers had opted to attempt Kratka Ridge, after Waterman, but didn't have quite enough water, so had turned back. That's what they were doing there, then -- returning to their cars. We'd only made it down to the highway, while they had already been partway up Kratka.

See you there next year!


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