Mt. Pinos

May 14-15, 1943

By: Fred Johnson


For a long time Bob Becker and I had been talking about climbing Mt. Pinos, but it was not until a month before school was out that we finally went. Leaving school Friday after school, we drove with Mr. Wolcott as far as Sespe Gorge, where he was going to check on Mr. Biggar's week-end camping party. After waiting there for two hours, we were picked up by a man who took us quickly over the Pine Mountain ridge and down into the Cuyama to Quatal Canyon, where we left the main road about 7:15 and started for Pinos some distance away. We walked along the dirt road leading to the Monolith Gypsum mines and connecting with the Mt. Abel paved highway ten or twelve miles beyond the mines. Shortly after a small but filling dinner, one of the mine workers and his family picked us up and, after stopping a few minutes at the mines, took us about ten miles of the canyon over a road which finally became so bad that the car could go no farther. After thanking the people for such a swell ride, we started out about 9:15 along the road, and several miles on, came out on the Mt. Abel. As we walked up the road, we saw strange cloud formations which amazed us both. About 10:45 we came to a maintenance station, Camp Condor, where we planned to spend the night. We knocked on several doors, but were met with no response. However, it was so cold outside, that we kept banging on a door, which was opened at last. A man gave us the keys to an empty bungalow which gave us a place to sleep and a place for a fire. We curled up close to the fire - it was cold inside too - and we soon asleep. About 4:00 we woke up and started to fix a breakfast of mush and chocolate. At 6:30 we started out, taking our packs with us, for we weren't sure whether we would come back the same way (I didn't want to take mine, but I sure am glad Back changed my mind.) It was cold outside and frost was on the ground, but it didn't take long to warm up after we started walking along the road which was no longer paved. By 8:30 we had covered the seven miles to Mt. Abel: it was an easy walk and we had good views of the surroundings. After eating a piece of fudge and a couple raw weinies, we were on our way again to Pinos, which we could see several miles off. We had to drop down several hundred feet to a saddle and then climb up again. It was rather tiring, but very pretty. All through this country are large pine trees, so different from the other mountains in the vicinity. About 10:30 we got to what we thought was the top, but which turned out to be Sawmill Mountain. We rested there only long enough to sign the register (I saw several Sierra Club names there), and then started off again to the peak, getting there a few minutes past 11:00. We spent two hours there, taking pictures and looking at the countryside (we had a splendid view and see the Sierras far to the north). It was quite cold outside, so it was fortunate there was an airplane spotting station there. The people there were very nice, asked us in, and heated up our soup for us. The elevation is 8826', so there was still a few patches of snow around.

At last we started on down the other side, hoping to connect with the U. S. 99 instead of going back down the same way. We had no trouble get down, except for a short time when we got off the trail and had to climb up rather steeply to get back on the "road", which we followed for about four hours. The "road" was long and monotonous and the farther we went the tireder we got, so our time wasn't very good. However, it was a pretty hike, and we took our time. Finally, about 5:15, we came out on a paved road some twelve miles from Frazier Park; within two minutes we were picked up by a ranger, who took us to his station a mile or two down the road. From there, tired as we were, we started walking - slowly - and after going about a mile, we were picked by two women in a Cadillac which took us not only to Frazier Park, where we thought of spending the night, but down to Lebec in no time flat. The first thing we did was to eat and eat some more. After a hearty meal, we stood out on the highway in a surprisingly cold wind until dark with no luck whatsoever. Then, after trying to get a room at the hotel without any luck, we took the bus to Castaic Junction about thirty miles away. We got there about 9:00, and before long were picked up for a ride good to Santa Paula, where we were left off at 10:00. Then we waited an hour and a half for a ride, and when it did come, what a ride! We were awfully tired and at every car that passed, Beck yelled names not too complimentary. About 11:30 a car went by, stopped, and backed up: we thought they had heard what Beck had yelled at them. But no, they picked us up. "They" were drunks who gave us a wild five or six mile ride, and then dumped somewhere between Santa Paula and Ojai. We figured that if we didn't fall down before we got there, we would get to school about 5:00 Sunday morning; so off we went, slowly but surely. About 12:15 the impossible happened: a boy and his girl friend picked us up and right up to school. What a welcome ride! And how happy we were! So, at 12:45, our great trip ended. We did get back much sooner than we had expected, but we weren't very sorry to crawl into our beds.

We were the first ones from school to make the trip, and I guess the only ones crazy enough. I'm glad we went, but once is enough for me.


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