For our first summer hike this year we decided to visit the San Gabriel Mountains. Of course, there wasn’t much water flowing in the Southern California Wilderness after two years of drought, so our choices were limited. Unless we carried our own water. But that is also limiting, as water is heavy. Still, it seemed like an idea worth trying.
So we stared at some maps. Two years ago, we camped near Little Jimmy Spring and attempted to day-hike to Mount Baden-Powell. We got a late start and never made it the whole way to the summit, and that defeat was still bothering me. So we thought to rectify it this year. We considered camping at Little Jimmy yet again, as it always has water, but what we really wanted was peace and quiet and solitude, and Little Jimmy doesn’t have those qualities in abundance, at least not on a summer weekend.
So I stared at the map, and noticed that there was a trail from Dawson Saddle to the PCT. Maybe we could camp there. It’s much closer to Baden-Powell. True, we’d have to carry our own water, but maybe it would be worth it. Looking on Google Earth, it appeared that the ridge just above the trail about a mile from the saddle had a broad flat area on top. Zooming in, it looked like a certain-sure camping spot. Carrying two gallons of water is never fun, but only carrying them a mile seemed eminently do-able. So that’s what we did.
We arrived just after dawn at Dawson Saddle, and got ready to hike.
There were a few sketchy sections where the trail was very narrow. We didn’t know (since we’d never been here before) that the “true” trail begins around the corner to the east. Not sketchy or steep at all, but much longer. Live and learn.
With a major heatwave going on, we didn’t even want to think about the temperatures down there. It was still early morning, yet it was already in the mid-seventies up here, and the sun was potent. We hiked uphill using the “shade-patch leap-frog” method, pausing to breathe only in the shade while turning to face any breezes that might be available.
This was all a part of our evil plan. The trail side-hilled along the left side of the ridge, so all of the other hikers would never suspect that we were camping up above them on the ridge-top. Heh heh heh…
I don’t want to bore you with all the shots I took of flat spaces perfect for tents. You could camp a small army up here.
Video of the Mylar Emergency Blanket being added to our tent to block the sun
After setting up camp, we day-hiked along the ridgetop to meet up with the trail further south. We were planning to bag Baden-Powell the next morning, but for now we wanted a relaxing hike, so we set out for Mount Hawkins.
We took a nice break on the summit of Hawkins. Vicki took a nap in the shade, and I read my book for a half hour or so. We ate lunch and digested it for awhile. It was nice to be out in the wilderness with great views all around.
We chose a spot on a narrower section where there were better views. And better breezes. Too bad there wasn’t much shade on the tent. So we hung out on some shady granite boulders instead.
After dinner the temps cooled off and it developed into a nice night. We could see the generalized glow of the lights of LA to the southwest beyond Windy Gap, and the sparse sparkling lights of the desert below us on either side of the ridge. Beautiful!
We got up early, ate some oatmeal, and started hiking while it was still cool.
This was possibly the most scenic section of the trail. I imagined water flowing into the Mojave Basin on our left and the Pacific Ocean on our right. A watershed daydream on the true Pacific Crest.
Seeing it burn was killing me, as there was nothing I could do to stop it. And so much for the permits we had to camp over there three weeks later in July. The San Gorgonio Wilderness was closed for the foreseeable future. Game over, man.
Then we hiked back to camp, arriving just after noon. It was roasting in the sun but we didn’t have much choice in the matter. We grabbed our belongings from the tent and dropped them in patches of shade along with our big backpacks. Then we rolled up the tent as fast as possible (the hot nylon was burning my hands!) and ran for the shade ourselves. At that point we were able to relax and pack our packs in comfort.
We said good-bye to our wonderful campsite and hiked on out. This time we took the proper trail down to the other, bigger parking area at the saddle.
After reading the sign and thinking about it since then, I realized that all those Boy Scouts that built the trail must have camped up on that ridge back in 1982 during the construction. No place else made sense. If anyone reading this can corroborate my theory I’d appreciate hearing about it.
Anyway, that was the Trip Report. It was a fun hike, and it was nice to find a new (old) spot to camp where so many excellent peaks could be reached with relative ease.
Caltopo Map and GPS Track of our hike
Lots more photos on my Flickr Page