South Mount Hawkins
|Story||Photos / Slideshow||Maps: 1 2||Profiles: 1 2|
Driving from San Jose during the night, I drove to the far eastern end of SR2 where it is gated shut at Islip Saddle. I slept a few hours before rising at 6a to start the day. In the dark I found the unsigned PCT trail on the south side of the road. I followed this up several switchbacks as it very soon began to grow light out. Good thing too, or I might have missed the use trail up the ridge, a shortcut to Mt. Islip's summit. It was plenty cold out, just below freezing, though it would grow more pleasant as the day progressed, It took about 45min to climb the 1,500ft to the top of Mt. Islip. A few minutes before topping out, sunrise had hit the Mt. Wilson area overlooking the fog-enshrouded LA Basin, and the warming rays were just now reaching Islip's summit.
It was a beautifully clear morning atop Islip, fog covering everything below about 5,000ft as far as the eye could see to the south. The view to the east was dominated by the Hawkins Ridge, while Mt. Williamson dominated the view to the northwest. There were four concrete piers, marking the foundation of the lookout tower that once stood at Islip's summit. The stone walls of a nearby residence still stand just below the summit on the north side. A window on the building had a picturesque view of the Mojave Desert to the north. The summit benchmark was stamped "Crystal Lake" after the old resort area found lower on the south side of the mountain.
From the summit I followed the maintained trail down to Windy Gap, meeting up once again with the PCT. At this junction I took the trail down the south side, towards Crystal Lake for about half a mile. Where the trail comes closest to Snowslide Canyon, I could see the old road to South Mount Hawkins about 200ft lower on the opposite side of the canyon. I left the trail, doing a bit of steep downhill cross-country to drop down onto the road. I followed this old road up to a saddle north of South Hawkins, then a short distance further to its summit.
The views were better on South Hawkins than on Islip, as one could now see the high summits around Mt. Baldy to the east. The fog had receded only a short distance, still hugging the mountains just below the Crystal Lake area off to the southwest. Like Islip, South Hawkins sports the concrete pillars that once held a lookout tower. An exposed toilet seat stands like the ancient throne of a bygone era, in an amusing fashion.
The next four and a half hours would be spent hiking up the Hawkins Ridge Trail to the summit of Mt. Hawkins, down the next ridge to the east to Copter Ridge, then back up to Mt. Hawkins a second time before returning to Islip Saddle. I tagged Middle Hawkins on the way to the higher Mt. Hawkins, bypassing the lower, informally named Sadie Hawkins below Middle Hawkins (I probably would have tagged it too if I'd known about it at the time). The trail to Mt. Hawkins was in good shape and easy to follow. Before it meets up with the PCT around the 8,400-foot level there were only a few sections of hard, patchy snow. After this point the trail moves to the northwest side of the ridge where there was considerably more shade and snow. I avoided the PCT for this reason, choosing the use trail that follows the ridgeline more directly to Mt. Hawkins.
I found the route down to Copter Ridge similarly easy to follow, thanks to a good use trail well-trodden by the HPSers and others like myself. The summit of Copter Ridge has only a few hundred feet of prominence, but sports a similar view to that of South Hawkins. There was a summit register here, one of the few I found all day. The more popular peaks along the Hawkins Ridge Trail have all been stripped of theirs. The register contained an amusing diatribe concerning Mars Bonfire, seeming to heap all the ills of the mountains in Mars' lap, most of it probably unjustified. Why anyone would harbor so much dislike for a single person was a little disturbing. The most recent entry in the register had been a month earlier, by Tom Becht who I had just been hiking with the previous week. I imagine he must have done a similar loop from Islip Saddle.
By the time I returned to Islip Saddle around 1:30p, there were two additional cars in the parking lot, though as yet I had seen no one else on the trail. It was a quiet day in the San Gabriels. I drove about ten minutes down the road, stopping at a wide turnout southwest of Mt. Williamson, my next stop. My initial plan was to hike up to Mt. Williamson and return the same way, but after a quick perusal of the map it appeared I could make a nice loop out of it and tag Goodykoontz as well. I knew there was a closed area somewhere between Goodykoontz and the highway, a rehab place for the yellow-legged frog, but I wasn't sure exactly where. There were no signs indicating such where I had parked, and I guessed it must be further west, on the south side of Goodykoontz.
It took just about an hour to reach the summit of Williamson. There are three summits to the mountain, all within 40' of each other, the highest lying at the northwest end. I found no register on any of them. I was happy to find a nice use trail heading northwest along the ridgeline. At a fork in the ridge a quarter mile from Williamson, use trails forked in both directions, one to Goodykoontz and the other to Pallett Mtn. It seemed a shame to bypass Pallett when it was so close, but I would probably run out of daylight getting back to the car and I wasn't sure if there was an obvious way back from Goodykoontz, given the frog zone below. There were other HPS peaks near Pallett besides, and I would come back the next day to climb those.
The use trail to Goodykoontz was a delight, traversing a lightly-forested ridgeline with good views off both sides, with only modest additional elevation gain. It took a bit under an hour to reach Goodykoontz from the summit of Williamson. I found the second register of the day, this one dating to 1999. Tom Becht's name was again on the last page, having visited in the middle of October, again with his dog, Coco.
I dropped off the steep SE Ridge of Goodykoontz, not finding a trail but not really needing one over the easily descended gravel and sand surface. The lowest portion of the ridge dropped into a more heavily forested area dominated by oaks which left a thick padding of decaying leaves that were fun to bomb down through. I crossed the dry creek looking for frogs, but saw none. On the other side I climbed up and over a small ridge before dropping down onto the old road leading to the nearby dam and pumphouse. I followed this very brushy road back up to the highway, exiting at the exact same turnout where I had parked. It was so overgrown that I hadn't even noticed this road when I had started out.
It was 4:20p, about half an hour before sunset, but I figured I had enough time for one more quick hike. The highpoint of Kratka Ridge is less than 700ft above the highway and less than half a mile distance. In less than ten minutes I had moved the van down the road a short distance and started up from the old ski area on the northeast side. Abandoned for some time now, the slopes were littered with debris from the small operation that ran this one-lift resort. I followed a line up the main ski slope at a quick pace despite the steepness it entailed. I was motivated to get back quickly because I knew the water in my sunshower would quickly cool once the sun was gone. It had only reached a bit above room temperture during the day, so could ill afford much cooling.
I reached the summit in twenty minutes, only minutes after sunset. The fog that had covered LA the entire day still clung to the southern slopes of the range. The air was growing decidedly chilly as the last fiery hues of the high clouds began to fade. A very recent register placed by Mars Bonfire was under a small cairn. This one didn't look like it would last very long on this oft-visited highpoint. I beat a hasty retreat, making it back to the van in the failing light.
The shower was about as unsatisfying as I had guessed it might be, but it did the trick. The air had already dropped to 40F when I stripped naked alongside the highway, rinsing with water that was maybe 65F. The one car that drove by during this spectacle must have thought I was nuts. I toweled and dressed about as quickly as I could manage before firing up the heater in the van. Ahhh... That part was very nice. After a cold ham sandwich in the way of dinner, I drove a short ways further down the road to the campground at Buckhorn Flat. The CG was gated closed, but I was able to find a flat spot at the large turnout near the exit. I bedded down here for the night in the back of the van, sometime before 7p. I had to laugh that my kids at home, who have the earliest bedtimes of all their friends, were staying up later than me.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Mt. Islip - South Mount Hawkins - Middle Hawkins - Mt. Hawkins - Copter Ridge - Mt. Williamson - Goodykoontz Peak - Kratka Ridge
This page last updated: Sat Jan 16 10:51:40 2016
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