Bernasconi Hills HP
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A small storm had been forecast to blow through the area during the night, but it came in a bit of a fury as I slept in the van off Big Tujunga Rd, not far from the TH. Rain pounded hard on the roof of the van for several hours with lightning and thunder coming at regular intervals. Although I was awakened often, I felt smug that I had such a warm, waterproof tent to sleep in with little discomfort. Towards morning there were emergency vehicles driving up the road - fire trucks, ambulances, plows and others. There must have been mudslides, rockfall or flooding to cause an accident or two requiring so much equipment. The crews would be working through much of the morning clearing mud and debris from the roadway. They had responded so quickly that I guessed this must not only have been expected but a semi-regular occurrence along these narrow canyon roads.
A plow was working its way down the road scraping a thin layer of mud when I pulled off the roadway to park at the TH shortly before sunrise. The Trail Canyon gate was open (it had been closed when I drove by the night before) as usual, somewhat to my surprise. It didn't really matter much since I couldn't have driven in very far before encountering the permanently locked gate at the junction with Gold Creek Rd just up the road. the sandy roadbed had done a good job soaking up the water that had fallen leaving it surprisingly firm and not muddy. It was a delightful morning with blue skies following the nighttime storm. I spent about 50min hiking to Gold Creek Saddle, about a mile from Mt. McKinley. It's not so much a saddle as a trail junction with one branch heading north towards McKinley and the other heading in the opposite direction down the ridge to Gold Canyon Saddle (a real saddle). I hadn't realized ahead of time that I had some 800ft to lose between the two saddles as I found how roundabout my route was. I could now see west into the Little Tujunga drainage and suspected there was probably a shorter route up to Yerba Buena from that side (left as an exercise for the reader).
From Gold Canyon Saddle the road continues south through a junction and a cliff section north of the summit, portions of which have been washed out some years ago, before starting to rise to the highpoint I was after. The road here has become so overgrown that I lost it and started up what I thought was a washed out section of it, only to find I had climbed above the road and onto the NE Ridge. I was saved a bushwhack by finding a use trail running up the ridge when I reached it, probably originating further down the hill at a junction I didn't notice. This proved convenient, leading back to the road again further up, and in short order I was at the summit. The highpoint is found at the east end that I reached first, though no register was to be found among a small cairn here. I traveled over to a concrete water tank at a lower summit to the west to get a better view looking south towards LA and west into the San Fernando Valley.
On my way back I began to consider an alternate descent into Gold Canyon which would cut the mileage to less than half. The topo map shows a pack trail dropping into this canyon but it has been decades, probably, since it was last maintained. I did find an old trail sign off the roadway, but saw few signs of an actual trail. I decided the bushwhacking didn't look too bad and went off in that direction anyway. With moderate brush and steep sidehilling, it probably wasn't much of a time-saver, but I was enjoying the challenge of the cross-country endeavor. In a few places I could make out the old trail where the hillside had been cut, but for the most part it has disappeared amidst brush and shifting earth. Some deer trails helped make it go fairly well, at least until I dropped into a side drainage just before reaching the main wash. I thought I was home free, but found myself at the top of a dry waterfall I couldn't negotiate. The previous night's rain had left the rock and soils wet, loosening the cohesion that had held the stuff together when dry. Friable rock on a sketchy downclimb seemed a bad idea as I pictured myself falling into a broken heap about 15ft below. I climbed back out and found my way down a less sketchy but still trying thin ridge that eventually got me to the broad wash in Gold Canyon. This was a pleasant enough descent after this, little brush and water to contend with, a picturesque stroll where it narrowed in places. I eventually found my way to flowing water where it joined Big Tujunga Canyon. Here the brush was tall and not so easy to get through. I found myself about 80ft below the roadway that went over the canyon on a bridge about a mile downstream of where I'd parked. Getting back up to the road was no easy feat, at least at first. I was struck by falling water from either side of the bridge as I passed under it, soon surmising that road crews must be busy clearing mud from the bridge above. I could find no way out on the north side of the creek, try as I might. I noticed a use trail of sorts through the wash and followed this towards the south side of the bridge. Here I gingerly crossed the creek, scrambled up an embankment on the other side and discovered an old roadway leading back up to the south end of the bridge - nice! 15min later I was back at the van, the road now nicely cleaned of debris from the previous night's storm.
This page last updated: Wed Apr 27 14:49:59 2016
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