Sun, May 8, 2005
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It was Mother's Day and I was in Hesperia with my family. Any regular Joe would have slept in and taken Mom and the kids to breakfast on her special day. Not so for the obsessed peakbagger. I decided (with permission of course) to get up at 5a and drive to Wrightwood to tag a few easy HPS peaks. The idea was to get back to the hotel by 10a to then give Mom the attention she deserves. A testament to her understanding of my obsession was her readily given consent, and for that I'm going to stay married to her for as long as she'll have me.
It was dark heading south on I-15 to Cajon Pass, made worse by the approach of fog ahead. 70mph traffic slowed to 40mph as I encountered the low-level clouds pouring in from the LA Basin to the south. This seemed to bode for a very bad day for peakbagging - climbing in fog with no views of any kind, and I was thinking I may not get any further than the trailhead. When I reached Cajon Junction I turned right onto SR138, then a left heading west onto Lone Pine Road. This last road runs right down the center of the San Andreas Rift Zone - what looks to be a canyon formed by water errosion was in fact primarily formed by the sheering forces of the Pacific Plate rubbing against the North American Plate. Driving up the canyon I could see the pre-dawn sky through a hole in the clouds ahead of me, and soon I had driven above the cloud layer. It looked like the hike would be entirely above the fog, and suddenly my prospects for a nice hike were looking far better.
Just past the Clyde Ranch I turned left onto a dirt road (Adventure Pass required, and me without such a pass) and negotiated the van about a mile up the road before it become more trouble than it was worth. I parked off to the side, and headed up the road shortly before 6a, just as the sun was about to break over the hills to the east. The route to Gobblers Knob is easy to follow with no route-finding challenges. One follows a dirt road for two miles to the Upper Lytle Creek Ridge, then follows the ridgeline west for another mile. The highlight of the climb is not the hike itself, but rather the views to the southwest and west once the ridge is obtained. In that direction lie the highest peaks of the Angeles National Forest in the vicinity of Mt. San Antonio. From Telegraph to Thunder to San Antonio to Pine Mtn, an array of snow-covered peaks are on display across the intervening North Fork of Lytle Creek. To the east were the San Bernardino Mtns, mostly vague in the early morning glare, but it was possible to make out both San Gorgonio and San Jacinto to the southeast.
Rather than following the road west to Gobblers Knob I opted to follow the somewhat longer route via the PCT which roughly parallels it. The PCT goes around the south side of Pt. 6,705ft rather than the north side where the road follows. This afforded better views of the above mentioned peaks, and I thoroughly enjoyed the easy stroll along the trail here. The two routes meet up again on the other side, at the saddle between Pt. 6,705ft and Gobblers Knob. At the saddle it was easy enough to find a duck marking a use trail heading up the east side of Gobblers, and just as easy to follow the trail to the summit. The views of the surrounding peaks were better and I was a disappointed that this was as far as I could go. It would have made a nice hike to continue on up to Wright Mtn to the west along the ridge, then down to Wrightwood - perhaps some future venture when I have more time.
After wandering around the flat summit a bit I found a register in a cairn and signed in. It is a fairly popular peak due to its closeness to the PCT. Heading back down, at the saddle I chose the road instead of the PCT. After about 100 yards I left the road for a direct descent down the steep, embankment intending to cut off a mile's worth of the road where it switchbacks in a sweeping turn. The densely forested slope did not allow me to see the road some 300 feet below, but I trusted my map that it would be there as I carefully picked my way down the loose slope. Just before reaching the road below I heard the sound of vehicles. I hid behind a huge tree on the uphill side of the road, waiting for the truck to pass - if it was a ranger I didn't want him to see me running loose cross-country or lecture me on the lack of an Adventure Pass. It turned out to be a couple of commercial telecom trucks, no doubt heading up to one of the commercial tower sites along the ridge.
The crux turned out to be actually getting back down onto the road from my hiding spot by the tree. The already steep slope was undercut to make the road, and it was a serious drop down to the roadbed at most places. I found a gap that let me slip down to the road and followed it back to the car. No ticket on the windshield. I drove back out to Lone Pine Road and then on up to the saddle just east of Wrightwood. Here I parked and made the easy 30min climb up to Circle Mtn following a firebreak. The views were similar to those from Gobblers Knob, though the view into the Mojave Desert to the north was better. It would have been impressive even, had it not been mostly shrouded in haze. There was a register at the summit, and by the looks of it I gathered it was fairly popular with the locals, particularly the teenage boys looking for a nice drinking spot on a Friday night - and a pretty darn good one at that. After heading back down to the car, I drove over the saddle and into Wrightwood, returning to Hesperia via SR2 and then SR138. I got back just after 9a, a good hour ahead of plans. Turns out I didn't cut much into Mother's Day after all...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Gobblers Knob - Circle Mountain
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