Fri, Nov 17, 2006
|Story||Photos / Slideshow||Maps: 1 2||Profiles: 1 2|
Sawmill Mountain previously climbed Mon, Aug 5, 2002|
Mt. Pinos previously climbed Mon, Aug 5, 2002
I had tried once before to drive to Cerro Noroeste, only to find the road closed for the winter. This time I called the Ranger Station beforehand and found that the road was indeed open. In the conversation, I learned two things: the road is maintained by the county not the Forest Service, and more interestingly, the road doesn't close due to snow, but because the county gets tired of plowing the rockfall. As I drove up the road the night before I found out just what this odd comment meant. The road is cut into the hillside for many miles as it winds its way 8 miles to the summit. The earth is loose and full of rocks that quite regularly find their way to the roadbed. I had to pay strict attention to my drive on the deserted road, dodging dozens of rocks and trying to distinguish rocks from pine cones. The rainy season must mean even more rockfall and I could very easily see why they get tired of removing the rocks.
I slept soundly that night in the deserted campground, not waking until the sun shown inside the van just before 7a. I got up, ate a quick breakfast, then wandered about outside looking for the summit. It's not obvious. The campground is located at the top of the broad peak, and I walked about a mile around its perimeter looking for the highpoint and maybe a register. I never found a register, and my best guess was the highpoint was on the east side of the campground, but I wouldn't swear to it. I walked all over the map to make sure I had tagged this one.
Next up was a hike to Mt. Pinos tagging Grouse and Sawmill in the process. I didn't find a TH anywhere at the campground, but half a mile down the road was a small turnout and a sign indicating the Mt. Pinos TH. Bingo. I parked and headed down the trail. Though the weather was fine and temperatures crisp on a cold autumn morning, the views were just marginal. The few distant views were nice, but most of the trail follows through mature pine forests that offer little in the way of views. Still, it was nice just strolling along the cushy, needle matted trail, having the whole place to myself. I passed by Grouse Mtn on my way east, tagging Sawmill and then Mt. Pinos. Normally a busy summit, I saw no one atop Mt. Pinos on a Friday morning.
I retraced my steps from Mt. Pinos, tagging Grouse Mtn on the way back. These four peaks together comprise the highest part of the vast Los Padres National Forest, but they are all gently rounded, covered in trees (Mt. Pinos excepted), and not very impressive at all. I returned to the van at just before noon.
Next up, I drove back down the mountain, and out to SR33, eating lunch as I went. I turned south and drove to the 5,000ft+ pass and the turnoff for Pine Mtn. Pine Mtn is a long, east-west ridge running through the middle of the NF. Two HPS peaks, Reyes and Haddock, lie along the east side of the ridge and provide views to the Mt. Pinos area to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The views are much better here than at Mt. Pinos, imo.
I passed by a few campers in the campgrounds near the end of the road atop the ridge, parking my van at the TH found between Pine Mtn and Reyes Peak. The hike to Reyes and Haddock were uneventful but enjoyable. A good use trail takes one to the top of Reyes Peak, a fainter one takes one down the East Ridge and back to the maintained trail, which then continues to Haddock Peak, passing within about 50 yards of the summit there. The whole out and back trip took less than four hours, getting me back before sunset. I even stopped at the campground to tag the highpoint of Pine Mtn, though there was no register there to be found.
I was treated to a beautiful sunset as I drove west on the Pine Mtn Road heading back to SR33. A fine ending to an easy, but enjoyable day of hiking.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Cerro Noroeste - Sawmill Mountain - Mt. Pinos - Reyes Peak
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