Mt. Sally P300 HPS
Barley Flats HPS

Thu, Jun 25, 2009

With: Ryan Burd

Mt. Sally
Barley Flats
Story Photos / Slideshow Map Profile


After three days, Ryan had had enough of hiking. The retching incidence following our climb of Humphreys the day before had convinced him this wasn't as much fun as Dad was trying to make it seem. Ryan was scheduled to meet up with his uncle on Friday for a two day deep-sea fishing trip to catch tuna, something he'd been looking forward to for months. While Ryan was fishing, my role would be as babysitter for Ryan's cousins who happened to like fishing about as much as Ryan liked hiking. But as we drove west across AZ and CA heading for Los Angeles, I reminded Ryan that he'd signed up for four days of hiking and we still had one last day. That I offered to make them a couple of easy hikes wasn't the break he was hoping for. But he was a good sport, putting up with Dad's obsession, this time to tick off the last two remaining HPS peaks I had to do off SR2 in the San Gabriels.

I had thought I'd climbed Mt. Sally earlier in the year when I was doing a cleanout of peaks in the area on a three-day spree. But after posting the trip report, someone anonymously pointed out that I'd climbed another bump just east of Mt. Sally. And so it was. I had skipped Barely Flats on that same trip since the gate was closed at the bottom, so my plan was to come back and get these two easy peaks together.

Starting around 4a from Williams, AZ, it was 11a by the time I managed our way across the Mojave Desert and had driven the Angeles Forest Road into the San Gabriel Mtns. From the highway, we hiked up the use trail starting east of the peak, making our way to the summit in about half an hour, a little more than a mile one way. I was somewhat surprised to find a register at the summit, so few of them survive on these easy peaks near LA. There were only two pages used so far, dating back little more than a month. Expecting this one to have a short life expectancy, I did my best to hide it under a small pile of rocks tucked under a thorny bush.

To help entertain Ryan, we made nooses from long grass stems with which to hunt for lizards. We saw only a few on the whole outing to Sally, but Ryan managed to catch one of them with his noose. It broke free before he could reel it in to his hands or on his shirt, which at least provided some incentive to keep looking for more.

After returning to the car we drove a few miles west to the turnoff for Barely Flats. Like my previous visit, the gate was locked at the highway. Signs suggested this was a more or less permanent road closure, though it was still open to foot traffic. Our drive up was suddenly a five mile hike. Ryan was less than enthusiastic, but joined me at my urging.

We continued looking for lizards along the roadway as we hiked along. Staring intently at the mottled strip of ground on the side of the road, I tried to make out the shapes of small lizards blending into the rocky surroundings. Not much luck in finding them. But I was suddenly startled by the appearance of something much larger than I had been looking for. "AAA! A snake!" Ryan ran over to look. It was a medium-sized rattlesnake, moseying along the ground minding its own business. The mature reaction would have been to give it distance and leave it be, but we were not two mature adults. We wanted to find a stick and play with it. Naturally, the only sticks we could find were about 2-3 feet in length. "How far can they jump when they strike?" Neither of us knew the answer, a critical bit of knowledge if you want to mess with a rattler. It started to crawl under a bush, but I stopped it with a gentle poke, at which it coiled up and rattled at us. It probably couldn't strike through the bush, but we couldn't get it out from under there either. More prodding couldn't get the snake to strike our stick, it would just continue to rattle. I think it knew we were messing with it and it was probably just waiting for a wrist or ankle to get within reach to return the favor. After a few minutes we gave up, and left the snake to its own business as we should have done in the beginning. If we had been responsible adults, that is.

It took just over an hour to reach the second locked gate at the sprawling camp atop the flattened summit ridge. A USAF base at one time for a NIKE missle site, the place had then been used as a summer camp for a church organization, and finally abandoned altogether. Vandals and neglect have done a number on the buildings, and it seems the next phase is likely to be a demolition of the site. Vandals were probably the reason the gate at the bottom of the road was now locked permanently, the removal of easy access making it a far less-likely target.

We cruised past the buildings to the far west side, then found a rickety bridge crossing a dry creek, leading to a use trail up to a large green water tank. I knew the register was around here somewhere, and by following a barely discernable use trail through the brush we managed to find it. It was just three months old, likely to last only a tad longer than that, but we added our names anyway.

The views were completely non-existent with tall brush and trees all around. We went back to the water tank to note a nice set of stairs spiraling up to the top. Only trouble was that the bottom was blocked by a locked gate with formidable defenses. Once again taking the immature approach, I climbed up and around the gate with what probably would rate as class 4 - good holds, but vertical to overhanging at times. I went to the top of the tower to take a few pictures, then came back down. Ryan gave it a shot but got spooked by the overhanging nature of the critical moves and backed down. He'll have to stick to class 3 for now.

We went back to the camp to investigate the buildings. We found the mess hall and kitchen, where Ryan offered to make us some fries in the deep fryer we found there. We met a couple guys upon our exiting the buildings, they had likewise done the hike from the bottom. Only they weren't interested in seeing the highpoint, but the camp itself. One of them had gone to church camp here a number of years ago and gave us a brief history of the site. He was very saddened to see its condition and wanted to help turn it back into a camp for kids. Looked like a lot of work to me, but I wished him luck with his idea. Might need a few million dollars as well.

Ryan and I hiked back down to the van to finish the hike. Ryan had managed eight peaks in four days, but I think that was about four more peaks than he would have preferred. I would have to cut down on the incessant focus on peaks if I was going to get him to join me for another road trip in a few weeks as planned. In the meantime we drove on to the San Fernando Valley and Ryan's fishing trip. Despite bouts of seasickness, he had a really great time and managed to catch four tuna, the second best haul of the nine folks that went on the trip. We had tuna steaks for the next several nights, some of the best I've ever had. So good, in fact, that I think I'll be sending him back for more tuna fishing next year.


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