Sawmill Mountain P300 ex-HPS / PD
Little Burnt Peak
Warm Springs Mountain P1K
Fernando 2 BM P1K
Kagel Mountain P900
The Pinnacle

Tue, Dec 27, 2011
Sawmill Mountain
Fernando 2 BM
Kagel Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPXs: 1 2 3 4 Profiles: 1 2 3 4
Sawmill Mountain later climbed Thu, Apr 4, 2019
Fernando 2 BM later climbed Sun, Apr 17, 2016

I had just completed a long circuit from San Jose to Santa Barbara to San Diego to Santa Clarita and back to San Jose in a five day holiday trip with the family over Christmas break. Having had enough relatives for one holiday, my wife and family were brought back to San Jose. Two days later I drove back down to Southern California. The plan was to pick up my older brother who was visiting from Colorado and drive him back to the Bay Area to visit with my younger brother, doing some peakbagging along the way. Turns out my older brother is sadly out of shape and in no condition for multiple days of hiking, so I decided to spend the first two days without him. I ended up heading back to the Santa Clarita area to hike a delisted HPS summit and a few other named peaks in the same general vicinity.

I had left San Jose around 2a in order to get a full day's worth on this short road trip. After cruising down Interstate 5 I turned east on SR138 and eventually found my way to the Forest Service road heading up to Sawmill and Little Burnt in the Liebre Range north of Santa Clarita. There had been some snow down to below 4,000ft that had fallen more than a week earlier. Most of it had melted off with the exception of the shady north slopes, and what was left was mostly hard and icy. There was enough left on the road to be a hazard and though I was able to drive over some of it, I decided to pull over about 2/5 of the way up when it got a bit dicier. I had a bike with me on this trip and would use it extensively today.

I took about 25 minutes to ride up to the saddle on the crest of the range where I would have parked the van had there been no ice on the road. Matthew and I had driven to this point some years earlier when we came to climb the two HPS peaks, Sawtooth and Burnt. From there it was another four minutes of riding past a gate on the road to Burnt Mtn to reach the South Ridge firebreak leading up to Sawmill. The firebreak was overgrown at the bottom, more open higher up, all of it quite usable to reach the top with little bushwhacking, taking about ten minutes. There was a fiberglass stake at the highpoint next to a 1932 benchmark. The views were lacking at the rather flat top that is mostly surrounded by trees and brush. The better views were to be had upon descending where one can get an open view of Burnt and Little Burnt to the south.

I returned down the firebreak to the bike I had left parked to the side, riding further towards Burnt another ten minutes until I was just east of Little Burnt. Here I was only a quarter mile from the top of Little Burnt, on the side that appeared most climbable from the satellite views I had perused earlier. An animal trail helped facilitate travel through the brush and I was happy to find my way to the top as easily as it was managed. A pile of stones marked the highpoint amongst the brush with a loose-leaf register found in a pair of nested red cans. There had been nine parties to the summit since 1973, though the most recent entry dated back only to March. There's a good view looking west towards Ventura County and the Los Padres National Forest and north to Sawmill on the Liebre crest, though not so good in other directions. Those views to the east and southeast would have been good but were washed out by the earliy morning sun, as it was not quite 9a.

The most exciting part of the day was the ride back down to the van. The bike was a little difficult to control in the icy sections and I went down hard in two crashed though I wasn't going very fast. One of these slid me into some rocks on the side of the road that caused some minor blood-letting, at the same time busting both of the waterbottle holders attached to the bike frame. It was all good fun and I found myself laughing at my follies even as blood was starting to flow.

Back at 9:20a, I spent much of the next hour driving back down to Pine Mtn Rd, following it southeast along the San Andreas Fault, then southwest on Lake Hughes Rd. The latter cuts through the middle of the Liebre Range between Hughes Lake and Castaic Lake, a road I had not previously driven. It is windy and scenic and quite enjoyable if one has the time (and I did). Halfway down to Castaic Lake I stopped at Warms Springs Camp for a hike to Warm Springs Mtn. It had caught my attention when I noted it had over 1,000ft of prominence. Warm Springs Camp used to be county-run mental health facility, but has been closed for some time. A lone watchman mans the entrance to keep vandals from ruining the facilities before a plan can be devised to deal with it. He was a nice enough guy, suspicious at first when I drove up to ask a few questions, but he soon enough warmed to me and helped with a good suggestion to park on the opposite side of the road at a large turnout.

As I got my bike out and headed to the gated TH, a truck was just exiting and being questioned by the watchman even though the dirt road was out of his jurisdiction - I think he was just lonely and appreciated having others to converse with. A gate blocked vehicle access to the dirt road (the truck owner must have had a key), but it was open to hikers and bicycles. A campground at a warm spring (thus the name) used to exist up the road a few miles, but it has fallen to decay. In fact, I was unable to note the location as none of the facilities appear to exist any more.

The distance to Warm Springs Mtns along the various old roads is about 6.5mi one way, roughly half of this in the initial climb up and out of Warm Springs Canyon. The road was in good condition for biking and I spent about half an hour to reach the first saddle at the head of the canyon. At the saddle there are several roads converging. One of these heads west down the East Fork of Fish Creek to Cienega Campground where I had once travelled through on my way to Redrock Mtn, and LPC summit. For that trip I had come in from the west near Castaic Lake along another road no longer open to vehicles. Today I was heading south and took the left branch, part of the Warm Springs Divide Truck Trail that heads to Warm Springs Mtn.

The second half of the route was in poorer condition with much loose rock strewn across the road, years of rockfall having taken their toll. This made riding more difficult but still managable and I spent another 50 minutes riding to the summit. There is a small windowless building found here along with a viewing platform several stories tall that probably once held the cabin of a Forest Service lookout tower. Next to a 1941 benchmark, a register was found in a small cairn under the viewing platform, placed by Richard Carey and Gail Hanna in 2006. I climbed the concrete stairs to the platform, careful where the bottom is missing at a turn in the staircase. The prominence and platform combine to make for a grand view in the center of the Liebre Range. One can see south to Santa Clarita, southwest to Castaic Lake, west to Ventura County, east to Red Mtn and the San Gabriel Mtns in the distance.

It took less than 40 minutes to return to the car, thanks to the route being almost entirely downhill from the summit - a big advantage for the bike. I then spent another hour and a half driving down to Castaic Lake and through Santa Clarita to the western tip of the San Gabriel Mountains. Just west of Bear Divide, a paved road winds its way up the mountainside to the top of Fernando 2 BM, a summit with more than 1,200ft of prominence. There are multiple communication towers on several different points in the area, and a county fire station very near the end of the road. The road actually drives right through the landing pad for the fire helicopters, but as far as I could tell there was nothing prohibiting the public from driving there. In fact there were several remote control glider enthusiasts flying planes off the ridgeline just past the fire station. I drove to the end of the road where a high fence surrounds a portion of the large flat summit that had been bulldozed to its present configuration to aid the installation of the communications towers.

I found a benchmark to the west of the fenced area, though it wasn't the "Fernando 2" one I was looking for. I walked around the perimeter of the fence but did not see any benchmark inside, nor was there any point notably higher that might get me to breach the fence. Probably a good thing too, because there was a technician working on a high tower outside the fence that I did not notice while I was doing my perimeter check. It was a nice view point from which to take in both the San Fernando Valley to the southwest and the Santa Clarita Valley to the north. To the east rose Magic Mtn (tomorrow's agenda) and Mt. Gleason further behind it. There are hiking trails that climb up the north side of Fernando 2 BM from Placerita Canyon State Park, a beefy 2,000-foot+ climb in a few steep miles.

Back in the van, I drove back down to Bear Divide, then along Little Tujunga Canyon Rd to Dillon Divide. Here I used the bike to ride west out to Kagel Mtn, about three miles and 1,000ft of gain from Dillon Divide. It was 3:15p when I reached the grassy summit after about 40 minutes of riding. There is a wind sock found here. The hilltop is used by hangliders to launch from, aiming down the southwest side towards the San Fernando Valley. The views were muted by the late afternoon sun in that direction, but it looked like a very scenic spot and an awesome place to hanglide.

Directly east was a tall point called simply The Pinnacle just across Dillon Divide. I had hiked around it on my way to Mendenhall Peak earlier in the year, but did not pay a visit to the summit. It looked like I might just have enough time to do so today. After riding back to Dillon Divide, I stashed the bike in the back of the van, and went off looking for a way to start up to The Pinnacle.

Less than 50 yards off the road, up the side of the hill, is an old concrete water tank. I reached this tank through some bushwhacking up a steep slope just to the east of the divide. Later I found a better route can be found by starting along the gated dirt road for maybe 20 yards, looking for a break in the brush that is an overgrown road leading up to the tank with a use trail through it. The tank appears to be used periodically as a drinking spot for local youth, judging by the empty bottles and cans and graffiti on the tank. But from here a thin, braided use trail can be found leading up the steep slope behind the tank to The Pinnacle. This was a great find, making moderate work of something that could have been much nastier, and it took but 40 minutes to find my way up 1,000ft of gain to the summit, less than a mile away.

There was a good view of Mendenhall to the east and Magic Mtn to the north, while those to the west and south were blocked out by haze and the soon-to-be setting sun. I found a geocache at the summit in a plastic peanut butter jar placed in 2007. A chilly wind was now blowing over the summit and I did not stay but a few minutes before starting back down. Sunset came during the descent but there was plenty of light to get me back down to the van, taking only 20 minutes.

After showering with the tepid water I'd left on the dash, I drove back down to Santa Clarita at Soledad Canyon. I found a good Thai restaurant for dinner and a McDonalds for WIFI access to send my wife an email (I know, I really should get a cell phone one of these days). Later I drove back up to Bear Divide where I found a large dirt turnout at an overlook away from the main road that I thought would provide a peaceful place to spend the night. Unfortunately this same location is popular with local teens and I got to share it with two different groups that drove up for social time. The second group didn't leave until 4a which had me wondering what parents would allow their children to be out so late (boys and girls in both groups). Apparently quite a few, judging from the amount of noise...

The 7.5' topo maps shows a Warms Springs Trail that climbs the east side of Warm Springs Mtn from Lake Hughes Rd in a few short but steep miles. This trail no longer exists, however.


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