Sun, May 20, 2012
Sugarloaf is less than half a mile from our starting point on Lopez Canyon Rd, a small bump to the west of where we started. The surrounding land has been purchased by the Santa Monica Mtns Conservancy for parkland, though the short section to Sugarloaf is not currently open to the public. The old road we followed is rather overgrown, forcing us to wade through tall grasses and brush, Zeus doing his best to jump through or over the obstacles that dogged him (pun intended). We made a roundabout approach to the summit as the direct route up from the road looked too heavily overgrown for Zeus and probably for all but the most determined humans as well. Luckily there was an old fire road running up the ridge from the south and although heavily overgrown it was better than tackling the chaparral head-on. The highpoint turned out to be the southernmost of two points shown on the top with equal contours, though the northern one was the larger of the two rings. We expected to find nothing at the summit and were not disappointed - just a brushy lump of earth rolling gently over on the sides. Though it was still quite early, not even 7a, the haze over the San Fernando Valley and LA was already considerable. Even the view east into the heart of the San Gabriels was hazy.
We were back at the car fifteen minutes later where Zeus was rewarded with a bowl full of water. He lapped it up in quick fashion and began looking about as if to ask, "Ok, what next?" He was happy to learn there was more on tap. On the opposite side of the road is the start of the old Kagel Truck Trail. This section of the road is no longer open to vehicles (the rest may be closed to OHV travel as well), but the Conservancy allows horse and foot traffic. We followed this into a residence (it appears to be used by a conservancy ranger, judging by the truck parked there) where it wasn't clear if the trail/road is intended to go around the property or simply through it. In either case, we found our way to the back side of the residence where the road continues a short distance before devolving to a narrow trail, somewhat overgrown with the Spring renewal. Most of this area had burned over completely in the Station Fire of 2009. Three years later the brush is growing back vigorously and there was little obvious evidence of the fire.
Fifteen minutes after starting out we met the junction with the Kagel Canyon Rd that come up from the Glen Haven Memorial Park just below. This is actually a shorter starting point to reach Kagel Divide, but it didn't seem worth bothering with the extra driving to reach it. Along the way, Zeus found a muddy puddle of water to cool himself off in. It was not even 8a and it was already growing warm. By 7:50a we'd reached Kagel Divide where a large concrete water collector/tank is located. We paused to see if Zeus wanted more water, but he barely touched it, more eager to get on with the adventure.
Rather than continue along the road that leads up to Kagel Mtn and Little Tujunga Canyon Rd, we turned south to start up a firebreak leading to Limerock Peak. It started off well enough, but soon degenerated into a mild brush-fest as we'd found on Sugarloaf. There was the pop-pop sound of gunfire to our right - a large shooting range is found on the southwest side of the peak. Initially there sounded to be a single shooter, but this increased to half a dozen half an hour later. The distance to the summit was not far off, about 3/4 mile from the divide, and by 8:15a we'd reached the highest point. There was a broken down picnic table and some free weights nearby that someone had bothered to carried up. The views were better than on Sugarloaf, though of course the hazy conditions had not improved any.
Though he wasn't complaining, Zeus was taking one for the team with perhaps a hundred thistles buried in his fur. Three weeks earlier and the grass would have still been too green, but it was the beginning of summer with the seed delivery systems ripening and Zeus was a prime transport mechanism. We spent some time going through the fur to remove the stickers while Zeus seemed to like the attention. As soon as we'd reached the summit we'd spotted a much better trail running off the southeast side of the mountain. I recall seeing this steeper trail on the satellite view and suggested to Tom that he and Zeus could go down that way while I went back to get a vehicle to pick them up. I walked a short distance down this trail to make sure it continued as expected and came across two gentlemen on their way up. The two were local firemen doing the hike from the hard side of the mountain. They told us the fire crews were set to come up in the next week or so to clear the firebreak. Luckily Zeus doesn't speak English or he might have given us one of those hard looks to say, "Really?"
I jogged most of the way back down the trail, stopping to take a few pictures of the many yucca that were now in bloom. Back at the cars before 9a, I took Tom's Element around the mountain to pick the two up on the other side. I found them resting in the shade along the side of Little Tujunga Rd. We then drove up the road a short distance to Gold Creek Rd which I thought might allow us to drive to the top of Yerba Buena Ridge, the third peak I had in mind for the day. Though it started off promising, we ended up at a gate across private property with three miles to go. Neither of us were too excited about hiking the distance in the increasing heat and Tom didn't like the idea of trespassing, so we turned back. We did note a trailhead for the Oak Spring Trail which climbs to the ridgeline, about five miles one way to the highpoint. That seemed a better route than the dirt road I had planned. We would keep that in mind for a future visit when I had time for a short hike.
We spent the next two hours driving back to Tom's home in Palos Verde, then taking the van up to the top of San Pedro Hill a few miles above his house. With almost 1,400ft of prominence, it was the most prominent peak in Los Angeles County that I had yet to visit. A large FAA facility is found at the end of the pavement, surrounded by barbed-wire. Tom declined to breach the perimeter which turned out to be much easier than it seemed at first glance. I ran up to the top, climbed two stories up the structure holding the largest of two white domes, snapped a few pictures and returned. Fog enshrouded the coast to just below the height of the summit, so views in that direction were lacking. On a clear day one could probably have a fine view to Catalina. And of course the LA haze made views to the north not so grand either.
We napped back at Tom's place into the afternoon, then drove to LAX and the Proud Bird restaurant in the evening for the DPS banquet. The coastal fog was just right for allowing us a fine view of the solar eclipse without needing special glasses. Though we observed it for less than five minutes, it was the highlight of the day. Bob Wyka, the outgoing DPS chairman presided over the banquet, introducing new officers, handing out awards and other officious duties. Gordon MacLeod and Barbara Lilley were both in attendance as they were for the SPS banquet earlier in the year. The food was good and the program presentation on the Inyo Mtns made my own hikes of recent date in the Diablo Range look rather tame. The banquet lasted until just past 10p, and it would be nearly 4a before I had driven home to San Jose. This was one loooonnnngg day...
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