Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Icehouse Canyon - San Gabriel Mountains

If you live in the Los Angeles or Orange County area, and feel you are a million miles away from an alpine escape, you thought wrong.  I think that the San Gabriel Mountains (part of the Transverse Ranges, which are noted for their east --> west orientation which differs from the usual north --> south orientation of the rest of California's ranges) often go overlooked and under appreciated, mostly due to their infamous and lovely cousin the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  I'm smitten by the latter, but San Gabriel has much to offer - including Icehouse Canyon.

This 7-mile (total) hike is an out and back, the "out" ending at the Icehouse Saddle - 7, 580 feet above sea level.  The trailhead is reached from a small parking lot that can be found north of Mount Baldy Village, and there is some signage (if I'm remembering right) that will guide you to the lot.

I am not sure what this hike is like during warmer months, but in winter, the hours just after dawn the entire landscape is veiled in a blue hue, and dusted in snow.  The first part of the hike is a very gradual incline, leading into more significant grades, including switchbacks later on.  I read a comment on another blog post about this hike that said that "If you think this hike is a workout, then you are really out of shape."  I thought to myself (even before the hike) "What an elitist snot." This hike will not wreck you, sure, but gaining 2,620 feet in elevation over the course of 3.5 miles is not the same thing as laying down. (end rant).  All that is to say, it is great day of using the legs, with the scenery and crisp air being the reward.

The path starts and ends with the sweet sounds of a creek.  Douglas firs, sugar pines, incense cedars and pines dot the landscape.  However, if you go in any month that dances around winter, be ware of ice on the trail.  Some spots are super slick, so if you don't have crampons, tread slowly, and bring shoes with good grip.

 A delightful day hike, and a true wilderness escape for the SoCal resident pining for the alpine.

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