|June 29, '13|
|Strayns Canyon, San Gabriels near Mt Wilson|
|Kenyon Devore Trail/Mt. Wilson Loop |
We scheduled the Strayns Canyon hike for one of those 'Liberation Fridays' at Solar System Labs when Duane was free. In preparation, I rigorously adhered to Angel's sadistic physical therapy regimen. I'm a belt and suspenders type.
We planned to get an early start. It would be a long hot day.
We drove an hour into the mountains to get to the The Kenyon Devore trail head. It used to be called Rattlesnake Trail, but that was before PR department got properly funded. The new name is apt; Kenyon Devore was a true native of the San Gabriels.1 He grew up working for the trail resorts that used to dot the mountains 100 years ago.
|Strain's Camp (circa 1914)|
Photo credit:The Observatories of the Carnegie Institution for
Science Collection at the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.
The trail head sits at 5,600 feet across from the Mount Wilson broadcast complex which emits a daunting hum as it leaches megawatts into the air. The path makes a steep descent to the north into Strayns Canyon. The canyon gets it name from A.G. Strain who set up a resort camp on that spot in 1889.2 It's called Strayns Canyon because the USGS misspelled his name on a topo sheet.3 Since then hikers have fought over the correct pronunciation.
Our weather was ideal. Duane took the lead. The path zigzags the creek down a granite slope. The rock is white and broken into large scenic blocks. It has come from far below the surface and was pushed up because it was in the way of LA as it makes its way to the Mohave. We're walking down land from another eon. The grade is easy and the path is well-shaded by Douglas Fir and Jaffrey Pine. It's cool. We wore long sleeves.
At times the trail narrows atop a scary height. A time or two we had to jump an air gap. No big deal. Like most trails in the crumbling San Gabriels, this one is sadly in need of repair. Of course we say nothing about the risk; it's routine up there.
After a couple hours, we descended into Valley Forge. Not that one; the one burned up during the Station Fire. It was once a verdant fisherman's paradise. Now it's a shadeless rolling terrain covered by chaparral and blackend skeletons of immolated trees.
|Poodle Dog Bush|
We made West Fork Camp without incident. It's a lovely place free of the BUSH. We had our lunch and talked about hiking. What else? I watched the trees sway above and felt the worry of my knee melt away.
After lunch, we headed east toward the Devore Campground. It started getting hot. The trail began criss-crossing the West Fork of the San Gabriel River and grew faint. The approach to fords were overgrown. The air was thick with humidity and flies. We had to dodge stagnant ponds and push through high grasses to finding suitable crossings. Then it happened.
After an hour we arrived at Devore. It was a small, overused campground devoid of water. Not the least bit cozy. At least it was shaded. We sat for a snack and then started climb to Newcomb Pass. This part of the trail had clearly seen more traffic. There were no washouts, no Poodle Dog Bush; it was just a good old fashion, sweaty slog.
But a curious thing happened. We passed a group of three Latino men carrying large packs. They weren't friendly. I imagined they were cartel pot farmers who were armed with fertilizer and pesticide and maybe worse. I said nothing to Duane. We never discussed it.
When we reached Newcomp Pass, the San Gabriel Valley stretched out before us. The air was clear. There was friendly hiker traffic. There was DOG BUSH, but it had been cut away from the trail. We marched our way up on the north side of Mount Wilson's east shoulder at a good pace. We were getting very tired as we pulled into the park area around the Observatory. We passed lovers necking, a lonely women in sun dress reading, and an elderly couple whose bodies were no longer firm taking in the late afternoon and the mountain panorama. The appeal of mountain air!
On the drive home we relished the outing. It was a good hike. We seemed to function well together. The DOG had bitten, but I had a connection for cortizone— the real stuff. Best of all there was no knee pain and the leg is getting steadily stronger.
I'm starting to think about gear.
1. Robinson, J., Christiansen, D. Trails of the Angels. 9th edition. Wilderness Press. 2013.
2. Mount Wilson was named for B.D. Wilson who, in 1864, built the first trail to the peak.