Throop Peak / Mount Hawkins

Before I hike off of the Angeles Crest Highway I always check the road conditions (CalTrans Current CA-2 Conditions).  For months the highway has been closed between Islap Saddle and Vincent Gap.  Last week the closed section re-opened.  I thought it might be a good idea to start my hike off of this once closed section before it inevitably closes again.  Throop Peak and Mount Hawkins are two of the highest peaks in the area.  A long drive and a relatively short hike of about 6 1/2 miles.

1   I drove 47 miles from the 210 Fwy. to Dawson Saddle, the high point on the Angeles Crest Highway.  There are two trailheads for Dawson Saddle Trail which leads up to Throop Peak.  The first is an old trail and is located right across from the maintenance building at the crest of the road.  The second trail is newer and the trailhead is located 150 yards down the road.  I drove down from the crest twice looking for the new trail but didn’t see it.  I did see quite a bit of snow on the hills however.

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I parked next to the maintenance building and began hiking up the old trail.  I finished the day hiking down the new trail.  The old and new trails meet a quarter of a mile in and, to me, the old trail doesn’t seem much worse than the new, so I don’t think it really matters where one starts.

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7   Looking up at the ridge, to the far right is Throop Peak.  To the far left, I believe that’s Mount Burnham.  Throop Peak was covered in a lot more snow than I anticipated.

8     9   The trail rose at a pleasantly moderate incline and was shaded by lovely pines.

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Looking back to the north I spotted the bizarre, tilted rock formation known as the Devil’s Punchbowl.

12     13   I pass my first chunk of snow, and then a few patches.

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16   Some animal left their tracks in the snow – I think these must be from a bobcat.  Photo 3 – I like how he slid in the snow when he made these.

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A view from the side of the trail shows Mount Wilson in the distance.

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The trees in this area are so wonderfully strange.  This photo shows two trees holding up a third that had fallen into their branchy “arms”.

20   Getting closer to Throop Peak.  I had traveled south and then took a 90 degree turn east, hiking along the north facing slope.  This is where the snow became something of an issue.

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The trail was often covered by large patches of snow, but I could usually see where it continued a few yards ahead.  To be honest, I don’t have much experience with snow.  I grew up on the coast in Southern California and didn’t participate in any winter sports.  It’s always exciting for me to see snow but I’m also inexperienced with the possible hazards.  I hiked on in blissful ignorance.  I did have my hiking poles and never would have attempted walking across this hard, icy snow if I didn’t have my MicroSpikes slapped to the bottom of my boots.  I’ve said it before, I don’t have to use my spikes often but when I do break them out they’ve always been a real lifesaver.  I didn’t slip once.

25   Looking back down at Mount Williamson, which stands right next to Dawson Saddle.

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Shots up and then down the mountain.

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After 1.8 miles I reached the ridge and a junction with Pacific Crest Trail.  The south side of the mountain was sunny and dry.  I took a right turn here and headed west.  To get to the top of Throop Peak I had to hike around the back for a quarter mile until I reached a point where the peak bottoms out by the side of the trail.

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The view of Mount Baldy was outstanding.

34     35   More Weird Wood

36     37   I reached a point where my view to the north was no longer blocked by Throop Peak, right where this baby pine tree was planted.  Turning back toward the peak, I could make out a faint but definite trail leading up to the top.

38     39   In about a quarter of a mile I reached the top of Throop Peak, complete with a plaque.

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From Throop Peak – Photo 1 – Mount Baden-Powell, Photo 2 – Mount Baldy, Photo 3 – Los Angeles under overcast conditions and, Photo 4 – the peak on the left through the trees, my next destination, Mount Hawkins.

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45     46   As I left Throop Peak some birds sang out, an unusual song which I had not heard before.  It was probably more of a warning at my approach than a carefree melody.  I noticed the birds perched on the limbs of these dead(?) trees.  I’m not sure what they are.

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I got back down to the PCT and found the views of Mount Baldy are actually superior to those atop Throop Peak.

48     49     50   I continued west toward Mount Hawkins.

51   Mount Hawkins in my sights.

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Looking out, I now recognized Mount Waterman, where I hiked last week, as the large, rounded mountain on the right, with Twin Peaks directly to the left.

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As I came to the foot of the peak on Mount Hawkins, a spur trail broke to the left and headed uphill.

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60     61   I reached the top of Mount Hawkins in 0.2 miles.  I found no marker or register, but my GPS told me this was indeed the peak for which I was searching.  I sat on a pile of rocks and ate lunch.

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I couldn’t quite grasp which peaks were which on the ridgeline before me.  Mount Islip, Middle Hawkins, Sadie Hawkins and South Mount Hawkins are in there, I’m sure.

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Mount Hawkins also has a nice view of the Mojave Desert…

65…and a grand view of Mount Baden-Powell.

66     67     68   Time to head back now. Photo 3 – I believe the first peak shown here is Mount Burnham.  I toyed with the idea of bagging it as well but the saddle between Throop and Burnham looked large and steep.  I spoke with a few different hikers coming from that direction and they commented on how tough the climb was.  I decided to save Burnham for another day, maybe when I tackle Mount Baden-Powell sometime this summer.

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I headed back down and through the snow once more. I am so naive when it comes to snow, I never even considered that later in the day it would be softer and wetter and more dangerous to hike through.

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73   Photo 2 – Alien with 20 legs emerging from it’s pod.  Photo 3 – Throw Your Hands in the Air

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One last look back at Throop Peak.

75   I hit the road and head home.  Great day.

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