Mount Islip

It was labor day weekend.  I had an invite to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite, but I'm still recouping from Bear Creek Spire and fighting the holiday traffic on the roads & climbing routes didn't seem appealing.

Instead I spent most of the weekend finishing some new designs for the fall Forever Outside goods, hint: an exciting and overdue new hat is on the way! 

What's organically becoming an annual trip, my family and friends did a quick backpacking adventure in the San Gabriel Mountains.  Last year Obama designated a large portion of this area as a historic national monument, further protecting the Angeles National Forest, how fantastic.  The Sierra Nevada mountains are ubiquitous when we think of backpacking in California but Southern California still holds a few aces up it's sleeve.

The itinerary was to meet at the Crystal Lake recreation area in Azusa around 3:30pm, hike to the summit of Mt. Islip and then over to Little Jimmy back country campsite for the night.  It's a very mild hike, which makes it enjoyable, accessible and also allows us to get a late start and beat some heat.  The group was myself, my wife, her daughter, our niece, my buddy Luis and his son, also my friend Andy and Germain. We hit the actual trail around 4:15pm. Andy and Germain didn't make it to the meeting point on time, and since it was getting late and half our hikers we're young teens, we headed out without them.  Andy is good on the trail, I knew we would meet up at one point.

The mileages are mild, but I'm never surprised how lazy people are.  The campground in the recreation area were so swamped.  A thousand people piled on top of each other for Labor Day.  Just a mess of cars, basically car camping in a parking lot.  Hike 3 miles up the hill and it was so quiet and clean.  Sad, but I suppose it's better for those who put in the work.  That's WHY we put in the work.  One could shoot straight to the campgrounds (Little Jimmy) in 2.8 miles, we did a variation to the Big Cienega Trail to the Mount Islip Ridge Trail, over to summit Mount Islip then down to Little Jimmy Campground.  This was maybe 6 miles.

Hiking in!  Beautiful from the start.  My daughter and niece are 16 and petite, my wife is petite too.  I'm always proud to see them backpack.  We have been working over the years on our ultralight principles.  Letting go of the creature comfort when we backpack.  Don't get me wrong, we love to glamp (glamorous camp) too, and the girls aren't shy of adventure, they'll top out on a 100' 5.9 rock climbing route, but throwing 25+/- weight on a 100 pound body then ascending a mountain is respectable.  Proud of you guys!

Luis is a beast.  We meet in 2013 as classmates in the Sierra Club's Wilderness Travel Course.  We've both come along way, he's running marathons, riding far on his bike, trail running and peak bagging.  I'm actually now instructing the course and a leader in the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club.  Registration for the 2016 class is now open if you live in Southern California, check the website out here.

Here's Nancy and Desiree taking in the view from some switchbacks.  There are some beautiful mountains in the area, obviously Islip, but also Mount Hawkins, Mt. Throop, Baden Powell and the PCT intersects with the area too.  You could link up several for a real badass trip.

Even though it's the end of Summer, there was an exciting and undeniable bloom of yellow flowers as we hit the junction from the Big Cienega trail to the Mount Islip Ridge trail.

Above is Gio, Luis has been really training him on the trails.  We hiked this trip together last year and it's exciting to see him grow up.  He just got back from hiking Half Dome in Yosemite.  I love seeing the younger generation enjoy the wilderness.  In an area of electronics and instant gratification he might really be experiencing what other teens are overlooking.  The boy can hike!  He's found his hiking legs!  Helpful, humorous and strong, he can hang with the big dogs!

From the Islip Ridge Trail there one more junction, it's .1 mile to the summit of Islip, a no-brainer.  We headed up and passed the cool remnants of a stone shelter.  These things are always a trip.  Went inside to find some fascinating graffiti.

Luis found this scrawl.  Not sure if "shit" was a metaphor for accomplishments in life, or if that meant we should do a number two in the woods.  If you know Luis, that meant the first idea to him.  He's a a guy who doesn't like to poop in the woods.  His boy Gio on the other hand..... 

Here's Gio standing in front of some other graffiti.  If you know me well, you know I have a rich history with graffiti, so my opinion isn't objective.  However, all things considered I found both messages uplifting!  Ha!  I'm not encouraging, just observing.

A few more steps above the shelter and we reached the summit of Mount Islip 8,251' (2514m). It was about 6:45pm, too early for sunset in the Summer, but nice hints of it on the way.

I'm personally a fan of summit registry boxes.  I like signing my name and looking at the history inside.  There are some rare and random folks who dislike the idea of these boxes (usually ammo cans with a notebook and pen inside).  Some extremists feel the need to take the boxes out.  Here we only found the lid of a registry box (because it was chained down) with some random signed papers pinned under it, and no pen.  *sadface*  I think that's worse than taking nothing.  Weird.  We couldn't sign in, with no writing instrument but creatively left a moniker on the top of the ammo can.  Oh well.

We set up the auto timer and shot the mandatory summit photo.  I like the warm lighting approaching from the sunset.

Stole one more look off the top of Mount Islip before heading to our campgrounds.  The wind was surprisingly cold and whipping us.  Time to go!

My niece Alissah looking stoic as she gazes at the sunset over the San Gabriel Mountains.  Hard to take your eyes off the view.  She really slayed the trail.  Her athleticism shines when we hike together, she has the heart and spirit to mountaineer!

As we approached Little Jimmy campground, I couldn't help but relate the alpine glow over the mountains to the famous look of trail camp on Mount Whitney.  Just stunning.

We got to camp just before dark, maybe 7:30pm.  I expected the holiday crowd to be huge, this is a hot spot for the Boy Scouts too, but nope!  It was quiet and sparse.  We passed by a couple campers and I quietly called out "Andy?  Germain?"  and BAM!  My friends!  I knew they'd make it.  Although they showed up a little late, they shot the direct trail to the campground, bypassing Mount Islip.  I was excited to see them!  We set up our shelters, Gio and Andy built a fire, and Luis, Alissah and I walked over to Little Jimmy Spring to gather some water.  This spring is a gem.  It truly runs year round.  Considering California is in the worst drought right now, one might expect this spring to be dry.  Wrong, it was flowing perfect, clean cold mountain water.  Delicious.  This spring is highly important to those traveling the Pacific Crest Trail. 

Time for dinner and camp vibes.  We did the classic hot dogs roasted on a stick, and toasted marshmellows.  What more do you need??  Made some jokes, told some stories, the usual camp fire behavior.

Around 10pm we all knocked out.  I'm almost fully converted to hammock living.  I'll switch it up now and then, mostly depending on the weather, but I'm getting quite adjusted to spending the night in my hammock.

We woke up early, and planned to head out quick.  We could get home and still enjoy the holiday off from work.  We didn't even bring breakfast, but coffee is mandatory.  Aeropress + Kenya wholebeans roasted in Portland by Heart!

Probably around 8am, we split.  We shot right down the Windy Gap trail, making it a quick 2.8 miles back to the car.

Beautiul hike down the mountain.  It's always fun to hike a loop, or even a lollipop trail.  Anything to mix up the scenery is an added bonus to a backpacking adventure.

Took maybe 90minutes to descend from camp.  We said our goodbyes and exited the Crystal Lake recreation area.  On the way out we turned up the road to where Highway 39 dead ends. 

We jumped out to snap one last photo of the San Gabriel Mountains.  Gorgeous!!  Back to work tomorrow, was a great 3 day weekend!