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I’ve always been drawn to climb peaks. While I’m not a peak bagging fanatic, I do keep track of the peaks I climb and have some modest goals. The Sierra Club’s Angeles Chapter, Hundred Peaks Section
(HPS) has a list of 275 named summits in Southern California of at least 5,000 feet in elevation. The consuming task of completing the list has no draw for me, but I would like to complete 100, including all of those in the San Gabriels.
So today’s outing was specifically to bag three peaks along the Angeles Crest Highway in the San Gabriels high country: Winston Peak (7502’), Buckhorn Peak (aka Mount Akawie) (7283’), and Mount Lewis (8396’). All three are short hikes of 1.0 to 1.25 miles round trip with 400-500 feet in elevation gain each. The summits don’t compare to other peaks in the area offering grand views and requiring lengthy hikes to get there. I have, however, seen each of these peaks from various perspectives on various hikes and have been drawn to their summits.
I connected with my friend Ray and he planned the outing with his Hikemasters
hiking group. Nine of us rendezvous at 7:30 on Saturday morning at the Highway 2 meeting location in La Canada. We drive 32 miles up Angeles Crest Highway to Cloudburst Summit (7018’) in the Mt. Waterman/Buckhorn area. This is a location where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses the highway. Our trail to Winston Peak starts off as an abandoned dirt road to the left of 3N02.
8:30 a.m. - Begin first hike. The weather is perfect; it’s a gorgeous day in the San Gabriel Mountains! Two minutes up the old dirt road brings us to a footpath veering off to the left to bypass a loop in the road. In another minute we cross the old road which heads west and we continue on the path up the broad ridge. The forest is open and dominated by Jeffery pine. There is nothing in bloom except some rabbit brush. Granite boulders from small to large dot the landscape. Our pace is relaxed and the rate of climb is quite comfortable. Views toward Mt. Williamson open up to our east while Waterman Mountain looms to our south.
9:06 - Winston Peak (7502’).
The broad, tree-covered summit has several large outcroppings. We hang around a stand of rocks on the north edge and enjoy some views toward the vast Mojave Desert. A few of us wander north down the ridge to other outcroppings and are rewarded with some much better views. I eyeball Pleasant View Ridge, Will Thrall Peak, and Pallett Mt. as destinations for future trips. It’s peacefully quite here. Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. I don’t see a peak register anywhere. I’m not sure if I’m not looking hard enough or if there is none.
I’m the last to leave the summit at 9:54. We retrace our steps back, enjoying the beautiful high country. Looking east across the canyon, I eyeball Buckhorn Peak 1.1 miles away as the crow flies...our next destination.
10:13 - End our first hike (1.25 miles r.t. / 500’ gain). What a fun excursion! After a quick snack, we pile into the cars and drive up the highway 0.5 mile to a wide turnout on the north side of the street just short of mile marker 57.72. Our trail to Buckhorn Peak starts off past a locked vehicle gate on an abandoned dirt road heading north.
10:25 - Begin second hike. The old road ascends at a pleasant grade and bends around northeast. I love the beauty of this forest. Pine, fir, and cedar rise into sky. Scrub oak and manzanita provide of some texture. The sun feels good. The weather is perfect. Our pace is relaxed. In 13 minutes we reach a well-beaten path that leaves the old road and cuts left (north) up a draw. The satellite images show that the road continues a little further then circles back to reconnect with the footpath at the ridge line. We opt for the path and turn north. We reach the broad ridge in few minutes and curve east and in another couple minutes reconnect with the old road at a gentle saddle. Glimpses of the desert open up through the trees.
We continue east up the path. Beautiful scenery! Waterman Mountain towers to our south while somewhere below us in the canyon lies Buckhorn Campground. The roar of motorcycles on the highway disrupts the serenity. Back behind us, Winston Peak emerges as a long bulge on the nearby horizon. I’m really enjoying this trail. And it’s good hiking with others; I’m enjoying their company. We approach the summit, which is a wide, flat open space surrounded by trees. Lots of footprints indicate many visitors. An outcropping on the southeast edge appears to be the high point, so that is where I head.
11:08 – Buckhorn Peak (7283’).
Ok, this is nice. Trees obscure the views, but there are glimpses of scenery beyond. A ring of epoxy on a boulder suggests that there used to be a survey marker here.
I have grown accustom to the name Buckhorn Peak because it’s the name used on the Tom Harrison Map
and has such a natural connection to the local. However, the Sierra Club HPS renamed it Mount Akawie
in 1990 after Dick Akawie (1925-89), one of their leaders. It’s great to celebrate and honor those to whom honor is due, and Mr. Akawie seems to be worthy of recognition. But it bugs me that the Sierra Club renames peaks. Just gets too confusing. I guess I’m more of a traditionalist and prefer that geographic names be left alone. I’d say to the HPS, find a peak that doesn’t have a name yet and give it one. By the way, a name for this peak does not appear on the USGS topo map
nor is a name listed with the U.S. Board on Geographic Names
. So perhaps that fact contributed to the HPS’s assumed liberty in changing the name. Peakbagger.com
also uses the Mount Akawie name.
We leave Buckhorn Peak at 11:20 and retrace our steps down, continuing to enjoy the beautiful setting and great weather.
11:40 - End our second hike (1.2 miles r.t. / 400’ gain). That was fun too! We pile into our cars again and continue up the highway 11.5 miles to Dawson Saddle (7901’) (mile maker 69.48). The last time I was here was to climb Throop Peak and beyond. Climbing Lewis Peak will be the steepest of our hikes today, gaining 500 feet in a half mile. Our trail starts just to the left of the maintenance building and heads north.
12:17 - Begin third hike. Wow, the trail is crazy steep! This is billy goat stuff! We slowly creep our way up the precipitous slope. One of our group decides to stay behind and skip this peak. The scenery is dramatic. Views open up through the trees toward Mt. Baden-Powell and Mt Burnham to our southeast and toward the desert to the northeast. We stop often on this steep mountainside to catch our breath. Soon the trail mellows some as it ascends the broad ridge.
12:47 - Mount Lewis (8396’).
This certainly has the feel of climbing a mountain. As with our other two peaks today, the broad summit covered with trees offers limited views. A pile of rocks and a log post would seem to be the logical place for a peak register, but there is none. We sit on some logs and have lunch. It’s warmer now but still quite nice. I stroll a little further to see if there is a better vantage point on the northern hip only to find more of the same.
I leave the summit at 1:10 to catch up with the group. Soon I tangent unto a less-traveled route that follows the top of the ridge and I get some views west. I love the magnificent scenery of the high country. As the trail gets crazy steep, I catch up with the group as they carefully negotiate the descent.
1:30 - End our third hike (1.0 mile r.t / 500’ gain). That was a lot of fun! We say our goodbyes and head home. Ray and I take the east route through Wrightwood and the Cajon Pass and experience very different scenery.
- What an enjoyable day! Great company, perfect weather, magnificent scenery, splendid trails, three new peaks, and experiencing my beloved San Gabriels high country from a different perspective. I am always so thankful to live so close to these wonderful mountains and for the health and ability to enjoy the trails.
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