The pointed summit of Mount Islip with its amazing 360-degree panorama over the heart of the San Gabriels is a great summertime hike. Mt. Islip is one of my favorite peaks and is always worthy of return visits. It’s been a while since I’ve climbed its lofty summit, and I’ve not done any high-country hiking yet this summer. So when I got the email from my friend Ray and his Hikemasters hiking group announcing a Mt. Islip hike, I decided to jump in. The plan is to begin on Windy Gap Trail, take Big Cienega Trail to Islip Ridge and on to the summit, then return via Windy Gap Trail. It makes a splendid loop of 7.2 miles with 2,418 feet elevation gain.
I love the freshness of morning in the forest.
September 2002 Curve Fire. Mt. Islip and Windy Gap comes into view high to our north. I snap pictures of the blooms that subtly grace the path: California fuchsia, leafy daisy, rabbit brush, evening primrose, and yerba santa. As several in the group take an interest in plants, I am happy do some docenting along the way. The views begin to open up to the south toward inland valleys covered with a marine layer. Lifeless tree trunks jut into the sky creating strange and eerie art pieces.
Indian paintbrush, and Douglas nightshade in bloom. The scenery is grand. Soon we cross a stream rich with lush vegetation and blooming scarlet monkey flower, Bigelow's sneezeweed, and lemon lily. Further up the trail there are blossoms of lupine, milkweed, goldenrod, everlasting, and bush chinquapin. Huge cedars reach to the sky. Their thick bark is burnt and protected the tree from the ravaging fire.
San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders. It was less than one year after the curve fire incinerated 21,000 acres of our national forest. The scenery then was barren moonscape and working here was depressing. Here is an excerpt from my hike report from the Trailbuilders’ work day on August 30, 2003:
I begin to realize that Ed, who was appointed as the sweep, is no longer with us and I am hiking with three who are very slow, including one young lady on her first hike. We stop often as we plod our way up the mountainside. I point out our destination—Mt. Islip—high above us to the north, and they seem daunted by the challenge.
I’m loving the amazing scenery, great weather, blue skies, pleasant breezes, and fulfilling memories of previous hikes here. Across the yawning basin to the east, Hawkins Ridge stands as a vivid reminder my most awesome adventure commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the Curve Fire.
We round the hip at 12:00. They decide to sit and rest so I leave them and head eagerly to the top.
12:01 - Mt. Islip (8250’). Our group is still here and looks like a small army on the small summit. When the group had arrived, Wei Wei found a ring box tucked into the rocks. When she opened it she found a ring and a note. The note reads:
I do my best to switch my attention from the broken relationship and begin to appreciate the fine summit. The 360-degree panorama is breathtaking. Marine layer still blankets the human sprawl to the south. I share with several standing by that the concrete footers were for the fire lookout tower which was built in 1927 and moved to South Hawkins in 1937. I point across the basin southeast to South Mt. Hawkins where the tower was burned to the ground on September 1, 2002 when the Curve Fire ravaged this forest.
I snap some pics and I try to soak in the beauty of this place as the group prepares to leave. I just got here! The group leaves at about 12:15 as I linger to capture a few more shots. The caboose group is still here too but Ed has stayed back to accompany them.
climbing it with a chainsaw crew. I look across to the northeast and admire Mount Lewis (8396’) with fond memories of climbing it with the Hikemasters group along with two other peaks on September 28, 2013.
I love the magnificent scenery descending Windy Gap Trail. The Crystal Lake Basin spreads out before us. The last time I was on this trail was returning from my surreal adventure through thick smoke on the commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the Curve Fire. What an experience that was. Today is quite different and absolutely beautiful. I add to the blooming list golden yarrow, chicalote, and San Gabriel Mountains gilia (AKA volcanic gilia)—a tiny purple flower that’s easy to overlook.
San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders works on the first and third Saturdays of each month and are often here in the Crystal Lake Basin during the non-snowy seasons.)
black bear I came face to face with at this spot on July 23, 2011. That was an awesome experience. The sun is warm and the lighting is very different than when we came up this trail in the cool of the morning. I’m ready to be done. I cross the lower occurrence of the fire road at 2:11 and have 0.4 mile to go. I appreciate portions of shade from the oaks as I saunter down the rocky path into the campground.
Creator and the wherewithal to hike and enjoy his creation.
See Hike Descriptions at Dan’s Hiking Pages
(Detailed trail guides include driving directions, recommended season, map, notes, links, and photos)
Related links on Dan's Hiking Blog:
- Mt. Islip Hike via Windy Gap Trail and return via Islip Ridge and Big Cienega Trail - July 23, 2011
- Mt. Islip Hike via Islip Ridge Trail from Crystal Lake and return via Windy Gap Trail - July 15, 2012
- Hawkins Ridge Hike - loop via Windy Gap Trail - September 2-3, 2012. Photo Album - 120 images
- Curve Fire Remembered Ten Years Later on Dan's Hiking Blog - My reflections, observations, updates on the recovery, and links