Mt. Baldy
Mt. Baldy is the highest peak we can see from where we live.  Its real name is Mt.
San Antonio, but everyone knows it as Mt. Baldy.  It is well-named because it is
bald on top as it tops off above treeline at 10,064'.  Baldy is the highest peak in
the San Gabriel Mountains.  Most of this mountain range lies within the Angeles
National Forest which was the first area in California set aside as a forest
reserve in 1891.  This is indeed a special and beautiful area and so I've had my
sights on Baldy for a while now.

Myself, along with my boss and four members of the Kern River Valley Hiking Club
decided to get together for the hike on Saturday morning.  We've been
experiencing Indian summer-like weather and so we anticipated good conditions
for the hike.  It turned out to be very pleasant, just a little bit warm where the
breeze wasn't blowing, and a little bit cool where it was.  We took the chairlift
for the Mt. Baldy ski resort up to Baldy Notch.  This knocks off 1,500' and 4 miles
or so off of the climb.  What's left is about 3.5 miles and 2,200' to the top.

At the top of the lift we made our way up a dirt road that meandered amongst the
huge pine and fir trees and carpets of manzanita.  The beautiful wind-twisted
trees up here are a special treat, some of the limber pines must be quite old.  We
also saw a Clark's Nutcracker and lots of chipmunks.  No bighorn sheep, though :(

At about 1.3 miles we left the road and began the section of trail called the
Devil's Backbone.  This is a very narrow section of trail with extreme drop-offs on
either side.  I wasn't too worried as the winds were calm and the trail was dry...  
I've heard stories of gale-force winds and icy conditions getting people into
trouble up here.

There were a couple of sections, though, where you only had a drop-off on one side
of the trail, but the trail was actively eroding away and the rocks were slippery.  
That was the part I didn't really like!  We moved along these sections carefully.  
In 1935 the CCC apparently constructed some handrails, but those are long gone.

As we hiked along the views to both the south and north were tremendous.  The
trail contoured around the south face of Mt. Harwood, which is a very colorful
mountain with lots of different types of rocks - gray, pink, brown, and green.   At
about 2.6 miles we reached the saddle between Harwood and Baldy.  We had only
0.6 miles to go, but it was all straight up the side of Baldy, so we opted to eat
lunch at the saddle.

After lunch we started up the last part of the climb.  The trail here goes pretty
much straight up, no switchbacks.  And the rocks are loose so we had to watch our
step.   But soon enough we were at the top and we enjoyed the 360-degree views
along with a couple dozen others who had made it.  We could see San Gorgonio
Peak, Mt. San Jacinto, the Santa Ana Mountains, and even the Channel Islands.

Coming down we still took our time because of the loose rocks.  I had one
"graceful" sit-down fall and one near-miss where I did a few quick dance steps but
recovered.  One guy hiking up the trail saw me do that and laughed.  It's just a
good thing I didn't do that near the drop-off!  Seriously, along some sections of
that trail, if you go off, you ain't comin' back!

Anyway, we made it back down to the ski lodge and we bought drinks and sat out on
their deck for a spell, then took the chair lift down again.  The fiery sunset was a
special treat on the drive home.
The Santa Ana Mountains are in the distance
We live down there...