My destination was in sight far in the distance as I drove north. Cobblestone Mountain was only 17 air miles from the location in this photo but it would take nearly three hours of driving to reach the trailhead. My plan was to cache a gallon of water near the saddle between Sewart and White Mountain while scouting the route in preparation for an early November climb of Cobblestone.
Ninety minutes later I reached this sign.
Crossing Piru Creek. Seventeen years ago I hiked south (8 miles) from this location to Hard Luck Camp (now closed) following the creek through some splendid canyons and gorges. The next year I hiked north (11 miles) from here to Half Moon Camp. Neither route had much of a trail but both were enjoyable hikes. The route south required numerous water crossings and I surprised a family camping near the Castac Mine. The grandfather said that they never expected someone to hike down the creek from the north. On the hike north to Half Moon I found an incredible concentration of bear tracks around Gleason Flat. Scores of tracks for hundreds of yards.
Shortly after reaching the Alamo Mountain Road the rabbit in the photo ran onto the road ahead of the truck. I understand that this is a common occurrence but this rabbit wouldn't leave the road. I would stop and it would stop. I would pull forward and it ran ahead. This leporid/hominid contest continued for hundreds of yards. Finally the rabbit ran into the brush. As I drove by its exit point the rabbit jumped back onto the road and began the second half of the game. The rabbit must have had friends and relatives watching because the second half lasted longer that the first. That wacky wabbit stayed in front of my truck for 7/10's of a mile. I needed Elmer Fudd to clear the woad.
After a few miles of bunny free driving I made a left turn toward the Buck Creek/Cobblestone Trailhead. A couple of miles later I found the road blocked by this downed tree. Looked like I would have to abandon the Cobblestone water caching plan.
Now I understood why all the tracks at this wide spot in the road about 1/4 mile from the downed tree. The bad news for me was that I now had to back the truck to this wide spot on the dark, curvy, side sloped road. Mrs. Trowell when you read this, know that, I was thinking of you the entire time. Wish you could have been there to take over for me. (Mrs. Trowell can turn 30 feet of backing up on a straight level road
into an epic adventure of brush smashing, berm crushing vehicular
My camp at the Little Mutau Trailhead.
Since I was there and had the time, a hike down to Alder Creek and the McDonald Cabin seemed in order.
Hiking up the old road toward the wilderness boundary. (I really dislike hiking on roads that people once drove and that are now closed to vehicles.)
Dead and blackened trees covered the mountainside along the trail, victims of the 2006 Day Fire.
Occasionally there were small stands of green living trees. The trees around trailhead had been spared from the fire.
Soon I reached the wilderness boundary.
Cobblestone Mountain in the distance.
The Alder Creek drainage. McDonald cabin is located at the northern end of the drainage and I was curious if it survived the fire. My curiosity would not be satisfied. After hiking down the first set of switchbacks I realized that my water consumption was higher than normal. The temperature in Southern California was much higher than in the Sierra the previous week. I remembered how little water was in Piru Creek on my June backpack. Not wanting to risk a dry Alder Creek and knowing I would be in serious trouble hiking the 2,000 feet of gain back to the truck without water, my hike reached its turn around point.
I hiked cross country on my return to the truck. My first find was a small pile of barbed wire. Why, who and when were the questions that remain unanswered.
Evidence of some hard drinking. How long had that bottle been sitting upright beside the log?
Following this gully back to the trail I discovered another old road and thought about hiking it to see were it went but water was still an issue.
Upon reaching camp I ate a late lunch and continued my drive around Alamo Mountain.
Three members of a herd of 11 deer crossing the road just after the parking spot for the Alamo Mountain summit approach trail.
First visit to Dutchman in probably 12 years.
The last time visiting Dutchman Camp was also my last drive of the Miller Jeep Trail. Three vehicles, upper left of this photo, are descending the trail to Lockwood Flat. After crossing Piru Creek they will begin the climb up Alamo Mountain to Dutchman Camp. I remember the road up from Piru Creek as being rather sporty.
My route was an easy drive around the mountain to Gold Hill Road.
It was nearly sunset as I drove the switchbacks down to Gold Hill Camp.
The last rays of the sun highlighted the ridge ahead and I questioned if I would ever reach the summit of Cobblestone. My first attempt was cancelled before it ever started when an early fall snow storm made the forest service close the road. Probably should have hiked Cobblestone first instead of bagging all the other peaks in the area. I'm not getting any younger and that peak will be epic.