The Chantry Flats trail to the summit of Mt. Wilson is considered a strenuous, 14 mile loop, that climbs a little over 4,000 vertical feet. It was a long day, Christopher’s longest hike to date and he still had a smile on his face.
We arrived to the trailhead at around 8:15am, to a full parking lot. Parking fills up quick, as the trail to Sturtevant falls is very popular and shared for the first 3/4 mile. An Adventure Pass must be displayed. An overflow lot is available, it’ll run you $10. Parking along side the road is an option, however the farther down you park, more steps will be added to your already long hike.
No other choice than to park down the road, 8:30am, an extra 10 minutes to get to trailhead; situated, packs on, good to go. The first 3/4 mile down the paved fire road is fairly easy, no effort is required. At the end of the paved road, the Gabrielino trailhead junction is reached; a 1 mile detour can be taken to Sturtevant Falls. We kept left at the fork and headed up to Mt. Wilson via Winter Creek trail, skipped the falls. Due to recent heavy rain, the water was flowing nice and strong. Walking along the creek was amazing. It was all fun and games until, the first crossing at about 1/2 mile from junction. Wife led the way, and tried to find a good spot to cross, failed. After a few minutes, and no results, I began to loose my head as the wife struggled across and Christopher didn’t want to risk getting wet. I couldn’t help him cross and keep us dry, no rocks or logs for balancing. “Just go thru,” I kept telling him. “NO!!” he replied. Back and forth, until, I decided to just get my feet in the water and carry him. The morning was pretty chilly, temperature on my watch read 43 degrees, and being in between the canyons and trees did not help. Feet soaked, and 5 minutes later, another crossing, feet wet yet again. 2 more crossings after that, I was already soaked, however was not really ready to fully submerge my feet in the freezing cold water every again. No choice, in order to keep Christopher dry, I had to get in. Done, crossed. Let’s get to stepping.
In 2.2 miles, Hoegee’s campground is crossed. Our trek continued and we arrived to what seemed like the official beginning of the Mt. Wilson trail, 2.6 miles later. This is where the fun begins, elevation was starting to go into full effect. A small 2-3 minute break, snapped a pic and video, got on our way.
Up, up and away, the trail got steep and our pace slowed a little. A nice slow yet steady pace as we approached mile 4, the time was now close to 11am. Christopher was feeling good, and he decided to MARCH like soldiers and sing, all he wanted was to reach mile 4 because Elizabeth, my wife, told him he can have Skittles or M&M’s for doing such great job. Good thing he can’t differentiate distance yet 😜 we kept going until the bench, approximately 5 miles from start. Here, is the junction to the Sierra Madre trailhead, and the ascend gets gradually steeper. We had lunch, mingled with a few other hikers, chilled, back to trekking.
In about 3/4 miles, Mt. Wilson Toll Road becomes the main trail, a much quicker pace was picked up, as it had not much elevation gain. To our surprise, there were patches of snow and very soon the entire trail was covered. Wife was not so happy; she dislikes like being cold, let alone walk in the snow. Our toes wet and numb, temperature dropped, and clouds covering the sun, the last mile or so was not so pleasant. Pushed for the peak, and found some hiking friends/superstars on their way down from the summit; Evonne, Nathalie, and Theseus.
2:15pm, with still 15-20 minutes to summit, determined to get to the top, we pushed a bit harder. The melting snow created a small river on the trail, about ankle deep. Feet wet yet again. Finally made it to the summit, and walked over to the museum. It was closed, however, they usually have coffee and hot chocolate for hikers. Very much appreciated. I refilled my coffee mug, and we enjoyed the view. It was cold, so we decided to just have a snack and head back down after coffees were chugged.
What goes up must come down; and so, we began to descend, 3:15pm. Christopher is into running, and I take advantage as much as possible. Usually, when going downhill, He asks to run, and without hesitation, my wife and I gave him the green light. “Sun is going down quick,” I told her, as we ran down the mountain. We knew a storm was heading our way, that gave us a little more motivation to keep running. Impressively, Christopher ran almost 3 miles down, until we reached a junction. To the left, Winter Creek trail, back where we came from with multiple river crossings, “not in the dark,” we said. We went for Upper Creek trail, to the right at the junction, still about 3 miles to go, however no water. Headlamps on, we continued to walk in the dark for about 1hour. It was quite, and lonely. Our only objective was to get to the parking lot. No breaks, just kept pushing up the hills as we gained a few hundred feet. Some little sprinkles were felt, luckily, we were already close to trailhead parking lot. Made it back to the car, close to 6:10pm. Christopher was beyond exhausted. He took a nap on the way home, and went straight to bed upon arrival.
**Home to an observatory high in the mountains, Mt. Wilson stands at 5,710 feet above sea level. Mt. Wilson is the first of the six pack of peaks, as suggested by SoCalHiker.net in great training for longer more strenuous hikes such as Mt. Whitney or a thru hike, John Muir Trail, or in our case, High Sierra Trail.
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