Stranded In The Southland

Monday, October 02, 2006

Deathmarch to Lookout Mountain, Plus Baldy

This weekend I went on a killer hike up to pick off Lookout Mountain, the last of the peaks around Mt. Baldy that I hadn't picked off. It's a tough off-trail slog through thick brush at the best of times, and I somehow hooked up with some nuts who managed to make it tougher.

We started out in Baldy Village at 4,000 feet or so, then slogged up to 8,200 feet. I was really draggin', as I'd had about five hours of sleep the night before (and I'm not in the greatest of conditioning). I wasn't the last guy in line, but I was pretty close.

It was beautiful up there, though. The air was clear, and I could see all around, including the entirety of Icehouse Canyon, from the tiny cars in the parking lot up to the notch where the trail goes between Timber and Buckhorn Mountains. Yow. Of course, the problem was that I'd started out below the trailhead at Icehouse Canyon, and here I was above it. Anyway, after gaining all this altitude, we traversed over to a ridge, and promptly descended to a saddle 6,400 feet or so.

Then we had to climb another 300 feet or so to get to the peak. It's a good thing we got to the peak, because I just about gave out then and there. I've definitely got to get into better shape!

It was a delight to make it to Lookout Mountain, though. It's a total geek destination, as this is the spot where, in 1924 - 1926, Michelson came up with the most accurate measurement of the speed of light to that date, 299,796±4 km/s. He shined a light from Mt. Wilson, 22 miles away, to a mirror on Lookout Mountain. Way cool!

The concrete footings are still there, although there isn't much else there. It is hard to tell that this was once the site of the first lookout tower in Southern California, or that there used to be a pretty wide trail (or was it road?) up to the peak.

This was my first big hike in awhile -- two weeks ago, I went up Baldy via the ski lift and Devil's Backbone trail with F., a new physicist at the college. I had been worried that he wouldn't be up to the longer Ski Hut trail, but it turned out that he was certainly as fit as me, if not fitter. Not that that's saying too much these days, sadly.