Saturday, January 20, 2018

Finding Frost at Mt. Waterman

This could have been the coldest hike I've ever been on.  I remember wiping so much snot from my face throughout, but it was really beautiful to be in the San Gabriel mountains on this sunny winter day.  Wes discovered the Waterman Trail during our spontaneous camping trip at the Chilao Campground, and it's one of my favorite places to go hiking now.  It feels like a different world out here; though we're only an hour outside of Pasadena.  The best thing is that not many people come here to do this trail.  There's no Instagram-worthy panoramic view at the top, no water features or anything, but the whole vibe of the place just feels natural and peaceful.  I'd say that it's a moderately graded hike, so it's not too hard and not overly easy, either.  It's just right.

The funny thing is that the first time we had been to Mt. Waterman was to snowboard at the tiny, old Waterman ski resort when they opened randomly in 2016.  Yes... there is a ski resort in the Angeles National Forest, believe it or not!!  Because it's such a small and intimate resort literally on the side of the Angeles Crest Highway, they rely solely on Mother Nature to provide the snow coverage needed (no snow blowing).  Prior to that day, it hadn't been open for years because it just doesn't get cold enough here anymore.  I remember that when we did snowboard there, we were still beginners and it was pretty tough for us, as the snow was not fluffy and thick.  During one of my many slips and falls that day going through those flat, icy areas, I cracked my phone screen in the most artistically mesmerizing way.  Luckily, the screen protector took the brunt of the damage and Wes was able to get it repaired.  

Anyhow, Mt. Waterman is a historic spot (its first rope tow was set up in 1941, which was reportedly the first ski lift in Southern California) to which we've attached some fun seasonal memories to by now.  Wes suggested that we come hiking here on this day because he knew that there'd be a good chance for us to see some snow, if not a thin coating, due to the rain that we received down in Pasadena this past week.  We didn't need any snow chains to drive up to the trailhead, but we did bring our microspikes, buffs, and warmest jackets.  Oh, and banh mi!

We started at the Buckhorn Day Use area, where there's a parking lot, and crossed the Highway to Mt. Waterman Road, which leads to the trailhead.  This is a 5.5-mile out-and-back trail, with the option to extend to Twin Peaks (but we did not do that).  From what we could remember from our summer hike here, it was pleasant and not steep, so we knew that we could handle a bit of snow on the ground.

Our wishes for seeing snow came true!  It was melting quickly, but we did get to walk over some snow patches and look up at the frost glowing in the tree branches.

The best views are actually just a mile into the hike. Beyond the San Gabriel Mountains, you can look across the San Gabriel Valley toward the silhouette of Santiago Peak in the Santa Ana Mountains.  On this clear day, we could see every shadow and groove clearly and sharply.  This was the perfect spot to enjoy our lunch before continuing on to the top of Mt. Waterman.

And here is the top!  Like I said, nothing sensational about this summit.  There are some cool rock piles, but mainly it's just a nice, peaceful spot to relax, knowing that you've made it.  It reminded us of the time we climbed to the top of the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto during our honeymoon, only to see a piece of paper crudely tacked to a stone temple saying, "This is the top."  Sometimes that's just how it is!

It was beautiful to be out and though it was super cold, I felt refreshed and rejuvenated.  We're so lucky to have a place like this nearby to explore and come back to throughout the year, and I'm so glad that Wes found this spot!

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