Exploring The San Gabriels

West Fork area

Every trip seems to have a theme that we remember it by. Sometimes it’s excessive rain. Maybe mosquitoes, unexpected snow, or when solo, a song that won’t leave your head.

I think this trip will be remembered as the “weekend of exploration.” We didn’t blaze new trails or go where no shoe has seen before, rather, we took our time along the 25-mile route and smelled the proverbial roses.

Amber and I took advantage of a few use trails just to see where they led. We climbed small cascades and waterfalls to discover what was beyond the view from the trail. We took a left when everyone else goes right and discovered both natural and man-made treasures we would have otherwise missed.

Unless you have to put on the big miles, I would encourage you to keep your eye out for those opportunities to explore. During your hike, take an extra ten minutes and see where that spur trails leads. Climb to the top of that knoll just to see what’s on the other side. Enjoy the journey and get your adventure on!

Hiking along the Gabrielino Trail

Our Route

  • Day 1: Chantry Flats to DeVore Camp via Spruce Grove (8-miles)
  • Day 2: DeVore to Idlehour Camp via West Fork, Mt. Wilson, Idlehour Camp (12-miles)
  • Day 3: Idlehour Camp to Eaton Canyon via Henninger Flats (5-miles)

Night 1: DeVore Camp

Day 1 — 8-miles, 2,355′ elev. gain: The three of us (including “Lab Rat” the dog’s trail name) got a late afternoon start and headed up the hill. On mile 4, we got to Spruce Grove Camp where there was not a person in sight. Continuing up over Newcomb’s Pass, we still did not see a single soul. Black flies hovered around our faces, sometimes into our eyes forcing us to use the bug nets. It was not a big deal, although, even at 7pm the ambient temperature was 75 degrees and humid, making the net stuffy.

Picking wild blackberries

Day 2 — 12-miles, 2,850′ elev. gain: We were up at 6:00am and on the trail by 6:30. The trail that links DeVore and West Fork Camp is not well maintained. Shrubs cover the path making it difficult to pass yet still easy to navigate. Blackberry bushes were the most difficult to pass through because of their thorns, but it was worth taking in the mouth-watering berries.

Amber enjoying a handful of berries. A nice way to tantalize those taste buds.

Grapenuts sprinkled with berries

Once we got to West Fork Camp, we ate breakfast. On the menu was cold cereal with blackberries.

Nearby was Troop 502 from La Canada, packing up for their 12-mile trek to Chilao via the Shortcut/Silver Moccasin trail. We talked for a few minutes and then continued up the backside of Mt. Wilson. Poodle dog bush still grows in abundance!

Cooling off at a stream, which, we later walked up and explored

Click on image for video

Click on image to see video


Pool along the Kenyon DeVore Trail, leading up to Mt. Wilson

The Tom Harris topo map indicates the stream along the Kenyon DeVore trail is perennial, which basically means we would not have to carry water up the 2,800-foot climb to Mt. Wilson. Since I’ve been hiking this trail, I’ve never seen water past the first crossing with the yellow chain this time of year.

Almost to the top

When the ground is too hot, we give Andy a free lift. He weighs more than our packs!

Our concern was that Idlehour Camp would be full. To our surprise, there were no campers; we had the site to ourselves. We walked around in the pools and cleaned some of our clothes using a freezer bag and Dr. Bronner’s soap. It worked great and followed all the Leave No Trace principles!

Ultralight backpacking with my wife–it doesn’t get much better

We made elaborate emergency fire starters, but Amber was able to get the fire going after two strikes of a match.

Exploring off-trail near Idlehour Camp

While exploring, we found an old foundation from the original Idlehour camp in the 1920s. There is no easy way to get there but as you can see, it’s level and the view of the stream and canyon is awesome!

Our original plan was to get up early but we both slept in until 6:30 am. We packed up and explored the Idlehour area, looking for alternate sites in case one of the three sites were taken on a future trip.

On our way out, we took a detour. Amber thought she saw a flat area beyond the stream. I walked over and saw they were just rocks. I continued down stream and saw a couple other places that could work as a single site. I saw a ledge about 15 feet up and hiked up to the top and found a large flat space, obviously a former foundation from the 1920s. Both Amber and I thought this would be a great place for another trip.

Back on the trail we continued making videos and shooting photos. The day was much cooler, only in the 60s and 70s. We made it back to the car by 11:30, just in time to eat at Bobby’s Place for burritos and tacos.

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