Day 32: We took the Old Endangered Species Detour route around a section of the PCT that is closed for the protection of an endangered mountain frog. The detour involved several miles of road walking on Highway 2 before rejoining the PCT via the Burkhart Trail.
May 20th, 2015.
Start location: Islip Saddle, mile 386
End location: Three Points Trailhead, mile 403.1
Miles hiked: 17.8 (4.1 miles on PCT from Islip to Eagles Roost; 3.4 miles of road walking, including on Hwy 2 and through the Buckhorn Campground; 1.5 miles on the Burkhart Trail; 8.8 more miles on the PCT)
We were awake by 6 am, in part because Rick could not sleep well; his air pad kept deflating in the night. There is definitely a higher risk associated with big, cushy air pads like ours, as opposed to the flat foam pads that many people use, but for now the benefits of a comfy mattress still outweigh the drawbacks.
As we packed up and ate breakfast, hikers who had spent the previous night at Little Jimmy Campground, 2.5 miles back, began to pass us. It seems that most hikers prefer the get-up-and-go approach to mornings, meaning that they literally wake up, pack up and start walking. We are in the minority of people who take their time having breakfast, using the “bathroom,” etc., before starting the day, but we’re happy to hike our own hike.
At this point, it’s worth noting that we were embarking on the Old Endangered Species Detour from Islip Saddle, as opposed to the newer Official Detour. The Endangered Species Detour has been in place for many years to help protect the nearly extinct Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog. Although only ~4 miles of the PCT are closed for this detour, there are several workaround options for hikers to chose from: The Old Endangered Species Detour, which is the one we took, involves several miles of road-walking on Hwy 2, through the Buckhorn Campground, followed by 1.5 miles on the Burkhart Trail, which reconnects with the PCT around mile 394. The newer Official Endangered Species Detour is close to 20 miles long and avoids road-walking in favor of a side trip to the Devil’s Punchbowl, a geological feature accessible from Islip Saddle. We don’t know anyone who has taken the Official Detour; not only is it longer, it includes over 5 miles of rough and dangerous trail that seldom gets used. Maybe if trail conditions improve on the Official Detour, hikers will become more inclined to use it. Finally, some hikers chose to road walk/hitchhike from Islip Saddle to points further north on the trail. We heard of at least a few people opting to do over 7 miles of road-walking on Hwy 2, but we’re not sure why that was such a popular option. The PCT section between Islip Saddle and Eagles Roost is scenic, as is the Burkhart trail and much of the PCT between mile ~394 and 403. To each his own though…
We started walking by 8am, tackling our first relatively steep climb of the day toward the peak of Mt. Williamson, which we didn’t actually summit. Fortunately, the cloud coverage that had been plaguing our views the previous day abated enough to give us reasonably good views toward the west and south, although we couldn’t see much beyond the mountains because of lower elevation clouds over the greater Los Angeles area.
After arriving at the Eagles Roost Day Use Area on Hwy 2, we started road-walking down the highway toward Buckhorn Campground, which we reached in time for lunch. Buckhorn Campground is probably one of the prettier campgrounds we’ve encountered in this area. The pines are tall and noticeably fragrant, and the facilities are in pretty good shape. A lot of car campers were already set up for the long weekend, sitting around their fire pits and cooking yummy smelling food.
We found a picnic table at a campsite that didn’t have a reservation slip on it and took a long lunch in the sun. We were hoping that some of the car campers might wander over with offerings of hamburgers and hot dogs, but that didn’t happen. Many people out for Memorial Day weekend in the area probably aren’t familiar with the PCT anyway.
After filling up on food and water, we headed down the Burkhart Trail, which descends alongside a swiftly flowing creek amongst more big, fragrant pine trees. It’s a very pretty little trail, although Erica did not appreciate dropping down into the ravine only to hike steeply back out of it to rejoin the PCT after 1.5 miles.
We spent most of the rest of the afternoon climbing back up to the PCT until we were parallel with Hwy 2 again. We had good views from the ridgeline, but Erica wasn’t a fan of the trail grading in this area, which was often a bit steeper than the PCT’s normal 10%.
At around 5pm, we reached Camp Glenwood just after PCT mile 400. The camp, which consisted of a single cabin building, outhouse, and a few camp sites, was still shuttered for the season, although there was running water from a spigot for hikers to use. We stopped there to make dinner and fill up on water while chatting with a few other hikers, all but one of whom were planning to hike a few more miles that evening before setting up camp. We opted to do the same and started walking again by 6 pm.
An hour later, we reached Three Points Trailhead, the PCT’s last intersection with Hwy 2 at mile 403.1. This trailhead, like all of the others along the Angeles Crest, has paved parking, pit toilets, picnic tables, garbage cans, and just enough space for a hiker to set up camp. On our way up to the trailhead area, we found more trail magic left behind by former thru-hiker “Hopscotch,” who we first met on our way down from Wrightwood a few days prior. This particular batch of trail magic included soda, beer and fresh fruit. We helped ourselves to a little of everything, unaware of the even better trail magic to come…
As we set up camp underneath a tree overlooking the Three Points parking area, a family in a minivan pulled up alongside us and asked if we would like a catered meal! It turned out that they had been working on a film shoot at the Angeles Crest Christian Camp, just up the road from Three Points, and that they had catering leftovers to share with us hikers. We enthusiastically expressed our interest and they pulled over to a nearby picnic table to unload the bounty before driving back up to the camp (they didn’t stick around to chat). The unexpected feast included chicken breasts, green beans, rice pilaf, an Asian-inspired beef dish, potato salad, bread and rolls, fresh fruit, and enormous chocolate chip cookies! Even if we hadn’t just eaten first dinner less than 2 hours ago, it would have been too much food for just the two of us to eat, so we were glad when another couple hikers showed up just before dusk to help put a dent in the spread.
After we’d eaten our fill, we hurried to finish setting up camp as the cold started to settle in. The wind was picking up, blowing more clouds our way, and as tempting as it was to stay out eating all evening, it’s hard to work a fork when your fingers are numb. This night, like all of the nights we’ve had in the Angeles National Forest, was an unseasonably cold and wet one. Erica’s been having a particularly hard time dealing with the inescapable cold and dampness, especially since it’s been coupled with tougher than usual terrain. Someone needs to cave in and buy a warmer down coat…
By hiker midnight (9 pm), we were nestled in our sleeping bags, hoping for better rest for Rick and nicer weather for Erica.