Mt. Baldy via Bear Flats Trail

June 15, 2012 in Hiking, Home Page, Mt. Baldy, WillTrek Trip, Winter

Once again, I find myself standing at the Bear Flats trailhead before dawn. Although it has only been a month since my last Bear Flats run, I can already tell this trip is going to be different from the last.

Fore one thing, its not going to rain all day and we aren’t going to be lashed by 50 mph gales. Today, you might say we’ve won the weather lottery; it’s clear and cool… perfect hiking weather. With conditions like these, it’s hard not to push myself to improve my ‘summit and back’ personal best. Another difference this time is a pretty big group! Three times larger than last time. The more the merrier usually – and this time too. But it also means a longer caterpillar on the trail. To avoid breaking the caterpillar in two by puling too far ahead, I decided to bang out sections of the trail, then stop and regroup. Given the relaxed and jubilant demeanor of my trail mates, I know they won’t mind keeping their own pace or my temporary absences if I disappear around a corner up ahead.

The sun came up as we passed through bear flats, and some of us stopped on the switchbacks to take a few photos. In the summer months, the switchbacks can be brutally hot if you ascend in direct sunlight. For summer ascents, I typically try to start early enough as to make the ridge before sun up. Given the steep grade and loose marble sized detritus that makes up the foot path, there is no need to make this section more dreary.



Even though it was still fairly early, the shade provided by what few trees there are on the switchbacks was welcome. Upon making the ridge, we relaxed a it, ate and waited for our more leisurely companions.



Here’s an arty shot though a key hold left in a burnt stump. pretty nifty huh?



Onward and upward. Technically, it’s winter and so we were pleased to encounter a little snow here and there. I’m glad I didn’t bring my crampons or wear my heavier mountaineering boots.



Our next stop was at a rocky outcropping along the ridgeline traverse. The sun had warmed the rocks surface which, when combined with the breeze and the view, made for an ideal spot to stretch out.



A short distance further and the views really open up. This particular spot is one of my favorite overlooks along the ridge. Great photo opportunity. If you need a new Facebook profile photo, this spot seems to please. Down below the ridge is a small mining operation of some sort. Frankly, its not that interesting to look at but the tiny little yellow dot of a bulldozer stands in stark contrast with the gray and barren canyon. It simply draws the eye.


Here is an awesome shot!. Although I have mixed feelings about this word, I think its far to say it’s “epic”.

As the day wore on, the caterpillar started to more closely resemble … a much thinner and longer caterpillar, I guess. What’s thinner and longer than a caterpillar? A worm? Nah, a worm at this altitude would be dried up and shriveled. ew. Anyways – the group up front continued to pull away.


Excited by the thinner air in my lungs, I plugged in my mp3 player and blasted out ahead. Some people object to the use of mp3 players on the trial. Personally, I find that it can instantly re-energise, motivate and simultaneously provide focus and distraction and break the monotony of the trail. Sure, I certainly enjoy the sounds of nature, but the sound of the wind, the scrape of my boots and the sound of my own panting breath can get old too. That being said, I can understand why someone else’s mp3 player might be annoying (especially if you can OVER hear it) or if you are traveling in close proximity and want to talk to a person who has to constantly pull an ear bud out to mutter, “huh? I can’t hear you with my music on. What did you say?”

“I said ‘Look out! Don’t step on that angry looking snake!! I’m pretty sure it’s poisonous!” :P

Before too long I was nearing the summit. I’d better hold up, I though, to summit with some of the others. Its always more fun to summit with others, especially when its their first time up the Bear Flats trail. Besides, its not a race (despite my urge to push my output). A short nap later and the team was marching by.


Again, I have to reflect how drastically the conditions can vary on Mt. Baldy. The summit on this occasion was perhaps just as pleasant as any time I can remember. Low 70s maybe, barely a breeze. Contrast that with a trip just about a year earlier (1 year and 20 days to be exact) when it was windy and frozen with snow. And even just a few weeks before, when the wind and rain spiced the trail.

One by one the team arrived, tired – but happy to be there at the summit. The altitude had it’s effect, but most of the crew seemed content and without malady. Nothing a snack, a few panoramic photos and a nap wouldn’t fix.


Knowing that the group was intact and … I suited up and began my trot back down the trail. I wanted to let a few of our group who had taken a more leisurely pace know that we had reached the summit and were beginning the descent. It was time to turn back.