Account of Events
Bigelow's Tickweed and California Poppy
After venturing for the last months/years mostly through the San Gabriel Mountains I guess I needed and wanted some welcome change of location. Although there are many hikes, routes, peaks, and canyons that I have not done and still want to do in the San Gabriel Mountains, I can say that I know that range pretty well. Having had the desire to expand my territory for quite some time now, I decided to hike some peaks near the Tehachapi Mountain Range of the Southern Sierra. The time of the year seemed to be perfect for that. The temperatures are still very mild and the wildflowers are supposed to start blooming. So, after looking through several maps and reading route descriptions, I finally picked Cross Mountain (5,203’) and Chuckwalla Mountain (5,029’) as my destinations. I knew that the northern approach via Jawbone Canyon Road is no longer available because of the newly constructed wind-farm, the Los Angeles owned Pine Tree Wind Project, which supposedly delivers 120 MW of renewable energy to the City of Los Angeles. Instead, I decided to take the southern approach via the Lone Tree Canyon Road. After some days of preparation, I met with a few other fellow hikers on the L.A. Westside and carpooled to Mojave. The trailhead can be reached via the Lone Tree Canyon Road about 14 miles north of Mojave off Highway 14. The dirt road goes first under the new Los Angeles Aqueduct (7.5’ clearance) and then over the old Aqueduct. Then we turned north into the canyon and drove on a rough dirt road to the trailhead immediately at the base of a subsidiary southeast ridge which leads to Chuckwalla’s south ridge. A high-clearance, 4WD vehicle was clearly needed to get there.
Cross Mountain as seen from the saddle south of Chuckwalla Mountain
From the trailhead (~3,600’) we took the steep southeast slope on either faint use trails or small ravines for about 1,000 feet in 0.9 miles to the south ridge and the saddle south of Chuckwalla Mountain (~4,560’). I was pleasantly surprised of all the beautiful and colorful wildflowers that were covering the slopes. A list (surely not comprehensive) of some wildflowers we spotted on our hike is given below. From the saddle we caught a first glimpse of Cross Mountain some miles away. We already noticed the very interesting geology of Cross Mountain with the differently colored rock formations. After some negotiation we decided to hike to Cross Mountain first and then climb up Chuckwalla Mountain on our way back. From the saddle we descended in westerly direction into a small bowl (~4,400’) and then climbed up to P4616. Beautiful wildflowers were everywhere among the many volcanic rocks. From P4616 we descended on a steep slope northwest about 900 feet in 0.8 miles to a wide wash that leads to the south base of Cross Mountain. At the bottom of the wash (~3,600’) we were greeted by a coyote and some old wrecked car remains. We then hiked with almost no elevation gain in the dry, sandy wash west for 1.6 miles to the base of Cross Mountain’s South Ridge. The wash splits at one point and you have to take the left (south) fork. The right (north) fork will lead immediately to the base of some pinkish colored rocks, which seem to require technical climbing. Eventually, after passing some old cabin ruins and near an old water tank we started to ascend the south ridge (~1,000 feet in 0.8 miles). The ridge leads very steeply (the first 500 feet with an average of 33% grade) over loose rocks (shale) and past some beautiful rock outcroppings to a small saddle from where the wind-farm to the north first becomes visible. From the saddle a faint use-trail leads again fairly steep to the summit of Cross Mountain, which now sports some solar-powered antennas. From the summit there were unobstructed, beautiful views to the Mojave Desert, the El Paso and Rand Mountains, the Southern Sierra, and the Tehachapis. Immediately to the north was Jawbone Canyon; to the east, some miles away Chuckwalla Mountain. The summit area of Cross Mountain is covered with volcanic rocks (probably rhyolite, andesite, and pumice-like rocks). We rested there for quite some time marveling at our surroundings.
Chuckwalla Mountain (left) as seen from the south ridge up Cross Mountain
After a while we headed back the same way down the south ridge of Cross Mountain to the wash and back to the ridge leading up to the saddle south of Chuckwalla. On our way through the wash we had beautiful views at the very interesting looking, rocky bumps of Cross Mountain’s East Ridge (P4762 and P4784). A traverse on that ridge to Chuckwalla must be gorgeous but most likely poses technical challenges. After several miles and hours of hiking the ascent to the saddle was pretty exhausting. We rested on the saddle to catch some breath before the final 500 feet of elevation gain to the summit of Chuckwalla. Now, in the mid-afternoon, the winds considerably picked up and forced us to get going. The traverse on the east side of P4986 was very picturesque with beautiful views east to the Mojave Desert. Finally we reached the small saddle (~4,790’) immediately before the final climb up to the summit. From that point the “famous” lone tree was visible in the west flank of Chuckwalla. The scramble over the rocky terrain to the summit was short but fun. We had another snack on the summit, signed the register, and headed down again. The winds picked up even more and some gusts felt like they could knock us off the ridge. Carefully, but rapidly we made our way back to the saddle, form where we descended in easterly direction back to the cars. The early evening sun created beautiful warm colors over the Mojave.
Glad to be back in the cars, sitting and resting, we drove back to Los Angeles with our minds still lingering at the gorgeous day we just had. I finally arrived at the Westside at around 8pm. Overall the hike totaled to about 10.5 miles with 4,500 feet of elevation gain.
The track was recorded on a Garmin GPSmap 60CSx with coordinate savings every 30 seconds. Mileage- and elevation readings were calculated after importing the gpx file into National Geographic’s Topo 4.0 software.
Coreopsis bigelovii (Bigelow’s Tickweed)
Eschscholzia Californica (California Poppy)
Amsinckia tesselata (Checker Fiddleneck, Devils Lettuce)
Nemophila Menziesii (Baby Blue Eyes)
Dichelostemma capitatum (Blue Dicks)
Mimulus bolanderi (Bolander’s Monkey Flower)
Chaenactis stevioides (Desert Pincushion)