I almost hate to do this, but I’m sharing with you today the trip that I almost took, the trip I wished I took, the trip that Mark had to take without me: Havasu Falls in the glorious Grand Canyon.
One week before I was to take part in this unique, breathtaking backpacking adventure, I injured my foot (a ruptured or torn Plantar Fascia) while training. I can’t tell you exactly how I injured my foot because I don’t exactly know. What I do know is I couldn’t walk on my foot at all for the first three days and was still limping by the date of departure. I’m not sure if the universe simply had other plans for me, but our dog also had a foot problem (A gnarly looking growth had spurted on her foot pad, so she was limping, too.), so I stayed home to tend to my own foot and to hers.
Snow is following me wherever I go! It snowed when Mark and I were at the Haleakala Crater in Maui, Hawaii early March, and we just finished trekking through snow mid-March while backpacking with the Boy Scouts to Little Jimmy Trail Camp in Southern California. The camp is along the route of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (the famous PCT) in the Angeles National Forest north of Los Angeles.
Trails were slippery in places–always the worst places, it seemed (think steep inclines and loose gravel from previous rockslides near trail’s edge). Considering it was barely 50 degrees and extremely windy at the base (windchill required adding that extra layer of clothing we packed for the cold nights) and then 70 degrees as we approached the higher elevations on the downwind side of the mountain, it was a treat to trek through the snow in our T-shirts.
When we got to camp, it was tough to find a dry spot to lay a tent.
Plenty of snow, but at least we had some place to go (bathroom dead ahead!).
Early Spring snow, mostly made of ice pellets.
We didn’t make much use of the picnic tables; pretty much hung out around the fire.
Luckily, we were one of the first arrivals at the campground. We were able to survey the area and make claim to a wide-spread territory with patches of dry here and there.
As soon as we made camp, the boys were drawn to the snow and spent the entire afternoon sleigh riding on their butts down the hillsides. By early evening, everyone was soaking wet and needed to warm up and dry off by the fire.
Drying out after an afternoon of snow-butt boarding.
Since we had secured an area of the campground with access to a handful of stone stoves, we made use of them to act as a makeshift clothes dryer. Great idea, right?
Several of these fire stacks in our area.
“C’mon, fire. Don’t fail me now.”
Clothes drying on top. Great idea, right? Umm…
Well, maybe not so much.
Ah, you were outgrowing ’em anyway. 😉
Great idea? Not so much!
Our Little Jimmy backpacking trip was a blast. Though it did get cold at night–in the 40-45 degree range–it warmed up quickly during the day. I’m almost always cold if the temperature is anything less than 60 degrees at night, so next time I’ll have to remember to pack a sleeping bag liner and more effective thermals. As it was, I slept in every stitch of clothing I brought and was still cold. Mostly everyone else reported a comfortable night’s sleep.
HOW TO GET THERE:
This campground is along the route of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail in the Angeles National Forest north of Los Angeles, CA. It can be accessed via the Angeles Crest Highway (Hwy. 2) or San Gabriel Canyon Road (Hwy. 39). The camp itself is southeast of where Hwy. 2 and Hwy. 39 intersect in the Angeles National Forest.
From Interstate 210 in La Canada, exit at Angeles Crest Highway (Hwy. 2) and drive 41 miles north to Islip Saddle. You can’t miss the parking area on your left. Once parked, cross the highway and pick up the Pacific Crest Trail leading east. Follow the trail 2 miles.
From Interstate 210 in Azusa, exit Azusa Ave. (Hwy. 39). Drive 25 miles north on San Gabriel Canyon Rd. (Hwy. 39) to the entrance for Crystal Lake. Park in the large dirt clearing to the right just before the locked gate. Hike in from Crystal Lake – 3 miles.
Note: Interagency Pass or Adventure Pass required to park at trailheads.
Great first-of-the-season or intro backpacking trip
Easy access to a water source
Short trek (2 or 3 miles in, depending on your starting point); easy to moderate hike
Several possible satellite/day-hikes in the area
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:
7500-foot elevation. 16 hike-in campsites.
Spring water (treat before using) – however, water flow may be low or non-existent due to reduced rainfall. Campsites are first come – first served.
Large groups like to camp at Little Jimmy. Those groups tend to be Boy Scouts. It may get loud at times (from laughter, playful screaming–not obnoxious boomboxes and cursing), but by nightfall everyone is pretty well zonked out. You can expect to have your quiet evening and your quiet cup of coffee in the morning; you just may need to share the daytime-hike trails with a bunch of well-behaved young boys. We arrived early (Thursday/Friday) and the trail was pretty much ours. During warmer months of the year, a Thursday arrival is highly recommended to secure one of several especially beautiful campsites at Little Jimmy.
Call (818) 899-1900 for current conditions and additional information.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CHECK OUT THE USDA FOREST SERVICE SITE: