Monday, October 31, 2005

San Gabriel Peak Geocaching

On Saturday, I took some friends from work out for their first geocaching expedition. I'm happy to report that the first geocaching expedition of "Team Compass" was a success. Our team hiked 5.36 miles (terrain distance) in 5.26 hours, scaled three peaks in the San Gabriel front range (2948 vertical feet climbed), and found three geocaches, one on each peak. The peaks are arranged such that each one looks like the highest one around as you ascend it, until you see the next peak, which is just a bit higher. Hence their names: Mt. Deception, Mt. Disappointment, and finally San Gabriel Peak.

Our intrepid team met on a cool sunny Saturday morning at Red Box Station on Angeles Crest. We started off inauspiciously, with a search for a supposedly easy geocache right there at Red Box, but came up empty, so we decided to just get moving. After dropping cars at Eaton Saddle, we started off at 4301' altitude, following a private paved road winding up through pine trees to a saddle (5500') where we took a single-track spur trail to our first peak, Mount Deception (5783'). The trail was pretty steep at first, but then turned to gentle ups and downs through beautiful high chaparral of manzanita and some huge yucca skeletons (some of them nearly 30' tall). We had breathtaking views of the whole San Gabriel range, and although the LA basin was covered in a layer of white, we could clearly see the upper reaches of Catalina Island peeking out above the white. At the summit, while I was focused on my GPS, Katy spotted a rock cairn that hid the Sierra Club summit log, so we stopped to sign. And a little further when we zeroed in on the first cache, Katy was the first to spot it. A small 5x3x2 container had some prizes in it. We all signed the log, and Katy took a geocoin trading it for an outrigger race medallion. I left a scorched geocoin that I had retrieved from a melted cache after the fires in the Simi hills last year.

We then dropped back down to the saddle and hiked around to Mount Disappointment (5948'), which has a flattened top with a bunch of comms antennas on it. Just beyond the summit was a pile of boulders which we scrambled around for a while, searching all the crevices for the cache. Just when we were about to give up, I found the small cylinder hidden under a large boulder and concealed by another rock. It was about noon, and it was a nice spot to enjoy our lunch. From there, we could look down on Mt. Deception where we'd been, up to San Gabriel Peak where we were headed next, and across to Mt. Lowe and Mt. Markham, which we'll hit another time.

Back down to the next saddle (5704') and then up a winding single track trail to San Gabriel Peak (6137'), which I believe is among the highest in the front range. That was another tricky cache, which turned out to be a fake rock hide-a-key, hidden amongst other rocks, but with persistence we eventually prevailed. After resting and enjoying more views, we headed back down, taking a different path off the shoulder to hook up with the Eaton Saddle fire road (5270'), through a tunnel, and back to the cars at 5108'.

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