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Thunder Mountain, Telegraph Peak, Timber Mountain

30 September 2001

By: Tom Hill

Leaders: George Wysup and Tom Hill

After Saturday's hike to Lookout Mtn #2, I stayed afterwards with hangers-on to chug some beers at the Mt Baldy Restaurant, then ended up on the north side of town at the Buckhorn Motel (small but clean, $60 overnight stay). The overnight temperatures stayed above 65 degrees - a perfect night for sleeping out - but the thought of those nice showers waiting inside won me over. One look in the mirror beforehand and at the formerly clean towels afterward showed the wisdom of this course.

Suitably rested and scrubbed, I substituted as co-leader on the next day into a hike led by George Wysup to the Three T's. Because the Oktoberfest was canceled this year we checked out three rendezvous spots for participants: Icehouse Saddle gave us a small group, Harwood Lodge gave us most, and finally the Mt Baldy Chair Lift parking log. We took the lift up shortly before 10 am and exited from Icehouse Canyon about 4 pm. We were joined in our adventure by Larry Campbell, Sharon Hechler, Emil Kadrnka, Winnette Butler, Pat Warren, Dave Cannon, Sheldon Slack, Richard Reid, Joe and Amanda Vlietstra, Robert VerStieg, Ron Goldfarb, and Margot Lowe. Truly a fine group of hikers, with the vast majority doing this nice shuttle hike for the first time.

The chair lift is bare-bones and quaint. Cost is $6 one-way. But I mention this only because I now have a chance to vent against the dastardly pricing policies of Another Tram. A few years ago I traversed the San Jacs and took the Tram down at the end. Being a good citizen I inquired and was told to purchase a ticket at the bottom. To my surprise they charged me for a FULL round-trip ticket and informed me that their policy was NO discounts (AAA or Senior) for a one-way. Outrageous! Hikers, be warned about Palm Springs. Try to blend in to this wonderful crowd of people who are clearly superior to us.

Fortunately we felt at home on the Three T's and were welcome there. Many happy hikers were seen coming and going, with a large population of friendly dogs on the Icehouse Canyon side where running water hugs the trail. Especially popular is Columbine Spring right next to the trail about a mile down from Icehouse Saddle. And yes, columbines were magnificently in bloom along the more well-watered stretches of the trail down near the Icehouse trailhead.

We left Baldy Notch for our peak-an-hour excursion in fine spirits under clear skies. The register had disappeared from under the trees next to the top of the Thunder Mtn chair lift. It's probably hopeless anyway, so I didn't place a new one. Then we strolled downhill to a saddle and up to Telegraph Pk where we were greeted by vistas of very cloudy skies, which had built up in a hurry. Well, that explained to me at least why the previous night had been so balmy. This was a tropical airmass greeting card from Hurricane Juliette. She had once packed winds of almost 150 miles per hour south of Baja but had moved north and slightly east over the peninsula since then.

Fortunately the weather stabilized around 2 pm with no further obvious threat. That enabled us to take in the scenery with a clear conscience: the tall stands of old-growth white fir and sugar pine, huge mountain mahogany almost two feet in diameter, dramatic dropoffs on both sides of the ridgeline, scree slopes of all sizes scattered hither and yon, a most unusual duck (of the bathtub variety), the many trails of deer and other game snaking down below us and clearly visible from above, the snuggling of chinquapin and manzanita side-by-side for miles, the traces of bygone Mr Chapman atop Timber Mtn - in short a complex example of the interaction between humans and their environment. And last but not least, many of the huge boulders in Icehouse Canyon have cracked open to reveal a wealth of complex internal folding and remelting that is a wonder. I like Richard's description best: "Like toothpaste!" This hike is one of our classical beauties.

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