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A Hike to Remember
McPherson Peak and Peak Mountain in the SNOW!

February 26, 2011

By: Janice Boyd

Leaders: Ted Lubeshkoff, Patrick Vaughn, Wayne Vollaire

The February 26, 2011 HPS hike to McPherson Peak and Peak Mountain was an ADVENTURE in the snow!

The group met at the Sylmar rideshare at 7:00 a.m. We were fortunate that the I-5 through the Grapevine opened earlier that morning after a closure the night before, due to heavy snowfall.

At 9:20 a.m. from the Aliso Campground, we began the hike on Route 1. The weather was calm, overcast and a pleasant 35 degrees. The trail was wet with good traction and a light layer of snow covered the surrounding terrain.

The sun would shine then disappear behind moving clouds. After 20 minutes of the gradual ascent, we were all hot and stopped to remove layers.

It didn't take long before we were marching through snow which quickly grew deeper. The clouds would come and go, giving us stunning views with changing visibility. Luckily it didn't rain and the climb was enjoyable.

The trail was easy to follow for the first 2,200' of ascent. Then it turned into brush covered in heavy frozen snow, causing branches to fall over onto the trail making the route difficult to determine. We had to push hard to force our way through these frozen sections, getting slapped, scraped and wet in the process. In the lead, poor Ted took most of the abuse.

We summited McPherson Peak at 12:40 p.m. It was cold, dreary and snowing. Our clothes wet from sweat and pushing through the snowy shrubs instantly chilled us when we stopped moving.

At 1:15 p.m. some of the hikers decided not continue to Peak Mountain and headed down to their vehicles at Aliso Campground.

Ted, Wayne and Janice continued on to Peak Mountain.

Leaving McPherson Peak, we hiked down the firebreak which was churned with buried debris in deep snow. We reached the snow-covered dirt road for the mileage to Peak Mountain.

Then the sun came out, it was warm and we were taking off layers again. We marveled at crisp, clear, spectacular scenic views, surreal and astoundingly beautiful! It was so still and quiet, even the clouds were not moving. This was worth the effort to Peak Mountain.

Walking on the road was not easy. The snow was deep, wet, heavy and slowed our pace. But, the amazing views distracted us.

After climbing to Peak Mountain, the return hike on the road was in light hail. We reached the towers at McPherson Peak and started down in good visibility at 4:45 p.m.

In the morning, on the trek up to McPherson, the final 1000' had us pushing through endless, heavy, wet, snow-laden branches. But, in the late afternoon, descending was delightful! The ascent and descent removed much of the snow from the branches allowing them to spring upright. The passage through the brush was surprisingly unobstructed, seemed like a different route.

It was easy to follow our friend's deep tracks in the snow. "Thank you" to the person who used their hiking pole to draw limit lines indicating the correct path. These factors allowed us a quick descent for the first and worst 1,000' down.

With 2,000' left to descend, it started to snow heavily and the tracks were completely covered by the new snow. We reached the main trail which was clear to see and easy to follow in the heavy snowfall and dimming light. During the descent, the snow depth and snowfall quickly diminished and good visibility returned.

We found Thio's windbreaker stretched across branches along the trail but not his sunglasses which must have been buried in the new snowfall.

During the last 800' of descent, the sky was clear overhead rewarding us with views of northern mountains against the remains of sunset. The sky turned to black, mountains silhouetted with striking bright stars overhead, local city lights twinkled and the glow of Bakersfield on the horizon. The air was still and silent. A sublime sight I feel lucky to have experienced.

We got back to the campground at 7:00 p.m. then headed homeward looking forward to having dinner together. The southbound I-5 was closed at the Grapevine exit due to recent snowfall. We had a nice dinner at a newfound Mexican restaurant at the Grapevine exit, and then detoured via I-58 to Mojave back to Sylmar.

This was a FUN and memorable outing made special by the snowy conditions. I really enjoyed hiking with this adventurous group to McPherson Peak and Peak Mountain in the snow!

Another thing that made this day special was that all the other outings were canceled making this the only HPS hike for the day.

The leaders for the day were Ted Lubeshkoff, Patrick Vaughn, and Wayne Vollaire and the participants were Bruce Craig, Mark Butski, Kwee Thio, and Janice Boyd.

Distance: 14.3 miles

Gain: 4,200'

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