Place: Mt. Pinos, Frazier Park, California
Coordinates: 34.813477, -119.126516
Length: 4 miles up and down
Level: easy to moderate
Our first attempt to hike up Mt. Pinos was on the 2015 Spring Break, following our visit of Carrizo Plain NM. When we arrived at the parking lot we were met by harsh weather and decided to abort, swinging by the west Pinnacles on the way home.
Last August I had the opportunity to go back to Mt. Pinos, this time without Papa Quail, who was away on separate business. The chikas and I were returning north after visiting friends in Southern California. I planned to cover the distance in two days, one for a hike and the next for the beach. The night between I wanted to camp at the Valle Vista Campground.
Mt. Pinos is 8,848' high and can get a fine winter snow cover that attracts area cross-country skiers. The road pavement up the mountain ends in a base camp parking lot, about 2 miles shy of the summit.
Last April the lot was deserted. When I arrived there on August 14, there were many trailers and RVs parked about in no apparent order, and in between the vehicles stood numerous telescopes of various sizes. That night would be the third in a row that a strong meteor shower was expected.
|I didn't ignore them on the way back: Scarlet Bugler Penstemon (Penstemon centranthifolius)|
The other reason was quite a nice surprise and that was a sole yellow-flowering penstemon that stood out in a field of regular red ones. Because we were in a hurry to get to the campground I took just a quick photograph, hoping to take better shots on our return. Unfortunately on our way back to the parking lot and trailhead I was too busy trying to resolve a conflict between the chikas and missed that unique specimen.
Still, the chikas started complaining almost from the start. We didn't even make it to half a mile before we had to stop for them to rest and snack and for me to breath deeply and say 'ohm' a lot.
A good, natural forest showcases quite a few tree personalities. While oaks are usually more expressive, the pines of Mt. Pinos can be quite wild in appearance too.
Within a mile the trail leveled almost completely and we walked out of the woods and into a large meadow painted intense yellow with rabbitbrush.
There are several species of rabbitbrush in that area, and I believe I have identified two of them in that meadow. The differences are slight, making it a challenge to tell the species apart.
|Parry's Rabbitbrush (Ericameria parryi) and bee|
|Stickyleaf Rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus) and bee|
Bees weren't the only creatures with interest in rabbitbrush. Elder chika found a big caterpillar chewing on the plant.
Although the trail was much easier we had slowed down considerably when crossing the meadow. There was so much to see there! Although not as high as the Sierra Neveda, Mt. Pinos is high enough for having an excellent bloom in mid-August.
|Bunchleaf Penstemon (Penstemon heterophyllus)|
|Rabbitbrush is the perfect color match for Indian Paintbrush|
|Not a gem, but pretty and shiny nonetheless.|
|Kennedy's Buckwheat (Eriogonum kennedyi)|
|Brewer's Lupine (Lupinus breweri)|
We sat too. Had a little snack and rested.
At the summit there is a small parking area that looked like it has not been used in a long while. There were also benches and information post signs.
And there was view. Wonderful view.
|At the Summit - View to the southwest|
|Double-Tree (triple, actually)|
|Prairie Flax (Linum lewisii var. lewisii)|
|At the Summit - View to the southeast|
And I was just as attentive to the flowers as I was going up.
|One-seeded Pussypaws (Calyptridium monospermum)|
|Heermann's Lotus (Acmispon heermannii)|
|Plain Mariposa Lily (Calochortus invenustus)|
|Gooseberry (Ribes sp.)|
We slowed down again as we approached the base camp. Although eager to get back in the car, the chikas needed some rest (this time for real). That final break allowed me a few minutes more to absorb the mountain forest air.
|Common Yarrow (Achilea millefolium)|
After leaving Mt. Pinos I drove leisurely west to the Valle Vista campground. The view of the valley was stunningly beautiful indeed.
The upper part was filthy with trash that was left behind by people with absolutely no regard of Nature whatsoever. And when we did manage to find a side that was sort of acceptable, we discovered it was already occupied by a multitude of fire ants. So after taking a few photos of the beautiful valley we went back into the car and continued on westward, hoping to find another campground.
The following day we had a fantastic time at Oso Flaco State Park and Beach that completely eliminated all the bad taste that was left from our failed camping attempts.