Sunday, May 22, 2016

Passing Time on Copter Ridge

View to Mt. Baldy from Copter Ridge

Old man look at my life,
I'm a lot like you were.
Old man look at my life
I'm a lot like you were.

Old man look at my life
Twenty four and there's so much more
Live alone in a paradise
That makes me think of two.

Love lost, such a cost
Give me things that don't get lost
Like a coin that won't get tossed
Rolling home to you.
-Neil Young, Old Man

When I was a youngster, when time meant nothing and the outdoors was just someplace that I naturally spent the majority of my care-free days, birthdays were always a box on the calendar that I looked forward to because it meant that I would get more "stuff." It didn't really matter if I actually needed or even wanted the stuff I got, but the anticipation of simply getting it, enhanced as it was by the mystery of fancy wrapping paper and colorful streamers and bows, was sufficient in and of itself to eclipse that rather minor and inconvenient detail.

Now that I'm a grizzled veteran of life who (hopefully) has gained a modicum of experience, knowledge, and understanding, I predictably have a different perspective. I don't necessarily dread birthdays like some folks in my same life class do, and I don't yet fret about my steadily climbing age or the diminishing time I have remaining that it portends, but as I've grown grayer and wiser, my focus has decidedly shifted away from accumulating and hording more stuff, and toward maximizing sensory experiences and relationships. I know, I know, that personal awakening is neither particularly revelatory nor insightful, but it has taken me decades to get to the point where the absurdity of chasing and acquiring stuff for the sake of acquiring more stuff  has become apparent. Don't get me wrong, I still like certain stuff. But Lester Burnham summed it up best in American Beauty when he proclaimed: "This isn't life. This is just stuff."

So when my odometer rolled to 53 this year, the last thing I wanted was more stuff. Instead, I wanted out of the fluorescent-lit box that I now spend most of my time in during the week. I wanted see the mountains. I wanted to feel the warm sun on my face and cool breeze blowing through my now silver locks. I wanted to smell the scent of pine. I wanted to hear the call of the Stellar's Jay. I wanted to hear the crunch of the tread under foot. And I wanted share those experiences with folks that I consider my friends.

So early last Sunday morning, I headed for the Angeles National Forest high country along with Chris, Sean, Cecelia, and Dima for a day exploring Copter Ridge. We started at Dawson Saddle, ascended the trail to the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail just east of Throop Peak, and then tacked west to the summit of Mt. Hawkins. Along the way, Dima explained how he went about identifying what he has termed the Pole of Inaccessibility: the point in the Angeles National Forest that is the furthest from any roadway or established trail (that "pole" is located on the steep southwest slope of Ross Mountain).

Atop Mt. Hawkins, we paused to appreciate the the panoramic views of the surrounding cloud-filled valleys out of which a number of familiar peaks protruded, We then descended south along Copter Ridge (avoiding a huge swarm of bees as we went) to its terminus some 1,500 feet below where we munched lunch and solved a number of pressing world problems.

The climb back up the ridge to Mt. Hawkins was difficult, but satisfying, particularly since the scenery was so fine and the water we cached mid-ridge was still cool. Back atop Mr. Hawkins, I broke our a couple of somewhat chilled cans of FMB 101 Kolsch I had in my day-pack and we toasted another day of being alive in our local mountains.

I could add much more about this day, but I've blathered on far too long as it is. Other than saying that I think Copter Ridge is one of my favorite places in the San Gabriels (along with the Pleasant View Ridge), my words can't begin to do justice to the trip, the spectacular scenery, or my amazing fellow travelers anyway. So I'll shut up now and just let some of the pictures from this day do the rest of the talking for me. Enjoy.

View Toward Mt. Williamson from Dawson Saddle Trail
The High Desert from the Dawson Saddle Trail

The Crew Ascending the Dawson Saddle Trail

The Boys at the PCT Junction
First View of Baldy and Friends

Trekking Along the PCT

View Northwest from the PCT
Mi Compadres

View West from the PCT - Twins, Waterman, Islip, Buckhorn (?), Pacifico in the rearground (?)

North Slope of Mt. Hawkins
The Hawkins Ridge

View Down Copter Ridge from Hawkins

Hanging Out on Hawkins

Baldy View from Hawkins

Sean and Cecelia Atop Mt. Hawkins

Super-Brainiac Dima Atop Mt. Hawkins 

Cecelia Capturing the Stunning Views

The Gang of Five Atop Hawkins - Sean, Dima, Cecelia, Wildsouthland, Chris

Descending Copter Ridge

Taking in the "Wow" Along Copter Ridge

Terminus of Copter Ridge

Dropping Down
Looking Back Up - This is the Steepest Part of the Ridge

Flat Area Along the Rige

Final Descent

Sean and Cecelia

No Room With a View

Baldy from the End of Copter Ridge

Having Lunch and Conversation

The Climb Back Out. This is Where we Cached Water on the Descent

Chris and Dima Looking Relaxed on the Ridge

Back on Hawkins - Clouds Still Hanging Around

Airplane Views

Parting Shot


  1. Nice report and pics. We should look forward to birthdays. They remind us that we've survived yet another year.

  2. Neil Young wrote "Old Man" for the foreman of a ranch he once bought.

    1. Yep. From

      Young wrote this about the caretaker of the ranch he bought in 1970. The song compares a young man's life to an old man's and shows that the old man was once like this young man.

      The caretaker of the that cattle ranch? His name was Louis Avila. The ranch was the Broken Arrow Ranch, purchased for $350,000 in 1970 (just think about those real estate prices compared to now!). Reportedly, Avila was giving Young a tour of the place and asked him how a young man like him could afford a place like this. Young, aged 25, replied "Just lucky, Louie, just real lucky." Avila was quite bemused.

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