January 31, 2021
Indian Canyon Trailhead to Agua Dulce
3:55 (moving) / 5:08 (total)
+2,320 feet / -2,020 feet
Pacific Crest Trail – Mile 444.2-454.5
Let’s call today’s hike our “rainy day hike”. Well, not exactly, because it didn’t rain however the next section on our PCT quest got snowed out. A winter storm blew in Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday before our Sunday hike. Much deliberation was held and it was decided the snowy conditions on the section of the trail we were supposed to hike would both provide difficulty in reaching the trailheads but also would could be very snowy and perhaps even treacherous so we decided with safety in mind to seek a new trail option.
Leg 6 of Section E was toyed with initially which is a flat 17.3 mile section along the California Aqueduct but it was eventually decided we would do Leg 9 of Section D called Acton to Agua Dulce which is only a 10.3 mile section. I have a co-worker who lives in Santa Clarita and is an active hiker and this section he highly recommended. With a highpoint of only 3,163 ft. it should be free of all snow which the previous day’s storm seemed to blanket the mountains with snow above 5,000 ft. I found this website that looks like it has the weather/road conditions of the Grapevine http://www.frazmtn.com/fmcoc/snowcond.htm
I wasn’t able to devote any time to doing much research into the 10.3 mile hike so I left it up to my new hiking friend OoBrianoo to work out the logistics of trailheads who figured out where we could park at the end of the trail in Agua Dulce. The meeting place would only be 60 miles from home but several hours for OoBrianoo. He suggested meeting at 7 a.m. which he wouldn’t have got any sleep to make it there that early so I suggested since the hike is relatively short for our standards that we could all get to sleep in a little more and agreed to meet at 9 a.m.
Every PCT hike to date was a long drive south of Los Angeles. We always knew where we left off so we would know where to start, but this time starting at a new location too us to unchartered territory. The morning drive from home was traffic free and we made the hour drive and arrived in Agua Dulce exactly on time at 9 a.m. We were greeted with OoBrianoo’s warm smile and a pair of his homemade Octoberfest brews. Right on! He jumped in our vehicle (face masks on) and we headed 8.6 miles away to Indian Canyon Trailhead. We passed a newly burned section of forest on the way and had no problems finding the well marked trailhead with paved parking and a outhouse toilet.
This was Juno’s first time to join me on the PCT which would add a new level of excitement to the hike. He jumped out of the car and was excited as anyone to begin the hike. It was a beautiful winter day in S. California. It had already warmed up to almost 60 degrees. It wasn’t cold enough for me to go with long pants so I was comfortable all day in shorts. It would get a little breezy in parts of the trail especially at the highest point of the hike so a light windbreaker came in handy and I wore all day.
The trail immediately crosses Soledad Canyon Road and we had no problem finding the first PCT marker and were on our way. It has just rained the past few days so we were excited to see a little water in the first creek crossing. We could see a railroad crossing up ahead and could hear a train coming so we decided to pick up the pace and see if we could make it over the tracks before the train arrived. It ends up it was a commuter train and was moving especially slow which gave us ample time to get across the tracks ahead of it. Immediately next to the tracks we located “The Golden Spike Monument”.
The trail immediate started climbing and for the first couple miles continued upward. The open grasslands provided spectacular scenery. Looking back over our shoulders from the top of the ridge we could eventually see parking lot far below and could see all the snow covered mountains of the San Gabriel’s in the backdrop.
One of the amazing things about this section of the PCT is that no matter which way you looked, in every direction there were mountains surrounding us. We ran into our first hikers, it was two met that looked much older than any of us that were also out enjoying the day and were far from the upcoming Vasquez Rocks area so must have been doing a thru hike like us but in the opposite direction. About 4 miles in we were sheltered from the wind and found a few rock to take a short break and have our first snack.
After our short break we climbed to the highest elevation of the day of 3,163ft. It was also the windiest and therefore the coolest part of the hike. Also a great vista with epic views in every direction. From here it was downhill for a while. Once we got low enough we were finally out of the wind again and the fingers that started to get a little cold quickly warmed back up.
We often joke on the PCT just how many people we will run into and already surprised to have a 2nd group of hikes approach us. I think this group was just doing an out and back and probably were close to their turn around point. We also reminisced about the first two hikers we ran into under a bridge at about mile 112 who were searching for turkeys. I’m not sure who was the instigator, but we decided the rest of the day we would ask each new group of hikers if “they saw any turkeys” just to see what kind of reaction we could get.
Before long we caught our first glimpse of Vasquez Rocks on the other side of Hwy14 and knew we must be getting close to a tunnel that would lead us under the road. It didn’t disappoint, it was a long tunnel far beneath the road way above. We often talk about the variety of scenery the trail provides and upon entering Vasquez Rocks we instantly were brought into a new world of rocks surrounding us closely on all sides. A perfect place now about 7 miles into the hike.
We did ask a few more hikers we ran across just past the tunnel if they saw turkeys. We even made it more interesting because we saw them coming and the three of us spread out so they wouldn’t know we were together and each of the three of us asked them separately every couple of seconds as we passed them if they saw turkeys. The reaction was priceless when they said “someone just asked them the same question”. We had a few laughs over our lunch about our interactions with them.
The trail had been pretty try the first 7 miles but with Vasquez Rocks was a small stream with water lively flowing thru. We continued to run into more people exploring the rock formations and also asked them if they had seen turkeys. We only had about 3 miles to the car and the trail which had been single track and easy to follow all day all of sudden became more vast until it was unclear at times where the path went next. There were many markers so every time we found a new marker we knew we were heading the right direction.
We then could see a big parking lot full of cars and lots of people climbing on rocks. This area was way more populated than the area behind we had just had lunch. Also this area was where the trail was hardest to follow. We even broke out the GPS map and had to verify that we were on the trail. It looked as if we were parallel to the trail but then quickly merged back onto the main trail designated in on the map. A final group of hikers was a mother and daughter, obviously the daughter was pooped and taking a break, but that didn’t detour us from asking if they had seen any turkeys. They said they have been coming here all their life and had never seen any, again we got a little chuckle amongst ourselves.
The last mile of the hike brought us back onto an actual road that we followed back to the town of Aqua Dulce. Oobrianoo spotted a coyote and got a short video of it. Before long we were back to the car and celebrated another successful hike. All we had left was our 8.6 mile commute back to our parked car at the beginning of the hike.