Peak(s):  San Antonio - 10064
Mt. Harwood - 9552
Thunder Mountain - 8587
Telegraph Peak - 8985
Bighorn Mountain - 8441
Date Posted:  10/01/2010
Date Climbed:   09/28/2010
Author:  Floyd
 Mtn. Lion Encounter in California   

23 miles / 7,900 feet of gain
Mt. San Antonio ("Old Baldy") - 10,064
Mt. Harwood - 9,552
Telegraph Peak - 8,895
Thunder Mountain - 8,857
Bighorn Peak - 8,441
Timber Hill - 8,303

I had posted on this site a while back on some suggestions in the LA area. Thanks to those that replied, I had a good starting point to do some research. I had a meeting the morning of 9/28 and I wasn't sure how long it would last. I had a half-dozen or so possibilities, ranging in time, but my first choice was to check out sunset from atop Baldy, it was just a question of how much I would be able to do beforehand. When the meeting let out very early, I decided to go with a biggie.

I got to the Icehouse Canyon Trailhead at 11:30 am. I chose this route to add on the "Three T's" as well as get a break from the record setting heat in the area. The shade and moving water would be a great respite from the 100+ temps in town. (A lady died of a heat stroke in West Hollywood the day prior when she was out in 117 degree heat.) I made pretty good time up the relatively crowded trail and besides some steep switchbacks between miles 2 and 3, it was easy going. I wanted to average 2 miles an hour, but, much to my surprise, I put down the 3.6 miles/2,660 feet to the Icehouse Saddle in an hour and 10 minutes. Since I had a little extra time on my hands, I decided to check out Bighorn Mountain to the south of the saddle as well.

Mining House - Icehouse Canyon

Typcial Scenery in the Canyon

Cool looking rock

From the saddle, I made my way straight up an incredibly steep ridge covered in loose gravel and pine needles. Thankfully, all ended quickly and I was on top in about 20 minutes. For a "little" 8er, this peak had plenty of views - up the valley towards Baldy and then down across the San Bernardino Valley. Imagine Bear Peak, but drop Boulder's elevation by 3,000 feet - unfortunately, my camera didn't do that part justice.

San Antonio from Bighorn's summit

Timber (front right) with Telegraph Behind (from Boghorn)

Ontario from Bighorn (if I only had another hour)

Cucamonga from Bighorn (if I only had another couple of hours)

I was back to the saddle by 1:30 and now I was on to the "Three T's". First up was Timber Hill. This guy was pretty uneventful and since the summit was treed, the only thing to look forward to was the nice sign post informing of your arrival. The hike over to Telegraph looked promising so I didn't spend much time there.

Timber Hill Summit

Twisted Log on Timber Summit

A small .25 mile spur trail takes you from the "Three Ts" trail over to the summit of Telegraph. Here I would take my first real break of the day, as I sat and soaked in the views of the desert to the east for about 20 minutes and put down some much needed food. I quickly set off for Thunder, who's summit is literally covered with the stop of a ski lift. This was pretty much a walk over for me and made my way down to "Baldy Notch" - the actual ski resort. Here I could have bailed down the service road back to the car, but I had some gas left and my deadline to reach this point was 4:30. A look at my watch said 4:25 so on I went. As I ascended the road toward the Devil's Backbone, I came across some rangers in a pickup. I probably looked worse than I felt as they questioned me about my plans. After hearing them, they questioned my sanity. But, they did have a cooler full of Gatorade so I definitely appreciated the conversation. I filled my pack with enough bottles to get my $5 fee back and ascended to the Backbone. The ranger at the station described this as a "knife edge" - not so much. It was a nice hike though and ascended Harwood on my way over to Baldy. (The trail skirts the summit a little though.) I figured sunset was at 6:45 so I wanted to be on Baldy by 6:30. At 6:20, I topped out, incredibly happy to be done climbing for the day.

Timber (foreground), Bighorn (right), Cucamonga (back) from Telegraph

Bighorn/OntarIo Ridge

Pinecone with, what I assume are, sugar deposits from the sap

San Bernardino Valley from Telegraph

East to the Desert from Telegraph

Baldy from Telegraph - Thunder foreground

Telegraph from Thunder

Devil's Backbone (not quite a "Knife Edge")

Looing back on Devil's Backbone - a little exposure anyways

Lizard along the trail

From Harwood - Telegraph has steep face, Ontario back right

Baldy's northern neighbors - Douglas/Pine. Again, just needed a little more time.

Baldy summit plaque



Sunset - West Baldy (NR) in foreground

Looking out over East LA suburbs

After enjoying the sunset, I made my way down the Baldy Bowl route. This thing is STEEP. I lost the trail a few times, but luckily my map reading skills are much improved and I managed to find it again when I needed it. After clearing through the difficult portions I thought I was home free so I started to jog the lower portions - that's when things got very interesting. First, my headlamp just caught a little glimpse of a spider web before I walked through it. One more step and I would have had this guy in my face.

Almost got me.

Then, I sped around a corner to startle some large object about 10 yards off the low side of the trail. I turned my headlamp just in time to catch a glimpse of a very large cat hopping some boulders. He was close enough that my light showed size/color. I'm guessing his body was between 4-5 feet long and probably ~150 pounds. He came to a stop on a rock about 15-20 yards behind me. At this point all I could see was the reflection of his green eyes. (I haven't slept well since as those eyes still haunt me.) It was now a standoff - and since I didn't check my luggage for the trip, I didn't even have my hiking poles to protect me, let alone my knife. I was - shall I say - up a creek... alone, pitch black, essentially defenseless, on a trail I've never been on, and face-to-face with a huge cat (sorry, I was too busy soiling myself to take out my camera). After what felt like 10 minutes (reality, maybe 10 seconds), I figured I would make the first move rather than wait for his. I let out some deep barks, but he didn't seem to care much - he just sat there, with that slow cat blink. Now, I was out of ideas so I reached down, grabbed a rock and he didn't seem to want to mess with any flying objects as he turned and walked away after one warning shot across his bow. I picked up a larger rock (small volleyball) and threw it in that general direction to keep him moving that way and I couldn't get out of there fast enough.

I've never liked hiking alone in the dark and now I was absolutely spooked. I kept hearing rocks being kicked around above me - like I was being followed. I picked up the 2 sharpest rocks I could find and moved as fast as I could with a firm grasp on them. I made the road about 15 minutes later and now all I had was a 4-mile hike on pavement back to the Icehouse TH. I caught the eyes of an big owl in a tree just off the trail which was pretty cool and I would have watched him some more under different circumstances. I then saw another critter walking the other side of the road at Manker Flats. This time, I was pretty sure he was a coyote. Not terribly concerned, I just kept my eye on him, but then he turned and started trotting towards me! At this point, I had enough of the local wildlife. There are some cabins/camping in the area so I didn't let a rock fly just in case it was someone's dog but I was pretty sure this was a coyote. He finally stopped about 25 yards away from me and I just walked backwards with my light on him until he was out of sight.

I finally made it back to the car at 9:45, totally exhausted, and I finally dropped my rocks. If you're in southern CA at this time of night, tired, and starving, there is only one place to go. I high-tailed it to the nearest In-and-Out Burger and had my fill of beef/grease. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my first exposure to California hiking/mountains. I need to get to the big guys sooner or later. At the very least, maybe the local inhabitants there will be a little less threatening. Thanks for reading.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
10/02/2010 07:08
I was in that area on San Gorgonio last Spring and felt like I was being stalked on the way out. I just had that feeling.

Ya Gotta watch out for the hungry lions. They scare me more than anything else in the west. Grizzlies don't really scare me too much cause if I'm going to those zones I'm packing, that should get some people mad.

Nice Report
10/02/2010 15:09
Sounds like quite a hike, even without the added wildlife encounters. So, did you straddle that knife edge?

10/02/2010 16:59
A long, hard and hot day. Must have been fun. The knife edge is really just that; in winter. My old stomping grounds.

Brian C
10/02/2010 22:23
I was followed by a lion down Estes Cone after dark once and still remember how much it freaked me out. Quite an experience! Nice report. This will be a hike you won't forget!

Thanks For All The Replies
10/03/2010 03:51
I too was in the camp of ”Wouldn't that be cool...” I just assume not see another now (unless I'm in a car or at the zoo). Let's just say that I didn't need the ”butt scoot” that some choose for Cap's Knife.

Chicago Transplant
Creepy Lions
10/04/2010 16:33
Yeah, cats are pretty scary. I was solo snowshoeing last Feb and saw cat tracks in my snowshoe track when I was coming back down. They were going down, so at least it didn't follow me up the hill, but I was worried about catching up to it so I spend the whole rest of the hike banging my poles together and feeling very creeped out. Was very happy to be back at the car!

I can't even imagine...
10/07/2010 05:11
Although I haven't had a face-to-face encounter, I'd have to agree with mtgirl. When the sun drops below the horizon and I'm hiking solo, my awareness increases big time. I had a similar awareness of White Sharks when I would scuba off the coast of So Cal. The cold fact is both lions and sharks eat people. Not everyone, but some. And I can't imagine how intense being put into that game would feel.

Now on a more personal note - I have one helluva craving for taquitos and quacamole from Pepes on Azusa Blvd, which isn't that far from the In-N-Out on Azusa Blvd. Two of my favorites things.

Thanks for the report. I climbed Baldy back in April, your report was a pleasant reminder (minus the lion part).

11/30/2010 17:28
I had a mountain lion encounter a few years back here in Colorado. Scared the CRAP out of me. For those folks who have never been up close and personal with one and say "wow, it would be so cool to see one" - have no idea what they're talking about. Nothing cool about it....unless you like being lunch. Cool to see from a distance in the safety of your vehicle maybe.

San Juan Ron
Awesome Report
02/05/2011 00:22
I have hiked all of those peaks several times -- Baldy and the Devil's Backbone are favorites -- and, fortunately, haven't had the mountain lion encounter. I have encountered bobcats several times, but never a lion. After the attack in OC a few years ago by a lion on a couple of bicyclists (one fatal), just the sight of a lion can be terrifying. Awesome report. SJ Ron

brings back memories
12/16/2013 12:35
I attended Pomona College in Claremont and looked up at Old Baldy frequently (or at least when I could see it through the smog ). I climbed it twice, but I probably enjoyed the bike ride from the campus up to Baldy village more. Thanks for the report, it brought back some memories. -- D'Arcy

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