Location of Hike: Old Baldy Trail
Trail Number: 502
Weather during Hike: Sunny
Hiking Buddies: Bodie (my dog)
Start Time: 9:40 AM End Time: 2:45 PM
Hike Distance: 8 miles
OK, on to the hike description. Originally, I had intended to start at Twin Springs and hike west, but after thinking about it, I realized I could start from the point where Old Baldy hits the 4614 road and it would be much closer to town and I wouldn’t have to drive that awful Abbot road! So, the revised plan was to start there, very near where the Eagle Creek cutoff trail intersects, and go east to the end of the trail.
This was to be a relatively easy hike for me, as my knee was still recovering from the Eagle Cap backpacking trip with my daughter. I didn’t want to push my knee too much, but knew it would be good to exercise it a bit. This didn’t look like too much elevation or mileage so it seemed like a good hike for that. If my knee felt OK, I planned to go up to Squaw/Tumala Mountain and down to Squaw/Tumala Meadows as well.
I was a little concerned early in the trip – my knee was bothering me quite a bit. I was thinking I wouldn’t be able to complete the trip, but after about a mile or so, my knee loosened up and felt fine. I decided to go straight thru to the end first, not doing the potential side trips, just in case my knee got sore. If things went well, I could do the side trips on the way back. The beginning of the trip was pretty non eventful – this trail is very much “old school” – not a lot of switchbacks. Many areas go straight uphill and straight downhill.
We passed the confusing junction to Squaw/Tumala mountain (the trail takes a hard left turn – straight takes you to the old lookout), and continued down the switchbacks and east on the trail. A little farther down the trail we met a hunter who had just come down from on the ridge and was looking for the trail down to Tumala/Squaw meadows. I told him that I hadn’t been on the trail before, but there was supposed to be a side trail down to the meadows, and I hadn’t seen it yet, so I assumed it must be farther down the trail. Turns out I was correct – a little farther down the trail was a rough side trail which went downhill and went down to the meadows. A side note – I hadn’t realized that this day was the opening day of (deer?) hunting season – there were LOTS of hunters around, and I hadn’t worn bright colored anything – all I had was my red bandanna. OOPS!
Shortly after we passed the side trail down to the meadows, we came to a rockslide which had a great view of the basin.
We stopped there for a while, took a break, had some water and food and I looked at maps, etc to see what peaks were around. It is a GREAT viewpoint and interesting to see all the little meadows and lakes.
After spending a while on the rockslide, we continued east on the trail to the end at Twin Springs. We saw some VW campers there (Bob?), but were in a hurry to get back, so just turned around and headed back up the trail. When we got to the side trail down to the meadows, my knees were feeling pretty good, so decided to head down the trail to the meadows, and explore what was down there. The trail heading down is good in places, and rather faint in others. We had to pay close attention so we didn’t lose the trail on the way down. (We did end up losing the trail a couple of times on the way back up – it was easier to follow down than up).
Once down the hill, we went out into the meadow, however it was still rather soft, even with all the dry weather. I can’t imagine trying to go through these meadows in the spring!
Since the meadows were so soft, we decided to go back to a flat spot a little higher up in the trees to have lunch. We ate and then decided to see if we could see any remnants of the road that showed up on the south side of the meadow. We went towards where the road shows on the maps, however the brush was just too thick. I didn’t want to risk messing up my knee, so we turned around. I’m not sure how they got a road in there, seeing how soft that soil is. Maybe on the other side it was firmer. So, we turned around and headed back up the hill, and back to the main trail. When we got to the junction up to the old lookout site, my knee was still feeling OK, so we took that side route and went up to the old lookout site. One surprising thing we found – a “new” (relatively) radio antenna of some sort below the lookout site – right in front of what looks like used to be a garage for the lookout. I’m guessing it must be for the forest service radios or something. It was quite a project to get that into place! Looks like they might have brought a truck up the old road to get the building there.
We spent a little time at the lookout site, enjoying the view, however the mountains were hiding behind the clouds. The rest of the view was pretty good, though – not too much smoke.
After a short break at the old lookout site, we headed back down the trail and back to the truck. The mileage total for the day was more than I had expected. It ended up being over 8 miles! My knees did OK, and I was able to complete this milestone! The hike was pretty peaceful, except for the few gunshots that I heard in the distance (from the hunters), saw no one else except for the lone hunter, and the weather was just about perfect – not too hot, not too cold. What a great day to be in the woods!