This is one of the quietest of the Chantry Flats hikes to be had. While out repairing the Big Santa Anita Canyon’s crank telephone line, I decided to hike over the Mt. Zion Trail from Sturtevant Camp to Hoegees, down in the Winter Creek. Although the day was hot and muggy, the views were sharp and clear. Passing along this north side of Mt. Zion, I’m always amazed at how big the trees are. Canyon live oak, laurel bay and big cone spruce abound in these quiet side canyons. As you climb up toward Mt Zion’s saddle, at an elevation of 3,500′, views toward the back country begin to open up. The San Gabriel Wilderness’ labyrinth of twisting canyons is visible to the north and east, with the horizon bounded by the summits of Mt. Waterman and Twin Peaks.
Here and there, you can still make out the remnants of a long-abandoned crank telephone line that once spanned Mt. Zion. This line connected Sturtevant’s and Hoegee’s Camps back during the Great Hiking Era, circa: 1890′s – 1920′s. The oxidized copper wire that you may have noticed on your Chantry Flats hike is still in use today. Crank telephones connect the Adams Pack Station with emergency call boxes dotted here and there along the trails. There’s more on this antique phone system and how it works in another one of my earlier blogs.
Continuing up the trail toward the Mt. Zion saddle, at 3,500′ elevation, the foliage turns to chaparral plants. Manzanita, sumac, chamise and buck brush (wild lilac) begin to make their presence. Shade becomes less and less frequent as the descent toward the Winter Creek begins. Switchbacks steeply descend down the south side of the mountain, with constant views out toward Monrovia Peak, the San Gabriel Valley, Chantry Flats, Manzanita Ridge and even Mt. Harvard with its’ boxy, metallic communications building straddling the summit.
Near the bottom of the descent, oaks and even white alders begin to grace the trail. The shade and damp coolness make a comeback, the heat letting up. Heart breaking gold light gathers under the canopy as I approach the Lower Winter Creektrail junction. Good times.