Friday, December 13, 2013

Stoddard Peak, Frankish Peak, Spring Hill

Hiked: 12/13/2013
Distance: 14.2 miles round trip on dirt road, use trail, and cross country
Summit Elevation: 4627' (Stoddard), 4201' (Frankish), 4056' (Spring Hill)
Prominence: 678' (Frankish)
Elevation Gain: 2794'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 2.23
Round trip time: 6 hours 20 minutes
Recommended water: 96 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass (not sure if needed)
Difficulty: Moderate

I planned to hike a couple of lower peak list targets for my first trip to the San Gabriel Mountains in a couple of months. Stoddard looms over the right side of Mt. Baldy road before you get to the village, while Frankish is a little deeper into the foothills. An optional bonus was Spring Hill, something I spotted on the GPS about 0.3 miles off the road, but not on any list. The trail starts on Barrett-Stoddard dirt road, heading east past some houses and cabins, then south the rest of the way. This hike put me over 500 trail miles for the year, a milestone I am unlikely to best due to increasing work demands next year.

It was 38F when I started at sunrise. There are a couple of easy stream crossings along the road at the beginning. Barrett-Stoddard road continues past a locked gate beyond the cabins. About a mile up the road, I was startled by a mule deer buck that came bounding around a corner. He was there for less than a second before darting down into the canyon and out of view. I don't know how lions catch them except by surprise. Soon, I was at Stoddard Flat and spotted the obvious use trail. There are a couple of false summits along the way before getting to Stoddard Peak. I signed the register and leafed through it. I didn't recognize any names, but it appears to be popular by the number of entries. I couldn't find a benchmark, so went back to the road and continued south toward Frankish.


Alice in Wonderland house


Use trail to Stoddard Peak


Final approach to Stoddard Peak


Stoddard Peak marker

Since I started early, most of the road was in the shadow of Ontario Ridge, making it cold. In a few more miles, the road became overgrown and shrunk to a single track. It also lost elevation continuously from Stoddard Flat to the base of Frankish. There was a cairn marking the use trail up Frankish. The use trail eventually merges with another dirt road that winds around Frankish. That road leads to the top, but I took a steep firebreak that was more direct. I didn't need to use my hands, but the firebreak got my blood pumping. The register for Frankish is on the highest bump, but the GPS showed the peak was another 0.2 miles on what looked like a lower bump. I signed the register, then continued on to the other bump, but found nothing there. I couldn't find a benchmark for Frankish on either bump. I stopped for a break and a Vanilla-Orange GU. Then, went down the way I came up.


Bear tracks on the road


Broken gate near Frankish, buried in dirt


Looking down the firebreak from Frankish Peak


Hazy view of the Inland Empire from Frankish Peak


Panorama of Ontario and Cucamonga from Frankish Peak

When I returned back to Stoddard Flat, I started looking for a way to Spring Hill, which was still a half mile back toward the car. Near a burned tree, I saw what looked like a faint use trail. Exploring a little, the trail went around and over other burned trees, down to some large boulders in a gully, then up the other side. I was surprised to find a metal pole with what looked like a tin foil flag, and an unusual LA County benchmark. After looking at it, it apparently marks the boundary between LA County and San Bernardino County. It was a lucky Friday the 13th after all. The peak of Spring Hill was still almost 0.2 miles away and I was energized about finding something. The use trail faded and I followed animal trails until those faded, and the last 200 feet was just nasty bushwhacking. I was disappointed to get to the small summit clearing and find a steaming cup of jack squat. The views were nothing special. It was not worth the effort. By the time I got back to the road, Spring Hill turned out to be about a 30 minute diversion. The sun had warmed things up and it was 58F when I got back to the car.


Use trail to Spring Hill starts just left of this burned tree, Spring Hill in the background


Benchmark and pole with shiny flag on the way to Spring Hill


The benchmark shows the boundary between LA and San Bernardino Counties


The disappointing Spring Hill summit




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