Distance: 4.5 miles round trip on dirt road
Summit Elevation: 3400'
Elevation Gain: 1214'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.97
Round trip time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Recommended water: 32 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free at Mt. Baldy Road turnout (outside Angeles National Forest)
This was a backup hike, replacing the Mt. Zion loop that my friends and I had planned. The Glendora fire on 1/16/2014 changed that, closing Bailey Canyon, Chantry Flats Road, and Mt. Wilson Trail. The fire was started, allegedly an accident, by three men who had an illegal campfire. It quickly consumed 1700 acres of national forest and burned 5 homes, but caused no major injuries. After a day, it was only 30% contained, so we turned our sights east.
Potato Mountain is more of a beginner hike, but it would allow me to cross it off the Lower Peaks list. This is always a popular hike, even on weekdays, and today was no different. There were half a dozen cars parked at the trailhead off Mt. Baldy Road and several parties on the Palmer-Evey Motorway. It was 78F at the trailhead and no need for any layers. There was not much to see along the first part of the hike except parts of Sunset ridge. However, when we made the left turn toward the summit, Claremont, San Dimas, Upland, and Rancho Cucamonga opened up to the south. The summit views were surprisingly nice, with massive Ontario, Baldy, and Cucamonga Peaks looming to the north. There were already a few groups of hikers resting on the cement water storage tank owned by the LAFD. Someone apparently painted a misspelled Dan Quayle version of potato on the tank: POTATOE. After taking a few shots and some idle banter with the other hikers, we headed down. Looking over the edge of the road, Noel spotted a couple of deer, perhaps looking for water. The deer were a nice bonus.
The second part of our hike was supposed to be Sunset Peak, but the Glendora fire smashed those plans as well, with Glendora Ridge Road gated. This was the second time in 6 months this road had been closed on me when I needed it. Not cool. We debated what to do and decided to head up into Falling Rock Canyon as far as Rod and Noel wanted to go. We parked at Ice House Canyon and it was much cooler. My fancy new thermometer read 60F. We headed up the canyon and veered right into Falling Rock Canyon. After scrambling to the left of the first dry waterfall, we continued about half way up the canyon. Noel was ready to call it a day at that point, so we headed back, having taken some nice photos in the canyon.