An unexpected meeting at the best real estate in Southern California.
I was strongly impelled to hike today. Even after rolling out of bed early and driving through the rain towards the mountains, I was consumed with a strong desire to hike. I’m officially addicted to the outdoors!
Another good reason to be outdoors was that it was National Get Outdoors Day. This annual event started two years ago by The American Recreation Coalition and is designed to motivate children to put down their cell phones and video games and to explore the world outside. Being the big kid that I am, I was happy to oblige.
My first hike of the day would be to the Vetter Mountain Lookout. I briefly read about this hike in the book Trails of the Angeles: 100 Hikes in the San Gabriels by John W. Robinson, but seemed to miss the fact that the lookout isn’t just a mountain peak, but also a Forestry Service fire lookout tower! I hiked up the fire road and arrived at the tower to the warm welcome of the two volunteer staff. Volunteer Ken showed me around the 14×14 foot single-room building – nicknamed “the cab.” Although it only takes a second or two to see everything in the room, I could have spent an hour looking at all the framed historic photos, topographical maps, and fire-spotting tools that the tower is equipped with. (Check out the video below for a tour of the lookout tower.) The view out of the large windows of the tower is one worth the time to gaze out at. So I’m told. The clouds hung low for most of the morning, dunking the mountain in a thick fog.
After a half hour at the tower talking to volunteer Ken, I headed back. This time, I would take the Vetter Mountain Trail instead of the fire road I took to get here, looping around back through Charlton Flats. Some websites and books list this hike at about 1.6 miles RT, but with the gate locked, it’s at least 2 miles RT via the shortest route (Wolf Tree Nature Trail).
What I learned on the hike:
- Apparently, the Charlton Flats gate has been locked for a good portion of the last few years.
- Taking the fire road up and the trail back doubles the length of the hike from the parking lot to the lookout tower.
- Some mountain bikers don’t seem to care that hikers have the right of way. I find it irresponsible for bikers to go 20mph down a hiking trail and expect the hikers to watch were they are riding.
- Interested in becoming a volunteer Fire Lookout? Check out the Angeles National Forest Fire Lookout Association
- Volunteer Ken would like to spread the word about his friend’s quest to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Here’s his blog.
- Date of hike: June 13th, 2009
- Location: Charlton Flats – Angeles National Forest, California
- Length: 4.4 miles
- Duration: 3 hours, 7 minutes
- Average speed: ±1.4 mph (more like 2.3 mph)
- Altitude at start: 5,381 feet
- Altitude min.max: 5,311/5,917 feet
This map was made with the data my GPS captured on the hike.
For a more detailed trip report map, check this out or click on the map.