Sawmill Mountain & Mt. Pinos

After climbing Mt. Baden-Powell, I set off for my final set of peaks, Mt. Pinos and Sawmill Mountain. The original plan was to car camp at McGill Campground about two miles from the trailhead, wake up early, get these peaks, then make back to San Diego for a graduation party. Unfortunately, I missed some fine print on the reservation and no longer had a spot. Since my legs still felt good and I wasn’t in any real hurry, I decided to see if I could make the 7.5 mile round trip out to Sawmill. The parking lot was almost empty when I pulled in. I changed into a fresh shirt, made sure that I had refilled my water bladder and set off to the first peak, Mt. Pinos. While the temperatures were in the mid-70s, a light breeze and shade of the trees made for some nice hiking weather.

A few clouds dotted the sky, giving my photos some nice texture. Soon the summit of Mt. Pinos came into view, and I walked over and found the summit sign. After snapping a few photos, I set off toward the Tumamait trailhead and the “hard” part of the hike. From here, the trail loses about 400 feet of elevation to almost immediately gain it again. I took my time and plodded along, much like the climbs earlier in the day. Soon the turnoff to Sawmill appeared, and a short 2/10 mile later the large rock cairn stood before me. I grabbed the summit sign and snapped a few photos. For many, they will continue onto Grouse Mountain to the west to complete the 3-2-1 challenge, but this time I had no desire to tack on another couple of miles. 

I started heading back down toward the saddle for that climb back up. Surprisingly, it went fairly well. I have to think the past few days at something besides sea level might have helped. Soon I was back at the Mt. Pinos Condor Observation Site and had just about 1.7 miles back to the car. Thankfully it was almost all downhill. 

Once back at the car, I took a moment to reflect on the past three days. I had put in some serious miles and elevation gain. I grabbed some cold sodas and a sandwich from the market then began the drive home. Thankfully the traffic wasn’t too bad and I was home before 10 pm. 

The final stats for these summits was 7.3 miles in 3:17 with 1,430 feet of gain.


I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea-kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

Baden-Powell (via Dawson’s Saddle)

The drive from Palm Springs to Wrightwood was uneventful. I decided to grab lunch along the way in Cazabon and refuel the Outback. After the mid-70s atop San Jacinto, the 100+ temps on the desert floor felt awful. The next peak on my adventure was Baden-Powell. Originally when I planned the adventure, I had hoped to hike out to the Big Horn Mine in the afternoon, but this heat wave we were having scuttled that idea. That hike is south-facing and without a lot of shade. I checked into my campsite at Table Mountain and then drove the 10 minutes back into Wrightwood to hit the market. I grabbed some soda, a couple of beers, and a bag of ice. Back at the campsite, I unpacked the backpack and the slack-pack and then reassembled my daypack. Soon I could feel my stomach being to grumble and headed again back into Wrightwood for dinner. After a nice Carne Asada burrito plate, I drove back to finish setting up for the night. Last year, I bought a custom air mattress for the Outback from Luno. In about 5 minutes, I had all the parts inflated and ready. The camp host stopped by and we chatted a bit. He said tonight the campground was mostly empty, but tomorrow it would be packed. I gathered some of the downed wood and enjoyed a small campfire as night fell. I crawled into the back of the Outback and listened to an audiobook for a while before drifting off to sleep. 

I woke again before dawn. I can see why they sell window covers, but I had a long day of hiking ahead of me and it was going to be warm, so I did not mind. I made my breakfast, this time some biscuits and gravy from Mountain House. If the temperatures had been milder, I might have considered breakfast in town. I deflated the mattress, relocated my other items, and set off toward Dawson’s Saddle. I had climbed Baden-Powell twice before, each time via the Vincent Gap trailhead and the infamous switchbacks. But this time, I decided to approach it from the other route. I passed the parking lot at Vincent Gap and there were about 5 cars parked there. 

Finding the parking area for Dawson’s Saddle was fairly easy, I just had to look for the CalTrans shed and park to the side. The full plan for the day was to hike from the saddle to Throop Peak, then continue along the ridge east to Mount Burnham and then Baden-Powell. I grabbed my gear and crossed over the Angeles Crest Highway to the trail. This first section of the trail was steep, and I honestly began to reconsider just doing the switchbacks. I knew though, that after a short portion of this, the trail would mellow out. As I gained the ridge that I would follow toward Throop, I was rewarded with some great views to the west, as well as some nice views to the south, including Throop Peak. The trail certainly became much more reasonable as I continued to climb. After about 1.5 miles, the trail splits. To the left is a connector trail that joins the Pacific Crest Trail or you can stay heading south to climb up to the summit of Throop Peak. I missed the junction, but since the trail made a turn to the east, I stopped and checked my route. I was just a bit off, so I did a quick U-turn, followed by some short cross-country hiking, and found the trail. I had about 4/10 mile to gain about 450 feet. I paced myself as I worked up toward the summit. I had a long day ahead of me and had a respectable day of hiking the day before. Soon the summit came into view and I spotted the metal plaque and ever-present summit signs. I snapped my photos and soaked in yet another summit vista. Off to the east stood my next two peaks, Mount Burnham and the primary goal, Baden-Powell. Once I was ready, I set off down from the summit to connect with the PCT. 

Once on the PCT, I had about a mile to go before the junction to summit Mount Burnham. From previous trip reports, I knew this approach was also a bit steep. I made the decision to bypass it and continue on to my primary goal of Baden-Powell and summit Burnham on my return. As I continued eastward on the PCT, I would be passed from time to time by actual PCT thru-hikers. We would stop for a bit and chat before each heading our separate ways. The views along the trail were delightful. At times, I could see the high desert to the north, and at other times off toward the Los Angeles basin.

Finally, I came to the junction that would take me up to the summit of Baden-Powell. Again, this is a short but steep climb. I kept my eyes focused on the trail in front of me and plodded upward. Soon, the familiar concrete monument was in front of me. I dropped my pack next to it and wandered over to the summit flag. I snapped a few photos, but I have found that I tend to take less at the summits when I revisit them. This time was no exception. I sat next to the monument to Lord Baden-Powell and enjoyed a well-earned snack. Off to my west, I could see my return route. From this side, the ascent of Mount Burnham looked much more hospitable. Once I was refreshed, I set off back the way I came. Looking back, I should have gone the other way, just to see the Wally Waldron tree before rejoining the PCT. Oh well…

I cruised along the PCT knowing for the most part, I would be descending, but with a few short climbs from time to time just to keep things interesting. I reached the junction to leave the PCT and make the climb up to Mount Burnham. I made my way up the trail, stopping briefly once to photograph Baden-Powell. I really only had to go about 500 feet with just about 100 feet of gain. A bit nicer than 3/10 mile and over 300 feet of gain. At the summit, a small rock cairn had been constructed, and the summit sign was placed next to it. I found a register and signed it. After a few photos, I set off down the other side. As I made my way down back toward the PCT, I was validated by my choice to do this peak upon my return. 

The trail would continue on, treating me to more views along the way. Soon I reached the junction with the side trail that avoided climbing back up Throop Peak. This was that same trail I was briefly on earlier in the day. I had about 2.3 miles mostly descending back toward Dawson’s Saddle. From time to time, I would see the burned slopes of Mount Lewis just to the north of where I was parked. That area burned during the Bobcat fire back in 2020. Along the way, I passed a group of four hikers heading out for Baden-Powell, I wished them well and continued on. Once safely down that short steep section, I again crossed the highway to my car. I really enjoyed the climb to Baden-Powell this way. While it had some moments, it felt less of a challenge and more of a hike. I would like to come back and explore some of the other peaks in the area. After changing out of the hiking clothes and a quick rinse, I headed down to the high desert and over toward Frazier Park and what was to be my next set of peaks; Mt. Pinos and Sawmill Mountain. The final stats for this hike were 8.5 miles, in 4:46 with 2,640 feet of gain.


I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea-kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

Backpacking San Jacinto

Earlier this year, Jeff Hester, the founder of the Six-Pack of Peaks Challenges, asked if I would be interested in joining a group to scout out a new set of peaks for a New Mexico based Challenge. I immediately said yes! However, New Mexico had to close all its National Forests, as several wildfires were raging across the state. That meant we would have to postpone the trip, possibly to Fall. Since I had the time off, I decided to turn my focus to either working on the SoCal Six-Pack, or the Arizona Summer Six-Pack. In the end, the SoCal trip won. One of the biggest pains of the SoCal is all the driving to and from San Diego, but by turning it into more of a camping road trip, it would take some of the sting out of the effort. Plus, this would let me have an adventure! The first peak on the list was San Jacinto, but instead of hiking up via Devil’s Slide or the Marion Mountain route, I would do this peak as an overnight trip. I sent away for my overnight permit (yes, you still have to apply for the permit via the mail). Once I received my permit, I secured campgrounds near the other two peaks I wanted to climb, Baden-Powell and Sawmill. This trip was going to be a blend of backpacking and car camping, so I had an interesting collection of gear in the back of my trusty Outback. With everything loaded, I set off for Palm Springs and the Aerial Tram.

Day 1: Mountain Station to Round Valley

The first day was actually going to be pretty mild. I parked my car in the overnight lot at the tram station and grabbed my gear. While I had a reserved ticket for 2 pm, I was there a bit early. There was room on the tram, so I headed up away from the heat of the desert. After my 12-minute ride, I headed to the ranger station to check-in. The ranger went over the basic rules and showed me how the campsite actually worked. I must admit, in planning this portion of the trip I did not really understand the layout of the Round Valley campground. Along the trail, there are posts, each marked with an R and a number. These serve as junction markers to trails that lead back to the various campgrounds, which are all named. He told me to avoid R1-R4 as they are just off the main trail to the peak. Since there were some winds forecasted for the evening, he also suggested not staying at Upper Chinquapin. Now that I understood the campground, and carrying a much better map that came with my permit, I set off. 

The temperatures were in the mid-70s, but the light breeze and the shade made for a pleasant time. Since I was early, I debated heading to the campsite, dropping my gear, and heading up to the summit, but I knew I had several more days of hiking ahead of me and did not need to rush. Once at Round Valley, I began to explore some of the options to set up camp. In the end, I picked Buckthorn, as there was a spot sheltered by some boulders which could offer some additional protection from the wind. I walked back down to the Seasonal Ranger station and marked on the map that I had taken Buckthorn for the evening, then went over to the faucet to filter water. 

As evening came, I made my dinner and enjoyed a nice beer I carried up. Since I had to only cover just over 2 miles with an elevation gain of about 800 feet, I was willing to have the extra weight for a nice Victory at Sea from Ballast Point. A quarter moon hung in the sky as I crawled into my tent and drifted to sleep.

Day 2: Round Valley to Summit

I woke just before dawn, and the forecasted winds never seemed to come. I had my oatmeal and a couple of cups of coffee while I broke down camp. My plan was to stash my backpack, while I slack-packed up to the summit. I found a nice nook near the ranger station and set off up the trail toward Wellman Divide. Since the first tram up wasn’t until 10 am, I doubted I would see anyone for quite a while. I felt great as I made the climb up from Round Valley. I suspect that spending the night at 9,100 feet helped my body get a bit more used to the altitude. I reached Wellman Divide still feeling great. I stopped for a bit to grab some photos before continuing upward.

The trail was familiar, as this was the third time I had covered this portion of the route. Unlike last time, where I had been feeling the climb, this time I just kept cruising along. I reached the turn near Miller Peak and kept trucking along, knowing I was almost there. I came to the junction with the trail that connects up from Little Round Valley. If I was going to see anyone this early, it would be anyone who might have camped there. Although I suspect, if they had camped there, they might have tried for a sunrise summit. There was a tiny patch of snow nearby, and I wondered how much longer it would last?  

I set off for the final 3/10 mile to the summit. I briefly stopped at the Rescue Hut but was starting to run low on energy. Since I had a short scramble to the top, I pushed on. Someone had spray-painted blue arrows to help guide you up the rocks. I could not recall seeing this the last time. 

Once at the summit, I stood alone. I snapped my photos, enjoying not having to wait for others. I then found a nice spot to take my well-earned break. With a little bit of food in me, I was feeling great again. I took in the views some more, then headed back down the trail. As I neared the turn near Miller Peak, I decided to hike over and check it out. I got close to the true summit, but it would have been a bit of a scramble to the top and I just did not feel like doing it. After rejoining the main trail, I cruised back down. I would look at my watch and wonder when I might encounter my first day-hikers. My best guess was just around Round Valley. The return to Round Valley went smoothly, stopping only for photos. 

Once back at Round Valley, I switched back to my backpack, securing my slack-pack to the outside. I thought about transferring my water bladder back into my backpack but figured I had just about 2 miles of downhill ahead of me and I would be fine. Just past the first campsites, I met my first day-hikers. My guess had been correct as to the timing. We chatted a bit, then each went our separate ways. About every 15 minutes or so, I would pass another set of hikers making their way toward the summit. Some seemed a bit more prepared than others. Finally, I reached the ranger station. I checked in with the ranger to let him know I safely returned. As I enjoyed a nice cool drink of water, I listened to him caution a group of hikers about the warm day. Feeling a bit refreshed, I set off on the hardest part of the entire hike, the climb to the actual tram station. I plodded my way up the 120 feet of steep concrete switchbacks. Once there, I bought a cold soda and waited for the next tram down. With one peak down, it was off to drive over to Table Mountain Campground and tackle Baden-Powell via Dawson’s Saddle tomorrow.

Final Stats

Day 1:

Ranger Station to Round Valley: 2.25 miles, 1:17, and 795 feet of gain.

Day 2:

Round Valley – Summit: 5.9 miles, 3:39 (excluding time at the summit), and 1,735 feet of gain 

Round Valley to Ranger Station: 1.9 miles, 1:03, and 795 feet of loss. 


I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea-kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

Sitton Peak

Since I have a busy schedule of hiking adventures planned for the coming month, I wanted to get some longer miles in to build up my fitness. Unfortunately, I did not have time to spend hiking my two remaining peaks on the San Diego Six-Pack of Peaks (Palomar High Point and El Cajon Mountain). So, instead, I turned to work on the SoCal Six-Pack of Peaks list and decided to climb Sitton Peak once again. I arrived at the trailhead just before 6:30 am. One other car was in the parking lot. I grabbed my gear and quickly and carefully crossed the highway.

After signing in at the trailhead, I set off down the trail. I was surprised at the number of wildflowers that still dotted the sides of the trail.

The miles passed quickly, and I soon found myself at the side trail I would take to the summit. Anyone who has done Sitton Peak will tell you most of the hike is fantastic, it is just that last 4/10 mile that is the tough part. I began my climb, remembering my previous times in this section. This time it seemed easier. My footing felt more sure, and the effort was actually a little easier.

As I neared the summit, I could hear voices. The hikers from the other car were sitting on the summit enjoying a well-earned rest. We chatted a bit while I ate my snack and took a few photos. The marine layer covered the coast. I really do need to do this hike on a truly clear day. Since I wanted to be home by lunch, I bid farewell and set off back down. I cruised down the trail, keeping an eye out for any snakes that might be out.

Thankfully, just a handful of lizards enjoying the morning sun. Once back at the trailhead, I stopped at the Candy Store and treated myself to a fresh peanut butter cookie and a cold soda. I had a hiccup with my tracker, but I covered the hike in 3:56, hopefully, that is a good sign for my legs for all the miles they will be seeing in the coming weeks.


I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea-kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

Mt. Baldy

After spending the night in Ontario and seeing my daughter who attends the University of Redlands, I made my way up toward the start of the Climb For Heroes. It was just before 7 am and cars were already parked along the sides of the road as I passed Icehouse Canyon. Yikes! I continued on past Manker Flats and into the parking lot for the ski area. This time I was doing this hike as a member of Team SoCal Hiker, and in fact as one of the group leaders for them. I helped out at the registration table, checking in others and chatting with other Team SoCal’ers. In fact, I finally met Phil Yolo in real life. Finally, the start time was drawing near, so I grabbed my gear from the car. After a few team photos, it was time to start the climb!

I let some of the initial rush head up the trail before heading out myself. The first bit of this climb is a steep section, so I reminded myself not to let the excitement of the event push me to hike faster than I should. Along the route, there are various “camps” we check in at to have our bibs marked and receive our swag tokens.

At the Notch, I took a quick bio-break at the restaurant before continuing up the service road. At the Devil’s Backbone, a small crowd was milling around, so I skipped the photo op with the sign and continued across the ridge. Safety personnel controlled the exposed section to reduce the risk, as well as they fix ropes for those who need a little extra confidence.

I continued pushing onto the summit, enjoying it more this time, but missing my usual hiking buddies. Once I reached High Camp, I took a nice break before the final push to the summit. As I made my way up, we were treated to a flyover from the Condor Squadron.

I continued making my way up, pausing to let my heart rate settle back down. It was here I finally met the “Super Hiking Twins”, Arabella and Matthew. I chatted with their equally impressive parents and the twins some before parting ways.

Finally, the summit came into view! I took my photos at the “Summit Camp” and at the Mt. Baldy plaque. Then I found a nice spot for some lunch and rest. The views were awesome. But soon it was time to head back down.

The descent went smoothly. After grabbing a beer at Camp 3, I continued on down to the Notch. This time I decided to use the chair lift back to the parking lot. With that, my Climb For Heroes was done! Team SoCal hiker raised over $7000 toward The Heroes Project.

THE HEROES PROJECT makes the impossible a reality by empowering our injured community through physical and emotional training, allowing them to explore the farthest reaches of themselves and the world they live in. These expeditions challenge the severely wounded to redefine their personal limits post-injury. The Heroes Project inspires our injured men and women to find purpose, both physically and mentally and ignites others to do the same.


I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea-kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

Strawberry Peak

Strawberry Peak

I needed one more peak to climb to complete the 2021 Six Pack of Peaks SoCal Challenge. While I am planning to climb Mt. Baldy as part of the Climb For Heroes, that hike has already been postponed once due to the forest closure orders. With that hike now slated for Veterans Day Weekend, there is a chance of weather impacting it. Heck, the first time I did CFH, it was delayed due to snow! Although we might be near the end of the fire season, there is always a chance for a repeat. Therefore, I chose Strawberry Peak to ensure my challenge would be completed.

I got to the trailhead around 7:30 am. The sun had risen above the marine layer that covered the LA basin. Unlike the last time I had come to this peak, there was certainly a lot more traffic on the road and cars parked at various spots. Once David Lipsitz (one of my fellow San Diego Hiking Society admins) arrived we grabbed our gear and carefully crossed the road to the trail. 

Some Forest Service workers passed us on their bikes, hauling their gear up the trail to do some maintenance. We continued working our way to the summit. The din of motorcycles and performance cars racing around the road below us took away from some of the enjoyment. Soon, Strawberry Peak came into view. 

From the junction, the trail would begin its steep climb to the summit. I took the lead as we made our way over some minor false summits. Once at the summit, we took a nice break and soaked in the views. It was nice to have completed another challenge. Now, I can focus solely on the Sierra Club 100!

We retraced our route without incident, passing several more hikers making their way to the summit. Unfortunately, my tracker went wonky, but using the time stamps on the photos, we did the hike in 4:13. Given we stopped to chat with some folks a few times along the way, this was not too bad. 


I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea-kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

San Jacinto (via Devil’s Slide)

I wanted to try to cross off another peak on the SoCal Six-Pack of Peaks challenge before my upcoming vacation to see my sister in Arkansas. Of my remaining peaks on the list, several have already been earmarked for other attempts later in the year, so that really only left San Jacinto available right now. Setting my alarm for 3 am, I hit the sack early. The drive up to Idyllwild was uneventful, sans passing what I later learned was a fatal roll-over crash on the southbound I-15. I picked up my permit from the ranger station and drove a bit further to Humber Park. This was going to be my third summit of San Jacinto. My first summit had been done via the Marion Mountain route, and the other time Ted and I had done the traditional route from the tram station. This time I opted to take the Devil’s Slide Trail until it connected with the PCT, then continue on to the summit.