Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Mt. Wilson Trail (Continuing To Orchard Camp)

(GPS: N 34° 11.930 W 118° 03.230)

Continuing from where I left off last time...

After being out in the open until First Water, one starts to encounter a little more tree cover for the middle part of the hike. If the hot sun is out then this is the part that it starts to get nice to get away from it.
Around the half-way point I encountered what is known as Orchard Camp. The following pictures are not that good, but I hope they give you a sense of what is going on at this historic site. Along the way some of the water stream drainage that one encounters is down below. So, there is about a 25 ft. drop here from where I was standing.
Then just to my left was this tree and what looks like the foundations to something.
When the Wilson Trail was being created there was a place built here known as the Halfway House. It was a construction camp made not only for creating and maintaining the trail, but for collecting tree wood from the mountain and brought back down. The Mt. Wilson trail was created with the intention that it would be a source for lumber. Later on two men, George Aiken and George Islip, planted a bunch of chestnut and fruit trees here. This is why it then became known as Orchard Camp. It was around 1890 that the buildings here were turned into a trail resort. It was very popular and, as author John Robinson notes (I link the book below), at the highpoint of 1911 over 40,000 people signed the register here. By 1940 the camp was abandoned.
Apparently, flooding from later years destroyed the buildings that were here and all that you can see these days is the foundations to them.
Since this was not my final goal, I did not spend much time here, but even today looks like it would make a nice picnic area for someone. There are those who do come to this point, eat some snacks, and then turn around. The trail switchbacks with the short U-turn as you go by Orchard Camp.
More switchbacks, more elevation, and continuing back into the canyon I finally noticed the light of the sun. I still had a lot of tree cover, but I was clearly past the elevation the clouds were covering that morning. What I had been told by a friend is that by this point of the hike you know you are very close to Manzanita Ridge when you encounter the huge boulder in the middle of the trail.
What looked to me like part of humanoid face actually took a little work to get around. You definitely want to cross over it to continue on with the trail. It is around this point that the views of the canyon start to open up and the tree cover ends.

The Mt. Wilson Trail (Youtube Version)

The Mt. Wilson Trail (Vimeo Version)

John Robinson's Orchard Camp section in Trails of the Angeles

Some old historic pictures of Orchard Camp. These are fun to look at since the area does not seem as overgrown as it does these days. It is hard to imagine sunlight hitting the area that I went to.