Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tumamait Trail, 05/18/13

Ever kick yourself for not having been somewhere? That's how I felt while walking the vista-licious Tumamait Trail last weekend. This route connects Mt Abel/Cerro Noroeste with Mt Pinos and offers brief side excursions to the summits of Sawmill Mountain and Grouse Mountain. A nice high walk in the pines, what could be better?
Lockwood Valley at sunrise
Since this is a ridge walk, there are two directions which this trail can be done from: Mt Pinos Rec Area east to west, or from Mt Abel east toward Pinos and back (leaving a car at both ends would be a significant hassle). Since I was planning on spending the night at the beautiful Campo Alto atop Abel/C. Noroeste (Mt Abel is the old name for this mountain. The name was changed to Cerro Noroeste ({northeast mountain}), I figured I'd do the route from Abel and return the same way. This was a good call as I prefer to get as much uphill out of the way at the beginning of the day as possible, and there's a good bit more of the steep stuff on the way to Pinos than there is on the return trip. This ridge is about the southern most remnant of the Sierras and the flora and geology are very reminiscent of the Edison Lakes, Bass Lake, and many other parts of the Southern Sierra. Pretty country. 

Tumamait Trail
From the Abel side of things the trail is accessed from a trailhead around half a mile back down the road from the mountain top environs of Campo Alto. I dropped in at sunrise and descended through the cedars and Jeffrey Pine. It was pretty cold and windy already, with a 10-15mph breeze blowing out of the north. The trail bottomed out at Puerto Suelo and started climbing a burly track up the west side of Grouse Mountain through increasingly dense and rugged pine forest. So far I was loving this trail, where it went and how it got there. 

I figured on just walking all the way to the summit of Pinos and hitting the side dishes on the way back. The sporty little climb up Grouse ceded to a rolling, pine crusted ridge. As far as the forest scenery goes, the best of it lies in this Grouse Mtn neighborhood. I blew by the well marked take-off (cairn) for the summit of Grouse, continued downhill for a bit and started up the gentle climb to Sawmill.

Sawmill Mtn from Mt Pinos
I rolled past the junction for the Sawmill summit (also obvious) and started a long and steep downhill off the peak's east side. A last gentle climb put me over the top of Pinos. I walked over to the communication tower where two USGS markers can be found. After that I headed back to the "wildlife viewing area" where I hunkered out of the wind for a few minutes before turning back the way I'd come. The summit of Pinos is sparsely forested and the views are expansive. It took two hours to do the 4.5 miles from Abel to Pinos, after which I stopped paying any attention to the clock. Total mileage on the day for this round trip route comes to around 11 miles.

San Emigdio Peak (originally mis-ID'd as Tecuya) and Pine Mountain Club from Sawmill
I reversed my route down Pinos, climbed back up the short grind to the take off for Sawmill, and proceeded over to the summit which is only about five minutes off the Tumamait Trail. The novelty of this summit's decor sets it apart from all other SLP peaks, the main feature being a tall summit cairn very reminiscent of the Buddhist prayer cairn at the Everest Base Camp. Tibetan prayer flags catch the wind and carry prayers away, strands of the flags draped from the cardinal points. This cairn and the prayer flags kind of touched me. I completely understood the impulse behind its creation. Some of you may know that I'm a true blue atheist but I am also a long time devotee of Buddhist philosophy. Harmony and acceptance are hard states to achieve, but places like this summit are gateways to higher thought and this cairn is an expression of non-deified spirituality.  

Sawmill Mountain 8,518'
I spent at least an hour sitting by myself in the lee side of the cairn. This is a good place. I emptied my mind of all but the sound of the wind in the trees and the manic flapping of the prayer flags. It became a peaceful, restorative hour. Everybody needs something. I found mine that sunny morning on Sawmill. Guess I'm easy to please. I really liked the energy of this place. Some time later I reluctantly left Sawmill, catching the beautiful forest trail back toward Grouse.
Sawmill Mountain summit cairn

Grouse Mountain summit cairn
The short climb up Grouse is a trip through pristine forest. Huge old pines dot the hillside and the needles are inches thick. The use trail to the top is pretty easy to follow, short and scenic. The top of Grouse is very forested and the views are somewhat limited. Grouse Mtn's real treat lies in the getting there. this is a very pretty little slice of forest. The top is graced by a small rock pile and a register can be found at the base. After a break on Grouse  I headed back to the main trail and continued out to Mt Abel where I was spending the night. I liked everything about this trail.

Grouse Mountain 8,582'
A few words of advice to those interested in doing this dayhike. The average elevation of this route is about 8,500 feet, so if you're driving up from sea level it's likely that you'll notice the altitude. Another thing to keep in mind is that there's probably a 30 degree temperature differential between Frazier Park and the top of Pinos, so just understand that even in summer it can get cold up here. And I already mentioned that I personally think the best way to enjoy this route is to start at Abel.

Coms tower, Mt Abel

Campo Alto on Cerro Noroeste
The other part of the day I wanted to mention has to do with sunsets. More specifically, the best place to watch one. Sunset Point at Campo Alto has got to be one of the best places to catch the last light of day. From anywhere in the campground just wander west to that end of the mountain. There you'll see a huge pine with an equally huge branch coming off it's left side. Beyond the tree is a small grassy meadow, a beautiful place to plant your butt for the show.
Approaching Sunset Point
Sunset view due west toward Santa Maria and the Pacific.
Many more photos from this weekend at Flickr.
The end.


  1. Picky, Picky, Picky....I think the mountain in the photo, "Tecuya Peak from Sawmill" is actually Mt. San Emigdio.

  2. Dang it. Thanks for the correction Terry.

  3. Still have yet to make it to this corner of the forest. The drive alone would take me a good chunk of time. It's on my radar for a winter snow camping trip one of these years... Thanks for further inspiration.

  4. Thanks for sharing this hike. I'm looking forward to doing it someday. I hope to be spending lots of time in the Mt Pinos area

  5. It makes for a nice day in the pines. -DS