Thursday, July 4, 2013

Slide Mountain Lookout, 07/02/13

Because I'm not an overly avid map reader I never really realized that the area around Pyramid Lake belongs to the Angeles National Forest. I always figured that anything west of Interstate 5 was Los Padres. Goes to show what I know.
So this Lookout I'm about to tell you about is part of the Angeles, which maybe explains why it didn't feel like a Los Padres trail, and by that I mean that the route was uncommonly manicured and 100% bloodless.

Supremely skate-able pavement.
I started from the parking area at Frenchman's Flat, which is accessed from Templin Hwy off the I-5. The day starts with about a mile and a half pavement walk, and I have to say that this may just be the smoothest piece of pavement in California, well worth humping in the Sector 9 for. But that's for another day. After a mile or so a bomb-shelter looking thing was visible off to the right and couple minutes later I reached the real trailhead for the walk up Slide Mountain. 

The trailhead is not signed. Hang a left at the Rd/Wht/Blk gate.
I climbed a nicely graded road cut at a moderate angle for a little over a half mile before the road petered down to an equally nice single-track. This trail continued snaking uphill at a remarkably consistent grade until topping out on the shoulder of the summit ridge. Like any good ridge this one offers great views, in this case you get an eyeful of Cobblestone Mountain and a unique glimpse into the Piru Creek drainage. The route climbs the ridge for a bit and then switch-backs up to the summit. Like a lot of these things you don't actually get to see the tower until you're basically underneath it. 

First view of the tower on the way up.

The thing that might surprise those of you who understand that wildfire monitoring now days is done by satellite and drones; this tower and two of her Angeles Nat'l Forest sisters are still manned by volunteers. No shit. The last lookout pulled a couple day shifts just two weeks ago. Yup, learned a couple things that day. For instance, the USFS is accepting applicants to volunteer for fire watch. It sounds like they teach you what you need to know and away you go. For more information on how to volunteer you can visit the Angeles National Forest Lookout Association. The most basic prerequisite is that one be able to make the hike up to the tower ( 1.35miles on rd then 3.65miles and 2775' gain on dirt).

The tower on Slide Mountain is in excellent shape and immaculately kept. Made of galvanized steel and heavy duty glass, this structure was meant to last. The inside of the watch tower is arranged in the same general fashion as many others, with various counters and bunk space laid out around a central map table. The treat here is that one gets to imagine for real what being up here for a while would be like. It looks like a nice gig.

And now I'll get around to the views one would observe from this tower. First and most obvious is a birds eye down onto Pyramid Lake, its dam, and a small islet in the lake that somebody named Chumash Island. I find this ironic because there wasn't an island until the lake was made, and since that time it has not been reported that any Chumash have resided there or live there currently. The cynical side of me wonders if naming this man-made aberration was a gesture at placating those who decried the loss of whatever antiquities might lie under the lake. Cobblestone Mountain Can be seen immediately to the west, and the view down Piru Creek extends all the way to Lake Piru. This is a great place to put a lookout tower. 

The view down Piru Creek all the way to the lake.
Cobblestone again.
Pyramid Lake.

To say that I was not amused to find an ExxonMobil pipeline adjacent to Piru Creek would be an understatement.


  1. Several lookout in the San Bernardino NF are still used. Tahquitz, Black Mtn, Kellar Pk, Morton Peak and possibly Strawberry Pk. I think you can even make a reservation and spend the night at the Morton Peak lookout.

    Haven't been to slide Mtn yet, but ran up Townsend Peak a few weeks ago. I agree with the difference between lpnf and anf. I managed Townsend in boardshorts and flip flops. :)

  2. The bomb shelter looking thing is an access to the tunnel that carries water down to Castaic Lake. The tunnel is 7.2 miles long and is 30' in diameter. Water moves to Castaic lake during the day and reverses direction during the night.
    The first time I hiked to Slide Mt. was back in 1994, just after the earthquake. At that time, the lookout hadn't been restored yet and the floor was covered with rat & bird droppings a foot deep. I wouldn't go inside because I feared Hanta Virus.
    Also, this lookout was originally perched on top of Whittaker Peak to the south. It was moved to Slide Mt. when Pyramid Dam was being built. Whittaker Peak also has great views and receives some of the highest wind gusts in Southern California.

  3. Great info guys! Thanks for the feedback. -DS

  4. Loved reading your blog and seeing the photos. I worked as the Thorn Pt. Look Out in the 70's while working out of Chuchupate on back country horseback patrol. That look out was wild and beautiful. Rode my horse up the trail with supplies from Thorne Meadows. I trained at Cuyama Peak look out. That seems like a different life now! It was memorable.