Trails to Trudge: Jackson Lake/Mine Gulch

D483AB08-A889-4FD0-A091-8D1709D6E47A      It was early March in Southern California when my hiking buddy Tyler and I decided to explore the Wrightwood/Big Horn Mine area again (tap the link to see my original post on Big Horn Mine).  We had heard there was more to explore in the area and Tyler wanted to check out the Jackson Lake side.  It was a cold morning and we had heard there was some snow on the weather report.  We just didn’t anticipate this much snow…3E88A0D4-FB58-4F7F-85A4-882BAB95255F

Jackson Lake Trail

  • Length: undetermined; incomplete
  • Terrain: trail seemed to be well-maintained but it’s kinda hard when snow is dumping on it
  • Payoff: During winter, trudging through the snow is an experience unlike any other

Without a doubt, Tyler and I completed the 4.5 mile Mine Gulch Trail on this day.  As for the Jackson Lake Trail though… I’m not sure I could accurately describe what we did.  We definitely started it.  It was freezing cold with ice sheets covering the ground and thick snow blankets visible high up on the mountainside when we began our hike.  We started the trail near a parking lot sitting adjacent to Jackson Lake.  Our original intention was to hike up and over the ridge towards the more familiar territory of Big Horn Mine and Vincent Cabin.  What we didn’t foresee happening was the snow causing so many problems…. Sure, we knew there was going to be some snow but I don’t think either of us were prepared for how much snow there actually was.  Below are the pictures of our attempt of the Jackson Lake Trail…C81CE867-CBE9-49F7-8B1D-31A7A998C28A311B344F-A475-4B52-A5E1-D637A6B8F49A

The trail started off smooth enough as it steadily began to climb upwards towards the ridge.  It was cold and the ground was icy but the trail was relatively easy at this point.  As we continued on, a clearing in the trees began to open up and a small outdoor church became visible.  A cross made of tree trunks and some stone seating made up the whole of the place of worship but I couldn’t help the ominous feeling that grew in my gut as we passed through the silent and empty clearing…7201E3DD-59F3-4F73-9A91-84051232BBB9

We continued on the trail as the snow began to pile up around our feet.  Every step I took dug my feet deeper and deeper into the snow and the trail was completely invisible now.  The only marker we could keep was the tree line that followed the trail all the way up…

087BD5DB-916E-4C63-BD2E-B2C35D0E8F0A      Eventually, we made it to the clearing you see in the picture above.  The trail “ended” here but I assume if the ground were visible, the trail would have been right in front of us.  Instead, Tyler and I stood in that spot for about 15/20 minutes trying to decipher which direction the trail would have taken us had we been able to see it.  We settled on a steep hill that we thought would take us up and over…

As I climbed up the mountain, I could feel my feet slipping beneath me.  Each step I took could be my last as I felt gravity beginning to take hold of me. I moved my right foot up to take another step forward when I felt the ground giving way beneath my left foot.  I slid 10 maybe 15 feet down the hill as I came to the conclusion my sneakers were not prepared for this sort of snow ascent….

So tucking our tails, Tyler and I made our way back down the way we came and to the car.  I won’t lie, I was disappointed but I think it was a good decision.  My sneakers were not cutting it, our hands were getting cold and the trail was completely invisible.  We made the correct and safe decision.  That became even more apparent once we drove through the area we would have hiked (which you can see below)…8145569A-43CE-47EC-A992-38A7FCF71CB8

Mine Gulch Trail

  • Length: 4.5 miles
  • Terrain: down and up loop; well-maintained trail; keep an eye on the weather as snow obviously was a small hinderance.
  • Payoff: Water flowing through the gulch from the mountain runoff (the snow came in handy in this way)

We finally got up, over and around to the familiar section of the Vincent Gap Parking area…BD551150-4806-44E4-BED5-20E44FFCA5BB      The trail started off with a thick, fluffy snow that covered the entire trail.  As with Jackson Lake, we were forced to follow the tree line to find our way.  However, the snow near Big Horn Mine felt less treacherous.  Perhaps the “fluffiness” made me feel safer or  maybe it was the shining sun (as opposed to trudging in the shadow of the mountain) that made my spirits rise. Regardless, this hike felt quicker and smoother than our toiling and trudging did at Jackson Lake…

327C85E9-0051-400B-B09A-14E20987A7ABThe air was cold and dry as we crept closer to the bottom and we could feel our breath cooling down as we descended.  Distantly, you could hear the running water in the gulch and the snow actually began to thin out the further we climbed towards it.  Icicles were all over the branches reaching their long fingers in every direction…

Eventually, we made it all the way to bottom of the gluch.  The plant life was abundant and green which was a stark contrast to the snowy white landscape we’d been walking through all day.  The current was pushing along strongly and surely and the water felt and looked fresh…

We got a much needed rest at the bottom and also felt a sense of accomplishment.  After our failures at Jackson Lake, it was nice to complete a hike and get to rest at our destination…

We eventually needed to make our way back up and through the snow.  We were tired and cold and my gloves and sneakers were soaked through but the day was a success.  The Mine Gulch trail is rewarding and a pretty fun time.  I could imagine right now in the summertime it would be pretty hot and I bet the running water in the gulch would be refreshing as well.  Hiking in the snow though was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had.  Growing up as a gym rat, I had never really trudged in snow like this ever in my life.  It was slippery and sometimes so cold that it hurt but I never had more fun slipping and sliding on a trail in my life.  Definitely a must-see if you are in the Wrightwood/Big Horn Mine area.

Chapo and I assessing our options

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