Rummaging through John Robinson’s Trails of the Angeles late one evening, I stumbled upon “Blue Ridge to Prairie Fork, Pine Mountain Ridge, Sheep Mountain Wilderness, Little Fish Fork, Upper Fish Fork”. In a flash, I fired into research mode with the definitive knowledge that this would be my next trip. It combined all the elements of my perfect adventure: isolation, beauty, and history. Also, the challenge of navigating an unmaintained trail added to the appeal.
Based on limited current information, I decided that we would make this an overnighter because getting to Upper Fish fork after Little Fish Fork seemed a bit of a challenge.
Friday Night: I met Jeremy Boggs after work so we could carpool to Blueridge road to Guffy Campground. The plan was to car camp for an early start the next day. We were expecting to see the Guffy Campground gate closed but much to our surprise it was wide open! Since this was the case, we could park down by Lupine Campground, saving a few miles and elevation gain. Some paper signs were posted on the gate that warned of a closure half a mile from Lupine. Apparently, a wash had eroded part of the road making it impassable. Otherwise, we had no idea what kind of condition the rest of the road was in getting to that point but we didn’t hesitate to find out.
Guffy Campground gate is usually closed from here
So down we drove the poor camry. Initially it was ok, but the road progressively worsened. Jeremy got out a few times to move big rocks. Nevertheless, we managed to drive until the wash area where there were a few other cars parked along side the road. From here, it was car camping and throughout the night, several more cars passed on by.
Pine Mtn Ridge
Saturday morning: As we were packing up for our adventure, a few passing folks informed us that they were hunters and it was actually opening weekend for hunting season. Little did we know!! So this was the reason the gate was open and why there were so many cars parked down by Lupine. So much for expecting desolation! I felt disheartened for a little because I was looking forward to having Little and Upper Fish Fork camps all to ourselves. However, the fact that everyone was in cheerful spirits helped lessen the blow.
Walking on the rest of the road to get to the trailhead by Lupine Campground.
Jeremy leaning on the Pine Mtn RIdge sign. Now entering Sheep Mountain Wilderness!
Looking down at Lupine Campground
Jeremy on Pine Mtn Ridge Road. It used to be an old logging road
Fall Colors sprinkled everywhere
Finally, a one-of-a-kind portrait of Baden Powell FROM Pine Mtn. Ridge instead of from Vincent Gap 🙂
Me photographing Jeremy’s famous Baden Powell Masterpiece portrait.
Pointing towards Iron Mtn. Look at those notches
Jeremy checking out the East Fork country from Pine Mtn Ridge
Hunters on Pine Mtn Ridge
We took a breather at the ridge, naming as many peaks as we could while we stuffed down crackers with cheese and sausage. Eventually, we started the descent to Little Fish Fork by turning off the Pine Mountain saddle and heading down. Many game trails spurred from the main trail.
But before leaving the ridge we were looking for the old Fish Fork trail sign that was supposed to be there. But nothing but rocks?
Where is the Fish Fork sign?
Little Fish Fork
Just around where you leave Pine mountain ridge, we saw the last of the weekend crowd. The trail then begins to switchback steeply down a forested slope to Little Fish Fork.
Tons of spur trails!
Iron Mountain in the background
Sections of scree slopes
On the way to Little Fish Fork
Dawson Peak trail.
You can see the old roadbed that is called the Dawson Peak trail. Its has not been maintained in long time and it missing in some areas. It would be a long day to follow this trail (but sign me up!)
You can spot some parts of the Dawson Peak trail, now long vanished.
It was a bittersweet feeling arriving at Little Fish Fork campground because the stream was completely dry. Would there be water at Upper Fish Fork?
Lil’Fish Fork Victory. Imagine how old these Forest Signs are? They must be the originals!
After a little bit of discussion and encouragement we were on our way down to Upper Fish Fork no matter what but we were prepared to ration what we brought. We knew leaving Little Fish fork would come the real adventure….
Upper Fish Fork
The trail becomes considerably much harder to follow and disappears in a few areas. It narrows with steep drop-offs. Accordingly, we bush-whacked, climbed over trees and nervously crossed steep scree slopes.
We made our way down by what felt like an interminable amount of time until suddenly, we could hear the roaring sounds of Fish Fork! Hearing the waters made us jump for joy. This meant that we would have enough water to be comfortable during our overnighter.
The last quarter mile down to Upper Fish Fork camp becomes only a subtle series of foot tracks on the ground. The trick was to keep trekking down in a gradual and diagonal fashion. However, falling was inevitable and we both took several bad falls (it was hilarious and totally worth it!)
I present to you: UPPER FISH FORK CAMPGROUND!!We made it!
Camping & Exploring
I was stunned at the abundance of vibrant foliage scattered along the unspoiled creek. It truly felt desolate. The beauty made me ache with emotion so I succumbed to a few tears…It was unlike anything I had ever came across in the San Gabriels and I already knew that it was my favorite place.
Feeling very emotional at this overwhelming beauty.
Magical Fish Fork
We decided to explore up and down Fish Fork for a bit before setting up camp. Foliage was unreal!
Jeremy amongst colorful foliage.
smiles amongst this foliage
Walking through my dreams
Boggs taking a jaunt, thinking about how long this has been on his list!
The sun light radiating through the canyon
Perfect camp spots next to Fish Fork.
In time, after exploring, we came back to our camp spot. We set up our tent, and relaxed the rest of the evening, our minds racing from the day’s events until fatigue took over.
The Adventure Out
The next day we opted for an early start since most of our elevation gain would be done that day. After our ridiculously delicious oatmeal and essential cup of mountain coffee, we were ready to go.
The mile getting to Little Fish Fork would be difficult to retrace but luckily, Jeremy has some amazing navigation skills and a great memory.
Going up the first section was really difficult the weight of my pack, requiring some climbing on all fours.
Heading back up
For awhile, I was leading us and Jeremy got a sense that we missed a turn. He was completely right: we almost ended up following the Dawson peak trail. So we turned back and got on the right track.
Section of bush-whacking on trail
We passed by garbage that some novice hikers decided to leave because they no longer could bear the weight. Some of these items included: air mattresses, BBQ lid, and a chair. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the space or energy to carry out these heavy items and stayed there cursing out loud for a few moments.
Traces left behind
Before we knew it, we were at Little Fish Fork again. We were really relieved because the hardest part was done and the rest of the way would be a sure way!
Making it back up to Little Fish Fork
Back up towards Pine Mountain Ridge
Rescuing the old fish fork sign
Back at Pine Ridge we were wondering why the old “Fish Fork trail” wooden sign wasn’t there so we decided to put our packs down and look for it. Maybe it had fallen over nearby? I peered down a slope and indeed the wooden sign was hiding amongst the brush.
I filmed Jeremy retrieving the sign from the slope. We cheered loudly as we planted the sign down and the hunters at the ridge stared at us as if we were nuts. Nonetheless, we felt heroic. After taking some pictures, we didn’t waste anytime on the descent portion.
Fish Fork Trail Sign back in place!
I blasted through the downhill section but waited for Jeremy to cross the official finish line together. There was still a long drive on Blueridge Rd but we didn’t mind it at all. We now had this beautiful adventure to share around the next campfire.