Not Enough Steam for “Big Iron”

Hey there! Hope you all had a wonderful holiday season filled with love, joy, gifts, family and friends; maybe even a hike! My last hike was an attempt to tackle Iron Mountain in the San Gabriel Mountains out by Azusa.

It was Christmas Eve, I had the day off from work, and to make sure I didn’t have to go in, I went on a hike where I had no cell service! This was a different hike from any of the other ones I had been on being that it was winter. What this means for the San Gabriels, is that the weather is COLD!

I checked the forecast the day before, woke up later than I wanted, but I was ready and set off on my adventure. The trail I followed was via Heaton Flats and can be found at the following URL:

Iron Mountain #1

Starting off, I had an insulated flannel with a thermal underneath, warm gloves and a beanie.  Before I was even a half-mile up the trail, I was warmed up and pouring sweat, which is a definite no-go. I disrobed to fewer layers, packed the rest in my daypack, and continued marching on.


At the top of the ridge, I had my first view of beauty 🙂 I saw most of the San Gabriel Mountain Range off in the distance, with the sun rising behind. It was quite a beauty, especially compared to the dried up river near the trailhead.

As an aside, that was the most disconcerting thing about this hike. There was only a trickle of water compared to my hike not even a week prior. As you know, I was in Oregon with gushing waterfalls and rivers. Also, the graffiti and trash present near the parking lot killed the nature vibe for me. I’m used to natural beauty from the parking lot on, but at least I got a taste of the beauty further on the trail 🙂


Moving on, the few bumps I read about on the trail websites were no joke! They fatigued me due to the fact that I am not used to constant ups and downs. Steep ascents and steep descents! When I reached Allison Saddle, I was pooped out, especially when seeing the huge, snow-dusted ascent left in front of me to reach the summit.

I did, however, appreciate the beauty of seeing the frost on the vegetation around me.  There was a calmness about it all that was soothing to my soul. Some of the noises scared me because I was alone and no one else was on the trail. The guy at the beginning told me “you’ll have the trail all to yourself.” Normally, I enjoy solitude, but not when threatening creatures may be meandering nearby.

I continued past the saddle about a quarter mile and decided to turn around. My feet were hurting, I needed to get to the bank before it closed, and my energy was surprisingly low. I looked at the summit one last time, and felt accomplished in that I learned my limits and I could always come back to conquer the mountain another time.

Trekking back, I maintained a faster pace and all was fairly smooth. I did notice that my feet started hurting more, possibly from my heavier pack. As I backtracked, I discovered why part of the trail seemed so faint to me. I had gone down the old trail that was barricaded by tree branches!

Wrong Way

Coming up the trail, the branches seemed to be a normal obstacle on the trail. But as is evident in the photo, there was a reason those sticks and rocks were blocking that path. Thankfully, I made it through, trusting my intuition. I even got a nice chuckle out of the deal!

Since this hike, I got a bunch of new gear for Christmas, including trekking poles. I’m accumulating gear for my John Muir Trail trip this summer and I plan on training more frequently from here on out.

This trip was not nearly as exciting or rewarding, but it taught me about my limits and where I need to train harder.  I appreciate you reading and hope you remember to take a hike and spice up your life!


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Doug Busack Written by:


  1. February 1, 2016

    This is a tough hike. Maybe the hardest in Southern California after Cactus to Clouds (San Jacinto) and Vivian Creek (San Gorgonio) for me.

    • Doug Busack
      February 1, 2016

      Thank you for the consolation 🙂 hopefully I can conquer it before I do the JMT.

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