Stars and Stripes on Mt. Baden-Powell
Updated: May 11
Date: May 7, 2021
Distance: 8.02 miles
Total Elapsed Time: 6h 41m
Total Moving Time: 4h 12m
Summit Elevation: 9,391 feet
Elevation Gain: 2,754 feet
Trailhead: PCT, Vincent Gap
Previous Ascent(s): June 6, 2020
Notes: Peakbagger Peaks - 1, Survey Marks - 2
Favorite Peak Alert!
I've hiked a lot of miles and summited a lot of peaks and one of the most frequently asked questions is "Which is your favorite?" Mt. Baden-Powell is always at the top of my list of favorites, it may not be the tallest, longest, or most technical, but I just really enjoy it. I love switchbacks and according to the USFS, Baden-Powell has 35, just a third of what I'll encounter on Mt. Whitney in a couple of months. Of course, I do like the views from the summit, and the conditions today were excellent!
Additionally, I'm an Eagle Scout and I'm sure at some level, the role that scouting played in my youth contributes to my connection with this peak. Today I brought my Eagle Scout award medal with me for George's summit photos 😉
North Baldy was renamed Mt. Baden-Powell after Lord Robert Baden-Powell on May 30, 1931. He was the founder of the modern Boy Scouts and as such the trail is well-maintained by Boy Scout groups. The monument near the summit was constructed in his honor in 1957. More than 2,000 scouts and adult volunteers from all across Southern California spent their weekends carrying cement, water cans, metal railing, and lumber for forms up the 4-mile switchback trail, in loads of 30 pounds or less. No pack animals were used for the project.
The Difference A Day Makes
With my personal schedule, I am back to essentially just hiking on the weekends. Beginning last month with Mount Baldy, I scheduled a SoCal Six-Pack of Peaks hike every Saturday through May 15th, where I'd finish all the peaks on the challenge with San Gorgonio. This trip to Baden-Powell was originally planned for tomorrow, and I had prepared myself for two realities of hiking these popular SoCal Peaks on a Saturday with beautiful weather:
I'd have to wake up ridiculously early to arrive at the trailhead to get parking and,
The trail would likely be VERY busy.
Since I live in North County San Diego, ANY of the peaks in the San Bernardino and Angeles National Forests (and beyond) mean a LONG drive to get to the trailhead, usually at least 3 hours. Depending on the specific trailhead, mountain road conditions, and just the uncertainties of regular traffic, it could take longer.
My last three 'Saturday' peaks (Mount Baldy, Mt. San Jacinto, and Mt. Wilson) were all very busy and I mentally prepared for the same with this hike. My plan was for a 0200 wake-up, 0230 departure, an anticipated 0530 arrival, and to start hiking at 0600.
Last year I got up at my normal time and drove to LA; when I arrived at Vincent Gap a little after 1000, it took me almost a half-hour just to find a parking spot! Despite the foggy, rainy weather, it was CRAZY busy and I didn't end up starting my hike until 1100.
Thankfully, as a result of some last-minute changes to my schedule, my Friday was now open! I knew my friend Philip was planning to lead a group up Baden-Powell beginning at 0600 and I let him know that I'd now be able to join him. It was still going to be an early wake-up call, but the trail wouldn't be nearly as busy.
Expect the Unexpected
I prepped all my gear yesterday afternoon and managed to get to bed by 1930 last night. I kept my original timeline because the drive "is what it is", I was happy to leave the house at 0230 and was on track to arrive as planned. About an hour and a half into the drive I had reached over to grab a piece of fruit off the passenger seat and discovered my pack was sitting in a puddle of water 😳 NOT GOOD! I pulled off at the next exit and found a gas station/convenience store where I would have good lighting to see what was going on. The worst-case was my hydration bladder was punctured and I'd have to repair it (I do have a repair kit). As it turned out, the quick-connect button on the tube was turned at just the right (wrong?) angle so that it loosened and I lost about a liter of water.
I always keep my spare clothes in a water-proof cube, my food is packed in reusable silicon bags or OpSacks (basically odor-proof Ziplocks), and thankfully my puffy was on the other side of my pack, but some miscellaneous gear at the bottom of my pack was wet. I unpacked everything, towel-dried what was wet, and positioned my pack so the heater vents would dry it out on the rest of the drive. I had extra water in the truck so I topped off my hydration bladder and reset it in the inner sleeve being careful about positioning the quick-connect.
It was annoying that this happened, but I handled it. The frustrating part of it was that it took a solid half-hour out of my schedule, and it pushed my arrival time at the trailhead to 0550, just 10-minutes before the projected start. My pre-hike 'routine' at any trailhead takes about 30-minutes, so I was anxious about delaying the group.
When I arrived, I was relieved to see there were only two cars in the lot, and another pulled in a few minutes after me. As it turns out, the other three people were not part of our group so it was just Phil and me. We hit the trail at 0620 (See...30-minutes at the trailhead. 🤷🏻♂️)
The Trail Provides
I'm borrowing this phrase from the thru-hiking community because it's SO true. With the early wake-up, long boring drive, issue with my hydration bladder, I was just happy to start hiking. Within minutes on the trail, the trials and tribulations of the morning faded, and I was immersed in the beauty and peacefulness of the trail. Views like this are simply restorative.
This trail is considered moderate on the intensity scale, it's well-traveled, well-maintained, and this morning it was EMPTY! From a technical perspective, we did encounter some recent 'Blow-Down' (trees that have fallen on/over the trail) but nothing significant enough to slow our progress and as we approached the summit there were some isolated patches of old icy snow, but again, nothing that slowed us down or required any type of traction device.
Hiking with a Purpose
I had a few different goals for today's hike:
We were going to replace the American Flag at the summit - Done ✅.
Complete Peak #10 of 11 for the SoCal Six-Pack of Peaks 2021 Challenge - Done ✅.
Recover all existing survey marks at the summit - Done ✅.
Mission: Flag Replacement
A couple of days ago a fellow hiker posted her pictures from Mt. Baden-Powell and noted that the American Flag at the summit was tattered and torn. I checked in with Phil to see if he saw the post and to make sure he hadn't already gotten a replacement, then Thursday after work I picked up a new flag at Home Depot.
Once at the summit, we took the old one down and installed the hardware and flag. This one is a little larger than the previous one so we grabbed our trowels to level out the ground beneath it to ensure it didn't drag in the dirt. After it was secured, we each got our photos with the flag and I took the old one home to dispose of properly.
There are several acceptable methods to retire an unserviceable flag, the key is that it should be done in a respectful manner. Check with your local Veteran or Scouting groups, they often collect them throughout the year and periodically hold proper ceremonies to retire them. The National Flag Foundation has more information on its website. I will be donating the old flag to the Stars For Our Troops program.
North Baldy Survey Marks
Last night I had researched the survey marks that were supposed to be on the summit and based on recovery information in the datasheet, I expected to locate two of the four discs placed there, both of which included "North Baldy" in the information stamped on them!
PID: EV4122 - R 93 1929 (Not Found)
In the original 1955 description of the Station, it was a standard 4-inch brass disc inscribed "U.S. Geological Survey In Cooperation with Los Angeles County" and stamped "R 93 1929". The disc was originally mounted on a square granite stone extending 4 inches above the ground. In 1978 it was recovered in good condition with an updated description that placed it on a triangle-shaped rock 6 inches above the ground and there was an additional reference that it was 18 feet South of a 4-inch iron pipe (what is now the flag pole). In 2004, it was reported as "Not Found".
I took all the various recovery reports and information from the datasheet and plotted the location of the Station, it clearly was not there, nor could I find sufficient proof that it had been there (drill hole in the rock, residual adhesive, etc.) Officially this would go in the category of "Not Found".
Reference Mark 1 (Not Found)
The original Reference Mark 1 was a standard 4-inch Los Angeles County Survey Control System Reference Mark (unstamped), the directions and distance from the station placed it about 40 feet from the BSA Monument, I searched the area between the monument and the flag pole and could not locate it. Another "Not Found".
PID: CS7575 - NORTH BALDY RS 1930 (Found)
When I knew where to look for this one, it was painfully obvious! It's right along a well-worn path that branches off to the right as you pass the BSA Monument, mounted on a rock. Looking at my GPS track from last year, I had gone straight to the summit from the monument, passing about 30 feet east of this mark. "RS" is the abbreviation for Reference Station and the description of this mark in the datasheet matches up with the original Reference Mark 2 description.
PID: CS7574 - MT BADEN POWELL E5 NORTH BALDY AUX 1954 (Found)
Ahhh, the second disc that is stamped with "North Baldy" and once again, having plotted out the coordinates based on information in the datasheet, I was able to cross directly over to this mark and find it with ease. It's located NE of the North Baldy RS mark and almost due East from the BSA Monument, placing it not too far from the edge of the dropoff on the East side of the mountain.
I usually take two photos of every mark, a closeup and one at eye level to show the relative position of the mark to other landmarks, unfortunately, I thought I had the second shot for this one, but I must not have hit the button square so I missed the photo. However, Phil had taken a picture of me sitting at the mark prepping it for my photos...so there you go, an action shot 😂.
With all the data stamped on it, this is a busy mark; the datasheet names it "North Baldy AUX" however, knowing the naming conventions used on the L.A. County Survey Control System discs and that it was set after the Mountain had been renamed, this would normally be referred to as "Mt. Baden Powell E5". The rest of the stamping: North Baldy AUX, 1954, County Surveyor RE (Registered Engineer) 63 would all have been supplemental information.
With all the work done; Survey Marks recovered and the new American Flag installed, it was time for lunch. As we headed back over to the monument where our packs were, people were starting to find their way to the summit and they came two-by-two 😂
As we finished lunch it was apparent that we had become the de facto greeting party for everyone coming up the trail. It was nice to meet and visit but it was time to head back down. I snapped a few more photos of the exceptional views as we got ready to go.
Relive® 3D Video of Today's Hike
Be sure to watch for Part Two of today's adventure! I noticed a few survey marks along the PCT on the other side of Vincent Gap. I'll be dropping my pack at the truck and making the short climb to recover the "Mt Baden-Powell G 4" Station! 😉