94 Stockton Flat Public Campground to Baldy Notch

Participants: Tom Chester and Roy Randall
Date: 28 November 1999 (Written up 1 December 1999)

Description: For general information about this hike, see trail information. This description gives just the details peculiar to this particular trip.

When Roy arrived at the first gate on Lytle Creek Road at 8 a.m., it was locked but was soon opened. About a dozen other vehicles disappeared up the road while he was waiting for Tom to arrive at 8:30 a.m., and Roy surmised that most of these vehicles were headed for the shooting range just up the road.

We arrived at the second gate at 9:03 a.m., which was solidly locked despite a sign on it that the gate was open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Roy thought we were at the 5,220' point marked on the topo map, which seemed reasonable to Tom. However, we were not 100% sure since there were no roadside markers at all along the road so far, and we were several miles short of that point if Robinson's mileage to the trailhead was correct (see below). From our cursory look at the topo map before beginning the hike from the second gate, we concluded that if this was our location, we were only about 1 mile from Stockton Flat. Thus we decided to hike from there.

Both of these gates surprised us, since Robinson doesn't mention them and they are not shown on the Forest Service map. There is a symbol for a levee, which resembles a brown picket fence, at the location of the first gate on the topo map.

However, now we were a bit nervous about how much extra time the hike would require, since we did not know for sure how long it would take us to find the trailhead and hike to and from it. The suddenly-imposed deadline of being at the other gate at 5 p.m. meant that we had to be back at the cars at 4:30 p.m. Neither of us veteran flashlight hikers usually worries about making it back before a definite time!

Just as we were beginning our hike, the volunteer Forest Service person arrived and unlocked the gate. However, trusting our estimate of 1 mile to the trailhead, we calculated we would have more hiking time by leaving our cars outside this gate, and thus still decided to hike from that point.

The Forest Service volunteer agreed to our estimate of 1 mile when asked, but Tom did not have high confidence that this was meaningful. He at first told us that we were probably safe if we got back to the first gate by 5:30 p.m., but then changed his mind and told us we'd better plan on being at that gate by 5 p.m.

We were actually 1.7 miles from the trailhead, but we didn't know that until later. Preying on Tom's mind was that using Robinson's mileage to the trailhead, Stockton Flat was another 2.9 miles from our car. This possible discrepancy of nearly 2 miles might mean we were off in our estimated position by about one side-canyon, and that it would be a challenge to finish the hike before the first gate was locked.

If we had been on a peak, or at least someplace that had some longer views, we could have determined our position from the topo map with confidence. Unfortunately, we were at the very bottom of Lytle Creek Canyon, and it looks pretty similar for miles along its length.

So, as a result, we were both plenty confused about exactly where we were for a half hour or so. Worse, since this was the first time we met in person, we were more engrossed in conversation than in paying full attention to trying to determine where we were. Finally, each of us probably was assuming that the other one was the one in charge of making sure we went on the right path! The gentle reader will undoubtedly be amused to think of two veteran hikers confused a bit about their location and not paying full attention toward resolving it.

We walked up the road, and found that there were still no signs indicating a turnoff to Stockton Flat.

When we saw picnic tables to the left, we surmised we were entering Stockton Flat Campground. Just before that point, Roy saw two trees blazed with bands of color marking a fork in the road, which Tom failed to notice. The right branch at the fork was the continuation of Lytle Creek Road, but the Stockton Flat road appeared to be the main road, since most traffic clearly went to Stockton Flat. There were no signs indicating that this was the turnoff to the Stockton Flat Campground Road.

For some reason, either from a too-quick glance at the topo map or from a map given to Roy by the Forest Service volunteer, Tom thought that the best way through the campground to the trailhead was to take the road to the left indicated on the topo map. Unfortunately, the topo map clearly shows that this road ends below a spring about 160' below the Stockton Flat - Baldy Notch Road. Worse, since Tom missed the realization that we were already on the Campground road, Tom thought we still needed to turn left as soon as possible to enter the Campground. Another complication was that we had already seen that there were several roads not shown on the topo map. Then when we took a road to the left, we thought we were farther into Stockton Flat than we actually were due to our erroneous estimate of the mileage from our car to Stockton Flat.

The result was about an extra half hour of wandering around the campground trying to determine which side canyon we were in, and what our position was, which was of course somewhat enjoyable amidst the confusion. Tom finally thought of consulting his altimeter which had not been reset at the beginning of the hike, and hence was uncontaminated by any possible error in that location. We immediately realized that we were some distance from the trailhead. Roy was then able to identify two peaks below Lytle Creek Ridge that could now be seen which confirmed our location. At that point, Roy realized the best course was to find the main road in the Campground again and follow it to the end. Once we decided to do that, the rest of the hike was uneventful.

The moral of the story is that it helps to spend a bit more time reading the topo map in advance, which would have told us that Robinson's mileages to the trailhead were incorrect, and to use all the tools at one's disposal, such as an altimeter, which would have relatively quickly told us where we were along the hike.

After an enjoyable hike to Baldy Notch, a somewhat cool lunch there, and an easy trip down, we got back to our cars at the second gate just before 4 p.m. We made it out the first gate at 4:15 p.m. well before it was going to be locked.

Views were not very good since the atmosphere was a bit murky.

Road condition: Excellent, although there were no signs at all identifying access roads or the road itself.

Plants in bloom: None, with essentially no fall color either. However, this area, especially toward the Notch, is rabbitbrush heaven, and the fields of plants in full seed were pretty.

Weather and water consumption: The weather was warm for the end of November, but still a chilly 52° at Baldy Notch, with the temperature in the 50s on the entire hike. Tom consumed 1.4 liters total.

Bugs: None except for a few gnats near the Campground.

Number of ticks: None, although Roy said he got one the previous day hiking from Mt. Baldy Village to Baldy.

Number of rattlesnakes: None.

Other pests: None.

Explanation of columns for all trip logs

#MileageTime arrivedTime leftAltitudeComments
00.009:23 5225Second Gate on Lytle Creek Road. 57°
10.909:50 5600Road to picnic tables
21.009:54 5625Second Road. Left.
31.3510:06 5800End of Road, with faint trail continuing.
41.7710:28 5825Jct. other road on topo map below spring. Right.
51.9010:33 5775Jct. real road. Left.
62.2210:42 60006012' junction. Left
72.2510:44 6025Parking just before gate.
84.2511:59 7025First major switchback. 54°.
95.7512:59 7775Baldy Notch
106.001:121:327800Lunch on log at Baldy Notch after walking around. 52°. 0.7 / 1.05 liters consumed.
119.753:06 6025Gate
1211.523:52 5225Car. 1.4 liters.

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Copyright © 1999 by Tom Chester.
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Updated 24 December 1999.