Hiking Ice House Canyon to Ice House Saddle and 2013 wrap-up

Happy Holidays everyone!  And welcome to a BRAND NEW YEAR!!

During the holiday season, we took a little hiatus from hiking as a group. We ended the year with a fantastic visit to the Mammoth area for a long weekend of hiking.  I'm hoping to make the Mammoth trip an annual camping trip.  But may be limiting the group to only 8 people and extending the stay to a week. It will definitely be worth it! There is so much scenic mileage in that area, from Mono Lake all the way down the Sierras.  Check out the post, with pictures, from the trip at: Crystal Lake, Mammoth Post

We are starting this New Year with a BANG. A group of about 16 will be hiking with our dogs in Sedona, AZ.  Now, since it's winter, we won't be camping. We will all be staying in a hotel.  I am so excited about this trip!  This will be my first visit to Sedona, as it is for other members of the group.  I've lined up a presentation on the first day, to give us a little more insight and appreciation of the country that we will be traversing.  

On New Year's Day we hiked along the Ice House Canyon trail to the Ice House Saddle (See map below). Can I just say that I am so LUCKY to have these mountains almost at my doorstep.  It's always so great to get out with like-minded individuals and pack hike.

This hike was STRENUOUS. And after taking a hiatus from hiking, we all seemed to need a few more rest stops before reaching our destination.  

This hike follows a stream for the first 2 miles.  There are cabins along the stream and trail. We met on of the residents as we hiked up the initial switchbacks.  He was carrying a couple of fluorescent light bulbs. I thought it seemed kind of odd as camping gear goes, so I asked him where he was going. He said he lived in one of the cabins. It had been in his family for generations.  Since I knew this trail was a busy one on the weekends, I asked him if he minded the noise. He said that he is usually not around on weekends. He said says in the city, of all places, for a little peace and quiet, then comes back to the cabin during the week (when most people are working).  He goes to the grocery once a week, and has to hike everything about 2 miles uphill to the cabin (which is explains why he would want to only go about once a week).

But I digress.  As I mentioned, the hike was pretty strenuous.  But slow and steady will get  you to your goal.  After about 2.4 miles from the trailhead, the trail leads away from the stream and you start the switchbacks up the north side of the mountain.  It was pretty cool in the shade, and since we were on the north side, we did run into ice patches on the trail. 

This trail is single track, so you can't exactly have a conversation with a person next to you.  It is also rocky, with a lot of loose gravel.  It really deserves your full attention as you ascend (and descend) the trail. Loose gravel and ice can lead to faulty footing in their own way.  The upper portion of the trail was well shaded.  I would not mind doing this trail in the summer with an early morning start, and summit one of the peaks.

The Saddle is aptly named.  It is a low-point between mountain peaks.  From this point, you can access Cucamonga Peak, Timber Mountain, Bighorn Peak, etc.  We stopped at this point and decided to turn around. We went back down the same way we came up.  It was as steep a decent as it was an ascent (of course).  At one point, about .6 mile decent from the Saddle, there is an intersection with the Chapman Trail.  You can choose to take this trail, which is a more gradual descent than the canyon trail.  It is, however, about 1.5 miles longer. That may be my option for next time, to save my knees and my tush (as I did manage to slip on a rock).

I've always wondered why this canyon was called Icehouse Canyon.  This is what I have found (from Afoot & Afield Los Angeles: A Comprehensive Hiking Guide, 3rd ed. by Jerry Schad, 2010):

Old Newspaper reports suggest that an ice-packing operation existed in or near Icehouse Canyon during the late 1850's. The ice was packed down San Antonio Canyon on mules to a point accessible to wagons...whereupon it was cared, as quickly as possible, to Los Angeles for use in making ice cream and for chilling beverages.  Whether ice was actually quarried in this canyon or in another, Icehouse Canyon's name is apt enough: cold-air drainage produces refrigerator-like temperatures on many a summer morning and deep-freeze temperatures in winter.

For this trail, dogs should be on leash, especially at lower elevations where there are more people.  This trail is extremely popular on weekends because of its access to other peaks in the area.  If you do go, go EARLY.  Parking fills up.  I thought that most people would be hung over on New Year's Day. By the time we returned to the cars, the parking was completely packed.

Until the next hike...Happy Trails!  

Pack Hike to Ice House Saddle

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