Last Saturday, the view of large patches of interesting cloud patterns in an otherwise blue sky along the 210 freeway heading toward Angeles Crest Highway already indicated the possibility that our hike to Mt. Islip would be weather enhanced. By the time we (family and friends) passed Cloudburst Summit we were driving in and out of the clouds we saw rolling in from below. From the trailhead at Islip Saddle the temperature gauge on the car dashboard read 36 degrees F. At that point I knew we were in for a treat.
It didn’t take long hiking up the Pacific Crest Trail heading to Windy Gap to find ourselves walking into the cloudy mist.
At first the mist wasn’t as moist or dense as I thought it would be as I headed into it. Prior to reaching Little Jimmy Campground, I met a PCT thru-hiker (trail name Viper) who mentioned his water froze overnight. While I felt a little bad for Viper enduring such an unexpected cold snap this time of year, I found myself hopeful that something interesting would be lurking up above.
Typically I really enjoy the trek along the Islip Ridge Trail with excellent views into the Crystal Lake Basin. However, the weather made this stretch of our hike even more magnificent. By the time we had reached above 7600′ there was more moisture in the air, it felt colder, and ice had formed in the trees (but not on the ground).
The increased cloud density made depth perception more prominent than usual and the dead trees took on a more delineated character with ice clinging to their branches.
At times there was so much ice in the trees it looked like it snowed.
But the ice that fell to the ground proved that it didn’t actually snow.
Near the summit the sun broke through the clouds.
Above 8100′ we passed through the clouds yielding a dramatic view of ice covered trees against the blue sky–especially colorful after trekking through the grey mist for some time.
Instead of returning to Windy Gap, we took the Mt. Islip Trail down to Little Jimmy and found ourselves in an area free from the clouds as they flowed over Windy Gap and Islip Saddle breaking up as they continued moving north.
As we made it back down the Pacific Crest Trail we found ourselves in the sun most of the way with great views of the Mojave Desert. Looking down the trail however, we saw clouds making their way over Islip Saddle.
At Islip Saddle we found ourselves walking through the cloudy mist one more time before making it to our cars. Along the drive home we passed in and out of the clouds driving down Angeles Crest Highway until we passed Cloudburst Summit once again returning below the clouds until we engage in another trip like this.