Henninger Telephone Trail

Joined: February 12th, 2014, 9:35 am

November 27th, 2017, 6:04 am #1

This trip is yet another instance of me excitedly finding something that canyoneers have known about forever. So it goes.

I hiked up to West Fuji last week, looked over at Henninger Flat, and saw some trail cuts to the North of the Henninger Flat helipad that I didn't recognize (no photo; sorry). When I got home, I looked it up. Unsurprisingly, much of the internet's knowledge of this is people on this forum talking about using this route for various purposes. Back in the day there was a road and trail in that area, and that's what I was seeing. The 1953 USGS topo still has the road and the connecting trail marked:



Armed with this information, I went to check to see if this is the fabled shortcut to Idlehour. I started up the Mt Wilson Toll Rd in the morning. The Openstreetmap data calls out a shortcut trail at one point, to cut off a lot of the switchbacks near the top. I tried it out, achieving moderate success: didn't find the trail near the bottom, but after some bushwhacking found a nice use path. This goes up steeply along some sort of water pipe, eventually topping out at one of the spur roads at Henninger. Here was an odd LA County survey marker:



The county does their own surveys in addition to the USGS ones? From this spur road I accessed an obvious fire-break-trail straight up to the helipad, thus bypassing the main part of Henninger Flat entirely. Up on top the views were grand. Apparently this was one of those rare days where not only Catalina, but Santa Barbara Island were clearly visible (Santa Barbara island at center of photo; click for original):



Walking around to the North side of the helipad, the old road cut became apparent:



I excitedly walked towards the branch point. The old road coming in from the North is completely invisible unless you know where it is, and you look for it. But once you turn off, the going is fairly clear. As a road, this thing is horrendously overgrown, and beyond impassable. But as a trail, it's decently clear, and even pleasant:



The road quickly meets and crosses Esme Canyon, and things clear up a bit on the other side. Here are old telephone poles, supposedly the same line that comes down from Panorama Point, by Muir Peak:



Getting to the end of the old road (saddle by point 2647) is straightforward. Past that point, however, things get more questionable. The saddle isn't very high above the bottom of Eaton Canyon, but it's steep, loose and heavily brushy all over. The USGS topo says that the trail is more or less a long traverse that ends up almost at Idlehour. Maybe this was true at some point, but is not at all true anymore. There IS a traverse to start with: find it by rounding the nose of the ridge as tightly as possible, staying maximally away from point 2647:



Initially this is a narrow, but well-defined-ish and clear-ish use path. Eventually it dies out, cliffs out and becomes very brushy. This means I missed a left turn. After some bushwhacking back to the West on a slightly lower level, I found the trail again; here it was steeply descending down the slope:



I then backtracked up the trail to see where I went wrong. There IS a decent-looking trail junction. The correct left turn looks like a switchback, but the trail turns to point straight down fairly quickly. In any case, you drop down to Eaton Canyon in no time. If travelling the other way, turn uphill at the "Alex Cass" tree:



Down in Eaton Canyon, there's some water, and it's generally fairly pleasant.



I'm assuming that the canyoneering business begins a bit downstream of this point. I went upstream towards Idlehour, however. It's a nice rock-hop. Don't know how hard it is with more water in the river, but it was nice and easy on this day. To exit, I took the normal Idlehour trail and Toll road. Walking down the toll road, a tiny bit below the Idlehour trail junction I noticed a NICE trail coming in from the right. Curious, I went to check it out.



This trail is being actively maintained right now: there're various trail-maintenance tools sitting around. It looks like this trail is used by the water company to service their tunnels. CrazyHermit found these and wrote them up: http://www.secretmines.com/p/blog-page.html. The tunnels themselves are being actively maintained right now in some way too (tools, materials sitting around). None of this is particularly exciting, since this is a short-ish dead-end trail. What IS interesting is that at the Esme Canyon crossing there's a solid wooden bridge:



Looking closer, this bridge was somebody's Eagle Scout project:



A bridge crossing an obscure creek at the end of a water-tunnel-maintenance trail seems like an odd choice for an Eagle Scout project, but what do I know.
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Canyon Man
AW
Canyon Man
Joined: October 1st, 2007, 6:00 pm

November 29th, 2017, 12:19 am #2

Yup....thats the lower elevation/Eaton creek connection to Idlehour as of the 2007-2017 era.
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Joined: February 12th, 2014, 9:35 am

November 29th, 2017, 12:20 am #3

What happened in 2007?
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Canyon Man
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Canyon Man
Joined: October 1st, 2007, 6:00 pm

November 29th, 2017, 1:21 am #4

dima wrote: What happened in 2007?
Nothing of significance. Im just a stickler in pointing out the detail of getting down to Eaton. Because it used to be from Telephone flats to the end as you went. That gully used to be walkable like a cakewalk, but looks like a cliffed out area now since it became 'watch me f up this gully' So where you went down by backtracking , it 'switchbacks' down to the end of that gully.
Thankfully it now looks like this travel down to the creek is not ruined and looks to be a discernable use path that can be used long term:)
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Joined: February 12th, 2014, 9:35 am

November 29th, 2017, 1:26 am #5

Gotcha. Do you know how much of a pain the Alex-Cass-tree to Idlehour section is when there's more water in the creek? I'm anticipating wanting to do this again later.
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Canyon Man
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Joined: October 1st, 2007, 6:00 pm

November 29th, 2017, 3:11 am #6

Its beneficial usually. For example, in the winter&spring there is less vegetation from storm damage...and the water isnt anything to worry about even 1% since its wide. As long as you bypass certain points that you probably already did that this time. Plus you probably get some waterfall(the last of 3 in a row) from a tall major drainage that discharges into Eaton.Ive done it from Caltech canyon/Idlehour a few times including once in some significant water year  and this segment was pretty much the same. The only note is that recent saturation can get some rocks on the move, so I wouldnt recommend it, sans helmet,during rain of any amount, but other than if its clean drinking water, its all good.
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Joined: November 27th, 2017, 3:34 am

November 29th, 2017, 6:42 am #7

dima wrote: Walking down the toll road, a tiny bit below the Idlehour trail junction I noticed a NICE trail coming in from the right.
As far as I know, this is the closest spot to get water for overnights at henninger. I stumbled upon the trail last february, thinking it was a shortcut to Idlehour trail. I remember lifting a metal hatch by the stairs and discovering a rushing channel of water below it. Must be some sort of acqueduct for henninger or old mining camp? 

That sandbag trail also continued past the tunneled-gully up to the left and eventually ends in a couple hundred feet at another gully with an exploratory dig (5-10 feet deep)... I don't know why forest service made a trail to an exploratory dig? Maybe the trail was going somewhere else?
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Joined: February 12th, 2014, 9:35 am

November 29th, 2017, 5:28 pm #8

1blazepatrick1 wrote: That sandbag trail also continued past the tunneled-gully up to the left and eventually ends in a couple hundred feet at another gully with an exploratory dig (5-10 feet deep)... I don't know why forest service made a trail to an exploratory dig? Maybe the trail was going somewhere else?
The forest service doesn't actually build trails, as far as I know. The water company probably built their own trail.
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Sean
Cucamonga Man
Sean
Cucamonga Man
Joined: July 27th, 2011, 6:32 pm

December 4th, 2017, 11:20 pm #9

dima wrote:The county does their own surveys in addition to the USGS ones?
I've seen marks for several different agencies. County marks are often related to flood control projects.
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