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David R

Kenyon Devore, West Fork, and Newcomb Peak

This weekend I hit up Rattlesnake Peak for the 6th time but I've already written about that before so instead let's talk about two weeks before that. It was a hot day and I haven't hit the north side of Wilson in a while so decided to check out the West Fork. I have a grand vision of starting at Wilson, boulder hopping down to Cogswell,  taking the fire ride back up to the ridge, and then Ridge to Rim back to Wilson. I wanted to see how fast I could move through the initial section of trail.

I got out of my car and was immediately swarmed by gnats. That was interesting but didn't really think about it as I started down the trail. I jogged the whole way down Kenyon Devore which is in good shape. The whole way down the gnats were bothering me. I completely missed the connector trail from Valley Forge and completed my jogging as the trail started to narrow and climb around the canyon wall. At this point the bugs were becoming a real problem I was windshield wiping every step I took. By the time I reached West Fork they were awe inspiring they were everywhere. I noticed one tent at the site, poor sucker. The riverbed looking dry as a bone, pretty depressing

There was no way in hell I was going to hike over to Devore in these conditions so instead took the fire road. This would normally be an ugly alternative but the sun beating down on the exposed sections kept the bugs away, most of the time. I finally reached the turnoff for the trail coming up from Devore and it was a relatively short hop to Newcomb Pass.

Once I was there I decided might as well hit the peak so hiked the short connector back to the fire road. Along the way I found a bundle of clothes that were packed in plastic perfect for the "now they're mine" thread. A quick climb up to the less than inspiring Newcomb Peak and I could rest in the sun away from my enemies. There was an odd sign halfway up the peak saying "no entry", I've noticed them in the fire area in the oddest places. It feels like a "pin the tail on the donkey" method by the forest service as opposed to a conscious effort to protect certain areas.

I headed down and met my first person of the day, a biker who was enjoying the view along the ridge. I began the route along Rim to Ridge which is quite shaded and was also a misery. I finally said eff this and decided to take the remnant of the firebreak along the ridge to get back into the sun. Smart thought but bad idea as the fire break started getting overgrown by poodle dog. I reached a point where the break got too brushy and decided to drop down off the ridge but had no choice but to push through the poodle dog with my bare hands. A couple more miles and I was back on the top of Mt. Wilson.

The hike with the gnats and flies was a pure misery there was literally no respite from them. I have never had such an unpleasant experience with bugs in the San Gabriels as that day. I of course got the "dog but it was only miserable for a week of intense itching and only had peeling on two fingers, so I consider that an overall win. As an aside I was unhappy to notice that the first bump after you drop off Rattlesnake has a nice growth of poodle dog as well, when will we ever see the end of this noxious weed? That is all, was this a write-up or a rant, you decide.
Sean

Thanks for the report. Sorry to hear about the PDB and the gnats. At least you found some clothes. I particularly enjoy finding clothes,  especially when they are my size.
walker

On recent bike rides, I've been struggling to develop good "bug wiper" technique while pedaling uphill in shaded watershed areas. Downhill, you generally go fast enough to outpace the little bastards, but uphill is slow going and combined with the exertion, sweat and balancing on a bike make it hard to keep your sanity. Sunglasses are a great help. That's a beautiful loop. Too bad it was made miserable in those conditions. The dire poodle dog is tenacious and imposing.
Uncle Rico

The last time I was down that way I had the exact same experience. Those damn black flies were so persistent and annoying that by the time I got to West Fork I'd had enough and abandoned any idea of going on to Devore. Like you, I high-tailed it up the fire road just to get relief from the swarming little bastards.  Mad
tekewin

After hours of suffering with a bug halo in May, I broke down and got a $3 bug net. It has saved me more than once since then, with only a slight reduction in vision. Worth it's weight in gold.
Sean

Yeah, the only way I survive some of my excursions is by using a bug net, short sleeve over long sleeve shirts, and bug spray on legs. Hat and bandana as back up. And willingness to smear mud all over body.
Slowest_Hiker

For real, is there not enough water at West Fork campground to support an overnight?

Seems like not that long ago I was there and it seemed like it was enough to last  Sad
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