Companion blog: Adventures In Stoving

Monday, November 26, 2012

Henninger Flats Camp

Last week, I climbed Newton Drury Peak, the "Last of the 10K's".   Newton Drury completed my climbing of all of the peaks over 10,000'/3048m in elevation in Southern California.

This week, I took on another challenge:  Backpacking with my young daughter.  Now, before you say there is no comparison, let me mention that she is three years old.  Not only must I carry all the gear for both of us, I usually wind up carrying her for the majority of the hike.  Gear + food + fuel + water for the two of us is somewhere around 40 to 45 lbs/18 to 20kg of weight for this time of year.  40 to 45lbs/18 to 20kg of weight is perfectly manageable for a person of my size, but now add the weight of my daughter  (~30lbs/13.5kg), and the total weight is about 70 to 75 lbs/32 to 34kg.  Now, that is a heavy load!

Naturally, with a load like that, I'm not going to take on a particularly aggressive hike.  For our destination, I chose Henninger Flats, which is about a 2.7 mile/4.3km hike (depending on which source you believe; some list it as 2.2mi/3.5km) with about 1500'/450m gain.  It's steep, but not undoable, and it's mercifully short.

So, let's get started.  The hike follows the route of the old Mt. Wilson Toll Road, a historic pathway into the local San Gabriel Mountains.  In days of old, one paid a toll in order to gain access to the road.  Today, the road is closed to all but official motor vehicles, but the road is free to all hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians.
On the Mt. Wilson Toll Road en route to Henninger Flats
The road is essentially shadeless, and the sun is unrelenting, so either get an early start or pick a cool day.  Note that the pedestrian gate at the start of the trail is locked from sunset to sunrise, so plan accordingly.

Our arrival at Henninger Flats is marked by this large sign.
Sign at Henninger Flats
A small notice posted on the sign warns that the water may not be safe to drink and recommends that one boil the water before consumption.  I've never had a problem with the water here, but use your best judgement.

Even though Henninger Flats is on the outskirts of the Angeles National Forest, it is operated by the County of Los Angeles.  It's not exactly a rugged wilderness camp, so hard core backpackers will want to look elsewhere, but for someone backpacking with a young child, it's a lovely, commodious facility. It's really more like a city park than a wilderness camp.

Here, I'm sitting with my daughter at one of the picnic tables.
Breakfast time in Henninger Flats
And what's on the menu for breakfast?  A muffin baked using a Bobcat System with an Epicurean Ti stove, both from Flat Cat Gear.  Fresh baked muffins are a real treat on the trail, and, best of all, my daughter will eat them.  My daughter is a little on the picky side and just won't eat things like powdered eggs.   When traveling with little ones, it's best in my experience to bring decent food.   Decent food prevents a lot of complaints and crying.  I'm not trying to spoil my daughter, but I find that my usual minimalist style of backpacking cooking just doesn't cut it.
A blueberry muffin, fresh baked out on the trail

Henninger Flats is graced with a number of large, mature trees which are perfect for stringing up a hammock.  Hammocks make great places for children to play.
My daughter, in a hammock at Henninger Flats
And, yes, those are my legs that she's sitting on.  How else do you think I got this angle?  :)
Child at play

Inevitably, though, children tire, and then we find another great use for a hammock:  nap time.
Sleeping daughter in a hammock

Speaking of sleep, sleep reminds me of night, and there's a real night time treat from Henninger Flats:  The view.
The San Gabriel Valley at night as seen from Henninger Flats

Downtown Los Angeles from Henninger Flats (long exposure, 15X zoom)
Greater Los Angeles from Henninger Flats

Alas, all good things must come to an end.
Sunset, seen while descending from Henninger Flats
But I have many sweet memories of a fine daddy - daughter time.
Iconic shadows seen while descending from Henninger Flats 

I thank you for joining me on another hiking adventure,



  1. Wow, great shots Jim...another great adventure!

    For the hardcore backpacker that seek a more wilderness experience, just past Henninger is Idlehour which has running water year round. Another place I need to get to next year!

  2. Thanks, Angus. It was a super weekend with my daughter, completely enjoyable (well, except for schleping all that gear up the hill). :)

    Idlehour is a neat spot, but I could do without all the poison oak. :(


  3. Cool adventure, Jim! Your daughter is adorable! She will certainly have some great memories of the quality time she's spent with you. Keep hikin'!

    Cheers, from Sierra Madre!

    1. Thanks, sdr,

      She's a great little hiker. This is her third backpack, and I've lost count of how many day hikes we've done. She's been to the top of Baden-Powell, and over 10,000' many times. We have a lot of fun, and it's great daddy-daughter time (and a nice break for mom).


  4. To cute... Your kid is adorable reminds me of my 2nd families children who are part Japanese known as "Happa's" I am sure she will be a hiker like her old man. Great new blog just now seeing it for the first time. Jon Makes some really nice stoves especially for dry baking. Although I am not a fan of the Esbit systems "dirty fuel" but the alcohol stoves are really thought out from Jon.

    1. Thanks. She's a really sweet kid.

      With respect to ESBIT, with Jon's stoves, THERE IS NO "SOOT" when used in "simmer" mode as in baking. The soot is kind of a pain in the butt even though it wipes off fairly easily, but with the Epicurean stove, the burn is clean.