We got on the road super early that morning to meet up with a friend at the Charlton Flats Picnic area parking lot before the sunrise. It was the last weekend before the daylight time savings ends. After that, we would have to wake up even earlier to see the sunrise so this was our last chance before the winter begins.
Much to my surprise, I enjoyed driving in the mountains in the dark. I drove without constantly having to pull over for the speeding cars behind me. Then, a fawn came out of nowhere. I came to an abrupt stop and watched this beautiful creature staring back at me with wide eyes. Why are you alone? Go find your mama, I whispered. Once the shock lifted after a few seconds, it finally turned around and retreated.
There were men with rifles in the parking lot. I learned that it was a hunting season and there was only one more week left. I’ve never been around hunters so seeing men carrying guns made me very uncomfortable. Luckily, Katherine was more familiar with the hunting culture so she explained things to me which helped me feel better. But still, I thought about the baby deer I ran in to earlier and hoped he hid from the hunters.
Since it was my first sunrise hike, I was a bit nervous about the dark (and the guns) and excited about the new adventure at the same time. It was definitely more challenging to get ready in the dark even with the headlight and Xena did not make it easy on me by staying still. This was all new to her too so she was a bit excited. Once we started hiking on the fire road away from the group, I felt the tension released from my body.
We must’ve taken longer at the parking lot than we planned because the sun already started to rise from the east. It was beautiful.
It’s a short distance to the fire lookout (1.7 miles from the sign).
Xena doing her part of fire lookout
Photo credit: @robinventures
We had a pleasure meeting a couple who were volunteering at the fire lookout. The husband pointed out the helicopter pad near us where a helicopter waits for an emergency call. We also learned that there is at least one fatal accident every week and that it usually involves a speeding motorcyclist. Every week. That’s just horrible. Please slow down.
Normally, we would try side trails but with the hunters in the area, we decided to stay on the fire road with the pups on the way down as well. Since it’s a short 4-mile hike, we planned to do another short hike to Mt Mooney across the Hwy 2 from the parking lot.
After 0.65 miles, you will get to a tiny parking area, you need to take an inconspicuous side trail on your left. From here to the summit requires some scrambling as there is no clear path. Just keep going toward the top. It is about 0.4 miles from this junction. The summit isn’t clearly marked so if you are at the top, you reached the summit.
Next two photos were taken on our way down to show you the trail condition.
Next, we headed back to the Charlton Flats picnic area for some hang time. It was a gorgeous sunny day with a gentle breeze. Hammocking was a must. 🙂 We took a nap and just hung out listening to the sound of a breeze passing through the trees. It was wonderful. Two hours went by fast.
Good to Know:
- Hike date: 11.5.16
- Distance: 7.36 miles (Vetter Mtn – 4 miles)
- Elevation gain: 1,089 feet
- Vetter Mountain elevation: 5,909 ft
- Mt Mooney elevation: 5,860 ft
- Trailhead: Charlton Flats Picnic Site (34.296746, -118.006773)
- Permit/Fee: National Forest Adventure Pass
- There are multiple bathrooms on Vetter Mountain fire road and they were well maintained. We were impressed.