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Archive for the ‘San Gorgonio Wilderness’ Category

I made it to the highest point of southern California on Sunday.  The weather was perfect, the hiking group was great, I was feeling good, and the views were unbeatable.  Probably one of the best hiking days of my life.  I thank the mountain gods. 

My pack resting on San Gorgonio as I look towards San Jacinto

 

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I took Monday and Tuesday off this week.  My intentions were to hike San Gorgonio on Monday with my hiking buddy, but she strained a muscle the previous week.  Gorgonio will just have to wait…again!  Fortunately the Sierra Club had a hike listed in the San Bernardino Mountains for Tuesday.  I signed up for the 16-mile round trip hike to San Bernardino Peak.  I didn’t know what I was getting myself into as we would have to meet at 7:00am at the trailhead which meant leaving San Diego at 4:30am.  Luckily, I met two other hikers in San Diego and we carpooled to the trailhead.  Jim was kind enough to drive.  We arrived at the Angelus Oaks restaurant around 6:45am, took a pit stop and waited for the other hikers.  Everyone (11 of us) showed up around 7:00am.  We introduced ourselves, got our packs ready, and hit the trail around 7:15am.  The weather was great!  We started out in the low 50s, but you quickly warm up as you go up on the San Bernardino Peak Trail.  Plus, our leader was going at a pretty good pace, about 2-2.5 miles an hour!  The views of Los Angeles were spectacular and the vanilla scent from the ponderosa pine trees was intoxicating.  I just love being out there.  The highest temperature was probably in the low 70s so it was perfect hiking weather.  I was a little worried about it getting too hot so the previous day I made sure to drink plenty of water and eat fruits and veggies.  I think that helped a lot because on Wednesday my muscles felt great.  I was tired yes, but not sore.  We took a few 5-10 minute breaks and maintained a steady pace.  Before we knew it, we were having lunch on San Bernardino Peak at 11:30am!  We could see San Gorgonio and San Jacinto.  After the obligatory pictures and refueling we headed back down to the trailhead.  Coming down you see things that you don’t see going up so it was equally beautiful.  By 3:15pm we reached the trailhead.  Jim had a beer at the restaurant while we waited for our other carpool buddy.  Our leader had suggested visiting Hangar 24 Craft Brewery in Redlands, but Jim’s iPhone revealed that they do not serve food.  So we opted for Casa Maya in Mentone.  They fortunately had Hangar 24’s Orange Wheat which was really effervescent, almost like soda pop.  After our break at the restaurant Jim drove us back to San Diego.  If it had been me driving, I probably would have fallen asleep.  We got back around 7pm, said our good-byes and we all slept like babies that night.  Overall, a great day in the mountains. 

Jim on San Bernardino Peak with San Gorgonio in the background

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Saturday early morning found my mom and me en route to the San Bernardino Mountains.  She had never been there before and I wanted to bring her here before school started.  We left San Diego around 5:45am with a stop at a coffee shop (name declined to preserve integrity) near UC Riverside to fuel up on caffeine and carbs.  After passing through Mentone, we stopped at the Mill Creek Ranger station for permits.  The lot was already full with day hikers and cyclists.  I had no intention of bagging San Gorgonio that day.  Instead I planned to take the Foresee Trail which was recommended to me by another hiker.  Passing through Angelus Oaks we made a right turn onto Jenks Lake Road.  There is a bit of driving on a dirt road, but a high-clearance vehicle is not necessary.  The lot was almost full.  We started hiking just shy of 8:30am.  And it was chilly!  The previous week the temperatures in San Diego were in the high 80s-low 90s.  I checked the current temperature and it said 55!  And with the wind it felt even colder.  Fortunately I was prepared as I had my fleece with me, but a thermos of hot chocolate or ginger tea would have been nice.  It was a clear beautiful day and the smell of the Jeffrey pines was intoxicating.  Despite the lot being full, we only saw 4 hikers on the trail the entire day.  With my new GPS (review forthcoming) I was able to keep track of the elevation gain and mileage.  The views of the valley, San Gabriel Mountains, and Big Bear Lake were spectacular.  When we reached Anderson Flat we stopped for lunch and tried to keep ourselves warm from the chilly wind.  I wanted to continue on, but with the 2-hour drive to San Diego, we decided to head back.  It was much warmer on the descent.  Mom was impressed with the area and even talked of bagging San Gorgonio one day!  When we reached the lot I read my GPS and it said we covered 12.5 miles with an elevation gain of about 4,100 feet.  We have much training to do before San Gorgonio! 

View of San Gabriel Mountains from Foresee Trail

View of Big Bear Lake

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So I signed up for a Saturday hike in the San Gorgonio Wilderness with a L.A. club.  This meant an early morning rise and a 2-hour drive to the meeting place, but I was willing to commit as this would be a new trail for me.  Fortunately, I had someone accompany me from the San Diego area.  By 5:30 am we were on the road and by 7:00 am we were at the Mill Creek Ranger Station in the San Bernardino Mountains.  After coordinating cars we caravanned up to the Aspen Grove trailhead.  I highly recommend vehicles with high clearance!  We reached the trailhead and after pit stops, applying sunscreen and adjusting packs, 17 adult hikers and one baby were on the trail by 8:30. 

Trailhead

Trailhead

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cool temperatures forced me to keep my fleece on and my hands in my pockets.  We passed through the aspen grove, but the leaves were not yet turning to golden-yellow.  Still, it was a nice treat to see aspens in southern California, which is a rarity. 

Aspens

Aspens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kimberly, our leader, kept a brisk pace and stopped a couple times to allow us to strip layers and make pit stops.  I loved the gradual ascent of the trail and the accompanying ponderosa pine, Jeffrey pine and Douglas fir trees, which provided ample shelter from the sun. 

Pines

Pines

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we approached Fish Creek Saddle, we were greeted by views of the surrounding mountains. 

San Bernardino Mountains

San Bernardino Mountains

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Within 2 ½ hours we had reached the saddle and I was itching to continue on, perhaps to Dry Lake or even to San Gorgonio.  We stopped to have lunch and within 15-20 minutes we were cooling up and some of us were ready to head back down to keep warm.  The trail did not have a lot of traffic, but we did pass a lot of Boy Scouts on our descent.  Returning to the trailhead was cloudy and some of us even wondered if we would see some rain.  As for the mileage, there seemed to be a discrepancy.  The Tom Harrison map lists 5.8 miles from the Aspen Grove trailhead to the Saddle, but the San Gorgonio Wilderness Association lists 6.8 miles.  Hmmm, I think it’s time to invest in a GPS.  Overall, it was a beautiful hike with a great group and well worth the drive from San Diego.

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