Saturday, October 12, 2019

San Bernardino Peak, San Bernardino East, Washington Monument

Hiked: 10/11/2019
Distance: 18.2 miles round trip on trail
Summit Elevation: 10649' (San B), 10691' (San B East), 10290' (Washington)
Elevation Gain: 5298'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 4.2
Round trip time: 9 hours 45 minutes
Recommended water: 172 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass
Difficulty: Strenuous

San Bernardino Peak (HPS #11) is a popular hike on the west end of the massive Gorgonio ridge. The trailhead is at Angelus Oaks and requires navigating a half mile of rough dirt road. It can be safely driven in most vehicles with care. I arrived at sunrise at the same time as another gentleman who got a few minutes head start on me as I got ready. It was about 40F, right on the edge of my discomfort zone. While the air would heat up during the day, that would be offset by cooler air as I gained elevation. I expected temps to hover around 40F all day, until I started my descent off the ridge. I had forgotten my handheld GPS at home, so fired up the one on my phone. The day would be a grind, so I began with a slow and steady cadence. The trail on this side of the mountains remained shaded in the morning. In a couple of miles, I caught up with the hiker that started before me. His name was Kevin and he said he was feeling some AMS effects. He might have started off too quickly. High mountains have to be approached in a measured way or they will punish you. We talked a little while and he followed me past the trail split to Columbine and John's Meadow, but I lost track of him after that and didn't see him the rest of the day.

Manzanita area

San B East (left) and San B (right)

The San Bernardino Peak trail was smooth and pleasant. I would rank it with Forsee as one of the nicest. Next came a flatter area covered in manzanita. At Limber Pine Springs, I caught a party of 5 who had started at 5:45 AM, accounting for one of the cars in the lot. They were young and doing fine, just moving at the pace of their slowest. I reached the Washington Monument with a large rock cairn topped with a rusted can. There was no register, but a plaque was placed along the trail. I didn't linger with San Bernardino Peak being close and 300' above. I reached the summit and found an ammo box with multiple registers. Very popular peak based on the number of signatures. Two peak signs were available for the gram. I hung out for about 15 minutes, reloading energy, then packed up for San Bernardino East (HPS #8).

Passing the party of 5

Lookout point below Washington Monument

Washington Monument cairn

San Bernardino Peak

The saddle between the Dinos is filled with rock formations, but the trail weaves cleanly through all of it. San Bernardino East is made of two mounds, a large one, and a smaller protrusion which is the official Sierra Club peak. The large mound looks slightly higher. I didn't see any use trails going to the top of the larger one and wasn't curious enough to make the effort. San Bernardino East has better views than it's western cousin, maybe the best in the range. Great views of Big Bear Lake, San Jacinto over Yucaipa Ridge, Gorgonio and the San Gabriels. The Santa Ana Mountains appeared as small, distant bumps. There was a lidless register box holding a single piece of paper with the numeral 1 on it. Odd. I took a shorter rest on SB East, then got ready for the return. The trail back climbed just below the summit of San Bernardino Peak, before starting the long down. I pushed myself going down to make up for the plodding ascent and to reach warmer air. Sections of the trail were conducive to jogging, but my feet were too sore to sustain a jog. Soon enough, I reached warmer air and shed my beanie and gloves. I met several backpackers and hikers coming up that had started in the afternoon. Two miles from the bottom, I caught the party of 5 from the morning, but only 3 remained. These three had reached San Bernardino Peak, while the other two tapped. I found them waiting for their buddies at the trailhead. It took me about 5.5 hours to reach SB East, and 4.25 hours down. With these two in the bag, I finished the 9-peak challenge list, though it was spread over several hikes. Doing all 9 in one go would be an epic 30-miler and probably beyond my ability. On the plus side, I set a personal best with 10 unique 10k+ ascents in one year.

San Bernardino Peak dorsal fin

San B from San B East

San Jacinto over Yucaipa Ridge

Looking down to Mill Creek

Big Bear Lake

San Gabriels in the distance

Fall colors

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Tierra Blanca High Point, Peak 1882, Caliente BM

Hiked: 9/27/2019
Distance: 5.5 miles round trip on trail and cross country
Summit Elevation: 3089' (Tierra Blanca), 1882' (Peak 1882), 1610' (Caliente)
Elevation Gain: 2313'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.8
Round trip time: 5 hours 40 minutes
Recommended water: 88 oz.
Parking/Fees: $3 San Diego County Parks
Difficulty: Moderate

I drove to Agua Caliente County Park off highway S2 in the desert. There is a $3 day use fee (self pay). The park has flush bathrooms, camping spots, some cabins, and indoor and outdoor pools. The $3 fee includes use of the pools. I parked near the start of the Moonlight Trail, though over 90% of this hike was off trail. I noticed a lot of bighorn sheep scat around the parking area and also on the trail, but was not lucky enough to see one. After half a mile, I left the trail for an unnamed canyon to the north. The beginning had a faint use trail, but soon it was filled with large boulders. The first mile of the canyon was pretty intense with several dry falls. With route finding, I kept it at strong class 2. I started to wonder if the entire gully was going to work me this hard but some flat sandy sections appeared in the upper reaches. The higher I got, the less sheep scat I saw. I also found coyote and cougar scat. Because it had rained the day before, the animal prints in the sand were blurred. When I got to the saddle at the top of the gully, I scrambled up toward the Tierra Blanca High Point below a large rock structure.

Starting up an unnamed canyon

Went up just left of the big rock

The summit had a register in a jar inside a red can. Entries went back to 1989 and included signatures from Wes Shelberg and Paul Freiman. Views were gorgeous into the Inner Pasture and Sawtooth Mountains. The previous entry before mine was from January, 2018, twenty months earlier. After hanging out on the summit, I decided to take the ridge back. However, half way back, I dropped into another unnamed canyon to the south to finish the descent. Both the ridge and southern canyon required careful route finding and boulder hopping. On the way down, I hit two class 3 dry falls that I down climbed. As I neared the exit from the canyon, I spotted my second goal of the day, Peak 1882.

Inner Pasture and Sawtooth Mountains

Ridge in the direction of Agua Caliente

The sun was now in full force making the mid-80s temps feel a bit warmer. I switched into a short sleeved white shirt. After hours of scrambling, I was relieved to make it out of the canyon. Directly ahead was the short, steep slope to Peak 1882. At the top of 1882, I found a bare summit covered in red flying ants. I've been swarmed by both red and black flying ants. The red ones tend to bite, so I took one quick photo looking down on Agua Caliente then proceeded over the top and down the other side. Caliente Benchmark was my final goal for the day. Getting down to the trail was slow since the slope on this side was also steep and loose. Back on the loop trail, I passed through some thick green vegetation. There was a bit of flowing water on the trail. That explains the sheep hanging around this area. With a quick GPS check, I spotted where I could catch the ridge up to Caliente. On the summit was a benchmark on a pipe and a register. The 1957 benchmark was stamped by Cal B&P, which the Internet tells me is "Business & Professions", some kind of state code. The history around this mark is a mystery to me. After signing the register, I completed the loop trail back to Agua Caliente. As I got to the truck, I smelled something unusual. My guess was butane but I couldn't place it. I changed into swimming clothes and headed to one of the outdoor pools. I was there for one minute before a fireman came over and told me they were evacuating the park due to a chlorine problem. I guess too much of the chemical was put into the indoor pool. He escorted me to my truck and determined I didn't need decontamination before leaving. I missed out on a relaxing soak, but really enjoyed this fun but tough hike. One mylar balloon collected.

Peak 1882 ahead

Peak 1882 summit

Agua Caliente below


Caliente Benchmark

Tierra Blanca High Point on the left

CalTopo Public Map