Friday, May 16, 2014

Harrison Mountain

Hiked: 5/16/2014
Distance: 3.2 miles round trip on use trail and cross country
Summit Elevation: 4743'
Prominence: 1403'
Elevation Gain: 1725'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.38
Round trip time: 2 hours 40 minutes
Recommended water: 80 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass
Difficulty: Moderate

Harrison Mountain is just under the 5000' cut off for a Great Lower Peak, ranked #6 on the list, and is the higher of two guardians of Highway 330, the lower one being McKinley Mountain. According to the Sierra Club, it was named for President Benjamin Harrison who signed the act creating the San Bernardino National Forest Reserve on February 25, 1893.

I parked at the turnout for the north trailhead and got ready in the 90F heat. I was sporting new Black Diamond talus gaiters. Bugs were annoying from the start, but mostly keep at bay with a liberal application of spray. Many experienced hikers have gotten lost at the start trying to find a use trail up to the first bump. Satellite recon suggested going down the road a ways, then up the firebreak. However, several reports showed ascending more directly on a faint use trail so I tried that going up. The first quarter mile was mostly cross country, picking through brush and deadfall until I found a more prominent use trail. It was very steep up to the first bump, then leveled out as it traversed toward the west ridge.

Harrison Mountain from the freeway

Break in the fence where a very faint use trail begins.
Heading up the firebreak from further down the road is better.

Looking back at the parking lot near the first bump

Sections of the use trail were in good shape, but along the traverse, there were sections completely overgrown with brush, buckthorn, and poison oak. Having just healed up from my last encounter, I was wary and somewhat alarmed at the amount of it invading the trail. I was also wearing shorts and a short sleeved shirt. I recommend long pants and long sleeves, regardless of heat if you are going to climb Harrison in the spring. I moved carefully, using burned branches to push the poison oak off the trail where I could. When I got to the west ridge, I stopped and improvised a way to cover my exposed legs by ripping my rain poncho in half and tying the pieces around my legs. It was flimsy protection, but better than nothing. I'll know in a few days if it was effective or too late. I also noticed a tick crawling on my leg and brushed it off. It was the first of nine I would find crawling on me before the day was done.

Buckthorn in the way

Lots of evil poison oak invading the trail

Improvised leg protection

Rocks at turn to head up the ridge

Firebreak to Harrison summit

The west ridge to the summit was mostly tall grass and open firebreak, clear of poison oak. I found the summit register cans and tried to sign the register, but both books were soaked. I could not even turn most of the pages to check out recent visitors. I walked to the far end of the summit for better views of Highland, Loma Linda, and the rest of the mighty IE. Harrison rises well above McKinley across the highway. There were hazy views of the high peaks and ranges. I completed another scan for ticks, then started down. Instead of going back the way I came, I decided to descend the firebreak on the lower section to see if was a better path than the crude way I ascended. It turned out to be much better without adding much distance. When I got to the bottom of the firebreak, I followed an animal trail back to the road and marked it with a waypoint. The faint trail is not visible from the road, but goes between two small trees a few hundred feet down from the parking lot. It seems like a better way both up and down.

Summit register

McKinley Mountain from Harrison summit

View southeast to the high places

The animal trail to the lower firebreak goes between these small trees

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