San Gorgonio WildernessLocate the trailhead.
Starting off snowshoeing in the San Gorgonio Wilderness (well, not quite there yet, but we'll get there) on the South Fork Trail, we see a lot of mysterious white layering over all the land. We think this is what the people of the colder areas call snow. If so then that's good, for we are out to meet the snow! Starting off, we can still see a few pieces of dirt beneath the snow, but for the most part it's all white. Here a stream has been able to clear off the snow mostly so that all can see it.
But even this low, it hasn't cleared all of the snow above it.
As we travel, we find the snow isn't yet incredibly deep. A downed tree becomes a treacherous obstacle in snowshoes, we found. A foot or two more of snow here would have made it easier. Later on we'll have that extra snow and scale far larger trees.
After wandering the woods this way and that in a manner not unlike where a trail could go, but also in a manner the actual trail did not go, we found evidence that we are not totally lost! Well, we could always follow our rather obvious tracks back, but there's a principle here. The snow has gotten deeper as we climbed the mountain.
Looks like we've gotten somewhere!
Now that we've gotten somewhere, wherever that may be, it's time to pose.
Actually, we're just were the trail crosses a road on it's way up the mountain. We are currently just south (up) of Horseshoe Meadow. To the east, the road ends...
And to the north-east, there's more mountains.
And while Shachi had hold of the camera, she felt a sudden urge to be artistic...
From our point on the road, we followed one of the trails across the meadow. Skiers had been using it for a bunny hill too. Could have been fun, but we were in gripping shoes. We safely made it to the wilderness, 2 miles by the usual route. By now there's no place with less than four feet of snow.
In another mile, we find a tamed example of nature's furry. Some weeks ago, one of the larger avalanches came roaring across the trail snapping huge trees and then stripping them of branches and even popping of their tops. But now there's been a couple more storms (and a couple more feet of snow) though to soften the look of the area.
The avalanche was so big that looking way up the mountain, we can only see its path curve out of sight.
It really has very nearly leveled everything in its path. Trees were stripped of branches as it passed. Huge trunks stuck out to the side like so many twigs.
But somehow one tree along the trail was stout enough to remain standing. Perhaps the tree almost as big as it toppled next to it cushioned the force enough to save it.
On the far side, the edge of the avalanche's path is somewhat visible, revealing the difference between life and death for these trees. Even some skinny ones next to the path are fine while huge trees in the path were all downed.
But that line is even more obvious on the side of the path we came to first. Looking back, we can see trees stripped of branches, but only on one side. The snow looks as though it was sliced and one piece removed.
Further down the mountain, the tale is the same. The path keeps going, curving out of sight.
As we keep going, there are few signs to tell us we really are on the trail, but the people before us apparently knew where they were going because eventually we see a little evidence of the permanent trail structures.
We continued on until the trail forked as travelers before us got confused about where to go now. We chose correctly with the left and found a sign pointing the way to Dry Lake, our planned destination. Unfortunately, we were quite tired at this four mile point with three miles to go, so we turned back instead. After traveling so many miles on not less than four feet of snow, we finally found a seat as we left the wilderness again.
This time we decided to pass through the rest of the Horseshoe Meadow the way the trail does. This is a huge meadow with a few structures around dating back some decades.
One is even a historical landmark.
With picnic tables. More places to sit! Everyone sit! Since we've now been though seven miles of hiking with one place to sit, everyone does.
And while we're here, might as well prove we've been by this historical building.
We finally see actual dirt. Land ho!
But there was still a ways to go and this was the part of the trail we didn't know since we had taken the longer route the first time. Sunset starts...
And as the sun started to set, the sound of the snow starts to change beneath our feet. What was previously very slushy starts to ring the metal on our snowshoes like little bells. Still, we quickly got back to trail we knew. We got off the trail just in time. It was still light enough as we got to the end of the trail, but dark by the time we had the snowshoes off.
All told, about eight miles walked in the deep and deeper snow, a few hundred yards on thin snow. We met the snow. We may not have conquered it, but neither did we let it destroy us.
And that's that. Not so much pain the following day, but it sure was hard work walking around.
©2005 Valerie Norton
Posted 16 March 2005