06 March 2005

South Fork Trail

San Gorgonio Wilderness

Locate 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.

chilly water

But even this low, it hasn't cleared all of the snow above it.

frosty stream

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.

partly exposed fallen tree

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.

We found a sign, poking a little out of the snow.

Looks like we've gotten somewhere!

We decide to do...

Now that we've gotten somewhere, wherever that may be, it's time to pose.
Ravi poses Shachi poses Valerie poses
Ravi Shachi Valerie

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...

end of the road

And to the north-east, there's more mountains.

moutain sparkling in the sun

And while Shachi had hold of the camera, she felt a sudden urge to be artistic...

arrangement in gloves

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.

entering the wilderness

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.

avalanche trail

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.

toppled trees

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.

one standing tree in the maddness

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.

far side

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.

avalanche cut

Further down the mountain, the tale is the same. The path keeps going, curving out of sight.

avalanche path downward

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.

trail blaze

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.

atop the tall sign, it makes a short chair

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.

small old, but solid building

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.

sitting on the picnic table

And while we're here, might as well prove we've been by this historical building.

more posing

We finally see actual dirt. Land ho!

actual square feet of actual forest litter

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...

pink tinged clouds and dark trees

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

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