28 October 2013

San Gorgonio: High Meadow Springs to South Fork

San Bernardino National Forest

San Gorgonio Wilderness

Locate the trail head.

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3

It was a cold night. Sometime early on, wind had found its buddy fog and together they froze an amazing among of ice onto the south facing side of everything, thicker as it gets higher. Chunks of ice lie around my little roof, having been shaken from the trees by that same wind. The ice doesn't look in the mood to melt, but my water hasn't frozen inside my shelter.

trees plastered with ice on one side
The view from under my shelter out into the stiff wind and fog shows trees heavy with ice on the south side.

The water starts to freeze once it is out of the shelter for making breakfast. The stove still won't pump up, but primes well with a single match lit. Turning it all the way on, which seems to be three turns, all I get is a ghostly flame. After at least a minute with my hand on the fuel bottle, the pump allows a little air into the bottle after all and I can manage a flame suitable for simmering with the stove cranked to the point it should be blowing itself out. It is a very long wait for boiling water as I grumble that the cat can did better in freezing weather. Still, I was able to have a hot breakfast. My water tube ices solid while I brush my teeth. That doesn't bode well for staying well hydrated while hiking.

the same tree as before sporting different colors
The tree next to my campsite has changed colors in unexpected ways.

The ice is more consistently low in the trees as I climb back toward the trail. There are patches of blue, sometimes, but they are quickly eaten by the continuing wind. Long johns and rain jacket as wind breaker makes it all mostly tolerable, but my gloves aren't doing it and the last three fingers on my left hand are screaming in agony when I can feel them at all. And then behind some trees, I spot a bunch that don't seem at all bothered by the weather. Stepping out into a clearing at the right, I get a clear view of some big horn sheep.

trees with ice top to bottom
Ice on the trees up near the ridge.

seven big horn sheep, two with quite large horns
A group of bighorn sheep at Red Rock Flat.

At Dollar Lake Saddle, a trail heads down giving a choice. It honestly doesn't seem to be the right day to be climbing mountains, to me. The last two peaks didn't feel safe in the wind yesterday and today the wind is worse. I don't really care to go up peaks when I can't see the view. The promise of water to drink while I hike isn't really there today. The promise of a hot dinner and breakfast seems a bit shaky. There's also one more personal reason that popped up and wouldn't budge. I decide to wimp out and head down with the trip only half finished.

signs at Dollar Lake Saddle
The trail junction at Dollar Lake Saddle. I'm headed for Poop-out Hill, according to the wooden ones high on the tree.

patch of snow, but the trees aren't iced over
Down the north side of the mountain a little bit, there is shelter from the wind and the trees aren't flocked anymore.

There's one more bighorn sheep out on the trail going down, but it heads off more quickly than the others. Getting to the Dollar Lake spur, I decide to look around a little bit. This is a campground and a lake, or at least it should be. I make my way past a campground map showing where camping is allowed and eventually get to the lake, which isn't even a mud puddle. The sign shows springs on the slope above the lake, but I don't check those out to see if there is some level of water for any who would camp here.

Dollar Lake, quite dry
There's no water in Dollar Lake today.

Of course the mountain comes out from time to time to tease me. There's always enough cloud to see how much the wind is still whipping by up there. It takes a while and quite a lot of elevation drop to start to feel warm, though. Eventually, I even manage to get a drink of water.

San Gorgonio with clouds whipping by
Actually, there's probably quite a view up there right at this moment, even if it would be hard to remain standing.

Eventually I get to wondering what the section of trees, bent totally over and broken but still green and with a heavy dusting of a storm or two more of snow on top in 2005, look like now. There is one section of trees all pointing downhill, but it has a plaque on one of the cuts stating "avalanche 2010" on it.

the leftover debris of an old avalanche
The litter of trees from an avalanche, a natural made ski route.

Coming to the trail to Poop-out Hill, I go ahead and actually take it too. It is just outside of the wilderness boundary and turns out to have a few informational signs about the Wilderness Act and San Gorgonio. It clouds over while I read the history of the mountain. Continuing on the trail beyond the signs puts me on an old road. It gives a good view over Horse Meadows, but is otherwise just a long way down.

interpretive signs on Poop-out Hill
There's a view of the mountain from Poop-out Hill, which also has a sign discussing the recent history of San Gorgonio and the Wilderness Act.

Horse Meadow
Horse Meadow from the old road up to Poop-out Hill.

I stay on the road when it crosses the trail because it gets to the main road closer to the road to the Forsee Creek Trailhead. It rains for most the time as I go, with random bits of ice mixed in although it is not freezing yet. Eventually, there's a road with a double yellow line on it, and I cut down where it is not steep. After passing two camps on the south side of the road, I can cut across the forest to reach the road that doubles back by keeping about the same level and manage to run directly into the parking lot.

©2013 Valerie Norton
Posted 31 October 2013

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