27 October 2013

San Gorgonio: Limber Pine Bench to High Meadow Springs

San Bernardino National Forest

San Gorgonio Wilderness

Locate the trail head.

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3

The night was cold, the morning is cold. The camp is devoid of the sounds of people getting up, but I'm pretty far from the other two groups. The water in the Platypus isn't frozen and I eventually get up to turn it into breakfast. The new pump refuses to add any pressure to what is already in there, but the stove goes just fine after four matches fizzle and a fifth lights. After breakfast, the last layer of washing water left in the pot freezes to it. I'm wondering if it could actually be getting colder as the sun gets up when the sun finally starts hitting the camp. Once it gets to me, the neighbors who got it first finally emerge. The sun instantly heats the place to the point I don't need my jacket anymore.

Limber Pine Bench
Some of the area of Limber Pine Bench with one of the rock walls that grace the south face of the numerous flat spots.

The big group is a bustle of activity tearing down their camp as I pass. I get some more water at the spring before heading further up. The day is clear. There's a small spur trail to a view that I can't help but take.

Forest Falls below and the mountain far to the side
Looking down the ridge on the Forest Falls side to San Gorgonio.

looking over a spur of mountain to the Inland Empire
A flavor of the ruggedness of the mountain looking out over the Inland Empire.

A sign next to the trail alerts me that I've come to the initial point known as Washington Monument. Set in 1892, it is the oldest and highest remaining initial point and is the origin of the public land surveys for Southern California. After making it, Washington carefully measured and recorded his route down the mountain and set a second marker that the surveys actually move away from although they reference this one from time to time. It was set as a huge beam of wood vertically in rocks with another beam arm on it and shining tin elements to help locating it from the valley below. Today, it is much shorter, bits have been nailed back on, and it looks as though county surveyors, mostly from Los Angeles, but some from San Diego and Orange, like to have pilgrimages up here and nail identifying disks onto the dead trunks that have been incorporated into the monument.

Washington Monument
The Washington Monument from 1852, the original initial point for the San Bernardino Meridian and surveys of Southern California's public lands.

streets below
Baseline stretching away from the monument in the form of a road. The old section divisions are still visible in the construction below.

When other surveyors came back to the initial point via their own routes, they set their own initial points. This is, of course, an odd thing to do, but these points are the ones that actually mark the meridian which jogs at the baseline. First Rice came from the north in 1894 and set a similar monument with a large post 887 feet west of the original. Next, Pearson came from the south and set a closing corner, using a marked rock in 1907. (See this paper hosted at the above linked website that also contains other details about the monuments.) Both of these have been replaced since. With compass and GPS and very little else in hand, I check on east adjusted for the offset of magnetic north and start walking carefully along the slope. When nearing 600 feet from the monument, there is a sign post in the ground and an orange painted wooden stake leaning on it showing the location of the third initial point. A bit of a sign is on the ground, but it says something about Forsee Creek on it. Continuing another 300 feet, but pretty certain I've been keeping too high on the hill, I start down the hill and spot the second initial point behind a tree. The original timber is still there next to another newer marker. Once finished with the finding, I climb up the hill to the trail to take it back to Washington's.

Pearson's marker location from a distance
The third initial point placed is marked by a sign post from a distance. The ground only has a small marker from a reset in 1967.

Rice's marker location from a distance
The second initial point, which still has the original beam as well. The post was added in 1917 according to the date. I removed the mylar balloon.

Grabbing up everything again, it is time to hit some peaks. The first peak is San Bernardino. The trail goes right over it, just about. A ten foot spur completes getting to the peak.

a bit of snow sided trail along the crest
Snow blankets the northern slopes still, but the trail is generally clear.

San Bernardino Peak
At the top of San Bernardino Peak. I'm sharing the peak with a couple groups of day hikers, but they've all gone as far as they are going to before turning around.

The next peak is San Bernardino East Peak. This one is a little more off the trail, but not much. I go up a wooded peak that looks tall, but along this range, it's always the peak closest to San Gorgonio. After the wooded peaks, there is one more with a well used trail up it and even a tin reflector nailed to a tree pointing down it. This peak is just a little bit higher than the wooded one, but I still don't find the log for it. I'm told there should be one for all the peaks.

San Bernardino East Peak
The bald top of San Bernardino East Peak just after a mylar balloon floated by.

San Gorgonio in the distance
Peaks to hit later with San Gorgonio standing bald in the distance.

San Bernardino in the distance
Looking back to San Bernardino.

The next peak is Anderson Peak. This one is a fair way off to the south of the trail. An unsigned trail heads down off San Bernardino East into Forest Falls to the right as I come to a wide flat on the ridge line. At the far side, another unsigned trail goes down to meet Forsee Creek Trail. Shortly after the junction, I decide to stop losing elevation since travel along the ridge looks easy on paper and easy from where I'm standing. A peak along the way looks promising, but not quite enough even though someone has placed a cairn next to it on the north side. There is a clearing where all the trees have been removed long ago and cleared to the edges. The old wood is still there and the new trees growing are barely knee high. I bump into some backpackers coming from the other way and so must be getting to the right place. Indeed, there is the peak register. The wind has started to pick up and it is a bit on the cold side when not moving.

Anderson Peak
The peak register at Anderson Peak. It has lost it's lid, so the register itself isn't going to be in good shape soon.

The next peak is Shields Peak. This one is also a bit to the south of the trail. I make my way northeast back to the trail, then travel down to a saddle and a little further. The north side of Shields does not look easy to travel, but it has lines that can be follows that generally climb when coming from the west. I grab one of the lines, probably a bit early, and start up it. I skip about three peaks on the way, then go for one. The peak register is down below a ledge about five feet further on. It has also lost its lid. The wind is strong enough to try to knock me off the top a couple times by now.

Shields Peak
San Gorgonio over the very top of Shields Peak.

looking back from Shilds Peak
Sighting westward along the edge of Shields Peak, the view is dizzying somehow.

The last peak of the day is Alto Diablo, but first I've got to get off Shields safely. One of the day hikers had said I should just come straight up from the trail light, but I had come from the side with my pack so have to get down with that too. I follow the lines back, but more steeply down than I came up. Carefully avoiding too much snow, it eventually works out. The trail travels past the massive Shields Flat, then starts to climb again. After a few switchbacks, there is a cairn on the side and I climb the short way up to Alto Diablo.  The wind tries again to push me right off.

Alto Diablo
Register on Alto Diablo.

high meadows below
Getting closer to San Gorgonio. Below, some high meadows show that the camp site for tonight is close.

Big Bear Lake in the distance
Big Bear Lake to the north is massive.

Climbing a little more directly down the twenty or so feet to the trail, I find another cairn. There's probably a few set. Following the trail down, there are eventually some signs high on the tree marking the spur trail down to High Meadow Springs. I have the camp to myself. Heading down to the spring down the steep slope to from the camp for water at sunset gives a new view of the meadow. The highest spring has been marked with a stick and there are a few pools that make gathering water easier a little further down. Someone has made a small slew, too, to help fill water bottles directly.

tree with no branches along a line
I set up camp below this tree with no branches along this side for seemingly no reason.

sunset over High Meadows Springs
High Meadow Springs turning red in the sunset.

The new pump still doesn't pressurize further. It takes three matches to get one that will light and the stove burns just fine although turned two full turns to get a reasonable flame. The wind is whistling through the tops of the trees, but it is generally very light at ground level. A few city lights can be seen glittering below, but most of the city sprawl is hidden by bits of mountain here. I'm a little worried that I haven't been drinking enough water as most of what I started the day with was carried throughout. Dehydration can lead to feeling cold and it looks like it will be a cold night anyway.

Continue reading: day 3

©2013 Valerie Norton
Posted 30 October 2013

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