27 November 2015

Ken Point

San Bernardino National Forest

Santa Rosa - San Jacinto Mountains National Monument

Three days in a row of outings planned in the same general area inspired me to come out and join a group of Hundred Peaks Section hikers, AKA "those crazy peakbaggers", for a few distant hikes. (Their outings are open to the general public, not just to members of the Sierra Club.) It is cold, somewhere around freezing, and the very last flakes from last night's snow are still fluttering down as we collect in the dirt lot next to the Pacific Crest Trail. A blanket of a few inches covers the ground but the roads and trails are just wet. Ignacia is worried there might be more behind it since it was supposed to be finished by now. The clouds to the north do look imposing, but to the south there is a patch of blue. As we fret, the blue increases and we all decide to trust the weather. Packed for the day hike, we head off. Peter is still worried about the higher elevations, but there is no accumulation left from previous storms in the area.

trailhead under snow
Starting off into the snow, we are warned about trail closures due to fire just ten miles ahead.

a peak
A peak dusted with snow from the night before.

The trail winds in long stretches east and west to gradually make its way north. It seems to me to be about three times longer than it needs to be, but it is at a very easy slope. It seems like we have just started as the GPS ticks off the third mile. We only stop for a moment to peal off a layer or two in the sun in the first few miles.

snow dusted peaks
A dirt road follows us to the west, and beyond it there are more snow dusted peaks.

bedrock outcrop
Entering the rocks.

bedrock outcrop
The trail climbs through the bedrock.

Eventually, the trail bottoms out, straightens out, and gets to climbing up toward a saddle. As we pass short, sheltered north slope areas, the ground has not been warm enough to melt the snow and we plod through it. We stop for a quick snack at a crossing with an old road, then start climbing again.

clearing up
More outcrops of bedrock.

rocky trail
Making our way through the rocks, it is time to climb.

cactus under snow
Sharp thorns seem to be being taken over by a blanket of white.

snow covered trail
Almost to the saddle. Even when covered in snow, the trail is easy to navigate.

There is a gate across the trail at the saddle, but we do not go through it. Instead, we turn around to find another trail continuing to climb. The others call it a use trail, but there are clues that it has been built. There are a couple posts beside a fallen gate in the snow, a marker for a fuel break, and a couple sign posts at the end as it merges with another old road. It is somewhat overgrown now in its abandonment, but the bed below is still solid.

gate on the PCT
One of many many gates to be found on the Pacific Crest Trail.

snow covered old trail
A clear spot, with regards to the brush anyway, along the old trail. Our peak is still not in view.

red bark in snow
The bright reds and greens of the manzanita vanishing into the snow cover.

Something with an antenna is partly hidden by a hill as we reach the road portion of the trail, but there is no time to check it out. We do not get very far down the road before leaving it to climb up the steep slope. The peak, or rather peaks for there are actually two nearly equal in height, are finally near. We scramble up the slope to the first, then cross to the second where the Army Corp of Engineers has left a benchmark designated "KEN".

bumps everywhere
Climbing up through the little blanket of snow.

desert to the north
The desert floor does not seem so far away to the north.

the next peak
Scrambling across to the next peak where there is a register and benchmark. The cloud shrouded Santa Rosa Mountains rise behind it.

the other other peak
Looking back upon arrival. Which peak is higher?

At the top of Ken Point with the benchmark. My highly water resistant GoLites and gaiters are the order for a day kicking snow.

The weather has not turned bad, but it still looks like it could, so the celebrations at the top are short and sweet. We will be racing the sun a little to get down before dark. The taller Santa Rosa Mountains are keeping their snow blanket a lot better than the surroundings. They look very impressive today.

Bull Canyon Road
Bull Canyon Road heads back to the highway, but it passes through reservation land.

wrinkled land
Interesting wrinkles north of the tall mountains.

With all signed to the register, a few pull on a little more clothing for the less strenuous downhill clamber. Some of it seems much steeper than coming up. That seems to always be the way. With a little bit of care, we make it back to the road. After that, it is just a long stroll back to the cars.

Thick and treelike yucca grows here.

no more snow
Heading back down the trail.

The snow in the lower areas has almost entirely melted during the day. It is quite a different look to the area as we come back down. We get back into the long wiggles nearing the trailhead as the sun drops. A few minutes later, the temperature drop is noticeable. We finish up as things dim, but it is not yet dark. It certainly was a stunning day for hiking the peak.

©2015 Valerie Norton
Posted 1 Dec 2015

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