19 September 2017

Cucamonga Wild: Ontario and Bighorn Peaks

Angeles National Forest

San Bernardino National Forest

Click for map.

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3

Although 2000 feet higher, Kelly Camp was not much cooler than Commanche Camp the night before. I pack up and tuck my gear away. This place does not have anything like the traffic at Icehouse Saddle, so I am not as worried about getting it totally hidden. Heading up the old camp steps along the trail gets me out of came and climbing to the ridge. In between is an area where burn and regrowth has left a trail that circles about in ridiculous ways.

mountains seen through the remaining trees
Looking north to Timber Mountain and Mount San Antonio.

At the top of the ridge, it shows an advantage of saving these peaks with a similar view for a new day. It is a whole new world down there today compared to yesterday. The city grid stretching far west and east is now gone in favor of a sea of clouds with a few islands.

Santiago Peak in the mist behind the junction sign
There were vast connected cities here before and now there is just Santiago Peak in the distance.

Trail at the top follows near the ridge east and west. I turn west for Ontario Peak. The trail follows through more of the burn, but now plots a typical ridge line path. It stays generally to the north side just a little and avoids going up and over the biggest bumps on the way.

fog filled valley
Even the spaces to the east, seen through Icehouse Saddle here, are covered in fog.


Ontario Peak
One last rise of rock up ahead is Ontario Peak.

Just a little more climbing at the end and I am on Ontario Peak. It has a jumble of rocks to play around, but is a fairly small one. I cannot help but notice that someone has mounted a bottle opener to the stout, dead tree next to the summit block.

along the ridge from Ontario Peak
Looking down along the ridge from the top of Ontario Peak.

Telegraph Peak
Telegraph Peak, the central and tallest of "the three Ts" north of Icehouse Saddle.

I am suspicious the next peak over might be a little higher and decide to hit it on the way over to Bighorn. Literature seems to put it about 3 feet shorter. There is no trail to get to the top, but it is easy enough. There is a small walled camp site and a register on it identifying it as "Not Quite Ontario" and indicating that most come up it hoping it actually is Ontario.

nude ridge out to Bighorn
Looking down the ridge to Bighorn Peak. Timber Mountain pokes up behind the ridge and Cucamonga Peak rises on the far right.

Ontario Peak
Ontario Peak from the peak nearly as high as it.

There are a couple women heading up Ontario as I come down. The route up to Bighorn Peak is shorter and so a bit more direct. It is a long peak and one that somehow projects a comfortable feeling. The top is marked with a post that I am rather suspicious used to hold up the sign at the junction along the ridge. I rather suspect there is a register somewhere, but not in any of the obvious spots. I should look these things up before coming up if I want to sign them.

top of Bighorn Peak
Coming to the top of Bighorn Peak.

Ontario, but not
Looking back toward Ontario, but the higher peak between completely blocks it.

higher peaks to the north
Panorama of the three tees and Mount San Antonio and the rest.

As I head down, I cannot help but notice that the low clouds are rising and breaking up to the west. South of me, they just seem to be rising.

cloud bits over the clouds
Rising clouds breaking up to the west.

Kelly Camp foundation
Back in Kelly Camp coming down on the main leftover foundation.

As I get back to camp, I finally finish off the last of the water that was meant for hiking around yesterday. I really did not need to bring up so much. I pour out about 3 pounds of the stuff before packing up. What I still have will get me not just to the creek below, but all the way to the trailhead. The trail is much warmer and the air stiller now than it was in the early evening. I head down to Icehouse Saddle, and then down the Middle Fork once more.

clouds over the mouth of the canyon
Starting down the Middle Fork Trail. It looks like it might be cloudy over Scotland.

Commanche Camp
There is very little to indicate a named destination at Commanche Camp. It sits among cedar trees with some rock fire rings and flat spots.

peaks up a canyon
Looking up a different branch toward Cucamonga Peak.

As I head down from Commanche Camp, two things become quite clear. First, I passed through the best bit of the canyon in the dark when I could not see it. Second, I was right, there are some very scary bits of trail along here. Particularly the thin bit of sandy trail where now I can see there is nothing but sand at the angle of repose going down at least 100 feet. The scree sections are actually held in by some branches which are in turn held in by rebar. I could see the wood in the night, but not the metal tips spaced at less than a foot apart. Some 20 feet below are the larger metal anchors that once held the trail in. All this is nothing compared to the outright cliffs on the far side.

rugged canyon
Wandering the side of the canyon down Middle Fork Trail. The clouds are lifting and coming up the canyon now.

steep sand to a cliff
Bushes and a tree try to make it work on the cliff face across the way. The sand leading down to it looks a little less steep in the photo.

looking back
Looking back up although the mist is getting in the way.

another canyon branch
Looking up the other branch that comes down to Third Crossing.

I meet a man coming up. One other person is actually hiking on this trail too! He says he is going for the peak (Cucamonga) from this side because he was late getting started, but he was even more pushed back because he could not get his truck all the way up the road. Finally the portions of the trail traversing high in the canyon start down some switchbacks to put me down in Third Crossing. There is no more here to indicate a named destination than at Commanche. It is just a few flat spots and some hand made fire pits that would be illegal to use.

not much of a camp area
Third Crossing Camp. There are campsites here. A few anyway. Well, at least one by the log behind the large tree.

water at Third Crossing
Water at the crossing comes down a different canyon.

I get a little down stream coming to the actual crossing, but it is easy enough to find the trail again on the other side. It does not get up quite so high below this, at least not until it splits for the Stone House.

afternoon light filtered through mist
The afternoon light plays through the mist and the trees in interesting ways.

wash below
The creek area has turned into a wide wash with a thin line of water.

Cucamonga Wilderness sign
Leaving the Cucamonga Wilderness.

At the split, I head low. This finds me in some very green spots. One area has ladybugs swarming along a log that lies next to the almost completely obscured trail. As I pass by, there is a sudden pain of little harpoons launching themselves into my thigh and knee. Stinging nettle, right through my trousers. Just past that trap is the second crossing.

log lined green trail
The ladybugs swarm beside the trail among the nettles and blackberries.

Stone House Camp is a little way down and looks to be well used. There is a second site upstream from the main area. Past it is the first crossing. The trail gets a little washed out here before climbing up onto the bank.

flat and ash covered spots
Flat spots with an ash covering near fire rings at the main portion of Stone House Camp. The other site is prettier.

The stone house itself eludes me as the trail starts up to the junction above where the rocks cross it to discourage passage this way. Old road is clear below the trail down in the creek bed. It comes up to the parking area next to the trail. Perhaps the end of it is where I should look. I am not quite that interested and pack up instead. I still have to navigate my ill-suited car down this road.

The road does not seem quite so bad going down. I am surprised at the section that stopped the pickup truck. It is something I had just rolled on through because although rather textured, my six inches of clearance would be enough. Coming down with breaking on all four wheels, I do manage to hit the right line on the particularly hard spot and thus there is not a single loud thump from the bottom of the Scion the whole way down. A new trail explored to an old haunt, four peaks bagged, and returning with my oil pan intact: this trip is quite the success. The three brown lines down the road from the less lucky car a couple days ago are beginning to fade.




©2017 Valerie Norton
Posted 25 September 2017

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