Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mount San Gorgonio: Top of Southern California


Today I went and climbed Mount San Gorgonio. It's the tallest peak in Southern California at 11,502 feet and can be seen from over a hundred miles away. A lot of people refer to this peak as Big Bear but Big Bear is a lake and a city, not a mountain. It is not the prettiest mountain; it's basically a big mound of rock and dirt but since it is the tallest it is a destination for the hiker and mountaineer.

There are several ways up San Gorgonio but my favorite, the Vivian Creek Trail is closed right now due to some problem bears. I don't mind bears--I've hiked in Yosemite--but some people get a little freaked out by it so I did the South Fork Trail instead.

The trail winds through the conifers before climbing up to the barren summit of San Gorgonio. I hate the switchbacks on this trail. They are never ending, they are not steep enough and half of the time you are hiking in the wrong direction. I think when the made them they were looking to put people to work so they figured the more miles the better. It gets irritating after a while, though.

I come to a junction where the trail goes to either Dry Lake or Dollar Lake. I go up the Dry Lake side and will come down the Dollar Lake Trail.

I wonder why the call this Dry Lake.

After leaving Dry Lake you get to a place where the trail switchbacks up the bare rocky slopes of the mountain. It seems to take forever.

I am tempted to leave the trail and just scramble up this chute. I decide to stick to the trail because I told myself I wasn't going to rush today and I was just going to enjoy the mountain. I've climbed this chute in winter before and know it goes straight to the top.

When I climbed in winter, we were very careful about the snow conditions. Looking down you can see where an avalanche ripped out a large stand of big trees.

Along the trail you come across this wreckage of an old plane.

This plaque commemorates the men who lost their lives in this crash. This plaque was not here the last time I did this hike and I am glad it is here now. It reminds us that this is a solemn spot where men whose job was protecting our country lost their lives here. Rather than just some old wreckage knowing what happened here brings a moment of reflection and thoughts of those now putting their lives at peril to protect our freedom.

The trail continues on and I've had enough of these switchbacks.

After the switchbacks, the trail takes a LONG traverse of the entire mountain. Why they built the trail that way I have no idea. It's long and boring so I decide to just go straight up here.

From the top of the chute it's just a short but steep climb to the summit. If I stayed on the trail it'd take me about 1/2 hour longer.

When I get to the top, there's a regular party going on there. A day I've seen five people but at the summit there are at least thirty. It turns out that this is part of a group from a UCLA charity program. For eight days, inner city kids go to camp and as part of that they spend four days in the wilderness.

The summit register is stuffed. Loads of people climb this peak although a lot of them do it as an overnight adventure.

From the top you get a good view of Big Bear LAKE.

In addition to the UCLA group, there are lots of these little critters on the top. So many people enjoy their lunch here that there are lots of crumbs for them.

I head off in the opposite direction from which I came. I hope to get a nice view of the Southland but it's too hazy and the marine layer is thick today so no luck.

While the sign says Dollar Lake, I actually won't be going there today. It's off the main trail so I'll have to save that for another hike.

I bypass a shortcut down the face of the mountain and head down the Dollar Lake Trail.

I almost regret going this way because this trail is WAY rockier than the other way. My poor feet are not happy.

That is until we get to the Jeep. The first thing I do is thank them for taking me on a great adventure.



darlene said...

how long did the whole thing take? drive included...

David Edward said...

it is a great climb and worth all the effort, perhaps best done in two days - permit (free) required