Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Arrow Canyon to the Muddy River

This is a continuation of my retracing George Q. Cannon's 1849 journey.

Saturday morning, November 17, 1849, at 8:00 a.m. the Rich company was on its way, continuing southeast down the Pahranagat Wash, through Arrow Canyon, “traveling mostly in its bed. After traveling about 10 miles” they came to a more unusual portion of the canyon than they’d seen the day before. The canyon narrowed to “about ten yards wide.” On “either side” of the canyon was “a solid mass” of “perpendicular” rocks from “500 to 1,000 feet high.”

The dam across Arrow Canyon, below, was built by the CCC in the 1930s.

The following picture was taken from the top of the dam.

The “bed” of the wash was “dry,” but there were “several holes of water found standing” within the canyon. About 1 ½ miles into Arrow Canyon, they “found where the Indians had shot” arrows “over head about 80 feet into” the “crevice” of a “large” rock “shelf.” There were “more than 200 arrows sticking there” and it was “as if” the Indians “wished to pry off” the shelf. “The bursting of a cap in this passage sounded like the crack of a rifle.”
More pictures of the steep Arrow Canyon walls.

Indian petroglyphs in Arrow Canyon.

Water, from recent rains, in a hole in the canyon wall.

Water in a hole in the canyon bottom.

Grass in Arrow Canyon.

More grass.

They found the “traveling down” Arrow Canyon to be “good” and emerged from the Canyon in another 1 ½ miles, 13 miles from their camp that morning.

Mormon Peak from the mouth of Arrow Canyon.

They “came to good grass and some warm springs of water.” They allowed their horses to feed for an hour and started again. Parts of the “road” got “rather muddy in places, caused by” water from the springs, and the “mire” made for “very bad traveling.”
Below, Warm Springs, near Moapa, Nevada, is now owned by 19 LDS Las Vegas Stakes and used as a recreation area. The California fan palms currently around Warm Springs are not native to the area. They were introduced in the 1890s.

Warm Springs, below, filled with plant life.

The “springs soon formed a creek with” a “considerable” amount of “water in it.” About two miles from Arrow Canyon, 15 miles from their camp the night before, they “camped near the creek.” There was “lots of water and good grass.” Nearby were some “Indian farms,” where they found “fine fields of wheat, corn and beans.” The Indians “irrigated their lands from” the creek “and their fields had the appearance of bearing very heavy crops.” Peter Fife, who “had traveled the Spanish Trail” the year before “after being let loose from Uncle Sam,” believed the creek to be the Muddy River “from the looks of the water.” “He knew of no” other creek as “large as this” one, except the Muddy. Henry Bigler stood guard that night and lamented the loss of his “pocket knife” which he left “lying on the ground” at their last camp following breakfast. However, he noted, that everything else has seemed “to go right since” Charles Rich “took things in hand.” They have had “no mountains to pass over, but pass right through them,” the “river” has run the “right way” and they have had “water whenever” they wanted it for themselves and their animals.

Below, the Warm Springs form the Muddy River. It runs 30 miles southeast through the Moapa Valley and empties into the Virgin River. There is a “Warm Springs Monument” dedicated to George Q. Cannon, Charles C. Rich, Henry W. Bigler and James H. Rollins just outside the gate of the property owned by the LDS Church. It was erected as an Eagle Project by Chad Thornton in February 1997.

Meanwhile, the Jefferson Hunt company of wagons, which had stayed on the Old Spanish Trail, arrived at the Muddy River on Friday, November 16, 1849. They were at the “Old California Crossing,” which is where the Spanish Trail crosses the Muddy. This was also “the edge of the 50 mile drive” across the desert to Las Vegas Springs. They noted that the Muddy was “fed by warm springs and the water is warm and pleasant to bathe in.” Addison Pratt “found some fish” in the river “resembling” a carp. “They bite readily at a hook” and “the largest of them” weighed almost a pound. Pratt cut open some lumps on the sides of some of the fish and found “sacks containing a sort of wireworm.” On Saturday the 17th, the Hunt company moved their camp up the river three miles where there was better grass to “recruit their teams” before the “fifty mile desert” crossing.

Below, California Crossing, where the Old Spanish Trail crossed the Muddy River. The Muddy is now surrounded by tamarisk trees that make it nearly impossible to get near it. The trees in the background of the picture mark the Muddy which is just beyond and below them.

A close-up of the Muddy River at California Crossing. It is near present-day Glendale, Nevada, just off the I-15 freeway. Muddy comes from the Paiute word “moody” which was their name for mesquite. As you can see, it had nothing to do with the consistency of the water.

Sunday morning, November 18, 1849, Henry Bigler noted having a dream during the night where he saw Addison Pratt and James Brown, both with the Hunt company. At 8:00 a.m. the Rich company was “on the march.” They “traveled about five miles down” the Muddy River and “came in sight of some cattle grazing on the other side.” As they got closer, they saw “some men” with the cattle. Upon reaching these men, they were told that “Captain Hunt was camped just below” them with seven wagons. Rich was able to confirm with these men that they “were on the Muddy, the most favorable point” they “could have struck,” and he “felt to acknowledge the hand of the Lord” in their “deliverance.” The Rich company continued down the Muddy and found Captain Hunt and the wagons. Still “among the train” were “Brothers Pratt, Brown and Blackwell…on their way to the islands” and “still with the roadometer.” Also camped there near them were “two small companies” of another wagon train that had been “ahead of Hunt’s train” previously. Henry Bigler noted being “happily disappointed,” as they had not expected to reach the Spanish Trail for another two days. Addison Pratt was not in camp when they arrived, but “was out in pursuit of some ducks that frequented” a nearby “pool.” James Brown took Charles Rich out to find him. Pratt was “creeping through the grass” when he saw “Brother Rich and Brown, on the side of the pool.” Brown and Rich “discovered” Pratt “at the same time, and Brother Rich called out, at the top of his voice, ‘good morning Brother Pratt.’ At the sound of” his “voice the ducks arose out of the water and flew toward” Pratt. As Pratt “returned the salute and said, ‘good morning Brother Rich,’” he “discharged” his “fowling piece at the ducks” and two dropped “from the flock.” Pratt noted that Brother Rich “often laughed at” him “afterwards about the oddity of the occurrence.”

Later, the men of both companies exchanged information about the events which had taken place since they had last seen each other. Rich, from the reports of the six men that had joined them at Beaver Dam Wash, brought “sad and heartrending news from the great emigrant company, which had broken into factions and become perfectly demoralized and confused. Some had taken packs on their backs and started on foot, their cattle dying, their wagons abandoned.” Rich noted that his company had “very hard times in the mountains, had lost some of their animals and expended nearly all of the provisions.” Rich “tried to have Captain Smith return with him,” but Captain Smith “was determined to find a road through to California or die in the attempt.” However, the parting may have been a blessing, as it had been reported that some of Captain Smith’s men were “threatening” them “with their rifles if” they “did not divide” their provisions “with them.” Captain Hunt reported that at the time the “train of 100 wagons had” left him to follow the Rich and Smith companies, he felt his life was threatened. The threatening element had departed with the break-off wagon train, but Hunt had been left “with enough men to go through in safety.” In retrospect, both companies had been “separated from the train” under similar circumstances and delivered from difficult situations. They “felt to return thanks to” their “Heavenly Father.” The feeling was that the main wagon train would “perish” if they did not go “back out,” for they were “sure they” could not take the route the Rich company had followed. “As for Captain Smith,” they felt he was “a goner if” he did not “beat” it “down south on to the Spanish Trail.” George Cannon reminisced: “It was with a feeling of great relief that we reached the Spanish Trail. We were tired of traveling on a ‘cut-off,’ and to say that a certain road was a ‘cut-off’ to anyone of the company during the remainder of that journey was sufficient to prejudice him against it. To this day I have a dislike for ‘cut-offs.’”

Henry Bigler obtained “some crackers” and “thought it the best eating” he had ever had, noting “I naturally like to eat hard bread anyhow.” That evening, James Brown approached Bigler about going with him and Brother Pratt “to the islands, saying that Brother Pratt wanted” him to go “and that he had heard Brother Pratt ask Brother Rich how he would like to swap-off one of his men for Brother Blackwell.” Brother Rich said he “had no objections” if “it was agreeable between the parties.” Bigler told Brown he did not want to go.

On Monday, November 19, 1849, both the Rich and Hunt companies “remained in camp to recruit” their animals and “replenish” their “provisions.” Charles Rich and Jefferson Hunt had “authority from the Church to transact” business on behalf of the Church.” They used “their authority” to obtain a “yoke of oxen” from some men in the Hunt company that at first “were quite unwilling to give them up,” but later, “consented to do so.” Rich and Hunt “sold the” oxen “to Dallas,” a member of the nearby wagon train, “for provisions to fit out Rich’s company to cross the deserts into California.” Rich indicated “that both” the water and the grass were “so full of saleratus [alkali] that it was injurious” to their animals. “Some Indians came to” them and “appeared quite friendly.” They , “said they belonged to the Pahvants and were at war with the Paiutes which are the owners of this country…Many of them could talk Spanish, and when they found that several men in” their “company could speak” Spanish, “they avoided conversation” with them “as much as possible.” They “concluded they were mission Indians” that “had run away from California and were now on their way there to steal horses.” They “burned charcoal and made nails to shoe” their cattle. They had “to throw the animals down and hold them while Apostle Charles C. Rich shod them.” James Brown recalled that “Brother Rich did his work well, for the shoes never came loose till they wore off.” During the “evening, a Dutchman” came into camp “who had left Smith’s” company. “He was robbed by the Indians of nearly all of his provisions.”

The next day, they would leave the Muddy River to cross the desert to Las Vegas springs.

Pahranaget Wash

This is a continuation of my retracing George Q. Cannon's 1849 journey.

On Tuesday, November 13, 1849, The Rich and Smith companies were camped together in Kane Springs Valley, Nevada. It had been a day and a half since they’d had water and their supply was exhausted. George Q. Cannon noted in his journal, that “before daylight,” he, Charles Rich, William Farrer, and one or two others “shouldered” their rifles “and started out ahead on foot.” They “did not eat anything,” hoping to reduce their thirst. To the west they “saw a number of ridges or hills rising suddenly out of the valley. By ascending them” they “hoped to be able to see where” they “could find water.” They “climbed several” of these ridges, but were “disappointed. The prospect for water was dreary. As far as the eye could reach, there was a desert on every side.” Further to the west were the Sheep Mountains where they “thought it likely” they would find water. However, they were so “far distant” that there was “some anxiety” whether they “could hold out to reach them.” Meanwhile, the balance of both the Rich and Smith companies started about “daylight.” A light rain started late morning. Cannon and his companions “kept ahead of the company” and “began to feel faint for the want of food. From the top of the last ridge” they climbed, they “saw the company winding along in the distance” and took their “bearings so as to meet them.” About the time the parties met, they “found a small patch of grass. The animals were both hungry and thirsty, and as this wet grass was what they wanted. Brother Rich had the company stop for awhile. He and those” who “had walked ahead with him, had been without food about twenty-four hours” and “were ravenously hungry.” Rich invited those who had been with him “to eat some hard bread.” This bread was “gratefully accepted, regardless of the thirst which oppressed” them. George Q. Cannon claimed this hard bread was “the best meal” he “ever partook of.” Within an hour, the “scattering drops of rain became a regular shower” and they resumed traveling. Cannon, now riding his horse, “turned up the rim” of his hat and “made it something like a dish.” By keeping his head steady, he used his hat to “catch” rain. The hat gave the water “a smoky flavor, but it quenched [his] thirst.” As they traveled, “every rock that had a hollow in it with water was greedily devoured by the men.” The water “soon began to stand in puddles on the ground” and the men “soon got satisfied as well as the animals.”

Below, a picture from Kane Springs Valley, with Pahranaget Wash in the Coyote Springs Valley in the distance and the cloud shrouded Sheep Mountains in the background.

Finally, at Pahranagat Wash, Charles Rich noted that they “camped in a gully” and “dug away in the bank” to get “dry ground to lay on.” They also “scooped holes” in the sand to obtain water. Henry Bigler wrote that near camp, rain water was “standing in large puddles on the ground” and each man “filled his canteen and camp kettle.” They made “large fires of prickly pine,” likely Joshua trees, but perhaps ocotillo, which burned well, despite being wet.

Below, a gravel pit in the Pahranaget Wash, with standing water from recent rains.
Captain Smith told Charles Rich “that the finger of the Lord was in this, for” they would “have suffered very much had it not been for” the rain and they probably would “have perished.” Cannon wrote that “all felt very grateful, for the providence of the Lord was very visible” to them “in this timely relief.” They traveled about 20 miles that day.

The next day, Wednesday, November 14, 1839, Charles Rich “determined to ascend a big mountain” 10 or 15 miles west of camp as he had “come to the opinion” they “would have to bear south to the Spanish Trail.” As the weather was not clear enough for a good view, he decided to find a camp with water so that they could wait until the weather did clear. He sent three “brethren” towards the mountain to look for water and “a camping place,” or “any signs” of water coming from the mountains. Captain Smith also sent out men “to search for water.” Captain Smith’s men returned to report that they “had found a small spring about three miles towards the south,” which would have been in Pahranaget Wash. They “thought by digging a little, plenty of water” could be obtained. The “brethren [of the Rich company] returned,” and “reported” that they “found no water” to the west. Therefore, “orders was given to pack up and go” to the spring. They “started in the afternoon” and reached what is now called Coyote Spring, which is west of Hwy 93 and about 40 miles from present-day Moapa, Nevada. The spring was “weak,” and full of tadpoles, and after being “cleaned out” it “barely” provided “sufficient water” for the men. However, the animals obtained water from “clay puddles near the spring” formed by the “recent rain.”

I was not able to locate Coyote Spring, but this picture was taken in the vicinity of it. After breakfast, on Thursday, November 15, 1849, Charles Rich, Darwin Chase, George Bankhead and a Mr. Adams “started for the top” of the Sheep Mountains west of camp “in order to get a view of the country” and calculate their “chance” of traveling “on the other side.” Below, the Sheep Mountains, in clouds, as seen from the vicinity of Coyote Springs.
Around 2:00 p.m. they “reached the top,” having passed “through thick clouds the whole way. When on top,” they found themselves “above the clouds with a good view to the west.” There they saw a “large snowy peak looming through the clouds” “about 150 miles west.” They could not tell whether it was “connected with a range or not” because “of the fog.” There was “a high range south west about 80 miles” and “undulating spurs putting out from the range north.” After a quick view, they “started down” again. Some time later they “heard some hollowing below.” One of them “answered,” assuming it was one “of the company searching for them.” In response, they heard the hollowing a “second time.” Charles Rich “advised the boys not to answer for it might be Indians.” Providentially, they “missed the way” they had originally gone up the mountain “and went down two miles south.” It “was after dark” when they “reached the foot of the mountain.” In a “low place” near the “mouth” of “a small canyon” they saw a fire. They “approached carefully” and found “an Indian sitting in a squatted position” about 20 feet away. He was looking in their direction, but “it was so dark,” the Indian “could not see them.” They “withdrew carefully” and resumed their journey back to camp. In his journal, Rich acknowledged “the hand of the Lord” in their “deliverance as there” was “no doubt” in his mind that “the main party” of Indians was “laying” in wait for them on their original “path” up the mountain. Rich estimated they traveled no less than 30 miles.

“In the evening,” Captain Flake “sent out some mules to meet” the Rich party and “ordered a fire to be made on a high place near camp” to guide them in “for it was cloudy and hardly a star” was in the sky. The “boys” with the mules “returned about” 8:00 p.m. and “reported” they could not find the Rich party. They indicated they had gone “to the foot of the mountain and fired ten rounds, but got no answer.” Around 9:00 p.m., the Rich party arrived back in camp. Rich indicated to the company that “there was no sight” of “water or grass as far as he could see. Neither was there a chance, in his opinion, for a pass” through the Sheep Mountains or beyond. “He could see mountains piled one above another for 150 miles. There was a valley,” likely Desert Valley, on the west side of the Sheep Mountains, which was “at least ¾ of a mile higher than” the Coyote Springs Valley they were in. “It looked like a perfect desert. He said there was a valley southward that ran west.” He felt “that if there was any pass, it must be through it, but there was not a good prospect for water that way.” Rich’s “council” was for them to take “the Spanish Trail” and “all that” had “a mind to follow him” could “do so,” or “if not, they” could “go their own way.” Rich told them “his heart” had “ached ever since” leaving Beaver Dam Wash, which he referred to as “Farm Creek.” He had “told Captain Flake at Farm Creek” that “he wanted to go farther south” and Captain Flake “acknowledged that he had not done” as Charles Rich had recommended. The men of the Rich company were “unanimous in their feelings” to take “the Spanish Trail.” Captain Smith’s company must have been camped some distance away as Captain Smith did not confer with Rich until the next day.

Captain Smith “came up to” the Rich camp in the “morning,” Friday, November 16, 1849, “and asked Brother Rich what discoveries he made from the top of the mountain and what way he thought of going. Brother Rich told him what he had seen and gave his opinion of the route” to the west. “That it was his mind not to” travel west “any farther,” but rather, “he would make for the Spanish Trail.” “Captain Smith expressed his determination to persevere” in continuing west “and swore that he would” continue even “if he died in the attempt.” If the Rich company “did not hear from” him, they “might know that he had died with his face westward and not before he had eaten some mule meat with a good appetite.” George Cannon reminisced: “These were brave words, and were designed to draw a contrast between, what he thought was our lack of perseverance and courage, and the pluck, energy, and unyielding resolution which he and his men possessed. They had, however, but little effect upon us. To our minds it was no evidence of bravery in a man to plunge himself into the midst of difficulties, to expose his life unnecessarily, or to brave starvation and dangers when they could be honorably avoided. It was with no disposition to flinch, or to back out that we came to the conclusion no longer to pursue this route; but prudence and wisdom alike forbade our persistence in that direction.”

Around 9:00 a.m., the Rich and Smith companies “parted. Two or three of Smith’s men left him and joined” the Rich company. These men “had become members of the Church at Salt Lake City.” The two companies “parted with the best of feelings, each one believing his way to be the best.” George Q. Cannon said they “called this spot ‘Division Spring,’ for” it was there that they “separated.”

The Rich company started in a “southeasterly direction, down the bed of” Pahranagat Wash. They “felt buoyant and cheerful” and “spoke of” their “feelings one to another.” They “traveled until afternoon” when they found some “water and grass.” They “rested a little and let” their “horses drink and eat.” After “half an hour” they continued on.

Below, looking back at the Sheep Mountains, no longer shrouded in clouds, from Pahranaget Wash, just as it enters the Arrow Canyon Range.

As Pahranaget Wash enters the Arrow Canyon Range, it narrows and is quite sandy.

When I visited the area, after a recent rainstorm, water still sat in holes in the wash.

About 15 miles from Coyote Spring, they reached “a narrow canyon” now known as Double Canyon or Arrow Canyon. The mountain rose “precipitously” on each side “to several hundred feet.” Below, pictures from Arrow Canyon, taken in early morning light.

Further in to Arrow Canyon.

They traveled into the canyon “¼ of a mile” where they found “plenty” of “grass and water.” Indians were “living” off to their left. They apparently surprised the Indians who ran “and left their bows and arrows, baskets, knives and paints &c.” The Rich company “left all” of the Indians’ “things undisturbed.” The Rich company spent that night in Arrow Canyon.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Nine Peaks

The Inland Empire Council of the Boy Scouts sponsors an award signified by a patch in the shape of a backpack with "9 Peaks" on it. To get the award, a scout must do a three day backpacking trip starting at Vivian Creek Traihead above Forest Falls, climb to the summit of Mount San Gorgonio and then follow the ridge line all the way over to Mount San Bernardino, doing side trips cross country to each of the seven other peaks in between, and end at the San Bernardino Peak Trailhead in Angelus Oaks, a total distance of about 28 miles. Kasey Haws and I got looking at a map and the distances and decided we could do it in a day if we got an early start. We also decided to do it backwards, starting at the San Bernardino Peak Trailhead. Below is a look at the ridge we would be traversing (this photo was taken from Mark Edwards' airplane, just west of the Big Bear Lake area). San Gorgonio is the peak at the far left and San Gorgonio is the peak at the far right. From this distance the different peaks are hardly distinguishable.

The night before the hike, we went to the Los Angeles Temple. I got to sleep at 11:30 p.m. and was up at 2:30 a.m. on the morning of September 25, 1993. I was at Kasey's house at 3:15 a.m. We dropped off Kasey's truck in Forest Falls, our endpoint, and then drove my car to Angelus Oaks where we started our hike at 4:15 a.m. I'll recount the details in a bit, but we ultimately limped to Kasey's truck in the parking lot, in darkness at 8:20 p.m., 16 hours and 5 minutes from when we started. Below is a topographic map with a dark line showing the San Gorgonio Wilderness boundary, a yellow line showing the trails we followed and names of the peaks highlighted in pink, with arrival times and the amount of rest time at each spot.
Sunday morning in church, we laughed as we watched each other stiffly sidle through the halls. I told Kasey I would never do the 9 peaks again. It was punishment. But like childbirth, you soon forget the agony and start to think about the joy you got from the experience. Two years later, on July 22, 1995, we did it again. This time we were accompanied by my nephew, Rick DeLong. However, we decided to make it a little easier and "just" do the summits of San Bernardino and San Gorgonio and avoid doing the cross country hikes to the 7 peaks in between. It was an easier hike, although only in a relative sense. Two years older, it took us about the same amount of time. Ten years later, we were at it again. On September 24, 2005, Kasey, Craig Wright and I completed the entire 9 peaks, again. We were age 36 the first time and age 48 the third time. Age is not your friend in this endeavor and we had a little bit of a different experience. I had worked out hard in preparation and was in much better shape. It was an easier hike for me than the hike 12 years prior, despite the age difference. Kasey was also in excellent shape, but it was from racing a bicycle. We discovered that different muscles get used on a bicycle than in hiking and Kasey really struggled to get out. His knees were freezing up on him.

With that introduction, I want to give some details on the first and third hikes, and a few mentions of the second hike (for which I kept no records). I took no pictures on the third hike.

There are dramatic differences between mileages on various maps. The old San Gorgonio Wilderness Association [SGWA] map may be the most accurate. The current U.S. Forest Service [USFS] map is based on GPS readings and a ranger told us that many hikers believe they are off (apparently conditions can impact the accuracy of the readings).

Angelus Oaks:

We started from Angelus Oaks (5,660 ft.) at 4:15 a.m. in 1993 and 3:23 a.m. in 2005. Because we were older for the later hike, we wanted to give ourselves more time if we needed it. From the trailhead to Columbine Junction (8,000 ft.) is 2,040 ft. in elevation gain and anywhere from 4.3 [SGWA] to 4.9 miles [USFS]. In 1993, our first two hours of hiking were by headlamp. It would have been longer than that in 2005 because we got an earlier start.

From there to Limber Pine Bench (9,360 ft.) is an additional 1,360 ft. in gain and between .8 [USFS] and 1.4 miles [SGWA].

San Bernardino Peak (10,649):

Finally, we reached our first peak, San Bernardino (10,649 ft.), an additional 1,289 ft. and 2.2 miles at 8:34 a.m. (1993) and 7:16 a.m. (2005), a total of 7.9 miles. We were 25 minutes faster in getting to the peak on our later hike (4 hours, 19 mins. in 1993 and 3 hours, 54 mins. in 2005). Below, on our second hike, we spent a little more time on the summit, which still had several feet of snow.

Kasey with the summit box in the foreground.

Rick DeLong, with a banana on his shoulder.

After a rest of 12 mins. (1993) and 4 mins. (2005), we continued on.

San Bernardino East (10,691):

The trail passes just north of the San Bernardino East summit (10,691 ft.). A side trail takes you 100 feet to the top. It took us 35 minutes in 1993 (arriving at 9:21 a.m.) and 30 minutes in 2005 (arriving at 7:50 a.m.). We took a 6 minute rest both years, although 2005 we ended up waiting for one in the party and it was probably another 5 or 6 minutes longer. Below, Kasey on San Bernardino East, with San Bernardino Peak in the background. After leaving, we passed the Momyer Creek Trail to the right (south), which leads 7 miles to Millcreek Canyon, and the Forsee Creek Trail to the left, which leads 7.5 miles down the north side to the trailhead.

Anderson Peak (10,840 ft.):

It took us 35 minutes in 1993 (arriving at 10:03 a.m.) and 38 minutes in 2005 (arriving at 8:34 a.m.) to get to Anderson Peak (10,840 ft.). There is not a trail to the summit, it is all cross country. We took a 20 minute rest in 1993 and 6 minutes in 2005. Below, on Anderson Peak with Mt. San Gorgonio in the background. My head is about even with the summit of Charlton Peak.

From Anderson, looking back at San Bernardino East and San Bernardino Peaks.

Below, an unobstructed view of Charlton, Little Charlton, Jepson and San Bernardino Peaks.

From the same spot, with a 300 mm zoom looking at San Gorgonio. The summit is the little pointed mound near the back center. The ridge toward the bottom of the picture is the saddle between Little Charlton and Jepson. From the peak, we reached Anderson Flat and passed a side trail which led to Trail Fork Springs, .4 miles to the northwest, and eventually connects into the Forsee Creek Trail.

Shields Peak (10,680 ft.):

Shields Peak (10,680 ft.) is a big pile of rocks just south of the trail. There are small patches of trail up to the summit, but it is mostly boulder hopping. It took us 26 minutes in 1993 (arriving at 10:49 a.m.) and 25 minutes in 2005 (arriving at 9:05 a.m.). We rested for 6 minutes in 1993 and 15 minutes in 2005. Below, Kasey hiking to the summit of Shields. After Shields, we dropped in elevation as we hiked to Shields Flat (10,320 ft.).
Alto Diablo (10,563 ft.):

The trail switchbacks up the side of Alto Diablo six times and skirts the north side where there are a few poor paths to the peak (10,563 ft.), only 20 feet off the main trail. It is a poor excuse for a peak and, of all the peaks, seems least worthy of the name. It took us 25 minutes in 1993 (arriving at 11:20 a.m.) and 28 minutes in 2005 (arriving at 9:48 a.m.). We rested for 5 minutes in 1993 and 3 minutes in 2005.

Dollar Lake Saddle (10,000 ft.):

In 2005, we spent time trying to find the High Meadow Springs Trail and the spring which is a one-quarter mile to the south. We were unsuccessful in finding it, which delayed us a bit. Then we passed Red Rock Flat (10,080 ft.) and eventually reached Dollar Lake Saddle (10,000 ft.), which is about the half-way point. It took us 35 minutes in 1993 (arriving at 12:00 noon) and 41 minutes in 2005 (arriving at 10:32 a.m.). There we had lunch, spending 30 minutes in 1993 and 28 minutes in 2005. Overall, we had gone 14.5 miles, had gained 5,240 feet and lost 840 feet and had spent 1 hour 19 minutes resting in 1993 and 1 hour, 2 minutes resting in 2005. In 2005, we were 36 minutes ahead of our 1993 time (7 hours, 9 minutes vs. 7 hours, 45 minutes). In 1993 I noted that my body was beginning to ache.

Charlton Peak (10,806 ft.):

From Dollar Lake Saddle, we followed the trail around the south side of Charlton, then traveled north, cross country, to the saddle between Charlton and Little Charlton. There we dropped our packs and hiked up to Charlton. In 1993, the mid-day sun was unmerciful and sweat poured off of our faces. It was five or six steps and rest, then five or six steps and rest, all the way to the summit of Charlton (10,806 ft.). It took us 42 minutes in 1993 (arriving at 1:12 p.m.) and 45 minutes in 2005 (arriving at 11:48 a.m.). In 2005, I felt really good at this point, much better than 12 years earlier. However, Kasey was beginning to struggle. The muscles around his knees were giving out. Craig Wright is a marathoner and this was a walk in the park for him. Below, Kasey on the summit of Charlton, with San Gorgonio in the background. He has an amazing ability to look fresh, even when he's worn out. We rested for 11 minutes in 1993 and 7 minutes in 2005.

Little Charlton (10,696 ft.):

We traced our steps down to the saddle, picked up our packs, then hiked up to Little Charlton (10,696 ft.). It took us 14 minutes in 1993 (arriving at 1:37 p.m.) and 18 minutes in 2005 (arriving at 12:10 p.m.). We rested for 20 minutes in 1993 and 2 minutes in 2005. We followed the ridge to the trail. At that point, the saddle between Little Charlton and Jepson is known as Dry Lake View. Dry Lake can be seen in the distance, nestled below Grinnell Peak. We left the trail to traverse some steep, hard earth, covered with a layer of loose gravel which was very difficult to negotiate. At one point, in 1993, I fell flat on my face when both of my feet went out from under me. Several steps later, the same thing happened again. I was really getting tired.

Jepson Peak (11,205 ft.):

In 1993, we went more cross country and hit two places we thought could be the peak, without finding a summit register. In 2005, we stayed on the trail longer, then backtracked up toward the peak. It was an easier way to go, but I believe it may have taken longer, although part of that was because Kasey was really beginning to struggle. It took us 55 minutes in 1993 (arriving at 2:53 p.m.) and 1 hour, 13 minutes in 2005 (arriving at 1:25 p.m.). We were still ahead of our schedule of 12 years earlier, timewise, by 35 minutes. We rested 10 minutes in 1993 and 8 minutes in 2005. Below, the picture taken from the trail on the way up to Jepson Peak, looking back toward San Bernardino, San Bernardino East, and part of Anderson.

In 1993, Kasey found some snow below Jepson Peak. We filled our Nalgene bottles with snow and got some additional cold water out of it. One of the issues on this long hike is water. The snow helps. Another helpful addition is a Camelback with three liters of water mixed with Cytomax or a similar sports drink, which provides ongoing carbohydrates, caffeine and other items that help the body continue on. I think this made a big difference for me in 2005.

Mount San Gorgonio (11,499 ft.):

From this point on our pictures cease. It took us 43 minutes to get to San Gorgonio (11,499 ft.) in 1993 (arriving at 3:45 p.m.) and 51 minutes in 2005 (arriving at 2:24 p.m.). We took a 35 minute rest in 1993 and 26 minutes in 2005.

High Creek (9,440 ft.):

I reached High Creek in 1 hour, 8 minutes in 1993 (arriving at 5:28 p.m.) and in 1 hour, 40 minutes in 2005 (arriving at 4:25 p.m.). Here I gorged myself on water and surrendered my body to the grass on its bank. High Creek is between 3.0 miles [SGWA] and 3.8 miles [USFS] from San Gorgonio and an elevation drop of 2,061 feet. In 2005, Kasey, who's knees were really giving him problems at this point, was substantially later. At this point in 2005, I quit comparing the hikes, pretty much, because now it was a matter of just making sure Kasey could make it out. From about Jepson Peak on, Kasey started to use hiking poles, which helped his knees alot. I'm not sure he would have made it the rest of the way without them. High Creek is a welcome stop. The severe downhill from San Gorgonio, especially after a long day of hiking, takes a tremendous toll on the knees. Plus, water has become an issue, as the last reliable water was near Limber Pine Bench on the way up Mt. San Bernardino. We spent 26 minutes resting in 1993. Substantially longer in 2005.

Halfway Camp (8,000 ft.):

In 1993, we reached Halfway Camp, from High Creek, in 59 minutes (arriving at 6:53 p.m.). In actuality, we stopped at Vivian Creek, which is about 30 yards beyond the entrance to Halfway Camp. It is between 1.2 miles [USFS] or 2.3 miles [SGWA] from High Creek. Here, I have to say, the USFS mileage is ridiculous. It is hard to believe there can be a 1.1 mile difference and it is certainly longer than 1.2 miles, evidenced by hiking times. We spent 10 minutes resting in 1993 and I was absolutley exhausted. Each step was a conscious effort and each step was felt. In 2005, Kasey didn't even sit down. He was afraid if he did, he wouldn't be able to get back up. I was tired, but felt much better than in 1993.

Vivian Creek Camp (7,200 ft.):

At some point between Halfway and Vivian Creek, darkness overtook us and we had to put on our headlamps. It is between 1.3 miles [SGWA] and 2.4 miles [USFS] to Vivian Creek Camp and an elevation loss of 800 feet. Here again, the mileage difference is hard to believe. It feels longer than 1.3 miles. In 1993 we lost the trail here and found ourselves at the edge of a cliff watching Vivan Creek cascade into the darkness of Millcreek Canyon below. We then knew the trail was just east of us, a little higher up.

Vivian Creek Trailhead (6,080 ft.):

The absolute worst hiking is the last mile switchbacking from Vivian Creek to the Millcreek Canyon Wash, losing 1,120 feet in the process. Your knees begin to scream at you in pain. If you have blisters or toenail issues, they also scream out at you for attention. This compounded with your body aches and exhaustion, make for a miserable slog down the mountain. In 1995, our second trip, Rick DeLong walked down backwards, to reduce the pain in his knees. In 2005, Kasey just absolutely gutted it out. He has tremendous willpower and courage. It took months for his legs to recover after this hike. Again, a lesson learned that there are different muscles used in cycling and in hiking. We reached the trailhead at 8:20 p.m. in 1993 and 8:00 p.m. in 2005. It took us 1 hour, 17 minutes from Halfway Camp in 1993. Substantially longer in 2005.
Overall, it took us 16 hours, 5 minutes in 1993 and 16 hours, 37 minutes in 2005. It was 26.1 miles [SGWA] or 27.3 miles [USFS], without taking into account the cross country hiking to the peaks. I figure it is at least 28 miles taking that into consideration. Overall, it is at least 6,851 feet in elevation gain and 6,371 feet in elevation loss.

Subsequent Considerations:

When Kasey and I first did the nine peaks in a day, we'd never heard of anyone else doing it. We felt pretty good about ourselves. Subsequently, with the internet development, I've seen a number of people have done it, and in substantially faster times. Yesterday, as I was looking on the internet I came across one adventure that really caught my attention. It was a hike by Rick Kent on October 14, 2007. He did 17 peaks in a day, including the 9 peaks, but in addition, Dobbs Peak and East Dobbs Peak (both south of Jepson), Dragons Head and Bighorn Mountain (just south and west of the Tarn), Zahniser Peak, Lake Peak, Ten Thousand Foot Ridge and Grinnell Mountain (off the Fish Creek route south of San Gorgonio). I have never done any of those peaks, and it gets the mind considering it. His trip was about 38 miles. I don't think I am physically capable of even approaching that feet. It doesn't appear he even rested between peaks.
As points of comparison, he was 27 minutes between San Bernardino and San Bernardino East. We were 30 and 35 minutes. He was 23 minutes between Anderson and Shields, we were 25 and 26 minutes. He was 27 minutes between Shields and Alto Diablo, we were 25 and 28 minutes. Between Alto Diablo and Dollar Lake Saddle, he was 31 minutes, we were 35 and 41 minutes. He was 34 minute between Dollar Lake Saddle and Charlton, we were 42 and 45 minutes. Instead of following the trail around and going up near the saddle, he attacked Charlton directly, doing more cross country up the side. He was 17 minutes between Charlton and Little Charlton, we were 14 and 18 minuts. He was 38 minutes between Little Charlton and Jepson, we were 55 minutes and 1 hour, 13 minutes.
Those little time differences add up, as do the resting times. Plus you can see we were wearing down as the day went on and he kept up the pace. But, it does give one pause to consider. Could I do that? Could I do part of that?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mount San Gorgonio

One of the reasons I love inland Southern California is that we are in the shadow of the San Bernardino mountains. Among them is the largest mountain in Southern California, Mount San Gorgonio, at 11,499 feet in elevation. I recently hiked to the summit for my 12th time. One other time, my first attempt, we were very close to the summit when we had to turn back because of a snow storm. In a list of the most topographically prominent peaks of North America, San Gorgonio ranks no. 35. When the list is limited to the 48 contiguous states, it ranks no. 7. The first known climb was made in 1872 by W. A. Goodyear and Mark Thomas from the Millcreek area, which is now most closely approximated by the Vivian Creek Trail.

The picture below, taken from Anderson Peak, gives an indication of why it is also known as Greyback. The summit is just above tree line and the exposed rock makes it standout from the surrounding mountains. The local, Cahuilla, Indians, called it "Kwiria-Kaich," which means bald or smooth.

South Fork Trail:

There are three main routes to the summit. The most popular, from South Fork, is my least favorite, because it is the longest. It starts at South Fork, on the north side of the mountain range, at an elevation of 6,880 ft. It goes through Horse Meadows, over Poopout Hill, through South Fork Meadows, past Dollar Lake to Dollar Lake Saddle. This is the route I took on my first attempt at the summit, in October 1990. I was a member of the bishopric and with the teachers quorum of the Redlands 3rd Ward, including John Wainright, their advisor. Below is a picture taken while approaching the Dollar Lake area. Charleton Peak is in the background. My brain is foggy on the full names, but at the left is a Field, then John Wainright, Nathan Koch and a Henderson. Upon reaching Dollar Lake Saddle (10,000 ft.), which is on the main ridgeline that runs from Mt. San Bernardino to Mount San Gorgonio, you get a nice view of Dollar Lake from above. The picture below was taken with a 300 mm zoom lense on one of my nine peak hikes.

The next picture was also taken from one of my nine peak hikes, from Anderson Peak. Charleton Peak is the next most prominent peak to the left of San Gorgonio. Dollar Lake Saddle is where the ridgeline meets the mountain on the left side. The trail then swings around the south side of the base of Charleton.

Below, we take a lunch break on the south side of Charleton. Jepson Peak is to the back on the right side.

From the same spot, looking south, you get a view of Yucaipa Ridge. Millcreek is tucked in the valley below Yucaipa Ridge.
Below, we stand near Dry Lake View, a saddle between Little Charleton and Jepson Peaks. The trees are thinning out and getting smaller.

Dry Lake, as viewed from the saddle, also taken on one of my nine peak hikes. Grinnell Peak is in the background.

The same shot, with a 300 mm zoom.

One of the wonderful things about the San Gorgonio Wilderness is that it feels quite a bit like the Sierras. The rarified air, sudden weather changes and relative solitude make you forget that sprawling Southern California is right before you. On this trip, a storm front blew in and we got hail which turned to snow. At a point quite close to the summit, we decided we needed to turn around. None of us had been to the summit before and the snow was starting to stick to the ground.

The next picture was taken along the trail after we had been walking back some time. As you can see, I was not adequately prepared for the weather.

For this route, San Gorgonio is 11.6 miles one way, or 23.2 miles roundtrip. For my next and subsequent trips, other than nine peak hikes, I chose routes that are substantially shorter.

Fish Creek:

The second main route to the summit, is the Fish Creek Trail. It is great for an overnight backpacking trip with Boy Scouts. It starts at an elevation of 8,160 ft., almost 1,300 ft. higher than South Fork Trailhead. It is also a little shorter route, 10.2 miles one way, or 20.4 miles roundtrip. The main disadvantage of this route is that it takes about 45 minutes to get to the Heart Bar campground from Redlands, then another 45 minutes along a dirt road to get to the trailhead. However, because it is more remote, there is more solitude.

I have used this trail three times to go to the summit of San Gorgonio. The first time was October 9th and 10th, 1992, with Mark Richey as scoutmaster of the Redlands 4th Ward troop, and included Brad Martinsen, Jason Cemer, Jeremiah Brice and Blake Burdette. One of the difficulties of an LDS troop going on campouts after school, is that we get a late start. We did not start hiking until 6:40 p.m. However, there was a full moon, and several of us hiked the entire 5.5 miles to Fish Creek Saddle (9,805 ft.), where we camped, without using flashlights. We arrived at our campsite at 9:45 p.m. in very chilly conditions. Then Mark Richey pulled a loaf of French bread and butter out of his pack, along with beef stroganoff and chicken tetrazini, and we had a wonderful feast, before retiring to our tents to get out of the cold breeze. I learned from Mark, on this and subsequent trips, the value of sacrificing a little space and weight in the backpack to bring something really good to eat.

My second time on this route was also with Mark Richey and his scout troop, on September 30 and October 1, 1994. Merrill Paxman and his son, David, were along, as were Josh Sheffer, Brian Lehnhof and my son, Sam. From pictures, I know there were three other boys along. I believe one was Paul Billings and another was one of Brad William's sons, I believe Brian. As with all three times on this route, we camped at Fish Creek Saddle. Below, Josh, Brian Lehnhof and I believe, Paul Billings, are in hammocks they slept in.

Mark and Merrill around the morning campfire.

Below, from the 1992 trip, Mark, Blake, Jason, Brad and Jeremiah, in the vicinityof Mineshaft Flat, 2.8 miles past Fish Creek Saddle, at 9,280 ft. They stand below the north side of San Gorgonio. Once reaching the massif, you begin a series of long switchbacks that traverse mainly up the east side of the mountain.
My third time on this route was August 15 and 16, 1997, with a group including Craig Wright, and his sons, Kevin, Brian and Kyle, Nolan Reichmann and Ben Millett. Part way up the switchbacks you run into the wreckage of an airplane and helicopter. The plane was a Douglas C-47 which crashed on December 1, 1952 while traveling from Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska to March Air Force Base near Riverside. It crashed at night, in a storm, killing 13 people. About a month later, a Marine Corps helicopter crashed while trying to recover victims of the airplane crash. Those three crewman lived. Below, Andrew and other boys walk through the wreckage, which is right off the trail.

Sam and Nolan, also looking through the wreckage.

After completing the long switchbacks around the east side, the trail winds around to the south side of the mountain. From there, you get a view of the Tarn, below, a little under 11,000 ft. in elevation. The Tarn is flat, like a football field, and completely lacking in vegetation. In the spring, it fills with snow melt and is the highest lake in Southern California (although I have never seen it with water).

On our 1992 trip, I'd heard that bighorn sheep could often be seen in the Tarn. We found some, in the distance, walking before us into the trees, then had the thrill of seeing four of them run across the Tarn (see the tiny specks in the middle of the picture below). The sight was from a long distance, but still a thrill.

On my 1994 trip, Sam and I ventured into the Tarn, while the rest of the group continued on to the summit. I was stoked by the bighorn sheep sighting two years previous and wanted to see more. We were rewarded. Our group scared a couple of bighorn sheep down to us while we were standing in the Tarn. The bighorns seemed as surprised to see us, as we were to see them. The mountain at the west end of the Tarn is visible in the background.

The two ewe bighorns quickly recovered from their shock and high-tailed it for the ridge on the south side of the tarn.

The most prolonged bighorn experience happened on my third trip in 1997. We all traveled into the Tarn hoping to find sheep. Below, six of them, including three rams, were in the Tarn.
As we approached, they went to the south side and climbed up the ridge. Some went to the east, and two went up and over the ridge. However, we watched them for quite a while. Some of those pictures will be in my bighorn sheep blog, later. Below, a ram and ewe, just before disappearing over the ridge.

Below, after the sheep disappeared, we got a photo of the boys in the Tarn. In the back, from the left, are Kevin, Brian and Kyle Wright, Sam and _________? From the left front are Ben Millet, Nolan Reichmann and Andrew.

Finally, Andrew, Sam and I at the summit on our 1997 trip. Mount San Jacinto is in the background.

From the 1992 trip, Brad, Blake, Jeremiah, Jason and Mark in a stone shelter just below the summit, where hikers sleep or rest out of the wind, which can be severe and bitingly cold at the summit.
Vivian Creek Trail:

The third main route to the summit, the Vivian Creek Trail, is my favorite. The trailhead is above Forest Falls, in Millcreek Canyon, on the south side of the mountain. It is the shortest and most direct route to the summit, 8.6 miles one way, or 17.2 miles roundtrip. However, it is also the greatest elevation gain and can be brutal. The trailhead starts at 6,080 feet, so it involves an elevation gain of over 5,400 feet. After some preliminary hiking up a dirt road on the south side of the Millcreek Wash, you cross Millcreek and the wash and begin a mile journey up steep switchbacks to Vivian Creek. It is a hot, sweaty climb going up, and an agonizing knee killer after a long hike, on the way down. I have a number of blisters and lost toe nails that are mainly attributable to this section of the trail, coming as it does, at the very end of a long day.

My first trip up Vivian Creek, and second attempt of San Gorgonio, was on June 14 and 15, 1991. I was scoutmaster and was with Gregg Palmer and Steve Webster, as leaders, and Brad Martinsen, Scott Brennen and Eric Dietzel as scouts. We backpacked in to Halfway Camp, 3.6 miles in, at 8,000 ft. When we arrived, other campers informed us we'd just missed a mother bear and her cubs near Vivian Creek, which is above the camp. The next morning, both Gregg's and Steve's knees were bothering them and they decided they didn't want to go to the summit. Brad and Scott decided to stay with them. So Eric and I decided to do the summit together (in the days before the scout rules frowned on a single leader being with a boy). This was my first successful summit. We met a biologist on top studying butterflys. He noticed my raspy cough and suggested I might be getting high altitude pulmonary edema, and should go down. I attributed it to air pollution. This is the first time I had an indication I might be susceptible to altitude sickness (although I ignored it).

My second time up Vivian Creek, I was alone, on a dayhike to the summit, in 2000. The most memorable part of that trip was a bear I saw at about 11,200 feet, just below the summit. It was scrawny and moved too fast for me to get my camera out for a picture. On this trip, I did a significant amount of cross country hiking, going directly down the mountain to High Creek and up and over the saddle to Vivian Creek, difficult slogging through very thick deerbrush.

My third trip, my worst, was on August 17, 2002 with Al Sonne, Mark Walker, Andrew, and the Redlands 4th Ward teachers (I didn't take any pictues and don't recall the boys). I had lost about 30 pounds and was thinner than I'd been in quite a while. I figured that the weight loss would make the hiking easier. What I failed to take into account was that I'd not been working out. I had no gas in my tank. From High Creek, at 9,440 ft., it is 3.8 miles to the summit and 2,050 ft. in elevation gain. I was feeling every bit of that gain. At a certain point, approaching tree line, when the limber pine start to lose their height, the trail goes at about a 45 degree angle, straight, without any switchbacks. That stretch nearly killed me. I had to stop and rest every few minutes. Al and Mark were very patient with me. I eventually made it to the summit, but it was no fun.

My fourth trip, with Sam, was on August 16, 2003. I was still leery from the trip the year before and Sam offered to carry the daypack. It was fun to have him initiate the trip. I did better and Sam, in much better shape than I, was patient. It was wonderful to have some time alone with him. I treasure my time with my children in the mountains. There are so many cherished memories.

My fifth trip, from June 27 to 28, 2008, was with quite a few people from the Ward, perhaps 19, using two permits, in preparation for our Mt. Whitney trip later that summer. I don't know that I can recall all that were along, but it did include Jeff Brice, Scott Zollinger, Mark Zollinger and his boys, Josh and Scott, Jacob Sales, Ben Jury, Cray and Cole Carlson, and Scott, Brian and Robby Hartman. I brought my 500 mm telephoto along and ventured into the Tarn alone, looking for bighorn sheep. I found none. I believe the mountain lions may have thinned out the bighorn sheep in that area.

My sixth trip up Vivian Creek Trail, happened recently, on June 15, 2009, exactly 18 years from the first day I summited with Eric Dietzel on this same trail. I was with my friend Larry and his son, Garrett. It was a beautiful cool Monday, with very few people on the trail.

Below, from the first trip in 1991, Eric Dietzel and Steve Webster go down the last horrible, steep, mile from Vivian Creek to the Millcreek Wash.

From a nine peak hike, the Vivian Creek area in late afternoon, with beautiful large trees providing shade and water and foliage adding to the surroundings. This is one of my favorite places in all of the San Bernardino Mountains.

From the 1991 hike, Eric Dietzel approaching High Creek, with Yucaipa Ridge in the background.
From my most recent trip, the limber pines so small they appear shrub-like, a few hundred feet short of the summit.

The signed junction of the Vivian Creek Trail and the Skyline Trail (the Skyline Trail is the way in from South Fork).

Garrett, at the junction of the Skyline Trail and the San Gorgonio Summit trail.

Larry and Garrett, with the summit nob in the background.

A zoomed in look at the knob with some hikers, ahead of us, approaching the summit.

Finally, Eric Dietzel and I on the summit in 1991, my first time there.

From my last hike, Tibetan prayer flags at the summit. The first time I have seen them there.

Finally, Eric Dietzel below the summit at a small pond created by melting snow. The snow drift behind him is more than 10 feet thick.

I have been to the summit another three times, in conjunction with nine peak trips. They are to be the subject of another blog post.