Backpacking San Gorgonio via Vivian Trail

Trailhead: Big Falls Picnic, Forest Falls, CA, 92339
Length: 18.5 miles? I dunno, I keep getting conflicting mileages. Just know that it’s long.
Elevation Gain: 5840 ft.
Difficulty: Strenuous
Total time: 1.5 days backpacking; 10 hours as a day trip
Dogs: Yes
Parking: Adventure pass required. You can get them at any sporting goods store. There is a lot that says “no fee behind this sign” except that there is a ranger that stops you at a kiosk before you enter to ensure you have a pass, so riddle me that Batman.
Permit Required: Check out the Mill Creek Ranger Station for info. They run out of permits QUICK so get on that. 

 

For some dumb reason I thought it would be a good idea to backpack San Gorgonio, the longest and highest of the #SocalSixPack. I’d never backpacked before and hate camping, so, you know, why not do it on the longest of the peaks?

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There are three campsites for San Gorgonio on the Vivian Creek trail: Halfway, High Creek, and Summit Camp. High Creek is the most popular and probably the prettiest. Summit Camp is, you know, at the Summit which means you have to carry your stuff the entire time. And Halfway is about four miles up and not actually half way, it’s way less than half way, so thanks a lot, liars.

Because High Creek was full, we ended up at Halfway camp because there was no way I was lugging a tent 18 miles RT. It actually ended up being a great choice because carrying your house on your back is the pits.

@kylojenhikes, @sdhiker, @matthikes777, @denise5323, and I started out at about 3:00 p.m. on Saturday.  The very first part of the trail from the parking lot is fairly easy. You walk down a dirt road and cross over a dry stream bed to get to the actual trail.

It is at the trail when the pain starts. You gain about 1,000 feet relatively quickly through a set of steep switchbacks that suck all willingness to live from your being. This is undoubtedly the hardest part of the trail and you will praise Jesus when you see the “San Gorgornio Wilderness” sign that indicates that this stretch of the trail is over.

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After this stretch, the trail mellows out and goes through a wooded, streamy area. In this section, we ran into a ranger who informed us that there was no water at our camp and that we better make sure we got it back at the stream we passed. The ladies and I held our place while we made the boys go back and get us water because that’s how society works. During this time, we also ran into @broloelcordero who had summited the mountain earlier that day.

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Eventually we made our way to the camp and found it was fairly full. We had to wander around to find a spot to host us all. After our tents were set up we faced the cold hard fact that camping without a fire is BORING AS ALL GET OUT. No heat. No light. No s’mores. NOTHING.

I ended up crawling into my sleeping bag around 9:00 because it was COLD AND BORING AND CAMPING SUCKS.

We shuffled around in the morning and left for the summit around 7:15 a.m. Most of the trail maintains the same gradual incline as before, although there is one section about a mile and a half after high creek that climbs pretty steadily. It is at the top of this section that the altitude will start to get to you, making the relatively easy incline harder than it should be. Additionally disheartening is that you will not see the actual peak until you’re right on it, as it’s blocked by two false peaks. It does seem like you’ll never get there.

Once I was at the top I was repeatedly accosted by some seriously jerk-faced chipmunks that kept trying to steal my food.

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Look, Chipmunks… you have plenty to eat up here. It’s where you live.

I don’t live here.

I don’t have a fridge where I can replenish, so stop trying to steal my low carb tortilla—IT’S ALL I HAVE YOU FAT JERK!

After fending off the little furry devils, we took our obligatory pictures with the sign and made our way back down the mountain to camp. While it was a nice break from the walking, breaking down camp on tired legs is pretty crappy.

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So overall, what did I think?

Although it was hot at the beginning, the road was strenuous at times, I got almost no sleep, the bag was heavy, and camping sucks, I did a lot better than I thought I would. As it turns out, all of those conditioning hikes up Potato Mountain with the Lazy Asses have paid off. I’ve done this hike both as a day trip and overnight, and I definitely prefer it as a day trip, even though it makes for a long hike.

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@kylojenhikes was sick during this trip (she only went because I guilt tripped her into it), and was a trooper. Recognition also should go to @sdhiker who was the only one who had any sort of backpacking experience and had to deal with our inexperience and whining. He also did his best to keep Jen from dying from hypothermia since she didn’t bring a sleeping bag.  That’s my Boo for you.

 

Gear I Used:

Sleeping Bag: Teton Tracker 5+
Although it is not the lightest bag in the world, it was fairly inexpensive (less than $70) and kept me warm. So very, very warm.  It also fit in the monster pack that @sdhiker let me borrow

Sleeping Pad: Therm-a-Rest Sol Mattress
Someone told me this would be good to get. Apparently it helps shield you from the cold ground. It also helps shield you from any sort of comfort. I’d say I got a good 5 to 6 seconds of sleep using this thing.

Backpack: Osprey Atmos 65
This bag was lent to me by @sdhiker and it’s definitely:
A) too big for a day trip
B) a dude’s bag

Although in many ways I have the physique of a 12-year-old boy, I am still a female and this bag was not made for me. No matter how I adjusted the bag, It seemed to either put too much strain on my hips or too much strain on my back. Oddly enough, it felt much more comfortable when there was more weight in it. So it was fine for the day, but you’d have to ask someone who has extensive experience with it to get a more accurate account.

Tent:  Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2
I’ve put up exactly one tent in my life prior to this, and I’ve come to discover that I am not a technical person. I don’t just “get” how things work.  This tent is probably pretty easy to put up… or seemed to be as I watched someone else do it. It’s also technically a two-person tent, but it would be kinda squishy in there if I had to share it. In the end, it kept me warm and was a fine tent for the evening.

Register Ridge

All pictures by Tony Tellez

 

Trailhead: Manker Campground, Mt Baldy, CA, 91759, USA
Length:
 9 miles, depending on your route
Elevation Gain: 4500 ft.
Difficulty: Very strenuous
Total time: 6-7 hours
Dogs: Not a good idea
Parking: Parking is $5 at the ski lifts. If you out to park at Manker Flats, you’ll need an Adventure Pass which you can find at any sporting goods store or ranger station.

Spend any amount of time with @lazyasshiking and one of the first questions you’ll be asked is “So, have you done Register Ridge yet? When are you doing Register Ridge?”

Register Ridge is a death march up Mt. Baldy where you climb 2750 feet in less than two miles. It is grueling, and it sucks and I don’t know why these people like it so much. Tony, the organizer, posts it every six weeks or so on Lazy Ass Hiking.

After a year of peer pressure and canceling three times, I finally climbed it, and now I never have to do it again, ever.

In order to do Register Ridge you need to be in outstanding physical shape. Or at least the physical shape I’m in, which is that I hike three to four times a week. And like, legitimate hikes, guys. Not strolls up Mt. Rubidoux (sorry, Roobs, you’re just not that difficult). I’m talking like, real womanly hikes that make you pump your fist in the air kind and shout “Suck it, mountain.”

And at least one hike a week up peaks at elevation. I spent the last 5 weeks doing peak climbing before I felt good at attempting this.  Actually, “good” is too strong of a word. I just felt like I was less likely to die.

So what I’m saying is, if you’re not doing those kind of hikes, don’t do Register Ridge, mkay?

The hike goes like this:

You start up the fire road by the port-o-potties, say hey to the cute little waterfall, and then connect to the Ski Hut Trail which is further up, on the left hand side. You’ll recognize it by the fact that the sign for the trail is broken in half. Way to go, jerk that broke it.Go up Ski Hut, and not far up, you will see a metal register box on your right. About 25 yards up from that, you’ll see a water run off on the right. Except that’s not a water run off, that’s the Register Ridge Trail. And that’s where the pain begins.

You will spend the next 2 to 2.5 hours Spider Man-ing your way up this trail. It is like scaling a building and it never levels off. I must say, that while it is extremely steep, I never felt worried I would roll off a cliff, just that I might collapse and die.

When you are about .25 miles from the top of the trail, you will begin to see the best sight EVER: heads bobbing along the Devil’s Backbone and you know you have arrived.

From here, you can either connect to the backbone to make your way up to Baldy, OR head up Harwood trail off to the right for extra credit, which I agreed to for some dumb reason.

After sumitting Harwood, we made our own trail back down to the backbone and summitted Baldy which was just the icing on this terrible cake. The some of the group then went to West Baldy- I opted to roll my eyes at them and plop down at the wind shelter.

While technically you can go back the way you came, that would be dumb. I suggest heading your way back down the Devil’s Backbone and stopping off at the Notch. You can then either take the ski lift down from the lodge or walk the 3 miles back down to Manker Flats, like I did, again, due to peer pressure.

 

 

Some other notes:

Weather:
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but this is an extremely strenuous hike. Don’t do it when it’s hot. The group has done it in the snow, as well, but if you do, be careful on the backbone on the way back

Wildlife
Because this is less trafficked than other trails, I am told that this is the best trail if you want to see big horn sheep, which I still haven’t seen, so thanks for nothing, Register Ridge.

I’d suggest parking in the lot at the ski lifts and walking down to the trailhead because you’ll be tired by the end. I didn’t do that and made my friend drive me two tenths of a mile to my car because I was over it #lazyasshiker.

 

San Bernardino Peak

 

Photo credit @michaelpowellphotography and @broloelcordero

Trailhead: 5766 Frontage Rd, Angelus Oaks, CA, 92305 
Length: 
17 (ish) miles
Elevation Gain: 4650 ft.
Total Elevation: 10649
Difficulty: Strenuous
Total time: 9-10 hours
Dogs: Yes
Parking: There is parking in a dirt lot after a long, bumpy ride down a dirt road. You can definitely make it in a regular car, but it’s not a great idea. Also, I’ve heard conflicting reports on needing an adventure pass, so just put one up. Hiking Guy has excellent instructions on how to get there.

HIKING PERMIT REQUIRED.
You can request it online to be mailed to you, stop in and get it on your way there, or, if  you’re stuck in 1996, fax your request to the station and they’ll fax a permit back. Here’s the link to the Mill Creek Ranger Station.

San Bernardino is probably my favorite of the #SocalSixPack. The trail is the most gentle of all the peaks with a very steady incline throughout and with a rather flat part in the middle when you go through the forest of Manzanita trees. The only part that was particularly steep was the very last .2 miles to the peak which is super of you, San Bernardino Peak. Go ahead and put the hardest part at the very end when I’m tired. ‘Preciate it, sir.

Some other things of note:

Ho Hum Peak
The peak’s view is rather lackluster. You’ll find the best view is on the way up at Limber Pine Bench which gives one of the most spectacular views of the Inland Empire you’ll ever see. I’ve also heard that camping at Limber Pine is an amazing experience. Many call it the best campsite in Southern California. I don’t call it that, though, because I hate camping.

Covered in Bees!
When we went in August there were a lot of bees. I mean A LOT OF BEES. Everywhere. All buzzing around, like they own the place. I hate bees. I mean, I get we need them and all but they FREAK ME OUT.

Washington Monument
Less than a mile from the peak you’ll see Washington Monument. Or, if you’re smarter than me, you’ll see it. I’ve gone twice and just passed the plaque, not realizing that there’s an actual structure off the main trail. I am not observant.

The Descent
The last two miles of the trail is a soul sucking, switch back after switch back journey with zero scenery change. I felt like I was in the movie Groundhog Day except without Bill Murray to make me laugh.

Seasons
Best time to go is June – October. Otherwise you’re going to hit snow. And not like “Hey, look at that pretty snow over there” kind of snow, but “I’m so cold that I can’t feel my feelings any more” kind of snow.

 

Sitton Peak

Trailhead: Sitton Peak Truck Trail, Lake Elsinore, CA 92530
Length: 10 miles
Elevation Gain: 2200 ft.
Difficulty: Moderate
Total time: 4-5 hours
Dogs: Yes
Parking: Parking lot across the highway from the trailhead (and across from the candy store!)

Sitton Peak is a relatively easy hike that then tries to destroy you at the last .25 miles. At almost 10 miles total, the slope is fairly gentle for most of the climb with many stretches of flat spots to catch your breath. You will meander through nice, shaded areas filled with flora and fauna (not sure what fauna is)

Once you get to the turn off for the last quarter of a mile to the peak, however, you’re going to need to mountain goat your way up that bad boy to get to the top.

The peak offers 360 views of the area AND as a bonus, has a sign that you can take a picture next to and later caption “Standin’ on Sitton Peak, hahahahahahaha.”

Okay, now I am going to let you in on some super secret insider information: Sitton Peak is pronounced Sit-ton Peak, as we were informed by a snarky local when we asked for directions.

Pronounce it right, and no one will be able to tell you’re not a native.

You. Are. Welcome!

Skyline Drive

Trailhead: Foothill, just past Trudy in Corona
Length:
12 miles to the Doppler (a.k.a. that golf ball thingy)
Elevation Gain: 1960 ft.
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous
Total time: 4-5 hours
Dogs: Yes
Parking: Parking is free along Foothill

Skyline is a hike that you can make as long as you’d like. The Lazy Asses and I do a five mile hike every Tuesday and Thursday in the evening during the winter; however, if you have time you can make this a long day hike up to Beek’s Place and the Doppler further up.

Beek’s Place was a stone cabin built in the 1930s by a politician, Joseph Beek who used it as a vacation home. It’s now just a pile of rocks and some rusty machinery, but it feels cool and old western-y. The Doppler is a weather instrument that reminds me of Epcot Center except not as cool. The top offers really great views of the Inland Empire and Orange County. On clear days you can actually see the ocean.

HAHAHAHA “clear” days in Southern California. That’s hilarious.

Annnnyway, what’s great about Skyline is that you can take the fire road the entire way up if you’re a beginner, OR you can challenge yourself by taking a series of “short cuts” that are to the right of the trail. These short cuts are not easier. They’re quite steep and I curse myself every time I make the decision to take them, but I suppose they make me stronger and more conditioned for harder climbs or whatever, so that’s why I do them.

One thing of note about this trail is that it is EXTREMELY exposed. There are points that you feel like you’re Moses wandering the desert. Because of that, I recommend you get there very early, or do it as a sunset hike. If you decide to make the mistake of doing it during the heat of the day, wear sunscreen and a hat, because you’re going to bake like a fried egg on a side walk.

Cucamonga Peak

Trailhead: Ice House Canyon Rd, Mt Baldy, CA 91759
Length:
12 miles
Elevation Gain: 4300 ft.
Total Elevation: 8859
Difficulty: Strenuous
Total time: 7-8 hours
Dogs: Yes
Parking: Adventure pass needed. You can buy them at any sporting goods store. I also recommend getting there no later than 6:00 a.m. for guaranteed parking, as Ice House Canyon is extremely popular.

Cucamonga Peak is located in San Bernardino County and is the second in the So Cal Hiker‘s #SixPackofPeaks series.

Look, I’m going to level with you on this because we’re friends, and friends are honest with one another.

I hate this trail. In fact, I often refer to it as “Satan’s Trail” and here’s why:

The beginning part of the trail is quite beautiful, with a fairly gentle climb. This is all a trick. It’s the trail’s way of making you feel safe. But you are not safe.

After you get past the first part, you cross a dry riverbed, full of river rocks. Not fun, but not terrible, either (until you hit this on the way back).

After that, is a never ending set of switchbacks.

Then, you hit the Ice House Saddle for a bit of a break.

Then you descend 400 feet and the trail becomes completely exposed and sketchy.

Two problems with this–it’s hot, and if it’s windy, it’s terrifying. There are parts of the trail that is literally just rock piled on top of other rock.

If it’s during the winter and it’s icy, it’s extremely dangerous and can be deadly. And with no shade, you’re in danger of heat exhaustion in the summer.

And there are more switchbacks. So many more switchbacks.

Eventually, you get to the turn off for the last slog up a hill to get to the peak. Except it’s really easy to miss the turn off.

Why?

Because some jerk stole the sign for the turn off so it’s literally just a brown post with an arrow on it. This isn’t a well marked turn off. This is a cartoon scheme that the Coyote would play on the Road Runner to get him to fall off a cliff.

The view from the peak, is admittedly beautiful and might make you a little less bitter about the trip to get there.

But then, you have to descend.

Remember that 400 feet you descended on the way down? Guess what you get to climb!

Remember that riverbed filled with white rocks that you crossed? Guess what is reflecting the heat of 1,000 hells back into your face?

If you can get past the riverbed without breaking an ankle due to tired legs and lack of coordination, you’ll make it to the wooded, shaded part of the trail, the part that was so beautiful when you started. You’ll think “ah, almost there.”

Except you’re not. This part will feel never ending. Each cabin you pass on the way out will be a bitter reminder of the civilization you left–for some reason–and that you may never return to.

And then, you come around the corner and you see cars! Glorious cars! It’s the parking lot!

Except, as it turns out, it is not the parking lot. It’s the pre-parking lot parking lot, where some people get to park for some reason. But not you. You didn’t get to park there. Your car is further down. And you still have to walk to get there.

Cucamonga Peak is not for the faint of heart. Even though it’s only number two on the Six Pack of Peaks, it is not the easiest by far. If you go, be sure to bring lots of water, a ton of sunblock, and a truck load of patience.

Especially that last one. Trust me, you’ll need it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Santa Rosa Plateau Reserve

Photo by @sdhiker

Trail: The Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve
Location39400 Clinton Keith Road, Murrieta, Ca 92562
Fee: $4.00/person

Yeah, this totally DOES look like a scene from Little House on the Prairie (I mean, look at that old timey garb we’re wearing!) but it’s not. It’s the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve in Murrieta.

Consisting of over 9000 acres, 19 different trails, 200 species of birds, and 49 endangered, threatened, or rare animal and plant species there are a lot of opportunities to interact with nature at this reserve.

There are also adobes and seasonal vernal pools. Be sure you go during the right time, though, as apparently the season we went in wasn’t vernal.

This place has tons of trails that weave in and out. We did a 9 mile loop of some sort to see the adobes at the opposite end of the Reserve in May. I’d suggest going earlier in the spring, however, as the fields are supposed to be beautiful and green.

Ha, I rhymed.

To learn more, check yourself before you wreck yourself (there I go again!) at the official site.