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I spent the night near the Silverado TH, though not at the TH itself which doesn't allow overnight parking. Less than half a mile to the west I found a nice spot on the north shoulder of the road to park off the roadway and away from numerous houses in the canyon. I left the back windows open to allow me to sleep to the sounds of the water rushing down the creek and the crickets making their usual chirping noises in a happy, spring-like manner. I was up before dawn, having a bit of breakfast and then driving to the TH just as it was getting light out. Though parking here is restricted before sunrise, but I figured half an hour was close enough. My Adventure Pass was expired, but I left in on the dash anyway, just in case the ranger wasn't checking dates very closely.
The plan today called for a loop hike up the Maple Springs Rd, north and west on the Main Divide Rd, then down the Silverado Trail to the start, tagging a collection of HPS (Modjeska) and LPC (Bald, Bedford) peaks along the way. If I was feeling *really* good, I hoped to add an additional 8 miles to do Pleasants, but that was a far stretch. There was nothing difficult or unusual about the hike today and no cross-country, and it went pretty much according to plan.
In the early morning hours I enjoyed the easy hike up the paved road that is Maple Springs, nicely shaded by the main crest of the range to the east. The deciduous oaks and sycamores lining the creeksides had recently started to sprout new leaves. There was a good deal of water in the creek that, with the exception of the first crossing, is allowed to flow over the road without the benefit of a drainage under the pavement. This proved to be easily crossed with the help of convenient rocks along the roadside and a deft hop or two. A slow-moving newt was the only wildlife I saw on the ground though the birds and squirrels in the trees were noisily keeping company.
Somewhere around the 3,500ft level, about 4 miles in, the pavement gives way to gravel and dirt. It was well-graded with the exception of a damaged section around mile 5 that would have been impassible in my van - up to this point I had been mildly lamenting that the road was closed to all vehicles while appearing in fine shape. As the road switchbacked out of Silverado Canyon the sun appeared from over the high eastern ridge. The switchbacks are very long to keep the road grade mild, making for more hiking than one might expect. Looking at the Maple Springs switchbacks from Main Divide Rd later in the day, it appears there may be old fire road tracks that could be utilized to shorten these considerably, but since I wasn't headed back down that way I was not able to determine this for certain.
It was just before 9a when I reached the junction with Main Divide Rd, Bald and Bedford north along this road, Modjeska a short distance to the south. I knew there was a very long switchback along the road to reach Modjeska and hoped for a shorter route up the NW Ridge. Studying the summit from the junction, I could see no route leading up the direct ridgeline, but there looked to be some sort of trail traversing high across the West Face. I found a starting point just south of the road junction, an unmarked trail on the left side traversing up into the chaparral. This turned out to be almost as good as I'd hoped, as the trail was nicely groomed and easily managed, saving a lot of additional hiking to be done had I taken the road the whole way. The trail intersected the summit road high on the SW side of the mountain with only another short switchback remaining.
After three hours of walking I'd found my way to the top of Modjeska. The only register I found was inside a small concrete block with a metal "Orange County geocache" marker affixed to one side, with the usual geocache goofiness inside. The highpoint is partially engulfed by the chaparral, but a little walking around will get you pretty good views in most directions. As the highest point north until the San Gabriel Mtns, it offers fine views in that direction as one might expect. There is a nice view east down Coldwater Canyon and across the Temescal Valley towards San Jacinto. Nearby to the south rises the higher Santiago Peak, another HPS summit and county highpoint. I had climbed Santiago some years ago when I was chasing county highpoints, but not knowing or caring about the HPS list, I had neglected Modjeska on that first visit to the area. To the west spread out Orange County and the California coastline, Catalina and San Nicolas islands in the haze off the coast.
Not staying long at the summit, I scrambled down the rocky north side, the only scrambling of any sort on the day, along a mostly brush-free route that intersects the road at the switchback about 100ft below the summit. I retraced my route down the road to the trail, which I took back to the intersection with Maple Springs Rd. I then started north along the modestly undulating road along the crest of the range, enjoying the views off to either side. I mistook the higher Peak 4,229ft for Bald Mtn, spending the few extra minutes to hike to its top before realizing my mistake. There was a small fenced-in enclosure and a painted concrete memorial to the soldiers of the ... (next part unreadable) ... Sept 29, 1995 (Thinking it was the date of the tragedy, I did an internet search for it but came up with nothing, leading me to believe that was the date the monument was placed). Though not the summit I was looking for, it offered a good vantage to Santiago and Modjeska to the south as well as to Bald Mtn in the opposite direction.
It took but ten minutes to hike the intervening distance between the two summits. Bald Mtn lies on the boundary between Orange and Riverside counties, a marker planted in 1949 to confirm this. The register, inside the standard red cans, did not date back very far. I noted Kathy Wing was among the last party to sign in five days earlier.
The county line, road, and main crest all make a dogleg turn to the northwest from Bald Mtn on their way to Bedford Peak, where they then return to their northward direction. Passing under a transmission line along the way, a USFS water truck came lumbering by in the same direction. I stuck out my thumb hoping to get lucky with a ride to Pleasants Peak from which I could then walk back to Bedford to gain the extra summit. I got a short wave, but no offer of a ride. I continued to follow the road past the junction with the Bedford Truck Rd (hey look - a benchmark here), more ups and downs, and then another water truck, this one empty, coming the other way. The driver stopped to ask where I was headed, commenting that there was a controlled burn ahead in progress that I was to avoid. I had seen the smoke trailing up along the ridge about halfway between Bedford and Pleasants for the last two days and guessed the purpose. I told the driver I was only going as far as Bedford and that seemed to satisfy him, but I would have to give up hope for Pleasants today no matter how good I felt.
Before reaching Bedford, I paused to saunter up to Peak 3,840ft. I hadn't confused this with Bedford like the previous unintended foray, this time doing so just because the topo map showed another benchmark there. Much of the fireroad leading up to it had been dug up by a backhoe, alternating small pits with piles of dirts before leaving it be. It made it somewhat awkward to walk along, but I suspect the primary reason was to prevent vehicles from driving on it and giving the vegetation a chance to regrow (it wasn't doing well at this latter task at the time of my visit). I found the concrete and steel post with the benchmark that had been dug up and left to one side, an ignoble resting spot for these little monuments. I'm not sure that it was even the one shown on the topo as it had been placed by the Orange County Surveyors office, not the USGS. Likely, the USGS one was under one of the many piles of dirt, garnering it an even more ignoble end.
The summit of Bedford was another 20 easy minutes along the main road and a bit of old fire road to reach the summit. There are two rounded summits vying for the highpoint, which by all indications seems to be the southeastern one. I found no register or benchmark, but there were two halves of the concrete shell that held it in place at one time. Someone appears to have freed the heavy steel post from its encasement and pirated it as booty or perhaps just chucked it over the side of the hill. In any case I believe I was atop Bedford Peak. I continued northwest over a use trail to the other possible summit, then back down to Main Divide Rd and its junction with the Silverado Trail.
It was nice to get off the wide, dusty road and onto the narrower Silverado Trail, which first follows down the Southwest Ridge of Bedford Peak before dropping in some wide switchbacks back down to the trailhead in Silverado Canyon. I paused to take photos of the yuccas in various stages of blooming, from first appearance of the stalk, followed by its growth upwards some 6-9 feet above the plant before it begins to open and flower. There were a few patches of poppies along the way, but few other flowers to be seen. I passed by a bare-chested hiker in sneakers and shorts on his way up for his afternoon workout, contrasting sharply with my sun-avoiding attire that had me covered head to foot.
By 1:40p I was back on the pavement of the Maples Springs Rd, only a few minutes from the trailhead parking. An older gentleman on crutches along with his wife were on their way out at at the same time. As we walked back to our cars parked next to each other, he asked me a few questions as a lead-in to tell me about his many visits to the canyon. His first one had been in 1971 on a Kawasaki motorcyle before the pavement had been laid down. He had other short stories to tell as well, interesting to listen to as I sat at the back of my van unloading my gear and taking off my boots. As there were too many visitors in the immediate vicinity of the TH, I hiked back up the road to the first crossing to find a place for a quick rinse in the cold creek water. I can't say it was nearly as enjoyable as a hot shower, but in its own frigid way, it was refreshing.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Modjeska Peak - Bedford Peak
This page last updated: Fri Mar 26 19:12:46 2010
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