Fri, Dec 18, 2009
It was 6a and mostly dark when Tom pulled up to meet me. I'd slept the night at the "Y" east of Hesperia where we had planned to meet in the morning. We left my van at the crossroad, I tossed a pack into to the back of the Element, and off we drove. Today's objectives were half a dozen easy HPS peaks, making it more of a driving challenge than anything we would do on foot. Three of the peaks were on the desert-like northwest side of the San Bernardinos in the Grapvine Canyon Recreation Lands. The area is criss-crossed with dirt roads, primarily used by the OHV crowd. There were pockets of small communities tucked in here and there along with several ranches with cattle doing their best to graze the thin desert offerings.
We drove south on Coxey Rd until we reached a saddle east of Rattlesnake Mtn. The peak was not visible from where we parked because it had almost no stature and couldn't reach above the low foreground hills immediately before us. A very weak peak, indeed. It took all of 15 minutes to reach the summit, just as the sun was cresting the higher skyline to the southeast. Not finding a register among the several possibilities for the highest rock, we clambored over several of them before beating a retreat back to the car.
Luna Mtn was only a few miles to the west, and rather than follow the HPS directions for 45 minutes to utilize the safer roads, we took a more direct 4WD road that branched a short distance from our parking spot along Coxey Rd. This side road was indeed rough in places, but Tom and the Element braved it nicely. Only fifteen minutes to the TH for Luna. We followed a road, closed to vehicle traffic, up and over several bumps on the southeast side of Luna Mtn. A mile and 20 minutes later we were atop the summit. Along with a benchmark and a register scrap dating to 1974 (a book dated to 1988), there was a geocache about 50yds north of the summit. There was also a view of Rattlesnake off to the east with a profile that almost looked mountain-like. A good deal of snow could be seen on Crafts and Butler in the middle of the range to the southeast as well as on the higher peaks of the San Gabriels far to the west.
Another short drive and by 9a we were at the trailhead for Round Mtn, 20 more minutes to reach the summit from the north side. It was beginning to look as rediculous as we had been expecting. That these three peaks were on the HPS list was ample testimony to the non-discriminatory manner in which peaks make the cut. "Are you over 5,000ft? Good, you're in." The most interesting thing about the summit was the register dating to 1972, one of the older HPS ones to be found. I photographed all the pages in this first of two books residing in the red cans. The north slope was a rather sandy affair which I expected would take but a few moments to descend. We ran off down the slopes, making it back to the car in something like six or seven minutes.
We were out of HPS peaks in the area, but as a bonus we drove west a few more miles to a very small range called the Ord Mtns (not the larger Ord Mtns further north towards Barstow) to climb the range highpoint. Thanks to Evan Rasmussen for bringing this one to our attention. Along the way we passed a pile of debris with a sign humorously displaying, "Valet Parking Only", atop it. Embarassingly short as the three previous peaks had been, this one was even shorter as we managed to drive to within a quarter mile. As now was not the time to shirk from our quest, we steeled ourselves for the climb without bothering to take pack or water. In all of seven minutes we were at the summit. The register consisted of an envelope with names scribbled on both sides. Half a dozen folks had bothered to sign in since Evan's visit almost two years earlier. The view west was nice, overlooking Hesperia and the Mojave Desert Basin some 2,000ft below to the west. It was not clear at all why this small group of hills were given the distinction of their own range name (since it's just a small extension of the San Bernardinos), but such is the subjective nature of the mapmakers.
We drove back out to the pavement where we picked up the van and then drove both vehicles south towards Silverwood Lake. Well before reaching the lake, at the junction with SR173, we turned east and headed up the narrow, winding road. This was perhaps the most interesting part of the day. The "highway" climbs the southern wall of the canyon formed by Deep Creek with about seven miles of unpaved roadway. It took all of my feeble driving skills to manuever the van over and through ruts, around small landslides, and required perhaps half a dozen stops to get out and toss large rocks out of the way. It is an impressive roadway cut into the steep, barren hillside. Another low-clearance vehicle was stopped facing downhill where the worst of the difficulties ended in the uphill direction. The occupants had gotten out to survey the road and watched us make our way slowly up the twists and turns for the five minutes or more. They had been following a roadmap and were surprised, perhaps shocked to find the pavement end and the road deteriorate on what the road atlas labels a California Highway. I'd have been shocked too, if I hadn't found out about the dirt road ahead of time. They had been ready to turn around until they saw the van lumbering up. I assured them they had better clearance than my van and that the road was better than it looked. That made them happy as they got in their car to give it a go. I hope they got down ok.
Tom and I continued up a few more miles to the Pinnacles TH immediately adjacent to a shooting range. The problem here we found is that there is no parking anywhere near the TH sign. We drove a quarter mile up the road before we found something suitable, though hardly a real parking area. From there we hiked back down the road and then onto the Pinnacles Trail. Along with the HPS peak at the highpoint, this is a semi-popular rock-climbing venue with a variety of small climbing opportunities on decent granite, with anywhere from one to two miles of approach. The two miles and 1,000ft of gain took us just under 45 minutes, the toughest peak on the day's weak agenda. Though there are a number of forks and side trails (climber trails, no doubt), the main trail is decently marked with plain steel poles driven into the ground with simple arrows pointing out the way to the summit. Fortunately or otherwise, the highpoint is not one of the more interesting pinnacles scattered about the area, but a somewhat unassuming pile of rock hiding a short distance behind the rock-climbing ones in the foreground. No register was found at the summit which afforded the best views to the west of Silverwood Lake and the San Gabriels behind it. To the east could be seen the high peaks around San Gorgonio and the next, not-so-exciting Marie Louise to the south.
We returned via the same route, meeting another party on their way up as we were heading down, the only others we would see hiking during the day. Occasional shots could heard in the distance at the firing range, but even that seemed relatively quiet on a Friday afternoon. Once back at the car it took only 20 minutes to reach the TH for Marie Louise, though that could have been cut in half if we hadn't had some confusion as to where the correct side road was located off the highway. Marie Louise was another short hike, taking less than 30 minutes to reach the summit, but it was perhaps the most interesting of the day. Much of the hike was up a not-entirely-dry creekbed loaded with boulders that made for interesting scrambling. The route was heavily ducked, flagged in places (I removed the pink flags where I found them), and not difficult at all to find one's way along. The summit consisted of a collection of large boulders, several points vying to be the highest, none of them harder than class 3. The HPS register at the base of the lower point dated to 1983.
It was nearing 3p by the time we had returned to the car, leaving us but a few hours of daylight remaining. On our way towards Big Bear we stopped at two delisted HPS peaks, neither of any difficulty. Strawberry Peak was in fact an easy drive-up, though we found the lookout tower closed despite the sign saying it was open daily until 5p. There was a collection of communication towers about the fenced-in tower, giving a decidedly overdeveloped look to the place (and in fact why the peaks were delisted). Further east along SR138 we pulled over on the side of the road for a short ten minute hike up to Heaps Peak. There is a dirt access road that we missed further east which may have been usable to avoid even this short walk. The area had been burned over rather completely in the fire from 2007, and in dozens of places we found seedlings had been planted after clearing the ground cover in circular patterns. There was a thin layer of snow at the 6,400-foot summit, the highest we had been that day. Another gaggle of antennae crowned the summit. We walked around the fences looking for the highpoint before Tom noted the rise about 200yds to the east was higher. [ the map shows the west summit as labeled with the peak name, but clearly the east summit is higher] We walked over to the east summit and stomped around in the snow and brush looking for a register, but found nothing save the square shape of an old concrete platform. By 4:15p we had retreated to the car and called it a day, albeit a farcical one.
We drove further east to Lake View Point where we spent the night in our vehicles parked alongside the road. Though we were now in position for our venture to Crafts and Butler the following day, the decision to spend the night there (my idea) was not the brightest. There was holiday traffic coming and going to Big Bear throughout the night. At one point I woke up to see a highway patrol car pulled up alongside Tom's car just in front of mine. He appeared to be making sure we weren't having car trouble and didn't bother us once he saw there was no one in the front seats. I woke up probably a dozen times aside from that one for various reasons having to do with the traffic buzzing by us. Tom reported sleeping fitfully as well the next morning. Somehow that seemed like Karma paying us back for not really putting in a good effort during the day and deserving of a good night's rest...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: The Pinnacles - Strawberry Peak
This page last updated: Thu Jan 7 18:56:09 2010
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