Hawes Peak HPS
Little Shay Mountain P300 HPS
Ingham Peak HPS
Shay Mountain P750 HPS
Deer Mountain HPS
White Mountain HPS
White Mountain-South Peak P300

Sat, May 7, 2005

With: Glenn Gookin
Sam Gookin
Steve Gookin

Hawes Peak
Little Shay Mountain
Ingham Peak
Shay Mountain
Deer Mountain
White Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2

The Big Pine Flat area of the San Bernadino Mtns is not one of the more scenic areas in California, though it is not without (some) merit. It is a transition region between the Mojave Desert to the north and the higher parts of the San Bernardinos, located roughly between Big Bear Lake to the southeast and Lake Arrowhead to the west. The area burned some seven years earlier most completely, and is taking quite some time to mount a recovery. Even in a year of plentiful rain, this area has a dry, parched look to it. The HPS saw fit to include nine peaks from this area on its list, and that was what drew my attention. My family was to be in nearby Hesperia for the weekend, and I had a day to cavort about in the mountains.

Glenn Gookin had posted a recent visit to the area the previous weekend, climbing the three peaks closest to Hesperia: Round, Luna, and Rattlesnake, just the ones I was most interested in. It turns out the other six weren't that much further, and Glenn was more than happy to head out there for a second weekend in a row. Driving his father's Jeep, Glenn not only brought his 15yr-old brother Sam with him, but his 54yr-old father Steve as well. And he was so kind to pick me up at the hotel off I-15 at 6:15a before we headed out.

Sam and Steve had been with Glenn the previous weekend, and they had learned the convoluted system of dirt roads servicing the area quite well. I had a hard time following the route as they chose first one turn, then another, none of them signed or otherwise easily marked. Our destination was the Little Pine Flat TH where we could access five of the HPS peaks that were clustered together: Hawes, Little Shay, Ingham, Shay, and Deer. We reached the TH around 7:30a and the four of us headed out.

Steve had warned us ahead of time that he wasn't going to go out for the full slate of five peaks, and urged us to go ahead without him. He was definitely the slowest of our group of four, but by no means a laggard. Even with a nice bit of belly indicative of some soft living, it was clear that he was in pretty decent shape, the only problem being that his sons could all out-hike him these days. Glenn and Sam took off down the road while I conversed some more with Steve at the outset. I'd found him to be a very interesting character on the drive up, and though my views didn't go as liberal as his own, I was happy to see much of the idealism left in man of his years. Steve has a very warm and outgoing personality and it's hard not to like him from the outset. While my age put me in closer league with Steve than his sons, my feet were more on par with Glenn and Sam, and after about 15 minutes I found myself catching up with the younger Gookins.

We followed the trail/road on the gentle downhill towards Hawes Ranch, then crossed the small stream and headed up the north side of Hawes. The fires looked far more recent than they really were, making cross-country travel easy enough even without a use trail. As we gained the rounded NW Ridge, we picked up a use trail and followed it to the summit. To the west we could make out a series of bumpy hilltops, and guessed as to which ones comprised the peaks we were after. We could make out the next three, but had no clue about Deer Mtn. We took some pictures, signed into the register, and headed back down. We ran into Steve about a hundred yards down from the summit and that was the last we saw of him until we got back to the car (Steve went on to climb Little Shay and Ingham). We followed the use trail all the way down to Cox Creek, then headed up an overgrown firebreak on the NE side of Little Shay, reaching the summit about 45min after leaving Hawes. From Little Shay's summit, Ingham looks like an insignificant bump lower down on a connecting ridgeline - it was hard to imagine why this one qualified for the list. Perhaps one of the founding members lived in the Lake Arrowhead region like the Gookins, and influenced more than their share of local peaks onto the list.

It took about 20 minutes to traverse from Little Shay down to Ingham, a quick signing of the register and then back north the way we came. The fourth peak on our itinerary was the highest of the group of five, Shay Mtn. Though only 6,714ft, it wasn't all that high and we encountered no more than fleeting patches of snow on some of the northern aspects of the peaks. We found what might be construed as a use trail heading up Shay's SE Ridge, but it was overgrown with new weeds and difficult to discern at times. As with most of the area, the brush is not very high nor thick, so it didn't seem to matter if we had a trail to follow or not.

Upon reaching the summit of Shay, we decided to head west and then down the indistinct SE Ridge which eventually becomes a steeper SE Slope. We followed this all the way down to a drainage, dry at the moment, where we happened upon a rocked duck seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Upon further inspection, we found additional ducks leading in a line over towards Deer Mtn. This must be the standard HPS route we gathered. We followed the ducks up and over an intermediate peak (at 5,805ft, it was actually higher than Deer Mtn by alost 300ft) and on to Deer Mtn at the far west end of the day's venture. From here we were quite close to a nearby landing strip, and we joked about calling Dad to drive out to meet us there (it would have taken several hours to drive the torturous route around to it; much less time to hike it). We could see Lake Arrowhead and the surrounding community only a few miles off now. Glenn pointed out where his parents lived on a distant hill - I just shook my head in the affirmative, but had very little idea what he was actually pointing out.

Sam had done a very good job of keeping up with Glenn and myself to this point. He had some complaints about blisters, but overall his complaints were pretty mild, and I was impressed that he'd kept up as well as he had - he certainly was performing better than I would have guessed possible in the beginning. Dad had certainly done a good job of getting his sons out regularly since they were little, and by now had the wisdom and experience to realize that complaints don't really do anything to help you anyway.

From Deer's summit, we followed our route back to the saddle where we'd first spied the ducks, then headed up hill a bit to the southeast. We hit upon a good trail (marked Pack Trail on the map) heading east, following this back towards the saddle between Shay and Little Shay. We came across some impressive wildflower displays on the only hillside we were to find these all days. The lupines were particularly plentiful, but there were plenty of other varieties to make for a colorful display (these were in the vicinity of Pt. 6,076ft). We lost the trail before reaching Barrel Spring (if there was water in the spring we never found it), resulting in a minor amount of bushwacking. As we were traversing across the hillside in search of our lost trail, we spied two other hikers about 100 yards below us going in the opposite direction, but looking similarly lost (they had no trail either). These were the only other people we would see out in this area all morning. After about 15 minutes with some thrashing, we stumbled again upon the trail and followed it up to the saddle. The HPS map we had with us showed the trail had been rerouted on the east side of the saddle, and we dutifully followed this re-worked section for a short time. But we soon found that the many downed trees were making things difficult, and further it seemed silly when we could see easily down the more direct route, where the old trail was indicated on the map. We decided the direct course would be quickest and headed again cross-country. Very little bushwhacking was needed to get us back down to the Hawes Ranch, and from there it was an easy walk back to the car.

At the TH I found Steve napping in the back of the vehicle with the seats folded down to let him stretch out some. I almost felt guilty waking him up. After Glenn and Sam returned, Glenn suggested we might go hit up White Mtn while we were at it. I was all for this idea of course, but felt I shouldn't be the one to suggest it since Steve and Sam had probably had enough for the day. Not so, it would turn out. With Steve at the wheel, we drove on to Big Pine Flat and then turned north and climbed up to a ridge a few miles from White Mtn. With a little encouragement, Steve agreed to continue heading up the 4x4 Jeep trail, a bone-jarring, rutted excuse for a road. And very popular with the off-road crowd, it would seem. After about half a mile we encountered the first of 11 off-road, super-high clearance trucks that had been caravaning up and over White Mtn from the north. We pulled over to let the first of these pass (and waited out the entire caravan). The first driver that passed us was on the radio talking to the others. He waved to us as he commented on the radio, "Typical off-roaders - they're being courteous and letting us pass." I don't think any of us thought of ourselves as off-roaders, but we took the compliment graciously. After they passed, we continued driving the challenging road up to a saddle just west of South Peak, and less than a mile to White Mtn. Here we decided the road ahead was a bit much and decided to hoof the remaining distance. The closeness of the peak meant that all of us could reach the summit of White Mtn., and after locking up the car we all headed off in that direction. There were but a few clumps of wildflowers growing on the slopes here, and we all admired the tenacity of one particular variety that seemed to not only survive, but thrive on the dry ground. Sam and Glenn took a more direct route up past a false summit while Steve and I stuck to the road and showed up shortly after the others. The summit here was about 1,000ft higher than the other group, but still very little snow lingered on the slopes.

Leaving the summit I took off ahead of the others so that I could tag the summit of nearby South Peak. The summit is actually nine feet higher than the HPS White Mtn summit, and is the highpoint of the longer ridge named White Mtn that stretches from North Peak to South Peak. On our way back down in the Jeep, Glenn suggested the others wouldn't mind if I wanted to go up and tag Rattlesnake on the way back since it's a short distance from the road. It was a nice offer, and tempting too, but I declined. I figured I'd still have to come back to the area to climb Luna and Round, so getting Rattlesnake out of the way didn't buy me much. I'm pretty sure that all nine of the peaks in the area could be done in a single day, a long one to be sure (we finished with six of them starting after 7:30a and finishing just after 3:30p). But I will have to leave the nine-peak day to Matthew most likely. Driving back to town, we got ourselves worked up over Thai food - for some reason that seemed like an excellent idea to Steve, Glenn, and myself. Not expecting to actually find such a place in Hesperia, we were pleasantly surprised to find the Thai Lotus Restaurant off the main drag on our way back through town. Apple Valley was growing up.

Most of these photos were taken and provided here courtesy of Glenn Gookin. I failed to bring my camera for the first five peaks of the day and only had it for the hike to White Mtn and South Peak.


Tom Becht comments on 05/09/11:
What a difference 6 years make. Erin and I attempted to do all 5 peaks yesterday and had to turn back 1.5 miles from Deer with 3 hours of daylight left. The brush has become outrageous, trees are almost all down, and the trail is practically non-existent. Reminds me of old times in George Creek except I think G.C is easier. Good thing Deer has an easier approach from the west (I hope).
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