Fri, Jul 1, 2011
It was Friday and the weekend was rapidly approaching. I had spent the last three days running around the LA area to tag some remaining HPS and LPC peaks, as well as a few range highpoints for some decidely small ranges. I was scheduled to meet Tom around noon to begin my completion of the HPS peak list, planning two and a half days to finish the last 19 peaks. But first I wanted to tag one more easy range highpoint, something to keep me occupied for a few hours in the morning.
The Jurupa Mtns lie between the cities of Riverside to the south and Fontana to the north. Portions of these hills lie within various parks, and though the summit appears to be outside, there are no signs or fences limiting access and from all appearances it seems to be popular with the local hikers and bored teenage vandals as well. I had slept in the back of the van parked off a dirt road conveniently located at the north end of the Martin Tudor-Jurupa Hills Regional Park. Butting up against the backside of a residential area, it was far enough from the lighted, paved roads to allow me to sleep undisturbed. In the morning I got up at sunrise before 6a and drove the short distance to the park's regular entrance. The park includes a large pool, small slide, a 400ft+ water slide and other features that have fallen into disrepair or lack of funding and have been drained and fenced off. There are swings and play equipment, picnic grounds restrooms, a large parking lot and not much else still available to visitors. Oh, and access to the Jurupa Mtns directly behind it.
It took only 35 minutes to cover the short distance to the range highpoint of Mt. Jurupa, just over 2,200ft in height. There is an easy-to-find trail, multiply braided, that goes up the north side of the range to the top. Along the way one has a fine view north to Fontana with the San Gabriel Mtns for a backdrop. The Jurupa Mtns are quite brown and dry at this time of year yet the poison oak that is rather abundant along the trail is quite green, lively, and undoubtedly potent. Some of the young folks in the area have been kind enough to leave trail markers to help visitors to the summit. Many take the form of green cannabis leaves painted on a white background at various points along the way, while others are more creative such as the penis that points in the correct direction. All in all it appears the area is a natural canvas for the local artists to express their creativity on. The large, flat summit even had a moving message with a religious theme written in rocks.
The early morning hour provided a less hazy view than usual, allowing one to take in the surrounding suburban sprawl in four directions. I don't really mean that in a sarcastic manner as I grew up in the Los Angeles area and spent 24 years here. I've come to accept the inevitability of the sprawl spreading out across the desert and am not all that emotionally attached to its progression. It is what it is. I'm at least thankful that they've kept much of the mountain areas free of the continuous development march.
I was back to the trailhead shortly after 7am. I did run across another retired gentleman out for a morning climb of the peak. Other than that, there were just a few homeless fellows hanging around the base of the park, presumeably to make use of the facilities and the shady picnic areas. It was going to heat up soon and probably reach well into the 90s today in the basin. I had some hours to kill before meeting with Tom at noon. The driving would take maybe an hour, so there were another four hours or so I needed to dispense with. I drove east to Redlands and found a Starbucks downtown where I set up shop for those extra hours. I had plenty of time to map out the routes over the next few days and a few extra projects for the future as well.
From Redlands I drove into the San Bernardino Mtns on SR38 to the turnoff for the Heart Bar Campground, about five miles below Onyx summit. Tom and his coworker Jon showed up as expected right at noon. We then left two of our cars there, piled into Tom's Element and drove to the end of the road at Coon Creek Jumpoff. There was no need for 4WD, but the extra clearance was a big plus. The two HPS peaks we were after could both be reached via this same trailhead, though via different routes. Wysup Peak was a recently added summit, named to commemorate George Wysup, a popular HPS leader who had died of cancer a year ago. The peak is located to the north, not far off the PCT that passes through this area. The other peak was Three Sisters, a longer distance to the east. We decided to tackle the shorter Wysup first.
The "Jumpoff" in Coon Creek Jumpoff is named for the precipitous drop to the southeast into Mission Creek below. If affords a spectacular view into this deep canyon cut into the southeast side of the range. With Tom's sage guidance, we found the PCT crossing the road a short distance to the west. I had been oblivious that we had crossed it and was prepared to just head off cross-country. Two miles and forty minutes later we found a duck alongside the trail marking the start of the use trail to Wysup Peak. A series of such ducks led us in less than ten minutes to the rocky summit. The final scramble to the top was unexpected but fun and easy class 3. The views were better than we had anticipated as well. Though muted in the direction of Sugarloaf to the west and Onyx to the north, there is a fine view of San Gorgonio to the south and east to the desert regions.
The register dated to 7/18/2010, only a few months after George's passing. The memorial party that placed the register consisted of more than 100 mostly Sierra Club members, there names inscribed on the first eight pages of the register. Since then there had been a few additional parties, ours marking the second entry for 2011.
We made a more direct descent down to the PCT, heading SE off the summit. Why this isn't the primary route (and never will be) became apparent as we had to find our way through brushy class 3 cliffs before finding easier ground below. Once back on the PCT, we were only half an hour in returning to Coon Creek Jumpoff. I picked up another bottle of Gatorade from Tom's car while dropping off an empty one, and around 2:45p we started off for Three Sisters.
Three Sisters has had a nomadic HPS existence over the years. The actual formations that make up the three peaks are more than a mile to the southeast, but due to private property concerns, the HPS summit has been moved twice over the years until it now rests at Pt. 8,100ft, well west of the Three Sisters. The good news, I suppose, is that the peak has gotten progressively easier in its western migration, so that it is currently only about 3.5mi from the TH. The summit is nearly the same elevation as the starting point, with some modest up and down along the way as the route follows the connecting ridgeline. We spent about 45 minutes following the old, gated road to its terminus a bit more than two miles along the route. Among the downfall we found scattered about the area were the remains of a USGS remote rainfall gauge that had been smashed by a falling tree. We had seen an identical setup about 15 minutes earlier, so it was easy to identify its purpose despite its current condition.
Continuing east, we started cross-country from the end of the road, roughly following the ridgeline, occasionally finding ducks and vestiges of a use trail. One segment of the route crosses a fire-damaged plateau that is just starting to make a comback with some flowers and other fast-growing plants. The use trail proved useful through the steep section around Pt. 8,350ft, where it traverses around the north side of ridgeline. Around 4p the HPS summit came into view, followed by a drop of several hundred feet to a saddle before the final climb to the summit. The hiking was rather non-spectacular overall, though the views were decent from the summit. The true Three Sisters could be seen to the southeast, and though Tom encouraged me to continue to the nearest of these, I didn't feel up to the extra effort. We signed into the register we found in a a rusty can in a cairn, took a short break, then headed back via the same route.
It was 6p when we returned to the TH. We collected our other vehicles near the pavement and then drove all of them to the top of Onyx Summit where I had suggested we could spend the night. At 8,500ft, it was likely to be the coolest location we could find to sleep at. Laura Molnar was driving up to join us for the next two days' hiking. She had stopped in Mentone to pick up thai food for all of us before joining us at Onyx Summit. A grand feast was had. It had been some days since I had had a really big meal (or good one, for that matter), and it was with great relish that I polished off a large order of Tom Ka Gai soup and rice. Mmmm. Peakbagging and thai food - does it get any better?
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Mt. Jurupa
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