My wife was heading to Columbus, Ohio for volleyball just as a heat wave
was descending on California. Deserts were certainly out, and the Sierra
wasn't so inviting with record snows, so I ended up traveling to Southern
to do some peaks in the San Bernardino Mtns. Others would be joining me
starting Friday, but today I was on my own. I had gotten up at 5a so that
I could have a full afternoon for the effort. I found
some stuff to do around Wrightwood and then other parts to the east. Much
of it was Jeeping around, which was fine since the temps were in the high
70s all afternoon.
This summit located off SR2, before one gets to Wrightwood if driving
from SR138. Paved Desert Front Road goes through a rural/desert
community, getting within 1/4mi of the summit on its south side. There is
an empty lot on that side that provides a convenient starting point.
Though the distance is very short, it's terribly steep and loose,
not dangerous but tedious, especially with the warm temps. The steep route
up from the south eventually joined a use trail that follows the East
Ridge. Finding the start of this would certainly make the effort easier.
There is a view bench and a flag at the summit, no doubt maintained by
one of the locals. There are wide views of Antelope Valley to the north,
and the snow-covered higher summits of the San Gabriels to the southwest.
East Table Mountain
Table Mtn rises above the north side of Wrightwood. I had been to the
higher west summit back in 2011, but today's effort was to East Table Mtn
about five miles to the southeast. I used a track off PB provided by Mike
Teeples, starting at the junction of SR2 and Sheep Creek, and providing an
all-public route. It's about a mile each way, the longest outing of the
afternoon. There had been heavy runoff in the creek due to the high
snow volume this year, and one can see a lot of work done in the wash
to bulldoze a channel and build up the banks. There was some water flowing in
the creek on my visit, but it was easy to get across with the aid of a large
rock at the midway point of the stream. There is an old use trail going up the
ridge, mostly used by deer now, eventually joining an old road that
comes up from Wrightwood. This road (Valley View Rd on Google Maps) can be
followed all the way to the summit, making it all class 1.
Others have used this road starting from SR2, but there may be trespassing
issues in doing so. At over 6,000ft, it was easily the highest summit of the
day. I was happy to find no snow and the ground dry. This would bode well
for the weekend plans in the San Bernardino Mtns. Portions of the lower route
were burned in a fire the previous season, but the upper mountain was
spared. Views overlook Wrightwood to the south, framed by the higher summits of
Blue Ridge behind it. I spent about an hour and a quarter on this one.
Desert Front is the long connecting crest between the San Bernardino and San
Gabriel Mtns. It starts at the SR2/SR138 junction and goes for about 10mi to
Cajon Pass. There are various Forest Service roads throughout the area,
including ones along the very crest. I would be following this to a series of
summits along the way. All of these summits have open views with no trees an
minimal brush - more desert than forest here. A mile and a half east of the
SR2/SR138 junction, an unsigned Forest road forks off SR138. This leads
up to the saddle between Peak 5,114ft and Peak 4,970ft. Any high-clearance
vehicle can drive this, as well as the continuing road along the crest to Cajon
Pass. Going west from the saddle requires 4WD. Those without should probably
hike to Peak 5,114ft and Phelan BM (less than a mile to Phelan BM from the
saddle). I managed to drive the jeep up to the top of Peak 5,114ft, but
balked at the prospect of continuing to Phelan BM. I could certainly
have gotten down to the saddle between the two, but I'm not sure I
could have driven up to Phelan BM, or made it back up to Peak 5,114ft.
It's only half a mile between the two, so the walk isn't bad, but it's quite
steep and sandy. The terrain all around here has been scarred by hundreds of
motorcycle tracks using it as an off-road area, despite the USFS's attempts to
keep motor vehicles to the designated roadways. Phelan's summit features
a large wooden cross and superb views. The benchmark was
removed to make a base for the cross, but I found one of the nearby
reference marks. Once back to the original saddle, the road
continues east on a meandering path along the north side of the crest.
A motorcycle route goes directly along the crest, so that
makes the next two summits, Peak 4,970ft and Peak 4,954ft, easier on a
motorcycle (with some decent skills, too, I might add). The wider vehicle road
gets close to both summits, so these are only short hikes to reach their
highpoints. Nothing special about either, but good leg stretchers.
Baldy Mesa doesn't have much prominence, but one can drive right to the top.
There is a nice view of the SR138/I-15 junction - a very busy one. I
had originally planned a retreat back to the highway after Baldy BM, but noticed
that Cajon BM was on PB. So I continued another 5-6mi to the east along the
crest for the short hike to the benchmark overlooking
Interstate 15. The USFS road terminates at the
brake check area at Cajon Pass, filled with trucks parked there
(probably trying to nap at the higher elevation to beat the heat).
I decided I had enough time and energy (I hadn't really worn myself out
at all) for one more.
This collection of sandstone and conglomerate rock is found near the junction
of SR138 and Interstate 15. I'd seen them on numerous occasions on my drives
through the area, and thought them interesting enough to deserve a visit, even
if none of the points have more than 300ft of prominence. Someone added the
highpoint to PB, so that was good enough to entice for this last outing. It was
the nicest of the day, both because it had some fun scrambling and
route-finding, as well as it had the coolest temps of the day in the late
afternoon. There is a large parking area across SR138 from the Mormon Rocks
Ranger Station, less than half a mile from the highpoint. One can even
drive a high-clearance vehicle closer, utilizing jeep trails in the wash between
the parking lot and the rock features. The highpoint is located at the west end
of the main ridgeline and requires nothing more than class 2 to
reach it. The more interesting point is to the southeast, atop
one of the larger rock features. I enjoyed the hike/scramble
between the two points along the connecting ridgeline. Lots of
cool views of the rocks, but not much of a Wilderness experience with
road noise from the two main highways in the
area, in addition to the trains that run just east of Mormon Rocks. I
would end up spending the night in the wash on the south side of Mormon
Rocks, a decent camp location.