Thursday, February 27, 2014

South Fork to Dollar Lake Saddle

South Fork to Dollar Lake Saddle
Mileage: 15
Mandie's blog entry for this hike

Mandie and I decided to return to San Gorgonio wilderness and attempt the hike that we bailed on when it was to cold and snowy, up South Fork trail. You can read about that trip here, A Bitter Cold Decision. The trip started out as most of our trips do, leaving Friday after work and stopping in Temecula for something to eat and to let the traffic subside. We arrived at the trailhead parking lot around 8:00p, set up the back of my truck for the night and crawled in.

We awoke to another cold morning but nothing like it was the last time we were here. We guzzled a couple of Starbucks coffee drinks, had a bite to eat, and packed up our gear

As we headed out, Mandie wasn't feeling well and struggled a bit in the beginning. She is a tough girl and pushed through the stomach pain with only a few rest stops. While she rested, I took the opportunity to take a couple of pictures of the morning sun waking up the mountain.

After hiking for maybe a mile, we arrived at Horse Meadow. A beautiful area home to a couple of cabins. I did see a hose bit but no handle to turn it on with.

Hiking on a little further we reached Poop-Out Hill, a place to get cameras, and the San G. Wilderness boundary. (If anybody knows the history of how Poop-Out hill got its name, please let me know.) We meandered on over to Poop-Out hill for a second breakfast and to check out the views. It was a beautiful day.

After Poop-Out hill, we came across this amazing Flume just meandering around the hillside. According to Hikin' Jim, "This is the flume that diverts water from the S Fork of the Santa Ana River to Jenks Lake."

A picture of an avalanche chute which, from what I can gather, last avalanched in April 2010.

We finally reached the Dry Lake and Dollar Lake split. Both trails would take us to our destination as it is a loop. We decided to take the Dollar lake trail as Mandie had never done that trail before. I hadn't done either of them.

Right out of the gate the Dollar lake trail was steep and pretty much continued that way for the rest of the trail. Mandie and I hike a lot and usually a steep trail doesn't give us much issue, but this one did. This section of the trail starts at 8200' and goes to 10,000' where it tops off at Dollar Lake Saddle.

We were both moving slowly, but me especially. I do not usually suffer from elevation sickness all that much, maybe some dizziness once in a while, but on this day it was kicking my ass. It took every ounce of my energy to cover the 2.9 miles it takes to get to the Dollar Lake CG split. We took some time at the split to have something to eat and to reassess the situation. We still had about 10 miles to go until we would reach our camp site at Dry Lake. To get there we would have to go around San Gorgonio mountain. Since it was already getting late and neither of us were moving very fast we decided to hike up to Dollar Lake Saddle and then call it a day. Making this a out-and-back trip instead of a loop.

Once we were back on our feet, we had a little less than a mile to go until we reached Dollar Lake Saddle. As we moved along we encountered several patches of snow and ice that were a little treacherous to navigate in our trail runners.

We stopped at the saddle to have a bite to eat and enjoy the day.

After about 30-45 we headed back down the mountain. My legs felt like jello and the trail is very rocky which does not make for a good combination. It was tough going and being as tired as I was it was a bit frustrating not to be able to get a good walking rhythm going. Mandie was also having some knee pain which didn't make things any easier. It really sucks having bad pain in a joint, like the knee, that you must use. I really felt bad for her.

We took a break at a near by creek to rest and have a little snack.

We finally made it back to the truck and even though we did not do our intended hike it was still a success.
We hiked 15 miles, at elevation, with full packs on. A great PCT preparation hike.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Whitewater Part Duex - The Wrong Fork

Whitewater Preserve to Middle Fork
Mileage: 22
Mandie's blog entry for this hike

We went back to Whitewater Preserve because we really enjoyed it last weekend. There is something really nice to be in the middle of the desert with water flowing. This time our goal was to head up Middle Fork to a waterfall an then go check out the headwall.

Friday after work we headed on out as we usually do. We stopped off for dinner at Miguel's since we missed it last weekend. Thank you for being open this time Miguel's. We arrived at the Whitewater Preserve gate around 8:30 and having secured our permit earlier in the week we had the code to the gate so we could enter the preserve for the night.

We awoke to hunters gearing up to go hunt, 'cuz that's what hunters do. I climbed out of the back of the truck and gave the casual head-nod to one of the men and asked them what they were hunting. To which he replied, "Sheep". "Oh." I said, "Where are you going to do that at?" To which he replied, "In the wilderness." I thought that was a pretty obvious answer, so I said, "Well yeah! Where in the wilderness?" I wasn't trying to be nosy or make him share the location of his secret hunting grounds. I just knew we were both going to be in the same area and I didn't feel like getting shot that day. We exchanged a few more words and they went on their way and we started to get ready.

Hunters heading out
After some coffee and breakfast we finally hit the trailhead around 8:00a. I hadn't brushed my teeth yet, so a kiss on the cheek was all I could get. Hey, I''ll take it.


Along the way we saw sign from other PCT hikers, similar to the one we saw last weekend. It will probably take us a few weeks to get back to this area from the Mexico border when we do our PCT thru-hike.

Canada to Mexico 2014

Just a nice looking picture
Our route would take us right up the river for 11 miles, at least that is what the plan was. Below you can see some of the terrain we were up against. The water wasn't an issue but the many miles over an uneven river bed would take its toll on us.

At some point during the day we stopped to rest, for some lunch, and clean our feets. Dehydrated refried beans and some rice was on the menu. It was delicious, as is almost anything when you are backpacking/hiking.

Mmmm, lunch

Clean feets = happy feets

Rough and uneven terrain

I think the mountain range in the background looks like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. We think it leads up to Kitching Peak. It looks pretty awesome to us and might be the site of a future adventure.

As I mentioned, our plan was to head up Middle Fork to a waterfall and the headwall. We arrived at a "junction" in the riverbed. The water went left and a dry riverbed continued on straight. Our maps and GPS said that we should go straight but neither of us wanted to deviate away from the water. We knew the waterfall was running so we gambled that the water in front of us was from that source. We continued our slow but steady march following the river as best we could.

At one of the spots where we had to deviate away from the river I glanced up and noticed a Great Horned owl chilling in a tree. We tried our best to get some good pictures of it but the sun's location was not in our favor and we didn't want to get to close to it.

That alone was worth the price of heading up the wrong canyon... which I haven't mentioned yet. So, not too much longer after spotting the owl did we come to the realization that we were in the wrong canyon. We were actually in the South Fork instead of Middle Fork. Oh well, whatcha gunna do.

We decided to start looking for a place to set up our tent. When you are between two canyon walls, the pickn' is slim. We lucked out and found a nice flat sandy spot to camp for the night. We made some dinner, watched the sunset, and then climbed into the tent for the evening.

Wait a second... that's not my pack

We saw lots of animal tracks along the way, so any sound we heard during the night made us worry. We brought bear spray with us this time so we at least had some type of defense.

I know I heard something out there
Some of the animal prints and remains we saw throughout the trip...



We think, Raccoon

Big Horn Sheep jaw?

Big Horn Sheep backbone and pelvis

We awoke to a beautiful morning, sun doing its thing with the mountains, casting its glow across them. We made some coffee and had some breakfast packed up camp and headed back out of the canyon.

I think my hiking poles really add to this picture.

We stopped and took pictures of each other next to a small waterfall.

Our hike out of the canyon was equally as tough as hiking into it. Imagine that. We navigated downed trees, rocky terrain, and plants that bite.

Bad picture but doesn't it look like a creature out of Rocky Horror Picture Show?

Our plan today was to get back to our intended route which would lead us into the correct canyon. We kept our fingers crossed that there would be a nice graded trail for us to take. That was not the case and we bush whacked most of the way. We learned that animals know their way around and seem to take the path of least resistance. If we followed the animal tracks through the bushes our progress would be met with the least amount of resistance.

Finally in the correct canyon, our GPS and map told us that the big waterfall was not too far away. We were short on food and time so we decided to hike with a "porpoise" (purpose). We wanted to get to one of our original destinations this trip, so up the canyon we went. After about a quarter mile, we made a sharp right turn into the bushes for more bush whacking. The bush whacking would continue for about another 30-45 minutes at which time we came around the bend and saw a huge 100 foot plus waterfall. We shouted with joy and gave each other a high five. It was a beautiful site and was well worth the effort.

View up the correct canyon, Middle Fork

The waterfall coming into view

The waterfall in all its glory


A river frog

We spent some time at the waterfall, resting in the shade. I took my clothes off and went for a dip. The water was very cold so it was a quick dip, but it felt great. We had a small snack, replenished our water supply, and talked about how amazing this area was. There was around 10 miles between us and the car so we had to get moving.

As we exited the canyon that held the waterfall we could see the top of the headwall that was our other objective. It will have to wait for another trip.

The headwall
The trip back, taking a different route than the route we took the day before, proved to be a bit easier. We stuck to the soft sand in the dry river bed as best we could, popping out only when the river would have taken us in the wrong direction.

It was a hot, dry hike back to the car but we did it and I think we did it rather quickly. Mandie's knees were bothering her and my feet were hurting but we kept a pretty brisk pace. I am proud of both of us for pushing through the pain and doing what we needed to do to get back.