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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

San Gorgonio Mountain

San Gorgonio Mountain Hike
San Bernadino National Forest
San Gorgonio Wilderness
Angelus Oaks, CA
Fish Creek Trail
Mileage - 20.56
Time - 6:30
AEG - 3719ft


Mount San Gorgonio, or "Old Grey Back" as its called, dominates the Eastern skyline of Los Angeles and tops out at an impressive 11,503 feet.  This ultra-prominent peak towers above the desert floor and is Southern California's tallest mountain with 8,279 feet of prominence!  There are several  routes to the top, and most trails are ten or more miles one way.  We chose the Fish Creek route for the remoteness and ease of obtaining a permit for the one day we had available to hike; Sunday, June 9th.

Matt, Wally, Duane, and I drove into Big Bear, CA on Saturday to relax and spend the afternoon by the lake, then camp that evening at Serrano Campground before our big hike on Sunday.  Talk about nice!  Imagine a mini Lake Tahoe with endless opportunities for outdoor recreation.  I need to spend some more time up there this summer!  So on to the hike.

From the main road (CA 38), we drove exactly 7.5 miles on high clearance dirt roads to reach the Fish Creek Trailhead.  By 7:45am we were on the trail and climbing ever-so-gradually up the mountain.  It turned out to be approximately 10.3 miles and 3,500 feet of elevation gain to reach the peak.  I know that sounds like a lot on paper, but the grade is so moderate it never felt as though we were putting in that hard of an effort.  In fact, we averaged 3.1 mph in those 10+miles.  At 11:30am the summit was ours!  Well, not exactly.  There were a few other groups of hikers, all of which were as enthusiastic about taking pictures from the top as us.  High winds didn't allow for a comfortable break at the top so the only thing left to do was hike back down.

The four of us kept talking about how nice the return trip was going to be, and what an easy hike down we had in store.  Then something caught our attention.  Smoke.  A faint white patch of smoke rising up from a lower ridge-line to the South seemed to be gaining momentum with each passing minute.  We were literally witnessing the start of what would become the Hathaway Fire.  As we wrapped around the Northeastern side of San Gorgonio the smell of smoke was in the air.  Then it became visible.  I took off the long sleeve shirt I was wearing and tied it around my face, leaving only my eyes exposed to the hazy air.  Our pace increased to a trot, running at times in search of lower elevation and fresh air.  Unfortunately, we didn't find that until 10 miles later when we reached the car at 8,088ft.  It wasn't until we drove down the mountain and headed for home on Interstate 10 when we saw the wildfire that is being described as having "extreme fire behavior." 

         


Left - View of San Jacinto Peak to the South during our ascent at 11:00am.  Below/Right - Same View, looking slightly West on the descent at 12:10pm when the fire began.

Hathaway Fire - Banning, CA (As seen from I-10 near Palm Springs at 4:00pm)





More pictures posted soon!





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