Well I have been in California for a solid few months and finally decided to do some mountain hiking. Rock climbing trip plans fell through so this weekend was mostly a fly by the seat of your pants expedition.
I got off work Thursday afternoon and called to the park offices in San Jacinto but couldn't be guaranteed a permit to hike or camp for that evening so I took my sweet time packing and headed down towards Palm Springs.
I decided to camp out on the side of the road by the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to be one of the first up the mountain and at the rangers station. I really didn't want to get screwed over on that permit stuff and I didn't have money to do front country activities so it was my only options.
1. The view from the desert floor.
2. Lucky for me I made it to the Long Valley Ranger Station in time to get an overnight permit. Here is a picture of the trail map:
3. The trail up and through Round Valley was filled with day hikers and backpackers. Got to talk to quite a few people while going by the meadows.
4. Reached Wellman Divide in no time. The weather was threatening but the cool breeze was a welcome change from the night before on the desert floor.
5. The trail headed up the East side of the mountain.
6. They even had an emergency summit shelter near the top. The last 100m or so I lost the trail and the ascent pretty much turned into a class 2 scramble which almost made me feel like a true mountaineer.
7. The view from the top was stunning. Being able to see San Gorgonio, Palm Springs, and the wind farms all lined up neat and in a row was really something else.
8. Since I was making much better time than anticipated (in part due to cake route planning), I ventured off to the Northwest side of the summit to cook lunch and take a nap.
9. Unfortunately I was awakened by some gnarly wind and hail. Took a hot second to pack and scamper off the summit for some dry shelter. The storm passed within about a half hour. "Hail", I tell you!
10. I moseyed my way back down to the seasonal ranger junction and up to Tamarack Valley to make camp early. I also discovered that my phone had a camera on the front. How this eluded me for almost a year I may never know, but I am ashamed to say I began making expert use of the "selfie" capabilities.
11. My humble abode as seen from the cooking area. Only saw two other sets of hikers which surprised me for how difficult it was with the permits and all.
I ended up back on the tramway headed down to the desert around 10:00am the next day. I was feeling a bit abash for such an easy hike so I drove myself across the road to the San Bernardino National Forest to see what my options were for the summit I had seen from atop San Jacinto. So it was to be San Gorgonio, standing almost another thousand feet taller than Jacinto had become my new weekend fixation. I was able to get permits for the next day and since there was some time to be killed I did a bit of walking around the creek that ran along the road. It seemed to me by the amount of people enjoying the water, that surface water is a rather rare occasion. Ended up car camping down by the creek in a more secluded area with a vague uncertainty of whether or not a flash flood would wipe me away in the middle of the night. The sound of the water was so relaxing though that I figured it would be worth it in either case.
12. Didn't quite make the alpine start I was planning for but still stepped off around 7:30 or so. The beginning of the trail had a river crossing which thankfully was all underground for the summer.
13. The first set of switchbacks was a bit of a shock. Saw an elderly gentleman on his way back down the switchbacks doing what looked like a daily exercise. Yup, I definitely checked my pride at the wilderness boundary.
14. Every little biosphere along the ascent was just a bit unworldly. I could have sworn I wandered into Ferngully here for a second.
15. Checking out the map. It was about here that I started getting passed by dayhikers. This would be a recurring theme throughout the rest of the ascent.
16. Just after Highcreek the real fun started with another set of switchbacks. The soil and ground vegetation dropped to near zero because of the terrain and the trees thinned out.
17. A quick look back at the mountainside traverse. I was literally stopping to break every 100m or so at this point. I also began to despise the hikers with the ski poles and 3kg packs. Why didn't I think of that first?
18. The final stretch across the unimposing peak. At one point while at the top some hikers walked right past the summit block to a false summit about 50 meters away.
19. After the little hailstorm unassing at San Jacinto I remembered to actually get a picture with the board this time.
20. A view of what I think is Big Bear Lake looking to the North off the summit
21. San Jacinto Mountain North face. With the perpetual cloud still hanging out above it.
22. Sorry, last selfie. I was just so happy at the summit I couldn't help myself
I also took the time to cook a late lunch of chicken flavored Ramen and lemon pepper tuna which tasted like some awesome Indian food... Or I was just very hungry. Started my way back down in search of a good campsite. Heard most people talking about some thunderstorms overnight so a lower camp was sounding more and more appealing. Ended up staying at Halfway Camp for the night, the weather there was so perfect I don't think I woke up once to readjust my sleeping bag.
Finished the descent on Monday pretty wiped out for the weekend.
Best estimate trip totals come to 8,158ft climb and 29.8 trail miles over four days. You could definitely do them faster if you only have a day. Just take some snacks and water instead of carrying a full hikers pack.
P.s. I have heard a few people on Gorgonio say that there is aircraft wreckage somewhere on the mountain. Maybe you've seen it? Perhaps that will be next weekend's adventure.