San Jacinto Peak
Devil's Slide and Marion Mountain Trails
Sept 21, 2002
7:00am We all met at my house in Temecula, Ca. and agreed to take two vehicles up to the Marion Mountain Trailhead just past Pine Cove, Ca.southwest of San Jacinto Peak. We dropped my truck off at the trailhead and stuffed everything into Dave's Camary. He drove us into Humber Park in Idyllwild at the base of Taquitz Rock and the beginning of the Devil's Slide Trail.
9:50am We unloaded the car and prepared for our ascent up Strawberry Valley overlooking Idyllwild. It was already beginning to heat up with record temperatures expected for Idyllwild.
We followed the well marked trail along a ridgeline with sweeping view of Tahquitz Rock.
As we gained height we came across a large rock outcropping with a rock wedged between them (visible to the right of me). I climbed up to get a closer look while Swaim took a photo
We climbed steadily and came upon a section where the trail narrowed and afforded a view across Strawberry Valley and over to Suicide Rock. There was some exposure to our left and a spill here would have been nasty.
11:25 am We popped out above the rim of Strawberry Valley and into the comforts and shade of Saddle Junction where we took our first break. Here is where I remembered my lunch sitting on the rear seat of my truck back at the Marion Mountain Trailhead. Luckily I had an old Welch's Grape Jelly jar filled with GORP in my side pocket of my pack. We ate a quick snack and chatted with other hikers coming up from below.
Up ahead we heard a woodpecker hammering away at the top of a pine tree and we headed up towards him on our way out of Saddle Junction. This section of the Pacific Crest Trail was well marked and we followed it up a ridgeline towards Wellman's Cienega. The view to the east reveals Skunk Cabbage Meadows and now the sun which is starting to bead down on us.
The trees began to take on strange formations and one tree seemed to grow right on top a boulder with it's roots cascadeing down into the trail. The effects of the Western Pine Beetle can be seen as some of the pines are lying dead and lifeless.
Most of the trail signs in this part of the forest are well marked. Here I am on the Pacific Crest Trail where it meets the Strawberry Cienega Trail towards Idyllwild.
1:30 pm We reached Wellman's Cienega and are greeted by a field of fern normally green and refreshing. Instead we see that they are brown and brittle but clinging to life. The Trail closes in as we push the ferns aside and continue up toward Wellman's Divide.
1:50 pm We reach Wellman's Divide and stop for a much needed rest. Lots of hikers are lounging around catching their breath from coming up from the Palm Springs Tram. Some have already been to the summit and are heading back down.
2:15 pm We hoist up our packs and head upwards around the Jean Peak Traverse. The views open up towards Palm Springs and even though it's not a clear day the views are still amazing. I showed them the Tram Mountain Station and Cornel Peak off in the distance.
As we continued up toward the peak the altitude thins out the air and more hikers are seen " Open Mouthed" and stopping more frequently for rests. I sucked on some cherry flavored hard candy to keep my mouth closed.
3:50 pm We finally reach the Summit Stone Shelter and take a look inside. Dave signs in on the makeshift register on a blank piece of notebook paper. We drop our packs and scramble up to the real summit about 50 yards away.
The stone shelter was constructed in the 1930's by the California Conservation Corps and has two wooden bunks inside. The shelter is unique and worth a peak inside.
The summit was crowded as it usually is during the summer months and prime hiking season. Boy Scouts are huddled around the summit marker while the rest of us spread out and take a quick nap. Eventually the Boy Scouts leave and we hop onto the rock for some photos. Who made the error on the sign is what I want to know. Maybe the peak grew 30 feet since last year.
5:00pm The sun is getting lower on the horizon and we know it's time to start heading down towards our camp at Little Round Valley. Quickly we gather our packs and head down to the trailhead for the split towards Little Round Valley
The trail down the backside of San Jacinto Peak is a seemingly endless slog down switchbacks. The bottom of the valley below is barely perceptible through the trees and we plunge down rapidily to beat approaching nightfall.
5:40 pm We bottom out into Little Round Valley and pass the Boy Scouts who had plopped down their gear right along side the trail. We continue down looking for the official campsites. We pass a protected area marked with signs and follow a small trail ined with stick and stones to our camp.
We find our spot is fairly level with a soft dirt and sand bottom. A large totem pole like tree stands erect in the middle of the camp while we prepare for the night. I have a touch of altitude sickness and decide to eat cup-o-soup instead of my Mountain House Beef Strogonoff dinner.
I brewed some tea while everyone else makes their dinner. We were pretty tired after hiking about 10 miles with an elevation gain and loss of over 6,000 feet. We crawled into our sleeping bags and dozed off to sleep.
9:00 pm The full moon rose above Newton-Drury and Jean Peaks and blazed like a flashlight into our eyes. I was too hot to stay inside my 20 degree sleeping bag so I unzipped it and layed with my upper body outside the bag.
Throughout the night sudden strong gusts of wind whipped our camp. I was fascinated that I could hear them coming a few seconds before they hit. Luckily I didn't have a tent and it was unseasonally warm.
Sept 22, 2002
7:00 pm We all woke up about the same time. We were not as sore as we thought we would be and after a little stretching and walking around we felt pretty good. My stomach was still feeling uneasy so I ate a melted Snicker's candy bar that had hardened into a bizare shape overnight.We slowly cleaned up out campsite and packed our packs, now much lighter that when we started.
8:45am We headed down the trail marked the Deer Springs Trail on the Topo and followed it southwest until we passed the Fuller Ridge Trail sign heading down and to our right. The trail switchbacked down along the west side of the mountain and had great views to the west and overlooking Lake Perris and San Gorgonio Peak.
After coming to a small clearing we saw the small Marion Mountain sign and started the tight steep switchbacks down to the Marion Mountain Campground. We made good time and after taking a few minutes to decide whether to go to the campground or trail we followed the correct path and ended up at my truck at the Marion Mountain Trailhead.
11:10 am We loaded up the truck and drove back to Humber Park to pick up the second vehicle. We followed eachother back into Idyllwild and had lunch at Jo-Ann's Restauraunt & Bar.