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San Jacinto Peak

Devil's Slide and Marion Mountain Trails

 

In early August I  decided it was time to knock off the dust from my Zamberlan hiking boots and planned a scenic overnight trip to the San Jacinto Wilderness and Mt. San Jacinto.  Wanting to test some of my gear, I decided to make this trip an overnight trip.  After doing some research and checking out my maps, I decided on a S/W to N/W traverse of the peak beginning with the Devil's Slide Trail in Idyllwild and coming down the Marion Mountain Trail north of Pine Cove.  This would entail a car shuttle leaving one vehicle at the Marion Mountain Trailhead and another at Humber Park. 

I mailed off for my overnight permit to the Mt. San Jacinto State Wilderness and requested an overnight permit for Little Round Valley Camp.  I spoke to the ranger at the Idyllwild Ranger Station who told me the entire region was dry and water was not available.  He said that the water pipe at Round Valley had not been flowing since May.  Packing in one gallon of water was not a pleasant thought, as I knew I would need at least one gallon for the two-day hike.

Weeks before the hike I began putting together a trip itinerary with a history of the area and suggested packing lists. I called Dave Swaim who had gone on all of my hikes last year and he jumped at the chance to revisit the peak.  I also recruited Dave Ginther who was in preparation for an assault on Half Dome.  We hashed out the details and made arrangements to meet at my home in Temecula at 7:00AM on Saturday Sept. 21, 2002.

Sept. 21, 2002

My dog Willy barked wildly as Swaim approached the front door of my house.   I let him in and stuck out my hand.  "How the hell have you been Dave".  Dave shook my hand and bent over to pet my dog.  Dave smiled until Willy snapped his teeth at Dave's fingers.  I scooped up Willy and tossed him in the backyard.  I gave him a quick tour of the house and noticed Dave Ginther walking up the sidewalk with the remainder of an Egg McMuffin clutched in his hand.  "Sorry I'm late", Ginther said, I stopped for some breakfast, "Two for $1.99"!

I had already packed my Gregory Shasta backpack and had it leaning against my workbench in the garage.  Swaim hoisted his Lowe Contour 70+20 pack he had rented at R.E.I. out of his 300ZX and tossed it into the bed of my truck.  I gave Ginther a Second Vehicle Adventure Pass and handed him one of my yellow Motorola Talkabout radios preset to channel 14.  I grabbed my pack by the haul loop and lugged it into my truck. I had removed the day’s lunch and snack items from my pack and laid it on the back seat of my truck so I could stuff it into the cargo pockets of my shorts.  This would make for easy access while on the hike up to the peak.  I also began to chug from a 2-quart bottle of Power Aid to increase my hydration.

We drove out onto Highway 79 South and headed east from Temecula toward Aguanga Ca. I pointed out Dripping Springs Campground and Vail Lake Resort (Butterfield Country) then north on Highway 371 into Indian country. 

This is the back way to Idyllwild I told Ginther over the radio.  We passed Lake Riverside and entered the Cahuilla Indian Reservation and ran into a one-car traffic jam as we became trapped behind a truck pulling a horse trailer at 35 MPH.  I revved the tiny engine of my Nissan Truck and safely passed the trailer at the only area wide enough for miles.  Ginther wasn't so lucky.  He had to follow the trailer for miles until he tested the horsepower of his Toyota Camary and scooted around it.  We hurried past the indian reservation and I decided it was time to stop for a sit-down break.  We pulled into the Tumbleweed Cafe and I lightened my load while Dave G went into the gas station looking for some Chapstick with SPF.  The gas station didn't stock what Ginther was looking for so I loaned him one of my extra tubes. 

We drove through Anza and over the pass into Burnt Valley.  Pine trees began to overshadow the chaparral as we turned north onto Highway 74. Swaim said, "This is where I'd like to retire" as we drove through picturesque Garner Valley and viewed the custom cabins and sprawling ranch homes.  Later Ginther also said the drive was pretty scenic up here. We enjoyed the meadow views and passed Lake Hemet, as the San Jacinto range of mountains became visible up ahead and to our right.  We quickly arrived at Mountain Center and began the ascent up Hwy 243 to Idyllwild.   Along the route we began to notice once beautiful pine trees now dead and stiff like the backbones of fish standing on end.  The eerie and sad site was courtesy of the Western Pine Beetle infestation that had been plaguing the area. 

Idyllwild passed quickly and we continued up the road through Pine Cove to the Marion Mountain Campground.  Driving up the winding road to the trailhead I kept a lookout for potholes while Swaim kept an eye out for the parking area.  We arrived safely at the trailhead and stuffed everything into Ginter's Camary.  On the way back to Idyllwild I pointed out through the window to Tahquitz Rock and showed them the route we'd be taking as we pulled up to the Idyllwild Ranger Station.  The ranger confirmed the lack of water in the region and wished us luck on our hike. We drove up to the Devil's Slide Trailhead at Humber Park and came to an abrupt stop at the loop near the top.   A chain link fence had been erected as construction work was being done  on the parking area.  Ginther lucked out and found a spot just three car lengths from the hiker entrance besides the fence.

Unloading our packs I looked down the loop and saw many day hikers dressed in tan wearing ballcaps with neck shades.  A weather beaten woman hiking alone with a small pack came striding past us as we adjusted the straps of our packs.  " Heavy Packs, Ahhhhhggg", she said with a smirk and trudged through the gate opening and out of sight.  "That's kind of ominous", Ginther said and Swaim and I both let out a nervous laugh.  This was going to be the hottest day of the year in this area according to the weather reports and not a drop of water was to be had.  I could feel the sweat start to bead up on my forehead and smacked my lips together with a sticky film. I took out my camera and screwed on my lightweight Ultrapod (mini tripod) and balanced my camera softly on the hood of a vehicle parallel parked across the road and hit the self-timer. 

I ran behind my pack next to Ginther while Swaim was bent over at the waist and continued to fart around with his pack.  "Click" went the shutter just as Swain was beginning to straighten up.  I stuffed the Ultrapod into the top pocket of my pack next to my 96-oz. hydration bladder and at 9:42 a.m. started up the trail.

As we began to zigzag up the mountain the views south into Strawberry Valley opened up revealing the magnitude of Tahquitz Rock.  Across the gaping mouth of Strawberry Creek we stared at Suicide Rock and I told the story of two Japanese Climbers who fell to their death last time I was here.   Along the trail near Jolly Spring the trail narrows and some exposure to our left is evident.  Not quite as dangerous as the trail once used to be it still gives you the urge to speed up and get through this small section.  Near one of the turns in the trail we came upon a large boulder wedged between two rock balancing precariously above us.  I scampered up to investigate while Swaim snapped a photo.  We continued up the trail and passed a single solid white trekking pole lying down on the trail beside a rock.  I picked it up and propped it up against the rock in case somebody came back to retrieve it.

11:25 A.M. at the 2 1/2 mile mark we popped out above the rim of Strawberry Valley and reached Saddle Junction, a 5-way trail intersection. Signs pointing to Laws Camp, Carumba, Tahquitz Peak and Lookout, along with San Jacinto Peak and Suicide rock were on brown wooden signs with yellow writing.  Saddle Jct. was a flat and shady resting spot for hikers taking a break from the climb up Strawberry Valley.  We met two female hikers, one carrying a single white trekking pole.  I told her about the one that we had found along the trail.  She said, "Wasn't Mine" even though her pole was an exact duplicate.  I walked across the junction to look at our San Jacinto Peak trail and spotted another hiking pole.  This one was a nice Leki Hiking Staff with a brown wooden knob top.  I carried it back to where the trail from the Devil's Slide Trail meets the junction and laid it up against a rock so everyone could see it. 

This is where we took our first break.  I ate some Trader Joe’s Trail Mix that I had in my mesh side pocket of my pack and looked at my thermometer I had clipped to my red neoprene camera case hanging off my left shoulder strap.  "74 degrees", I said to myself and unzipped the top pocket of my pack reaching for the beef jerky I had stuffed in there along with some fruit leathers and pretzel sticks.  I felt around feeling only the hard plastic edge of my Silva Compass and notepad with pencil wrapped in duct tape for emergencies.  Just then I remembered my lunch, in the gallon plastic baggie, left behind in my truck back at the Marion Mountain Trailhead. Swaim offered me some snacks but I declined knowing I had enough trailmix to last two days and partly from embarrassment.  While we were eating Ginther heard a tap, tap taping.  We all became still and isolated a tall pine along side the trail leading to San Jacinto Peak.  A woodpecker was busy hammering away toward the top of the tree.  A few minutes later three women hikers came into the junction from the Devil's Slide Trail.  One of them saw the Leki hiking staff and said, "Here is (unintelligble’s) hiking pole".  I handed it to her and she showed it to her friend.

It was tough leaving the comforts and shade of Saddle Junction but we knew it was time to head out.  We continued towards San Jacinto Peak on the Pacific Crest Trail steadily climbing the ridge overlooking Skunk Cabbage Meadows.  As we gained altitude we came across several magnificent pine trees fallen by the Pine Beetle.  

Larger boulders began to sprout up around the trail and the effects of high wind became evident.  One tree seemed to grow right on top of a boulder with its roots cascading down around it's mass and into the ground.  Another seemed to grow around a large set of boulders bowing up and to the left.  We reached the trail sign heading down to the Strawberry Cienaga and Deer Springs Trails then continued up towards Wellman's Cienaga.  The sun crested the hills to our right and we were now feeling the heat dissipated by the shade of the pines.

We came upon the San Jacinto State Wilderness sign and took the time to read the threatening message.  A notice was posted to the right reiterating the "No Water" state of the wilderness.  The trail burst out of the shade and across a lush valley of sun burnt ferns.  Probably a beautiful and cooling sight in normal years, the ferns were brown and parched with the edges curling up and brittle. As we continued the trail narrowed and we brushed aside the ferns with our thighs feeling them crackle and fall to our feet. We came upon a small boulder on the left of the trail and saw underneath a small pool of water no bigger than a kitchen sink.  Under the moist and slippery rock was a single drip, drip, dripping from a spring.   "This'd take a hour to fill one water bottle",  I said to Ginther as we stared into the puddle coated with moss and debris.  The trail seemed to become rockier and steeper and I told them we must be nearing the divide.

At 1:50 P.M. I spotted a guy up ahead on a rock with binoculars looking down into Skunk Cabbage Meadows. I knew we had reached it.  We squeezed through the last few boulders and reached Wellman's Divide and the view towards Palm Springs.  We stopped for a 20-minute break and I chugged the lemon-lime Cytomax I had in a 32 oz Nalgene bottle and used my thumb and forefinger to squeeze out some vanilla Power Gel paste.  We plopped down into the only open shade area as people coming both and up and down from the peak and from the tram stopped for a breather. At 2:15 P.M. we gathered up our packs and continued up along the Jean Peak Traverse overlooking Round Valley.

As we headed up I pointed out the Palm Springs Tram Mountain Station to Dave G. and showed him the pointy spire of Cornel Peak.  While we took a brief rest a guy wearing all tan stopped for a chat.  He told us about his hikes in the San Jacinto area and about the trail from Palms Springs to the peak with over 9,000 feet of elevation gain.  "Cactus to Clouds, Spines to Pines, Whatever!" he said. We continued upward and felt the air thinning out and becoming drier.  Ginther was belching profusely and I told him about the obnoxious gas I get at high altitudes.  Swaim was his usual self quietly trucking along burning up the miles to the summit.  I raced up ahead to get some photos of the guys stepping toward me with Jean Peak in the background.

After making a long set of traverses we headed up to the Little Round Valley Trail sign which we reached at 3:30 P.M, Here the trail leveled off a little.   "We’re almost here ", I told them and we headed up toward the stone shelter near the summit.  At 3:50 P.M. the summit came into view and I waited for the guys to catch up. We walked into to stone shelter and I relayed the story of the shelter and it's erection by the California Conservation Corps in the 1930's during the construction of the trail.  Dave signed in on a spare sheet of spiral notebook paper someone had left on top of the full register.  We looked around the room and noticed the etchings on the stones and the rich dark patina of the wooden bunks.

We left our full packs beside the shelter and grabbed a few items to take with us to the top.  Ginther removed a blank spiral notepad from his pack and ran back inside the shelter to donate it to future hikers to register their accomplishments. I romped off ahead towards the actual peak and I heard Ginther say, "Anthony, where's the Trail".  I laughed and yelled over my shoulder, "There isn't one, just boulder hop until you get there".

Swaim quietly led Ginther towards the general area of the summit as I realized I probably didn't pick the best route up in my haste. I ducked under some low hanging branches and crawled onto a steep slab and popped out into view of everyone else huddled around the summit sign.

We were not alone as a Boy Scout troop of about 10 from Fallbrook had congregated on the top rock where they remained for over an hour reluctant to give up the sign. I scampered out onto a few flat boulders and admired the view.  I stood on my tiptoes and spun in a 360-degree rotation. I still got dizzy up here even though it was my third time to the summit. Ginther climbed up to the summit sign and laid down for a brief nap.   Swaim got out a snack and I played with my tiny Yaesu VX-5 Ham Radio talking briefly to a friend of mine on his boat in Long Beach Harbor.  I felt like a veteran up here as I answered questions about surrounding peaks and rattled off memorized altitudes of San Gorgonio, Baldy and Whitney.  The temperature was in the low 70's and it felt great.  Ginther was sound asleep as I leaned over to eaves drop on a boyscout leader talking about his young son who was laying down on a rock in the fetal position.  He told another dad that his son had a really bad headache and was nauseated and felt listless.  I said, "He's got altitude sickness", aloud to nobody in particular while facing away from them. I turned around and saw everyone looking at me and I said, "It's best to get him to a lower altitude".  Looking back I feel kind of bad now because I really just wanted them off the top rock and away from the sign so I could get a photo. But the reality of it was that it was true, he did have acute mountain sickness and  that's exactly what he needed.  I thought about offering him some aspirins or maybe some Diamox that I had in my first aid kit but knew better than to give a stranger medication.

The sun was getting lower on the horizon and I knew we still had to hike down to Little Round Valley and set up our camp for the night.  At 5:00P.M. Ginther woke up as the boy scouts started heading off the rock.  There must have been 15 other people that were resting on outlying boulders that didn't say anything to the scouts and never got their photos taken. We posed for a couple of quick photos and found a better route off the summit block.

The trip down from the summit to the Little Round Valley trail sign went quickly as gravity took over.  We reached the trail and headed west down to the switchbacks.  I took up the lead and set a quick pace towards the camp.  We could see down the steep mountainside and into the valley of tall pines below. "Little Round Valley must be down there", I said to the guys as the tips of my trekking poles dug into the trail slowing the descent.  Once I stopped to admire the scenery and noticed that the guys were almost two switchbacks above me.  I reminded myself to wait for them and while I sucked on the bite valve from my hydration bladder.   They quickly caught up and we headed down the last switchback into the valley.

Little Round Valley was appropriately named and bore a resemblance to its big brother.  Tall pines mixed with round boulders set in a base of soft dirt and sand.  As we headed into the valley we came upon another group of boy scouts who had dropped their packs and plopped down right next to the trail.  Two tents were set up and boys and their fathers stood around make camp preparations.  I looked around for the brown posts signaling Sate Wilderness approved campsites but couldn't see any.  I asked one father, "Where are the official campsites? " 

He said he knew they were not supposed to be camping here but he didn't have the heart to tell the boys who were obviously exhausted and too tired to pick up their gear and move.  He said that just up ahead was some campsites near the marshy area with the warning sign.  We continued ahead as the sunlight filtered through the trees.

About 100 yards ahead I spotted the marsh and lush ferns in a similar state of dehydration.  A wooden warning sign had been erected to remind hikers of the environmentally sensitive area and to camp somewhere else.  I forged up ahead and after passing a wooden outhouse I saw a trail lined with stones and sticks going off to the right and followed it up over a small rise into a perfect campsite.  The campsite was clean and level with a soft dirt and sand bottom.  Boulders surrounded the site punctuated with a tall barren pine tree standing guard over the site like a totem pole.  The sun was setting off to the west behind the camp as I saw the guys on the trail passing the marsh.   "Over here", I yelled as I saw Ginther look my way.  They came up the trail and picked a spot to drop their gear. 

This had been a very dry year and little or no rain had fallen during the summer. I felt confident that a tent would not be necessary and so did Swaim.  Dave G. felt the same and left his at home.  I laid out a piece of 6-mil clear plastic and unfurled my Thermarest air matress on top.  I massaged my oversized Moonstone polarguard HV sleeping bag out of the sleeping bag compartment and loosened the straps of my red granite gear compression sack.  The sleeping bag exploded to life and I set it on top my mattress to air out.  Ginther laid out his footprint to his Walrus one man tent and laid out his matching yellow Northface mummy sleeping bag on top  He said he wanted a closer look at the outhouse and decided it would be best to do it while it was still light.   Swaim removed his black MSR stove sack and tinkered with his new Whisperlight stove.  He picked a sheltered spot and tried to light the fuel in the priming cup with his Bic lighter but it wouldn't work.  Luckily he had brought matches.

I unpacked my Svea stove and proudly showed off the shiny brass.  I used an eyedropper to siphon some fuel from the tank and lit it in the priming cup with one match.  The stove roared to life as I filled up my Primus teapot with a liter of water drained  from my hydration bladder.  I could feel the effects of the altitude and from my past experiences knew I would have a sensitive stomach.  I had a Mountain House Beef Stroganoff dinner but decided on plain old cup-o-noodles I had taken out of the cup and repackaged into a ziploc baggie.  I bought a package of pre-cooked salmon and dumped it in a Glad disposable container used as a makeshift bowl.  The water rolled to a boil quickly and I poured it onto the noodles and salmon.  I used the rest of the water to make a mug of sugary tea.   Meanwhile, Swaim’s stove was boiling away as he sorted his lot of freeze-dried meals that he had brought along to sample.  Sized for two he thought they might not meet his appetite so he brought extra. 

While we were eating Ginther came up the trial from the outhouse and said, "You won't believe this but I just threw up right over there".  He said while heading down to the outhouse, he suddenly felt nauseated bending over and out it came.  He said he didn't quite feel like eating and after quickly brushing his teeth he changed into some cozy fleece and crawled into his sleeping bag. 

I had been feeling steadily worse since we started down from the top and now I was digging into my first aid kit for some relief.  I took some Tums, two aspirins and laid down for a brief rest.  About ten minutes later I started to get chilled and dug out my new Mountain Hardwear Chugach Jacket and put it on over my fleece.  I decided to take a quick walk over to the edge of the campsite towards the setting sun hoping to get a look down the mountain into the valley below.   I laced up my boots and stood up.  I immediately felt dizzy as I stumbled towards the edge of camp.  The air was noticeably thin and my head began to pound in sync with each step.  I only walked a short distance when a wave of nausea swept over me which made me stop and place both hands on top of my knees. 

I regained my composure and headed back to my sleeping bag.  "Climb High, Sleep Low" they say and we were doing it all wrong.  Our camp was still at 9700 feet and it was not low enough.  I would have preferred to head lower but I thought I'd acclimate slowly over the evening.  I laid down on my sleeping bag and stared up at the totem pole pine keeping watch over me.

Little Round Valley lies in a small-secluded area guarded by San Jacinto Peak to the north, Newton-Drury Peak and Jean to the east and Marion to the south.   While laying on my back nestled safely inside my sleeping bag I  faced up toward the Newton/Jean ridgeline.  Only the sounds of the forest  and the crunching of gravel under Swaim's boots penetrated the pounding in my head.  I laid still and tried to mentally force myself to hurry-up and acclimate.

Meanwhile, Dave Swaim was busy preparing his meal and smoothing his spot to lay his sleeping bag.  While Ginther had brought his lightweight nylon footprint for a ground sheet and I had brought a heavier plastic tyvek sheet, Swaim had opted for a extremely lightweight and compact mylar space blanket.  He carefully unfurled the bright gold micro-thin sheet of space age aluminum as the wind began to whip around the campsite.  The gusts made the mylar crackle as Dave held it up with his arms outstretched and bounced the tightly folded metal like a yo-yo to the ground.  Dave laid it out and held it down with a couple of smooth rocks and set his green banded straw hat on a boulder.  I sat up and watched the sun set to a golden orange and it slipped behind the mountain.  I looked over my shoulder at Ginther who had begun to overheat and ditched his fleece beanie.  Buried deep with his sleeping bag only the top of his head was visible.  Even though the temps had dropped to about 50 degrees, it was too warm to stay inside my 20-degree bag.  I unzipped it most of the way and drifted off to a fitful sleep.

9:00 PM, I woke to the sound of a freight train rushing past my head.   My eyes popped open and I saw only the blackness of the night highlighted by a few stars twinkling above the pines.  I heard the sound of the train coming again from off in the distance.  Within seconds it raced upon me and I noticed the tips of the pines moving.  "Whoosh", a sudden gust of wind ripped by our camp making Swains Mylar groundsheet crackle.  I rolled over onto my side and saw a T-shirt Ginther had laid out on top of a boulder fluttering in the breeze. 

The moon was full and white illuminating everything is our camp.  So intense was the light that everything vertical cast a shadow. It came from above the Newton-Drury/Jean ridgeline and methodically crept into the sky.  I was very awake now and enjoyed the anticipation of each new gust of wind. Occasionally I could hear the thud of a pinecone hitting the ground after being dislodged by the wind.  The rustling of the pines, the swirling of the wind, the crackle of Swaim's Mylar were the only sounds of the forest. 

I tried to close my eyes but the intense light of the moon made me feel like a prisoner being interrogated in a POW camp.  I dug out my black silk sleep mask and slipped the elastic strap behind my head pulling down the shade shutting out the light.

Somewhere in the night I woke in a dream like state.  My mind was fuzzy and I remembered seeing a solid white ghost-like figure floating about the forest heading into the woods.  I rolled over and rubbed my eyes feeling the trail grit and blown sand grind into my eyelashes.  Eventually things came into focus and I realized it was Swaim, in full length white long johns tiptoeing shoeless off behind a tree to pee.   I almost said something to him but kept it to myself until now.

Sept 22, 2002

Early the next morning, about 7:00 am we all woke up.  Sunlight had turned the black sky into a blue-violet and the wind had swept our camp clean of forest debris.  I clambered around in my pack reaching for a tea bag and lit my stove.   Swaim and Ginther were beginning to stir and I squatted beside my stove waiting for it to boil.  I felt like I had a hangover but better than before.  My stomach felt uneasy so I munched on a melted Snickers candy bar that had hardened up to an unusual shape during the night.  

Not much was said between us, as we were all tired.  I wiped out my teapot and began to load my backpack.  We moved slowly through our breakfast, lazily cleaning up our camp and removing all traces of our stay. Eventually we stowed all of our gear and fastened the top straps of our packs.  Swaim said, "Hey, where's my hat?"  I was ready to go so I headed off in the direction of the wind last night.  I found his straw hat about 75 feet away lying on the lee side of a dead and decomposing pine.  I handed it back to Dave and we hoisted up our packs and headed down the mountain at 8:45am

The trail leading out of the camp was marked as the Deer Springs Trail on the San Jacinto Peak quadrangle and we followed the north west flank of Marion Mountain downward. We had great views off to the northwest and caught glimpses of San Gorgonio and the valley below toward Lake Perris. Among the boulders and brush of the hillside were more burnt ferns clinging to life. Here was the only water we saw on the backside of San Jacinto Peak. Water had flowed out from below a cluster of large boulders and trickled across the trail making a mud puddle before disappearing down below.

We hiked down some switchbacks and leveled out into a small clearing with large boulders and what looked like the remains of a wash. We slowed down to read the wooden sign marking the Fuller Ridge Trail.

Marked as the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail on the topo we stopped to re-examine the signs when I spotted the small Marion Mountain Trail sign just up ahead pointing down and to the right. Ginther led as we zigzagged down the tight switchbacks like a skier planting and pivoting on a slalom racecourse. Our boots kicked up dust that floated around our shins as we kept our heads down watching the trail.

At 10:15am we stopped for a brief break near a large boulder on the right side of the trail. Within minutes we had regained our strength and continued down the steep switchbacks. On one particularly straight section a male and female backpacker came hiking up the trail, going slowly but surely. We stepped aside to let them pass without losing their momentum. Shortly after we saw a single female heavily laden with an old worn out and faded Dana Designs Terraplane pack lumbering up the trail. She was bent over and carried a waist pack with two water bottles in front. Her stout legs were dusty above the ankle gaiters she wore and we felt sorry for her lugging all that weight and water up such a steep trail. Suddenly our packs felt amazingly lighter as the gravity pulled us toward my truck. We passed the right side of the ridgeline and could hear campers down below at the Marion Mountain Campground.

We leveled out and ran into two father-son backpackers who were at a trail sign pointing to the Marion Mountain campground and trail. They decided to head to the right towards the campground. We could see the campers and I knew the trailhead parking area was farther down the hill about mile from the campground. We headed to our left and continued downward briefly and crossed a fire road. I remembered hiking across this road last year from the campground and was sure of our route until we began to climb up the ridgeline. We all stopped for a second and looked around. I pulled out my topo map and reassured them that the trailhead was just right around the corner. We finally began to head down and I saw the trailhead through the trees.

We reached our final destination at 11:10am. I set up my camera on a wooden post and we posed for a group shot. Everything went into the bed of my truck as we pulled out of the dirt lot and headed down towards Idyllwild. The padded seats of the truck never seemed so comfortable as they did this morning. The temperature was already warm and we left the windows down to cool us off.

As we drove up Fern Valley Road we eyed Tahquitz Rock and felt satisfaction knowing we had climbed above the valley. After dropping Ginther off at his car at Humber Park we drove down into town and had lunch at Jo’An’s Restaurant & Bar. Folks were starting to gather for the Bar-B-Q in the picnic area out front but it was already close to 90 degrees so we stayed inside.

Overall the trip was a success. It was a little harder than we anticipated but we all felt proud of our accomplishment. The altitude sickness was a surprise since I had been to the top of San Jacinto Peak twice before without incident. Luckily I had a well assembled first aid kit and recognized the symptoms early. Carrying over a gallon of water was a hindrance and I would rather reschedule a trip than do that again. The traverse of the mountain turned out great and the trails were for the most part extremely well marked and easy to follow. I only had to turn to my topo a few times, more to see how close we were than anything else. The Boy Scouts were somewhat disturbing.

While no fault of their own, they were all polite and energetic; their leaders needed improvement. Not knowing common backwoods courtesies and inability to follow well-laid out regulations was irritating. Not recognizing signs and symptoms of illness and injury could have been devastating. While I applaud them for taking their valuable time to help kids enjoy the mountains, they do need to do more research and complete more training.