Leaders: Alan Coles, Martin Feather
Frightened by the 7000' gain or intimidated by the 7:00 starting time, a group of only 11 death march devotees showed up at the Vivian Creek Trailhead on time for this casual stroll. Actually, this hike is closer to 6000' but when much of it is over 10,000' the "perceived" elevation seems so much more.
The hike began promptly after the usual introductions and it wasn't long after the initial set of switchbacks that seemed unusually warm so early in the morning that our first break was taken in "paradise". That is what I fondly like to call the little hanging valley where Vivian Creek always flows.
This valley and its neighbors were once more directly connected with the Yucaipa Ridge until erosion along a fork of the San Andreas Fault began gouging the deep valley where Mill Creek now flows and where the town of Forest Falls lies so precariously. Along this portion of the trail there can be seen gaps along the low ridge, some only 20 or 30 feet above the valley floor, where erosion is eating away the Vivian Creek Valley. Some day it will change course and drop into Mill Creek much higher up but until then it remains one of the most interesting trails in Southern California.
Drought damage can be seen along the trail but it is still incredibly beautiful along the way. The lush green meadows were full of Lemon Lilies and the air was cool and moist. Further up, the newly rebuilt section of trail is now complete and it winds up the ridge at a more gradual slope. The trail work was done with minimal environmental damage, a good sign, and it noticeably avoided the riparian area that the old trail followed. It's a shame not to see the meadow with its abundant wildflowers but it's necessary in order to avoid damage to these sensitive environments (on the way down I noticed that someone had picked a few of the Lemon Lilies, a definite no-no).
The group made good time reaching High Creek around 10:30. From there, the top of San Gorgonio was reached just shortly after 12, a blistering 5 hours after starting (8 miles, 5600' gain).
On top we were treated to a very unusual surprise. Butterflies, millions of them, were swarming all over the summit. After a good lunch break, the leader had to "split" the swarms on the way down. Back at the Vivian Creek Trail junction, all participants elected to do the other peaks. So off we went first over to Jepson, then down to Dobbs.
From Dobbs, we went over to East Dobbs (and signed the register there), then descended the south ridge back to High Creek. From there, we put our feet on automatic pilot and coasted back to the cars just shortly after 6pm.
Many thanks to all participants who were not only strong hikers but very congenial as well. Even a death march seems so much easier when you have a group like this. Participants: Robert Baldwin, Paula Peterson, Bill Hogshead, Evan Samuels, Susan Thomas, Steve Hansen, Roy Stewart, John Southworth, Cristy Bird and, of course, Dr. Martin Feather.