Leaders: Julie Rush, Jim Fleming
The weather in Los Angeles during the week before this trip was rather foreboding, causing great concern for both Leader and Assistant. Would the trip, Julie's "I" checkout backpack, have to be cancelled? We contacted the Forest Service fire station at Pinyon Pines and received reports of snow, sleet, 27° temperatures with a wind chill of -5°. The ranger told me Friday that I should wait for a sunny day to "come out and play." Julie talked to Carleton Shay, who had just climbed Asbestos Mountain and observed that there was no snow on Martinez Mountain... Strange! Our trip participants (there were three in total) all cancelled by Friday late. What should we do?
Being adventurous and perhaps suffering from cabin fever, we decided to at least drive out, stay at Pinyon Flat Campground Friday night and see first hand what conditions were. Both Julie and I were prepared for anything nature could bring our way. Ironically, as we left Downey on Friday night, a thunderstorm struck and dumped sheets of rain. We thought, "Great, what are we doing this for?" However, as soon as we left the area, the rain lessened and we found clear conditions at Pinyon Flats C. G.
Arising at 7 am Saturday, we headed over to the Sugarloaf Cafe for breakfast and to ply the locals for weather information. After a leisurely meal and inquiries (we were told that it was snowing in Garner Valley), we headed out. We found the road open all the way to the Dolomite Mine, although a creek crossing stopped us about 1/4 mile short of the Mine. After saddling up, we began hiking at 9:30 am. The Cactus Spring Trail showed signs of wear with many small streams crossing it. At Horsethief Creek, the water was high, but it was passable. (A group of Boy Scouts showed us the easiest spot.) Arriving at Cactus Spring about 12:30, we set up camp and contemplated our options. Due to the late start, it was decided to climb Sheep Mountain first. We left about 1:30 and headed up the standard route, arriving at the summit at approximately 3. The views of the Palm Desert and Coachella Valley were spectacularly beautiful. The San Jacintos were blanketed with clouds, and Toro Peak and Santa Rosa Mountain had a frosting of snow. The descent to camp was accomplished by 4, and a warming supper followed. The air was cold, but very still and clear. We enjoyed the beautiful stars and half moon as we discussed plans for the next day. With an early start, we could climb Martinez Mountain, return to camp, and pack out before sunset.
Awakening Sunday morning, the ground was covered with a 1/2 inch blanket of snow. We struck off after breakfast and followed Route 2 along the Cactus Spring Trail and west ridge. Clouds to the south and west threatened to bring whiteout conditions, but fortunately stayed away. By 10:30, we reached the summit plateau, and scrambled up the class 3 summit block shortly thereafter. I found the signatures of two HPS'ers who had ascended the peak the day before in the register. The cold gave us incentive to make haste in leaving. The descent and return to camp was done by 1:30. We packed and left at 2:30. The return was more difficult as we were tired, but we were also determined to finish the trip. Many verdant stream crossings enchanted our return - normally these would be dry. After crossing Horsethief Creek, the laborious ascent up the final two miles was done and we were able to look across toward Sheep and massive Martinez with its rocky summit block standing out like a thumb. At 4:30, we arrived at Julie's Trooper, tired but satisfied. We returned to the Sugarloaf Cafe for a spot of dinner and talk. (The waitress knew of an archaeological site with indian petroglyphs near Martinez Mtn.) Then it was off to home. It turned out to be a great weekend.