Leaders: Alan Coles, Frank Goodykoontz
Our small group met early Saturday morning in Anza just a stone's throw away from the burial site of the fabled Ramona. Fred Johnson and Pete Yamagata came down from N. California and joined John Radalj, Diane Dunbar and the 2 leaders. We drove up the Trips Flat Rd, rutted but in passable shape for most cars, to the L. Cahuilla trailhead and did that peak first. It was a warm, clear day with fine views. Next we did Big Cahuilla and enjoyed the many wildflowers along the way which included penstemons, larkspur, baby blue eyes, wall flowers, paintbrush, lupines, woolly blue curls and many others. The black oaks were fully covered with a deep green canopy, obviously contented with the nourishing Winter rains. There is a new interpretive sign at the trailhead and the trail is in fine shape except for ruts caused by illegal motorcycle use. Finally we drove over to Hwy 74 and did Lookout. Eric Sieke joined us there. It was getting quite hot by this time but a good breeze helped keep the heat and bugs at bay. We were done by 5.
We drove up the south road to Thomas Mtn and camped at Toolbox Springs. Eric took Pete and I up in his 4WD truck while Frank took Diane in his motorhome to the top of the peak where we had a superb view over the Anza Valley. Afterwards, Frank and Diane went home (Frank had to attend to family matters). The rest of us enjoyed happy hour snacks and a community salad. We had a nice campfire thanks to Fred who brought the wood. The evening was breezy but pleasant under the tall Jeffery Pines.
The next morning we got up early hoping to hike in the cool morning. However it took some time to drive back down the road from the camp and to get over to the trailhead for Combs using the northern route from Anza. I made a wrong turn near the trailhead due to an odometer error. It is important to recalibrate the mileage at each turn as a tenth of a mile off will result in taking the wrong road. Finally we started around 7:30 and I messed up again by walking past the trail junction. The winter rains have obscured this trail making it look more like a rut, but we quickly realized the error and found it. Once on this trail, we made our way to the PCT and began the slow and steady climb up into the Bucksnort Range. There wasn't much shade but a good breeze kept things tolerable. Finally we made it to the saddle with the Coulter Pines and met a backpacker doing the PCT who did not seem to be in any rush as he packed up his camp at noon. After the short, steep climb up the ridge we reached the summit with outstanding views of all the major ranges of S. California. It was cool enough to put on warm clothing and after a good break we retraced our steps back to the car, reaching them before 2.