Alan Coles, Frank Goodykoontz
If there is one thing I disdain, it is a trip where the driving time exceeds the total hiking time. That and a poor road usually put San Sevaine and Buck Point very low on most people's favorite peaks list. So to make this trip worthwhile, we added Etiwanda up a seldom used but very attractive route.
The cars were lined up bumper to bumper at the Pomona carpool point at the early hour of 7 on a clear, warm autumn Saturday. Twenty people, just 4 shy of the limit on the 2 permits I acquired in advance, showed up in a sufficient number of high clearance vehicles. After consolidating into as few of them as possible we took off to Lytle Creek and the long winding road up to San Sevaine Flats.
The road was in reasonably good shape, about the best one could expect. We reached the junction to San Sevaine LO around 8:30 and parked there. The black oaks were just turning bright yellow signaling the change of season, such as we have in S. California. We walked on down the defunct road, now becoming a nice trail. There were, surprisingly, several springs along the way with California Fuschias and white monkey flowers blooming profusely. We reached the site of the old lookout about 20 minutes later and signed in the register on the small mound behind it.
It took about the same time to return back to the cars where we continued on the dirt road past one rough spot (4WD may be needed here) to the starting point for Buck Point. It is no longer possible (thankfully) for 4WD to drive up the short spur that leads to the summit, so we enjoyed a nice stroll through a thick grove of sugar pines and white firs and then through a very healthy patch of Ceanothus cordulatus that obviously benefited from the heavy winter rains. After enjoying the fine view we retraced our steps back to the cars.
We continued on the road past a few exciting bends to the large flat area where the Joe Eliot Tree Memorial is (was) located. The tree has fallen down and is now deceased but the area is very scenic with thick groves of conifers and oaks. The Forest Service has rearranged the area to keep vehicles on one road and has provided a number of nice campsites, none of which were occupied.
We parked in a wide spot near the road junction (next to the tree memorial) and put our packs on to start the real hike. It was 11:30, warm and swarms of gnats were everywhere. We walked up the road past the other campsites to one of 2 wilderness signs (the other was a mile up the trail) which signals the beginning of the trail. It actually is an old road for about 100 yards before the real trail begins at a switchback.
To be in compliance with wilderness regulations, it was necessary to split the group up. The leader accomplished this by setting an appropriate pace. Those in the front received additional nourishment from inhaling billions of gnats.
The trail was in very good shape for the first 2 miles up to a mining claim where there is a fairly new cabin and tool shed on a broad ridge. A few shallow holes indicate that no one is making a fortune there. After leaving the property the trail looks far less used, not a single human footprint in sight. The trail climbs steeply and steadily up several long switchbacks in a thick Jeffrey Pine forest, then traverses a steep slope where the trail was only inches wide. We had to build footholds across 2 small slides.
It was about this time when someone noticed the fire. We could see bright orange flames just beyond San Sevaine LO and it wasn't clear on which side of Lytle Creek it was located. We continued on to a better viewing point and were relieved when we could clearly see that it was on the east side of Lytle Creek, not on the ridge we drove up.
The trail ascends up a ridge and has a few more small switchbacks before entering into a lodgepole pine forest where the tops of Etiwanda and Cucamonga are visible. Finally the first contingent rounded a bend, then left the trail at a conspicuous duck (not the usual one that is taken on the route from Cucamonga) and headed for the summit reaching it around 1:40.
Don Tidwell and Bob Emerick (and later Vi Grasso) decided to sign out and continue on to Cucamonga. The others were content with just Etiwanda and enjoyed the hazy but otherwise fine view from there. Baldy and San Gorgonio still had snow on them.
Frank showed up with the rest of the group 30 minutes later without Bill Hogshead. We stayed on top until around 2:15 and left thinking Bill had turned back. Just as we started down we met Bill who had previously done the peak. Contented with the hike, he went back with us.
One of the joys of doing this route is the rare opportunity to go down hill after doing Etiwanda. The group was much closer on the way back down. Everyone got back to the cars between 4:15 and 4:30.
It turned out to be a very good trip. This is a nice trail, rustic and alpine. It is definitely worth doing both Cucamonga and Etiwanda by this route if you can get to the trailhead. Participants: Dick Farrar, Vi Grasso, Bill Hogshead, Larry Hoak, Randy Ragland (who had to turn back after the first peak due to car problems), Tom Mounblow, Jim Fleming, Phil Rehn, Jim Raiford, Gwen Hembrock, Bob Emerick, Fred Lytle, Drew Cushman, Cathy Paynter, Rosemary Campbell, Don Tidwell, Cynthia Conant, Judy Carson.
Many thanks once again to Frank Goodykoontz.
The fire, by the way, was out by the time we drove down.