Leaders: Joe Young, Stag Brown
Sixteen hikers met in Mountain Center at 7:30 am for this ambitious day hike. The plan was to shuttle half of the cars to the end of the road in Apple Canyon, then take the rest to the beginning of the South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Pk. This accomplished, the hike began at 9:00 am.
Under clear skies and moderate temperatures we hiked up the trail to Tahquitz, arriving at its lookout at 11:00 am. A register can was found on this peak. After about a half hour we headed over to the Pacific Crest Trail and followed it to the ducked turn-off to Red Tahquitz. We arrived on its summit at 12:15 pm.
After a short lunch we returned to the PCT and headed downhill toward Southwell Peak. At about the 8200' elevation a large duck and a trail heading off to the west appeared. While it didn't look right, the leader investigated the trail which disappeared soon at a fire ring and orange pipe planted vertically in the ground. The group returned to the PCT and headed over to South. Nearing the peak the leader searched for the path through wooded terrain to the summit but couldn't find it. So reluctantly he led the group up the north ridge of South, essentially following what used to be the Sam Fink Trail. We spotted an original sunbleached orange marker standing vertically in a crevice in a rock.
Seeing this was the highlight of the entire outing for me because traversing the badly overgrown routes was time consuming. The register can contained entries from 1966, including many of Sam Fink's signatures. Stag Brown had discovered another of the original Sam Fink trail markers in rubble and presented it to me while snacking on the summit of South. Sam Fink Trail Marker 42 now swings suspended from a plant in front of me beside my computer.
Stag led the group down the southeast slope of Southwell Peak. The trail is completely covered by a thick layer of pine needles. However, there are a couple of ducks along side of the PCT indicating the starting point for climbing the peak.
Stag led the group over to the north ridge of Antsell Rock. A welcome breeze began at this time. We looked at the ridge and continued down the PCT to the place where the traditional ascent up a rocky and loose gully begins. Here two of us decided to disdain the summit climb and hike over to the intersection with the Apple Canyon trail and wait. Stag began the summit scramble at 5:45 pm. Peter Doggett and Patty Kline, recent veterans of Antsell Rock ascents, assisted Stag in this attempt. The looseness of rocks, steepness, now high winds as well as the disappearing sun forced the hikers to abandon their attempt and they returned to the PCT without bagging Antsell. Stag and the group arrived at the saddle at 7:45.
I led the group quickly down to the cars, the first arriving at 8:30, the last after 9:00 pm. We had left the cars inside the gate of the Seventh Day Adventist complex so there was some concern that we would find our cars locked inside the gate. However, this was not the case. After sensing that some hikers were moving slowly, two cars were dispatched to pick up the stragglers. It turned out that they were just a short distance from the parking lot. Nevertheless, the five tail enders all accepted a ride.
After a short while we concluded the outing with the return car shuttle to the trail head for the South Ridge. It was now after 10:00 pm and everyone let for home.
Thanks to Stag for assisting on this, the thirteenth annual first Sunday in June hike with Stag Brown.