Leaders: Ray Riley, Don Slocum
Early rains had sent gully-washers roaring down the ravines; at the beginning of the week, Vivian Creek trailhead was still closed for repairs. Then, Friday, good news: the trail was open. At 6:45 Sunday morning, we straggled into the upper parking lot, only to have our high hopes dashed again. Only two hours earlier, the co-leader had appeared at Ray's door to announce that he was bailing. Now our plan hung on the slight chance that one hiker among the small group gathering in the chilly dawn would be a qualified leader. Otherwise, a less ambitious, lower-rated route would have to be chosen. Resignation ... disappointment ... wait, another leader had arrived: Don Slocum (actually, he'd been there all along, having, like the writer, slept in the parking lot).
Minutes later we set out, numbering seven; six who had signed up canceled and one didn't show. Signs of the recent storms were everywhere: the creek-bed even rougher than usual, the lower switchbacks washed out or covered with detritus, even fresh mushrooms sprouting here and there. The meadow just above them was moist and lush, but past its summer bloom. Those of us who had done this before duly noted a certain downed giant rotting in peace against the steep bank across the stream.
Of the ascent to San Gorgonio, it will suffice to say that simplicity is the heart of elegance. When the ridge was gained, Annemarie Schuber dropped back, content to continue on to Old Grayback at her own pace and return by the trail. So ended the illusion that I was hanging back to keep her in sight. The remaining six of us were on the summit by 12:30 where we lunched, napped, and enjoyed the stupendous views and marvelous weather.
Jepson was uneventful but pleasant, offering a splendid view of where we'd just been. At the saddle beyond, Patty Holguin and I opted for a snooze while Molly Bosted and Charles Koh continued on to Charlton with Ray and Don. We were barely asleep when they returned; we quickly re-booted and began the walk out along the side of the ridge, across the ravine onto the flat, gentle slope of Dobbs. This, of course, is where the real fun begins. With Ray reading the map and Charles checking his compass, we left the fourth summit of the day, beginning the exhilarating 3,000 foot scramble straight down the ridge that falls from Dobbs almost to the valley floor, with steep precipices on either side and the gnarled north face of Yucaipa Ridge looming in front of us. This descent puts all the work that precedes it into proper perspective - and vice versa.
Racing downward over bare, eroded earth, loose rock, fallen logs and Jeffrey pine needle beds, with the sun rapidly sinking in the west, one inexorably comes face to face with the real crux of this adventure: does anyone really know where we are? The ridge abruptly drops away into a huge ravine; we veer left, down a narrow buttress, under pine boughs, through buckthorn and manzanita, then left again, off the ridge, down a steep bank into a narrow meadow, at the edge of which fifty feet away, rests a familiar old log. Once again the wily Riley has pulled it out of the hat. A brief rest, a few switchbacks bathed in golden late-afternoon light, and we're down, retracing our way across the creek-bed to the road, the cars, and Annemarie. Another glorious, well-spent day in the wild and beautiful San Bernardino wilderness.