Leaders: Erich and Luella Fickle
Eleven met at the Diamond Bar rideshare by 7:05 AM. After receiving driving instructions for the Grays Peak trailhead, we set out. When Erich and I arrived, Betty Stirratt was there to meet us. Betty made 12.
Grays Peak trail is relatively new. We first noticed it Labor Day weekend, 1996 while peakbagging in the Big Bear area. The signed trailhead is on the left side of Hwy 38 about 3 miles east of Big Bear Dam if you are coming from LA via 330/18 to Big Bear. If you are coming from Redlands via Hwy 38 or from the high desert via 18, the trailhead is located 1/2 mile west of Fawnskin on the right side of Hwy 38.
The Grays Peak trail is a pleasant alternative to the rocky/brushy route in the peak guide. As an added bonus, there is no dirt road driving. The trail goes above highway 38 for about 1/3 mile then climbs to a dirt road. The trail joins the road. From here continue uphill to a signed junction with a second road. Go right at this junction. A short way further, there is a posted junction, here the road/trail goes right about a 1/4 mile to a little creek. A sign states two miles to Grays Peak. The trail leaves the road and follows the stream for a short way, crosses the creek and swings over to the northwest side of a ridge which it follows to about 500 feet elevation gain below the summit of Grays Peak. The trail then takes a long swing around Grays Peak first toward Butler Peak then up the little valley to the west of Grays' summit. The Forest Service Trail ends at a rocky view peak about 60 feet below the true summit. A use trail is cut from the Forest Service yellow post through some trees, over a fallen log, through some ceanothus brambles to the rocky summit. Our group of twelve took one hour to climb the three miles to the summit. Along the way we saw tree outlined views from the San Gorgonio Ridge, Big Bear Lake, and Butler Peak. We crossed a couple of small patches of snow on the north side of the peak.
After returning to Grout Bay, we had a short lunch break at the picnic area. Here David and Elaine Baldwin and Janet Damen signed out. True Hundred Peakers, they had to do something for the first time instead of Bertha for the second. The rest of us caravanned to the Cougar Crest trailhead which is located about two miles east of Fawnskin on the east side of Hwy 38, 1/2 mile west of the new Forest Service Discovery Center.
Cougar Crest trail is very different from the Grays Peak trail. The Grays Peak trail is in granite boulders, Black Oak, White Fir, and Yellow Pine, with an understory of ceanothus and manzanita. The Cougar Crest trail is in a Pinyon/Juniper/Mountain Mahogany forest. The Grays Peak trail is granite gravel. The Cougar Crest is dirt with lots of broken pieces of sedimentary rock. The views from the Cougar Crest are better because the forest is shorter, which provides increasingly good views.
Nine of us set out up the open canyon floor, shaded by an occasional Yellow Pine. We hiked past the mine ruins where the trail bed narrows and begins to switchback steeply up a ridge. From here the views of Big Bear Lake, Sugarloaf Mountain, and San Gorgonio Wilderness only got better. Andrew signed out here and went back to cars, because of blisters. The eight of us continued up to the junction of the PCT where we turned south with increasingly nice views of heavily snow clad San Gorgonio. At the first jeep road crossing, we left the PCT and climbed steeply about 1/2 of a mile up the jeep road to the summit of Bertha Peak. Here we had good views of very green Hitchcock Meadow in Holcomb Valley and the wonderful view across Big Bear Lake to the snowy peaks of the San Gorgonio Wilderness. We were back at the cars by about 4:10. Erich and I went to the new Discovery Center afterwards.
The others on the hike not mentioned were Yasmin Sibulo, Don Nelson, Annemarie Schoffer, Marty Friedman, and Teresa Smith