Here's a surprise for you (and us!) The HPS rumor mill disclosed an open access road through the Morongo Indian Reservation to Kitching and Snow the first week of May. Three independent phone verifications with Mill Creek Ranger Station produced the same message, "Go in with our blessing. No permits are needed until the access situation has been clarified." Armed with this welcome news, six of us hiked Kitching Peak then four hiked Snow Peak.
May 6, 1999
Frank Goodykoontz and Carleton Shay drove six intrepid HPSers to the new Kitching Peak trailhead for the midmorning start. (You can probably get there using the 1992 peak guide and map, although the road is blocked by huge boulders several yards short of the old trailhead. High-clearance vehicles recommended.)
We were immediately surprised when two more SUV's pulled up and joined us - Larry Shumway in a party of six from the Palm Springs area. Byron Prinzmetal discovered that they had received the new info from the HPS website, right after he had posted it. This peak had 12 visitors today (Tuesday!) after four years of isolation. Other participants today were Dorothy Danziger, George, and Tom.
There is no question of this peak's popularity, and for good reason: A cool, running stream parallels the first half of the trail. There is a forest canopy composed of a grove of majestic incense cedar, white fir, big cone Douglas fir (spruce), sugar pine, and tall live oaks extending from the trailhead to the summit. Only occasionally were we in sunlight and only for short stretches. The final 100 yards to the open, expansive summit is reached by negotiating a newly-clipped tunnel through the brush.
In fact, the entire Kitching Peak Trail is in remarkable shape considering the small number of sign-ins. Two parties made memorable ascents: (Charlie Knapke) via Still's Landing and Whitewater River early 1997, and (Beth Epstein & Kim Gimenez) in 1998 via a trailless scramble up the western slopes, after missing a left turn in the trail that had been obliterated by high water. Beth said that the road was open when they went in. Has anyone ever verified that the road was really closed?
May 11, 1999
On Tuesday, May 11, Carleton Shay led Dorothy Danziger, Byron Prinzmetal, and George Wysup up to Snow Peak. This was Carleton's 9x on Snow, first for the others. We expected serious brush and went appropriately armed. The old road up to Deer Spring was (thankfully) reasonably brush free. The rest of the trail was intermittently clogged after 4 years without human trespass. The brush consisted mainly of scrub oak and a very spiny subspecies of ceanothus. Near the summit the scenery improved due to the addition of Coulter pines to the vegetation. We took 4 hr 40 min to hike in, thanks to considerable lopping and clipping time (a good excuse for slow hiking). We improved the trail significantly so that we were able to return (about 4+ miles, 3500 ft. elevation loss) in 1 hr 40 min.
The register is located on a local high point just below, but out of sight of, the radio antennas on the true summit. There were only two sign-ins between 1995 and our trip. In June, 1997 Jerry Higgins hiked in over Galena. Way to go, Jerry! In Dec 1998 two hunters drove in using the access road to the radio site.
The hike to Snow Peak is not as attractive as that to Kitching, winding mainly through brush and scrub oak. The trail promises to be a chore to keep open. However, the hike gives one a good workout and is more scenic than several popular HPS destinations (Rattlesnake Peak comes to mind).