Yucaipa Ridge (again)
Leaders: George Wysup, Tom Hill, and Maggie Wilson
I like hiking Yucaipa Ridge, so I visit it fairly often. 5x now, 6x on Allen. By now I should know the way, but it's a long ridge and my short term memory is no longer keen. It seems to be a new hike every time; and I hike it with new friends who claim that they know me.
An impressive gang of hikers, 23 in all, congregated at Mill Creek RS at 0700 on a cloudy morning for this hike. There were the noted and experienced Gene Mauk, Mary McMannes, Ray Riley, Don Croley, 2x list finisher Ron Zappen, and future finishers Joanne Andrew, Pat Brea, Christopher Davis, Peter Duerst, Billy "Goat" Gaskill, Ricky Gordon, Zobeida Molina, Keven Moore, Martin Parsons, Kate Rogowski, Jan St. Amand, Michael Sallwasser, Kent Schwitkis, "Mountain" Mikki Siegel, and Sandy Sperling. There is no accompanying photo because no camera could capture all these bodies, and many of these guys' images would destroy the camera.
I (as HPS outings chair) had secured permission in advance from the "Bear Paws" sanctuary below Allen Peak to pass through their gate and park on their property. The caretaker/naturalist, Dave Myers, was very accommodating. This sanctuary now has a number of short nature trails and a neat public restroom. They frequently entertain various groups for nature study.
We quickly completed the car shuttle and met at Vivian Creek picnic area above Forest Falls. All seemed eager to hike as Tom led us up the road, past the Vivian Creek trailhead, past Camp Creek, and on to the next major gully, where we turned south. We went up this gully to a point just before a transition from a pleasant boulder-hopping stroll into a steep, loose, impossible climb. Here we turned left (east) onto an intermittently ducked route that follows a rather steep ridge south to the saddle just east of Little San Gorgonio Peak.
I should note here that turning right (west), instead of left, here would put one on a much steeper ridge with significant rockfall danger, as experience has shown me. A route up Camp Creek has been presented in an HPS peak guide. I do not recommend this route though I have not attempted it. I have heard the tales of woe and, just by looking at it, one gets the impression that doom might befall the climber, particularly if water is running in the waterfall. On the other hand, Tom Hill has descended via Camp Creek, and is among the living.
We picked a path up the proper ridge, passing just to the west of minor bump 8460+, then we contoured as best we could along a use trail of sorts, through a brief infestation of dense chinquapin and ceanothus, eventually reaching the ridge. The tough part is over; we can now just run the ridge on a good path.
I queried the group about a rest stop at the saddle. The answer was a resounding "no". They wanted that first summit! We continued up the easy 600' for a noon pause on the summit of Li'l San G., well ahead of schedule. So far, ours was a slugless group. Our schedule was, basically, to get down from the Allen's summit by dark (about 8 pm).
Mercilessly, we picked off the summits. Radio facility, Wilshire Mtn (and lunch), Wilshire Pk, Oak Glen Pk, Cedar Mtn. Tom remarked that Oak Glen Pk is simply too close to Wilshire Pk and Cedar Mtn to be on the HPS list. This led me to consider that a single Wilshire is sufficient... Oh, well, that would not shorten the hike. On to Birth Mtn!
The 'trail (pack)', shown on the topo, has pretty much returned to nature for the first half mile or so past Cedar. Follow the WNW-trending ridge, staying south of bump 8160+, and the trail will reappear. We went down a set of switchbacks, avoiding the strong temptation to cut them, to the saddle just ESE of Birch. 23 pairs of boots help to reinforce the trail instead of further eroding the shortcuts. I am told that there is an acceptable route from this saddle down to Forest Falls. I can't personally verify this so I can't recommend it (the topo suggests that the way is quite steep).
We continued without pause along the old trail around the north side of Birch to a point that suggests, "This way to the summit". We easily achieved the register and took a long snack break. We are way ahead of schedule. What a group! Everyone still seems happy and energetic after all this work. We headed NW down a ridge to rejoin the trail. It's a long way to "Allen" saddle (5200'), about 4 miles to this road junction and locked gate.
We followed the trail down to a ridge plateau at about 7300' where the good trail stealthily hangs a right. Everyone inevitably misses this turn. No problem; when you realize that you are not on the trail, just go right until you rediscover it. Continuing, the trail becomes an old 4WD road, finally reaching a road junction with a fallen sign showing mileage to Wilshire Peak. Follow the very boring road, which eventually reaches "Allen" saddle. I had previously noted a firebreak going up steeply to the East from the saddle. At about the 5520' contour I noted what looked like this firebreak. Does it go? I investigated. After 5 minutes I looked back and the entire group was on my heels. I guess we will all investigate. Yes! It goes very nicely, and we came out at the saddle, saving about 0.6 mile of brainaddling road walking.
From here it is about 1.5 miles round trip to the summit and back, with 600' gain. 5 people signed out at this point. Not that they were tired; I think they had a major party going (they didn't invite me). From here it is about 2.5 miles back to the vehicles along the (yawn) road.
The remaining 18 of us reached Allen's fascinating (just kidding) summit and returned to the gate, taking an entire hour to accomplish this. We reached the vehicles at about 6:45 pm, well before dark. Elapsed time for the hike was 11 hours. Tom's investigation indicates that this may be a record time for a scheduled hike of this ridge, yet no one seemed to be hurrying. Because such a strong group managed this feat I have been accused (in print, by a non-participant) of endangering hikers' health by going too fast.