Leaders: Ginny Heringer, Sherry Ross, Southern Courtney, Byron Prinzmetal
George: To properly study sedge, you need a special tool: a sedge hammer.
Ginny or Sherry, contemplating a difficult to identify flower: Plants don't move around - but they make up for it in other ways.
I wasn't intending to hike last Sunday. After making a fool of myself
panting my way up Kratka Ridge, I'd intended to just relax, loaf
around the house, smell the flowers, work on my tan, something. But
Brian's interested in obtaining leadership training, and a natural
science credit was on offer for this interesting sounding natural
science hike. And really, to be honest, sitting around doing nothing
sounds pretty boring when compared to going on a hike. I'm hooked, I
was an easy sell.
So after collecting a couple like minded companions at the Pomona rideshare
point, we were off to Sugarloaf Mountain, southeast of Big Bear Lake.
The natural science was to take priority, but we were kind of hoping
to bag the peak. Especially true for Doris Duval, who had almost but not
quite made it last year.
There were eighteen or twenty of us, including Ginny Heringer, Sherry
Ross, Byron Prinzmetal and George Wysup. We slowly sauntered up the
trail beside a creek, being introduced to different types of pine and
oak, the mountain mahoghany, scarlet buglers and other confusingly
similar red flowers, nettles and sedge and reeds and clover.
Not to mention a DYC (da-ned yellow composite), apparently very tough
to properly identify. (So just call it a daisy and be done with it!)
They showed us how, on willows and other plants, certains wasps will
inject a chemical that causes the plant to grow a protective gall.
The wasp inserts an egg at the same time, and the grub feeds on the
gall as it grows. So we watched for galls, and when we found some,
opened them to see if we could find one with a grub. Eventually,
success! We were told the grubs were edible, and darned if someone
didn't eat the one we found. Me, I think I'll just take along a few
extra packets of Power Gel in my Ten Essentials, ewwww!
Normally, I'd've just tramped by, with a pleasant impression of green
and forest, so was pleasantly surprised at the diversity of plant life
we were shown, and the diversity of habitats, none very far removed
from the other. Thanks to Ginny and Sherry for sharing their enthusiasm
After awhile, we stopped for a rest break. I have one of those Suunto
wrist altimeters, so glanced at it to see how we were doing, if we had
much further to go. I suppose this was due to the unstable atmospheric
conditions, but whew! over the course of a few minutes, simply sitting
there on that log, I gained then lost two or three hundred feet of
elevation. I almost felt motion sick. Crazy weather.
Eventually we arrived at the top of the ridge, and juncted (so it's
not a word: it should be) with the trail coming up from the south.
Byron asked for a show of hands of those who had a map of the peak,
a map being one of the ten essentials. Very few hands showed, but
Brian and I had maps, and held ours up. Byron: "Right. No one has
a map. Everyone is depending on the leaders to find the way!" Anonymous
participant: "Where the he-- is Mars when you need him?" Because part
of the purpose of this hike was to train new leaders, Byron told an
anecdote of a group that straggled into three clumps while hiking on
a trail, the first with a leader, the last with a leader, and the middle
without, and how the middle went astray and got lost. So keep your group
together or pause at tricky intersections or leave at least one person
at the intersection to make sure the next clump makes the right turn.
Well, enough of that pedagogical stuff! For me, the real treat came
at the top of the ridge -- a change in the trees. The forest we'd
been exploring gave way to one unlike any I'd ever seen before: huge
ancient junipers. I normally think of junipers as being a bit on
scrubby side, growing in the transition area between desert and denser
woods. But these were both majestic and dramatic. Wonderful! Then
later on, higher up yet, the parklike forest of lodgepole pines that
I've seen elsewhere in the San Bernardino mountains, and loved each
time, like a forest in a fairy tale, somehow poetic and unreal.
Unfortunately, clouds had been building and looking more dramatic
(dramatic is good in the context of junipers, bad in the context of
clouds) all morning, and while we were on the ridge, a fraction of a
mile from the peak, they started thumping and banging over San
Gorgonio way. The leaders conferred, and decided we really ought to
head back. Quickly. "What about lunch?" the hikers asked
plaintively. "After we get =off= this ridge," responded Byron, more
focussed on our safety than our stomachs. He was willing to take us
down cross-country on a nearby promising ridge, but many of the
participants had come prepared only for a walk on a trail, some were
wearing sandals, and weren't too pleased by the prospect of
cross-country. So we scurried back on the trail, until we dropped
down off the ridge, then settled in for the long awaited lunch.
Somehow we ended up discussing the ridge down off of Shields Peak.
Someone proposed the ridge be named Sandy's Ridge, because Sandy
busted her ankle there. (I'm sure she'd like that to be memorialized
for all time?) Brian suggested instead it be called Burnside's Bane.
Turns out that of the group up on Sugarloaf, only Byron, George, and I
had ever been there. One of the hikers who had balked at the idea of
descending a random ridge off Sugarloaf looked at me with awe-filled
eyes. "You went down a ridge, off trail? Oooooh! But wasn't it
dangerous? brushy? How did you get through?" Gee, I felt like
Superwoman for a moment there. But quickly (little realizing how
soon, as in within 24 hours, I'd be eating these words) reassured him
that our leaders carefully selected ridges, prehiked them, scoped out
in advance how to make it through the brush, so really, me being a
humble participant and a follower in others' footsteps, it was no big
deal at all. Try it, you'll like it. Much more adventurous than
simply following a trail.
Coming next: Byron's and Mars' Excellent Adventure. (Our hike the
next day to Grinnell and Lake, and down a totally new ridge or two.)