A Weekend Backpacking Trip Above the Tram
A Private Trip
Pat Arredondo and I are getting close to finishing the List. We actually haven't hiked together very often due to scheduling conflicts, but our hiking styles are similar so we decided to plan way in advance to bag some peaks we both needed: Jean, Marion, Drury, Folly, ... and Sam Fink, which is sort of in the neighborhood. Our first thought was to do them from Idyllwild on consecutive days, but Pat, being the avid backpacker that she is, suggested a backpacking trip from the top of the tram instead. Looking at the map, it made sense. We were concerned when we heard that the Round Valley spring was completely dry, but we figured that we could each carry 20 or so pounds of water with our gear for the 2-mile trip from the tram to Round Valley. Hey, it wouldn't be as bad as Villager and Rabbit! Our plight was made even easier when Sandy and Keith Burnside decided to join us for the first set of peaks and leave their extra water with us. True friends!
Keith and Sandy were able to take the first tram up at 10am on Friday, July 5, which was a pseudo-holiday (they didn't have to work anyway!). They bagged Folly and San Jacinto while Pat and I, the working ladies, had a later start and took the 2:45 tram. We topped off all our water containers in the restaurant at the upper tram station and were on our way. Upon arriving in Round Valley, we searched for the Burnside belongings and soon found them. We set up camp, made dinner, and soon heard Burnsidish voices along the trail. It was fun to share such a beautiful campsite together.
The next morning, we left our campsite going north on the trail and then headed up the gully toward Jean that bypasses all the switchbacks. We intersected the top switchback, then left the trail to climb the gully to the saddle north of Jean, then took the ridge south to the summit. We had perfect weather and wonderful views. We moved on to Marion and climbed the interesting class 3 summit block. Then we hiked to Drury. Of course, we had snacks on every summit. I'm told that is in the HPS bylaws.
Keith and Sandy had to leave us at that point to go back to camp and pack out to the tram. After saying our good-byes, Pat and I headed down the north side of Drury to intersect the Deer Springs Trail. We took advantage of this trail for some of our ascent toward Folly Peak, then headed off into the brushy, sometimes bouldery gully.
Before we left, we had noticed that there was an HPS scheduled hike to San Jacinto and Folly led by David Beymer and Maura Raffensperger this same day. One reason we did Folly last was the hope that we might meet up with their group. As Pat and I were nearing the ridge between San Jacinto and Folly, I thought I saw someone, but when I called out there was no answer. We continued to Folly. Indeed, Dave and Maura's group was immediately behind us! And as if that wasn't enough, Don Tidwell, Mei Kwan, and Winnette Butler, who were hiking privately together, had just met with Dave and Maura's group as well! We had three groups spontaneously converge on the summit of Folly Peak! "The first -- and last -- Folly Peak reunion!" said Dave Beymer. We enjoyed each others' company for a time (while eating snacks according to the bylaws), then headed off in our separate directions.
Pat and I descended back to the Deer Springs Trail, then followed it up to the San Jacinto turnoff. We had each climbed this peak several times, but it wasn't far to the summit and we had time, so we decided to do it "since it was there." After enjoying the highest peak of the area and our fifth peak over 10,000' of the day, we headed back toward camp.
We got to talking while going down the trail and somehow missed the turnoff that we had intended to take. After we discovered this, we didn't really want to backtrack uphill. I thought it would be fun to descend cross-country and see how close I could come to the rear of our campsite, using my intuition. It was very brushy in places and steep in others, necessitating a randomly winding route. I knew if we kept going we would hit the Round Valley trail, but I really wanted to go straight to the campsite. Finally, I pulled out my GPS when I knew we were pretty close but wasn't sure whether to go a little more northeast, east, or southeast. We were only 0.21 miles from the waypoint I set that morning in camp! It was a lot of fun being able to walk right into the back side of our camp!
The next morning, Pat and I packed up all our things in Round Valley and began hiking toward the tram, but took a trail fork to the right to head toward Hidden Lake Divide so we could go climb Sam Fink Peak. After passing the next trail junction (where we would go back to the tram later), we stashed our backpacks and continued with daypacks down the Divide Trail toward Laws Camp. There is significant elevation loss here, which must be regained on the return. The trail is beautiful and well maintained.
From Laws Camp, we crossed the non-existent stream (everything is dry) and hiked on to Caramba Camp. The lower we got, the hotter it was and the more bugs there were to pester us. At Caramba Camp we crossed the dry creek bed and ascended the other side to the overlook campsite. Then it was rather fun to find the route, but we made our way around the ridge to where we could visualize the peak and climbed up to the saddle, then to the summit. It was a bit exciting near the summit when I surprised a rather large sandstone-colored diamond back rattlesnake, and, needless to say, he surprised me. We both backed off and avoided each other.
The views from the summit of Sam Fink Peak are indeed wonderful! We found a small piece of shade on the east side and ate our lunches. Then, being careful to watch for our rattler friend, we returned the way we came. Thanks to the extra water that the Burnsides left us, we didn't have to ration our water too stringently. The portion of trail from Caramba to Laws was quite hot, but we were fortunate that much of the Divide Trail ascent was in the shade.
After reclaiming our packs we had an easy hike (not much water left!) to the Long Valley Ranger Station where we freshened up a bit, then climbed up to the tram station in time to take the 5:30 tram down.
For future reference, this second day (Round Valley to Sam Fink to the tram) was about 13 miles with around 4000' loss and gain and was quite reasonable to do. If Divide Peak or some other peak in this area is added to the list, one might consider combining it with Sam Fink Peak for a day hike, or part of a backpacking trip using Laws Camp or Caramba Camp if water is available.
This weekend was just plain fun, fun, fun!!!!!