Doris Duval and I determined we'd try Sugarloaf Mountain one more time
on Friday, September 7th. Doris had already attempted this peak
twice, and been turned back. I'd only tried once, but was determined
even so. Ingeborg Prochazka and Brian Leverich joined us after deciding
there'd be time to do some other peaks, not realizing that Doris and
I, perhaps lacking in imagination, perhaps simply fond of the route we'd
started on last month, were intending to do
the ten mile Route 2, along the Sugarloaf Trail.
No matter, we all four set out on a pleasant Friday morning, retracing
the route of last month's nature hike. It's interesting how much
has changed in less than a month -- the flowers are mainly gone, there's
more (not less) water in the stream, and the willows and other brush
are dramatically larger. Not at all what I would have expected this
late in the summer.
Not stopping to sort out flowers (there being very few) meant we
fairly quickly reached the top of the ridge. After a brief break, and
noting how the intersection looked so we'd recognize it upon our
return, we headed west along the ridge, up and over the bump with the
slate, past the dramatic junipers, up steeply to a lodgepole forest on
a plateau. This was where we'd turned back last month, sure we were
Wrong-o. It's a really good thing Byron turned us back. We weren't all
that close at all. I now understand why folk who've done this peak remember
it as being nearly endless, with one false summit after another. They've
got it right. It's nearly endless, with one false summit after another.
There's even an annoying saddle you have to dip down into and back out
of, and then when you finally are sort of on the right summit, it
still straggles on and on, before finally surrendering at ridge's
end, with little in the way of views, and a sign in a rockpile:
Was this the register? Note that Buster Keaton signed in during 1923.
Actually, the register was in the regulation red can, at the base of the
sign. But someone had sealed it with superglue or something. Brian
finally had to use violence, and maybe his knife, to get it open so
we could sign in. Here I am with Ingeborg and the sign, and the
Doris, Ingeborg, and I, in front of what passes for a view on
I'm being a bit unfair about views. While you can't see much except
forest on the summit (so it made a wonderful venue for lunch), there
are good views coming and going on the ridge. Here is San Gorgonio
to the south:
And the Lucerne Valley (I think!) to the north, with some interesting
rocks on Sugarloaf's north side:
Doris was satisfied with Sugarloaf Mountain, so headed for home. Brian,
Ingeborg, and I huddled, decided Heart Bar would take too long (it was
getting a bit late in the day), that Constance was too far away, but hmmmm,
weren't we pretty close to Onyx Peak #1 when we crossed Onyx Summit?
Of course we didn't have adequate maps (don't tattle to Byron!), just
the Climbing Guide. But that sounded pretty easy -- take the left fork,
then the right fork, stop at the locked gate, walk up the road to the
The only problem was ... when we got to the locked gate, it was wide
open, with a truck disappearing up the road. Brian wanted to just drive
up to the peak, but Ingeborg and I proved more cowardly -- we were concerned
we'd end up on the wrong side of a locked gate. Better to walk, was our
take. Brian thought we were crazy, but indulged us, and up we went,
meeting the truck as it left near the peak.
It's actually an interesting walk -- there's a weather station next to
the road near the beginning, and the forest of junipers continues to
intrigue me. After going around several switchbacks, knowing that
Byron and Mars wouldn't have put up with them but feeling no choice
without a map, we eventually arrived on the top, an odd mix of
juniper forest and communications facilities. Here are Ingeborg
and I, enjoying our second peak of the day:
The view to the north:
This fence is even nastier than the on on Bertha:
When we got back to the gate, it was closed. But (for those lazy
peak baggers reading this), it wasn't locked. There was no lock!
All you have to do is swing the gate open, and drive on in!
Of course, if you're only looking for a single drive up, it is a bit
of a drive to get to Onyx Summit in the first place. And the road's
a bit rough. Caveat hiker!