Friday, April 22, 2016

Cahuilla Mountain (5,635') from Tripp Flats Fire Station

     Rising above the rural Anza Valley, stands lonely Cahullia Mountain (pronounced Ca-Wee-Ah), a mountain both of ancient Indian legend and the set of the 1880 Southern California novel Ramona.  Perhaps the reason this mountain serves as the base of both stories is because of its unique location juxtaposed between the bulwark of San Jacinto and the coastal Palomar Range.  On its lower slopes it bears think blankets of chaparral, while upwards it transitions into a blissful Black Oak-Pine woodland.  Although out of the common traveling path of the Southern California hiker, this peak is well worth a visit, and you will likely be the only one on the mountain.              

Category: Moderate 
Miles: 9.2
Elevation Gain: 1,800'
Location: San Bernardino National Forest 
Directions: Here  (This trailhead is on a fair dirt road.  I stopped at the gate at the old Tripp Flats Fire Station, and walked up the continuation of the dirt road from there.  If you have a tough 4x4, you can drive another 1.5 miles to an alternate trailhead at a small saddle...leave a comment if you wish more info on the road)
The Trail:  From the entrance to the old Fire Station (4,000'), continue upwards on the dirt road, as it winds on a moderate slope through prime montane chaparral.  As you gain elevation, the views north open up to Thomas Mountain, and the great massif of San Jacinto.  After reaching a small saddle (4,500') in 1.5 miles, you turn left onto the designated "Cahuilla Mountain Trail".  Once on the single track trail, you will begin gaining elevation at a more substantial level, however this is counterbalanced by  the growing views into the wide, arid Anza Valley and northwestward towards snow-striped San Gorgonio Mountain. 
      After the trail winds a few bends, you enter into a wonderful Black Oak grove at around 5000'.  From here on, you will leave the chaparral behind and meander through these magnificent stands of trees, along with their meadows, including a sizable amount of Coulter, Ponderosa, and Sugar Pines.  A drawback to this otherwise idyllic section is the fact that the tail makes about 100' of dips through the forest, which of course must be regained on the return.  Alas, after nearly 3 miles on this path, it will end on the summit of Cahuilla Mountain proper (5,635') with its expansive views from the Rabbit Peak ridge near the Salton Sea to Santiago Peak in Orange County, and everything in between.  After signing the summit register, return the way you came.   

Riverside County.  Hiked 4-22-2016.             

The Trailhead (Near the old Tripp Flats Fire Station)

Thomas Mountain

Our Lord's Candle Yucca in bloom

A gopher snake on the road!

The saddle  where the single-track trail begins

Going upward on the trail 
More of the same...

Views are growing east..

Dense Chaparral

Can you find the horned lizard?

There he is!

The not-so-distant Oak-Pine woodlands, where you will soon be

Entering the Forest 

Manzanita in bloom

Some Coulter Pines

A mountain meadow topped by oaks and pines...

Trail  through some of the ups and downs

Thick forest

Another beautiful meadow

Nearing the summit

Summit Proper

View south

The Anza Valley, and Hit Springs Mountain

San Jacinto

View west

Santa Rosa Mountains from a meadow on the desent

Monday, April 18, 2016

Trabuco Ridge Traverse: Trabuco Peak (4,604') and Horsethief Peak (4,313')


     Providing one avoids the dog-days of summer, the Santa Ana Mountains can be enjoyed anytime of year; winter with its light snowfalls, spring with its extravagant wildflowers, and autumn with the clear air of the season. Secluded almost in the center of the range, and near the culmination of the Santa Ana's lie Trabuco and Horsethief Peaks.  Along Trabuco Ridge, the climber is treated to fine, untouched samplings of coastal montane chaparral, old growth Coulter Pine stands, and unbeatable views to the west of  Orange County, southeastern Los Angeles County, and the Pacific and its islands.  Eastward lies the great mountain groups of Southern California, the Inland Empire, and numerous glittering lakes.  So come, the mountains continue their call.  


Category: Strenuous    
Miles: 11.2
Elevation Gain: 2,700'
Location: Cleveland National Forest 

The Trail: From the trailhead, Main Divide Road (the trail) begins a no-nonsense approach to gaining elevation rapidly through unshaded chaparral covered slopes.  As you gain elevation, views both eastward and westward open up, with the shimmering Pacific on one side, and emerald-colored Lake Elsinore on the other.  After 1.7 miles, and 800' of elevation gain, you will reach a saddle between Los Pinos Ridge firebreak on the left, and Vicker Mountain on the right.  For the next mile or so, a dense stand of Coulter Pine thrives, granting some welcome shade to the path.  Here the route descends about 300', for this trip, like most ridge hikes, offers enormous amounts of ups-and-downs (rollar coaster action).  In fact, the gross elevation gain from the trailhead to Trabuco Peak is only 1,200'; nonetheless accounting for the complete rollar-coastering, you net nearly 2,700' in total elevation gain on this trek.  

     Coming out of the forest,  your view expands toward the immense southern facade of Santiago Peak, Orange County's highest.  However, the sight also includes the southern faces of Horsethief and Trabuco Peaks.  After another mile, you will come to the Class 2 firebreak, branching off to the summit of Horsethief, a peak worth as visit if you have time.  Because its summit is covered with sumac and scrub oak, the views are scanty at best.  After returning back to the road from a summit visit, you will proceed still north upon Main Divide road rounding the aforementioned peak, and passing some sizable oaks and pines.  After continuously gaining and loosing elevation, the road finally makes a final steep push towards Trabuco Peak with a single pine tree visible on summit.  

     The cut-off to the peaks is signed, and after crossing over a small gate, you begin a sustained 100' Class 2 climb towards the peak.  Here the last 100' or so, is made over fairly even ground though high and dense manzanita to the summit proper, marked, and topped with a summit register in a small red can.  Unfortunately, views from the peak are impossible as the chaparral is simply too high to see over, and too think to see through.  After enjoying the time on Orange County's third highest mountain, return back the way you came, preparing for the numerous regaining of elevation on the route back.         

Orange County.   Hiked 4/18/2016.  

Trailhead parking and path up

View south from the beginning of trek 

Entering Coulter Pine stand 

First views of Santiago Peak

Approaching Horsethief Peak

Scramble route to Horsethief summit

Looking down the scramble section

Towards Horsethief

Horsethief summit

Rounding some more pines

Los Pinos Ridge (view south)

Trabuco Peak (far right)

A steeper section

Towards the cities of southwestern Riverside County

Trabuco Peak getting closer...

Trabuco Peak cut-off

Beginning the use trailing...

Class 2

Looking down having completed the sustained Class 2 section (note road 100' below)

Final summit walk

Dense chaparral 


Some round-about summit views southeast

View south, southeast



Gleaming Pacific on the way down

*This picture of Trabuco Peak was taken on the Indian Truck Trail route to Santiago Peak.  This view is not attainable on this trip.