Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Sylvan Meadows Loop: Santa Rosa Plateau

       It has become a running tradition in my expanding hiking career to begin each new year by making my first trip of the year within the lower Peninsular Ranges, which usually fare being made in the Santa Ana Mountains.  For the sixth consecutive year, this tradition has been fulfilled in the completion of a quite short, yet beautiful loop hike on the Santa Rosa Plateau; Sylvan Meadows.    

Category: Easy 
Miles: 5.10
Elevation Gain: 200'
Location: Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve
Directions: HERE

The Hike: The trip begins at the Sylvan Meadows Trailhead, located just across the Hidden Meadows Trailhead just off of Tenaja Road above Murrieta.  The trip follow Sylvan Meadows Road as the main artery of the trip, and many variations, add-ons, and spur trails are available.  My suggestion is the take the dirt road towards the cut off to the Shivela Trail, which runs 1.15 miles southward before ending at a small dirt lot.  This small extension gives the traveler the opportunity to achieve far-reaching views across the plains of the plateau and up close and person with the vulnerable Englemann Oak.  After rejoining the main path, follow it as it loops throughout the meadows area and eventually back to the parking lot.  

Hiked 1/2/2018. Riverside County, CA  

Oak Woodlands

Sylvan Meadows during drought 

Far off Palomar Mountains

Englemann Oak Stands 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Estelle Mountain (2,767') from Walker Canyon Trailhead

      The highest point of the oft-overlooked Temescal Range, Estelle Mountain offers arguably the finest clear-day views of the immensity of Southern California's Inland Empire than any other place.  Perfectly positioned, and at an appropriate height, the peak overlooks the entire region from the Chino Hills in the west across the Santa Ana River floodplain, past the Riverside metro area, into the San Gorgonio Pass and down towards the Palomar Mountains above Temecula.  Additionally, the trek to the summit follows an enjoyable solitary dirt road through multiple canyons and above ridges, both of which host a surprising variety of biodiversity.  Conclusively, to journey to the top of Estelle Mountain showcases some of the best of the natural and visual beauty the lower ranges of the Inland Empire can offer.          

Category: Moderate 
Miles: 10
Elevation Gain: 1,800'
Location: Estelle Mountain Ecological Reserve, County of Riverside
Directions: HERE

The Hike: From the turnout off of the end of Lake Street, follow the well-maintained dirt road immediately up as it begins its ascent of the range.  In a few yards, you pass a gate indicating the entrance to this county natural preserve, along with concurrent regulations.  As the road travels further up the ridge, the grade lessens and overlooks a pleasant and rocky stream-bed.  After about one mile, the road passes into a riparian zone and travels in its immediate vicinity for quite awhile.  
   In contrast to the hardy and shrubby Brittlebush, Coyote Bush, and Sugar Sumac that brave the exposure of the hillsides, the ravine-laden plants, made up mainly of California Sycamore, Coast Live Oak, Fremont Cottonwood, and Laurel Sumac, grow to immense proportions.  The route soon gains a small ridge, before dropping abruptly towards a small bend in the ridge.  Here, the route again steepens as it climbs the remaining two miles to the summit, accompanied most of the time by the constant humming of above looming electrical towers.  Near the summit plateau, a sign welcomes the hiker into the Ecological Reserve before culminating at the benchmark in the midst of some rocky outcrops.  Enjoy the impressive viewshed, particularly down into the Lake Matthews basin directly below.  Return the way you came, with a note of some uphill sections on the return. 

Hiked 12/30/2017.  Riverside County, CA      

Temescal Valley (I-15) seen from trail

Going up the Temescal Mountains

Morning Glory in bloom

California Sycamore in Fall Color

Chamise Chaparral in canyon

Higher peaks of the Temescal Mountains


Sugar Sumac

Steeper section...

Nearing Reserve



West towards Sanitago Peak and the Santa Anas

South view

Lake Matthews from summit

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Arrastre Creek Aspen Grove

    One of the most elegant plants in North America grows only in a few selected location throughout California, most of which are in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Beneficiaries of cold winters and cool summers, most of this species is content to thrive in other montane locales in the Intermountain West and more frigid reaches of Canada and the United States. In Southern California, two stands of these rare tranquil trees grow only within the eastern San Bernardino Mountains.  The larger, far more frequently visited, and now burned grove is known simply as "Aspen Grove" in the San Gorgonio Wilderness.  At its peak it was quite frankly among the most spectacular jewels of the region as the trees graced gurgling Fish Creek.  However, the devastating 2015 Lake Fire has not only kept the trail to them closed at the time of this writing, but the grove itself has burned to the ground.  This is only a bad thing for us mortals, as the Aspen are fire-hardy individuals who thrive in rebirth through ash-laden soil.  It will be many decades though for this grove, and indeed the entire wilderness, to reach its same level of sublimity prior to the raging inferno.

Fortunately for arborists, there is another grove of these trembling trees, completely off-trail, unsigned, and hidden from everyday visitors tucked into the creek bed of an inconspicuous eastern range drainage.  This is the hidden Arrastre Creek Aspen Grove, filled with hundreds of this locally extremely rare beauty in a vale practically uninvited and unseen by even the most experienced of hikers.  This is unfortunate, because it is really quite a simple trip that could be made by most with reasonable hiking ability and excellent route finding.  

In order to keep this grove secret and untouched, there will be no directions posted publicly here to the location of this noble and delicate grove.   If you are interested in visiting the grove, I ask that you comment below with a brief resume of your outdoor experience and why you wish to visit the trees.  Please do not take this as pride, but a measure to keep this trees unspoiled for generations to come.  Also note, there will be no write-up, but only pictures.  A trail guide may be requested by the reader to view.      


Category: Easy
Miles: 2.75
Elevation Gain: 700'
Location: San Bernardino National Forest
Directions: (See Above Request)

Hiked: 9/16/2017.  No Adventure Pass Required.


Road heading down into Arrastre Creek

Trailside Flower in Sept.

Heading down....

PCT section

Conifer forest

Off trailing....

Behind this tree...

Small Trees

First glimpses of Fall coming... 
Beautiful White bark


Dense Stand