San Jacinto Peak - Trip Report 9/5/2022

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San Jacinto Peak - Trip Report 9/5/2022

Postby Hikin_Jim » Tue Sep 06, 2022 10:59 pm

You can never summit San Jacinto Peak too many times. :) Seriously, it is a beautiful mountain, and this past Labor Day it was in the 70's at the summit whereas it was over 100 F down below.

Accompanying me this trip were a few friends and one Hikin' Joyce, girl hiker extraordinaire. This was Joyce's third summit, her first being at age 6.

We took the Sid Davis route, a nice little route that leads to Tamarack Valley. The last little bit before the Quartz campsite is quite steep, so here we are taking a little breather.
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Sid Davis Route rest stop


After passing through Tamarack Valley, we headed up the old "Tamarack" trail, sometimes called the "Ranger" trail. It goes from Tamarack Valley up to the trail coming north from Wellman Divide. It was abandoned because "the area is a deer breeding area" which of course is utter nonsense. Deer do not breed in chinquapin thickets. This cover story was created in an effort to garner public compliance. The real reason for the abandonment was to make the trip longer to the peak so as to limit the number of people reaching the top.
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Cornell Pk viewed from the Chinquapin thickets


Apparently the trail has fallen into disuse since the pandemic. I last did this trail pre-pandemic, and while the brush was encroaching, there was still enough traffic to keep things essentially open. Today, the trail is quite a bushwhack in sections, and one has to bull one's way through waist high brush. The trail now is interesting as a historical artifact of the CCC from the 1930's but it no longer is a faster way to the peak.
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Chinquapin choking the trail


Finally, one reaches the trail coming north from Wellman Divide. Time for the veteran hiker to grab a quick rest in the shade.
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Resting on the main trail from Wellman Divide to the peak


The next point of interest is the really cool summit hut also built by the CCC in the 1930's. The roof looks to be in reasonably good shape -- thanks I understand to local volunteers who are keeping it up.
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The summit hut


Of course, famous celebrities like leaving their mark in the summit hut's guest book.
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Signing the guest register


Apparently the emergency food cupboard is run by Old Mother Hubbard because the cupboard is pretty much bare. The only food I recognized was three packets of instant oatmeal. I suppose the problem of pilferage (by people not rodents!) precludes keeping the cupboard stocked. Imagine a scum bag so low as to steal emergency supplies for the sake of convenience. It also happens to the emergency water on the Skyline route. It's difficult to comprehend what might bring someone to stoop so low.
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Empty cupboard in the summit hut


I also noticed that a few of the slats in one of the bunk beds is broken. There also seems to be a dearth of insulation pads. I saw maybe one or two ultra thin insulation pads in the rafters, but nothing really that would keep someone warm in a pinch. Are donations accepted? I've got a couple of old plain closed cell foam pads that I can donate. I also saw only one sleeping bag tucked into the rafters. I'd be happy to spring for a military surplus bag or something like that, in other words, something affordable but nothing fancy -- but it might safe a life. Or has the problem of pilferage gotten so bad that such is no longer a good idea?
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Broken slats in one of the bunk beds.


At long last, the accomplished alpinist reaches her goal, dragging her huffing and puffing old man behind her. There's a new sign atop the peak saying "Mt San Jacinto Peak" which cracks me up. Summit names include either "Mount" or "Peak" but not both. It's sort of like naming something the Department of Redundancy Department. The correct name of the high point of the San Jacinto Mountains is San Jacinto Peak. For reasons unknown the State Park was named erroneously and there's been confusion ever since.
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On the summit of San Jacinto Peak


The views from the summit are fantastic. Here's a view of Tahquitz Peak. Can you make out the fire lookout?
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Tahquitz Peak


Here's another pic, this time of Marion Mountain. Note that there are two summits and that the rightmost (west) summit is clearly higher. The topo maps only have a spot height for the lower, east summit for some reason. The summit block of the west summit of Marion Mountain is a really fun, short class 3 climb. To the left of Marion Mtn is Shirley Peak. To the right is Mt. Saint Ellens. To the right of that is little Joyce Peak, or at least that's what I call it. :)
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Marion Mtn and vicinity


Looking across to the range to the north, we get a great view of San Gorgonio Mountain, the highest point in Southern California at 11,499' (or 11,502' depending on which source you look at).
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Old Grayback (San Gorgonio Mtn)


From the summit, we headed back to the tram, taking the route via Wellman Divide and Round Valley. No need to repeat our earlier chinquapin bushwhack. To my surprise, the "spring" in Round Valley at the trail junction by the old ranger station was flowing albeit slowly.
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The "spring" in Round Valley


Taking the tram down, we descended into the inferno. Whereas temperatures had been comfortable on the summit, indeed chilly in the breeze, it was like an oven down below, but what a great respite from the heat while we were up top -- and on such a gorgeous mountain. We are privileged indeed to have such in our backyard.

HJ
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Re: San Jacinto Peak - Trip Report 9/5/2022

Postby OtherHand » Wed Sep 07, 2022 5:50 am

Nice trip report, Jim. There's been a real dearth of them in recent times. Not sure why, as I think people were really eager to get back out post-pandemic. Maybe it's just something as simple as this forum requiring a login anytime someone wants to post something (or at least me!) Dunno.

Anyway, I was wondering if you had any further info on the reason for the Tamarack Trail closure. I had never heard that concept before, only the deer thing. Certainly the State has done similar stuff in defense of "nature", that lake that's not really hidden comes to mind.
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Re: San Jacinto Peak - Trip Report 9/5/2022

Postby Hikin_Jim » Wed Sep 07, 2022 7:50 am

Nice trip report, Jim. There's been a real dearth of them in recent times. Not sure why, as I think people were really eager to get back out post-pandemic. Maybe it's just something as simple as this forum requiring a login anytime someone wants to post something (or at least me!) Dunno.

Some of it may be just "critical mass," i.e. if there's nothing new to look at every time someone checks the forum, then people stop visiting as frequently, then there aren't as many replies, then there's even fewer updates to the forum, and so on. Another factor is Facebook which has pulled a lot of traffic to itself that might have otherwise gone here.

Anyway, I was wondering if you had any further info on the reason for the Tamarack Trail closure. I had never heard that concept before, only the deer thing. Certainly the State has done similar stuff in defense of "nature", that lake that's not really hidden comes to mind.
I only know what I've read. The "deer breeding area" cover story is so obviously absurd as to call to mind clumsy North Korean propaganda, so that's pretty much a dead giveaway that something else is going on. I do know that a number of steps were taken starting in the 70's when hiking experienced something of a boom, permit systems being a legacy of that period. I'm old enough to remember driving to Poop Out Hill in the nearby San Gorgonio Wilderness, but that road was closed to the public in hopes of reducing the impact on South Fork Meadows. My understanding is that the Tamarack Trail was closed for similar reasons.

I've often wondered if maintenance might also have been a factor in the decision. However, given that the trail is still followable to this day suggests that foot traffic alone could keep it open. I don't see a lot of signs of maintenance on the similar trail that goes from Wellman Divide to (almost) Miller Saddle. For example there's a downed tree near Wellman Divide that was never cleared. Foot traffic wore a path in around the downed tree; I don't see signs of a deliberate re-route, so I wonder how much effort the park puts into trail maintenance. In the park's defense, I do see a lot of signs of maintenance on the trail from Long Valley to Round Valley, and all of the camp sites in Tamarack and Round Valleys now have numbered 4 x 4 posts with reflectors mounted on them. In addition, the trail signage has been updated on the tram side of things, and the majority of the tacky plastic looking porta potties have been replaced by wooden outhouses. The old wooden outhouse at Little Round Valley is thankfully long gone. That one had a floor that noticeably sagged when one entered. It was downright scary.

Whatever the reasons that might have gone into the decision to eliminate the Tamarack trail, the state park service may now be getting its wish: Chinquapin is now really reclaiming significant sections. The trail may finally fade from existence unless someone does some serious lopper work. It's a bit of a shame to put to waste all of the effort that went into building the trail, and in terms of routing, it makes no sense whatsoever to hike as far south as Wellman Divide to only then have to traverse all the way back to Miller Saddle on a lateral that does very little gain -- until after the point where the Tamarack Trail joins in. The Sid Davis/Tamarack route makes a lot more sense and cuts off about a mile each way.

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Re: San Jacinto Peak - Trip Report 9/5/2022

Postby Ed » Wed Sep 07, 2022 10:01 am

Thanks for the nice trip report, Jim.

I also have wondered about why the trail from Tamarack Valley was closed. Although I did not out-and-out reject the 'deer breeding' explanation, it did seem suspicious.

I can understand the closure of the Poopout Hill road. Slushy Meadows, as we then called it, was attracting crowds of people who were bad for the environment. But it may have increased the number of backpackers, by lengthening what was before a moderate day hike to the summit.

Some would say your literary criticism of the new summit sign is fussy. Not me!
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Re: San Jacinto Peak - Trip Report 9/5/2022

Postby Sally » Wed Sep 07, 2022 10:11 am

Hey HJ! Great to see that you and the "Wee Little One" (That's how I remember her, but of course she has grown up a bit) are still traipsing the trails of Mount San Jacinto Peak Mountain! it is a shame that the Ranger Overland Trail has become so overgrown. The San Gabriels and San Gorgonio Wilderness have a fabulous group of volunteers that at least try to keep the trails in good repair, but I seldom hear of any volunteers, except maybe San Jac Jon, who take loving care of our San J Wilderness. Also, as Otherhand pointed out, there has been a dearth of new TR'S on this forum. I have a special love for this forum because, if not for it, I would have never met Ellen or the other hikin' fools who have inspired me to be the hikin' fool that I am today.

So... I think I will submit a TR of my latest TR of Marion Mountain Trail sometime soon.
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Re: San Jacinto Peak - Trip Report 9/5/2022

Postby Hikin_Jim » Wed Sep 07, 2022 1:55 pm

Ed wrote:Thanks for the nice trip report, Jim.

You're welcome. :)

Ed wrote:I also have wondered about why the trail from Tamarack Valley was closed. Although I did not out-and-out reject the 'deer breeding' explanation, it did seem suspicious.
It's the "dog ate my homework" of the state park system.

Ed wrote:I can understand the closure of the Poopout Hill road. Slushy Meadows, as we then called it, was attracting crowds of people who were bad for the environment. But it may have increased the number of backpackers, by lengthening what was before a moderate day hike to the summit.
Dad always called it Slushy Meadows. It wasn't until years later when I was looking at a topo map and said, "well, would you look at that. Slushy Meadows actually has an official name (South Fork Meadows)." It hasn't been terribly slushy lately, but I still remember spring 1969. There was water freaking everywhere. Truly, it was slushy.

Ed wrote:Some would say your literary criticism of the new summit sign is fussy. Not me!
lol. Well, I like to see names correctly used if no other reason that then I know what people are talking about. It kills me when people say "East Fork River." Uh, what? What they mean is the East Fork of the San Gabriel River. The San Gabriel River is one of the top three largest riverine systems in S. California and has been a major contributor to S. California's history, soils, topography, etc. (the other two largest rivers are the Santa Ana River and the Los Angeles River). As a hiker, and, yes, I'm a bit fussy about such things, I think it's important to understand and know the lay of the land. People should know that the San Gabriel is such a mighty an influential river in S. California terms.

OK, off my soap box. Carry on. :)

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Re: San Jacinto Peak - Trip Report 9/5/2022

Postby Hikin_Jim » Wed Sep 07, 2022 2:04 pm

Sally wrote:Hey HJ! Great to see that you and the "Wee Little One" (That's how I remember her, but of course she has grown up a bit) are still traipsing the trails

I still remember visiting you years ago (8?) with "Little Joyce" at Nomad Venture (do you still work there?). Fun memories. I still head out to San Mateo Creek (when it's not so blasted hot) as we did that day. Joyce has now done a couple of multi-day overnights there. She carries pretty much all her own equipment and is quite the backpacker now (when she wants to. Now that she's a teenager, spending time with dad isn't quite the priority it once was).

Sally wrote:Mount San Jacinto Peak Mountain!

This title has been approved by the Departement of Redundancy Department. :lol: :lol:

Sally wrote:it is a shame that the Ranger Overland Trail has become so overgrown. The San Gabriels and San Gorgonio Wilderness have a fabulous group of volunteers that at least try to keep the trails in good repair, but I seldom hear of any volunteers, except maybe San Jac Jon, who take loving care of our San J Wilderness.

Yeah, dunno what's going on there. The SGW is singularly blessed by the SGWA. The trails there are the best maintained large trail network in Southern California -- at least that I know about. Better signage and maintenance than any national forest in S. California that I've seen for sure.

I guess there is a group that helps maintain the summit hut. I don't know if it's informal or what, but may be Perry helps out occasionally?

Sally wrote:So... I think I will submit a TR of my latest TR of Marion Mountain Trail sometime soon.

Yes! Please! :)

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Re: San Jacinto Peak - Trip Report 9/5/2022

Postby guest » Tue Oct 11, 2022 8:31 am

Hey Jim, late for the party on this thread, but found it interesting. I could hardly believe how big Joyce is now, but it's been forever since I saw her in Snow Creek village, (I think).

I to have wondered about the SP's priorities, (just went on tram cam, and once again, the area south (& maybe north), of ranger sta. looks like they had an atv round up! And of course, the mechanical mules, which have greatly helped w many campground improvements you mentioned, but at the cost of noise, air pollution, making a new, ugly, eroded mini road for them to get to & from work areas.
To give credit, (mostly to the CCC's for their hard work), the new or rebuilt trails are up to a very high standard, requiring tons of work, (& lots of forest piercing, mechanical rock crushing). Many here have probably seen it, where they level the ground, put a thick layer of "inter-locking" rock down, then cover all their hard work w dirt.

Anyway, that old trail was a good route a couple decades ago, I used to break branches off my hand & move rocks, but the chinquapin & manzanita are just too tough for anything but a good pair of loppers, (made by Florian, of course :wink: ). It seems the SP's priorities have trail maint. down towards bottom of list, (as can be evident by the shape of main summit trail, (at least it was rough a yr. ago).

As you know, most locals, rangers, etc. use the route that leaves from a trail through Tamarack, just south of Diorite campsite, heads up a small drainage to the west, then hangs north to bottom of what I call the Boulder field, where that old upper Tam trail would come in, then a 1/4 mile west to connect w the summit trail, where it goes from flat, to that steady, straight climb to Miller saddle.

If you or Joyce are ever up for a tougher challenge, there's a "route" I've done, (& others have as well), head almost north from the clearing above Diorite, to SE bottom side of Miller peak. Then, begin climbing, I stay just left, (west), of a little drainage, (there's a cool "window rock" higher up), until you can see out to the north. Stay on that ridge, working through some areas of brush, steep spots, (barely class 3, as there's more dirt than rocks).
Go to far south and you'll be in brush, too far north and mt falls away, (steeply). You'll hit a cool boulder field w chunks similar to those of San J summit, then stay left, (southwest) around base of Miller summit, (going around to the north puts you in a steep, loose chute). Views are amazing the whole way, and your lungs will be working overtime. Many times I'd just hangout in that flat area below Miller, and not even summit San J.
Let's hope the forest gets some good snows this winter, (heard rumors of La Nina, aarrgghh). scott
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Re: San Jacinto Peak - Trip Report 9/5/2022

Postby Ed » Tue Oct 11, 2022 1:39 pm

Excellent route description, Scott. My chances of following a cross-country route of this complexity without losing it: ZERO!!! But then I am definitely challenged when it comes to in-the-field navigation. No doubt HJ can glide through it.
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