Tuesday, February 25, 2014

It's Only Uphill Until You Get To The Top! South Fork To Dollar Lake Saddle - San Gorgonio

After lots of  "family" discussion and map studying, Josh and I decided to get a permit and head up to good old San Gorgonio to do some elevation hiking. This, of course, was Joey's idea. :-)

We had planned this trip a few weeks ago but were dissuaded by the weather. We spent the night in the truck at the South Fork Trail head.

We loaded up our packs with all of our gear and headed out, intending to camp at Dry Lake after looping around the summit via Dollar Lake.

 It was cold. Not as cold as last time we were here, but still around 35 degrees. I was feeling nauseous from a huge coffee we had at breakfast and the first part of the trail was not fun for me.

I started to feel better once we reached Poop-out hill and the wilderness boundary. I was trying out my new Frogg Toggs rain jacket on this trip and it proved to be warm enough to be my only jacket on the PCT, at least until the Sierra.

We stopped at Poop-out hill for "second breakfast" (somehow, we become hobbits when on the trail) and admired the views of Jepson Peak.

Fed again, we headed out. The trail becomes level and soft in this section, making the next two miles a breeze.

We got to cross over two avalanche chutes on this hike. One day I would like to bushwack up to the top!

Our first trail junction was with Lost Creek trail which goes around Grinnell ridge. This is one of two small sections of trail that I have not yet done in San G.

Shortly after the Lost Creek trail, we arrived at the Dollar Lake / Dry Lake junction. The elevation was kicking our butts for some reason and we knew we may not finish the loop. I pushed for us to go up Dollar Lake trail anyway. I have never been there and wanted to check it off my list. 

The trail was steep right out the gate and we huffed and puffed our way up to the ridge line, taking in the views of Charlton Peak, Jepson and The Draw.

Josh was starting to bonk so we sat and ate a snack at the junction for Dollar Lake camp. The low snow levels were discouraging and illustrated the severity of the drought.

After we ate, Josh said he wasn't feeling up to finishing the loop. We decided to push it one last mile to Dollar Lake Saddle in order to finish this section of trail. The extra push would give us a solid 15 mile hike at elevation with full packs, and we were happy with those training stats.

As we climbed toward the saddle, the trail was covered in patches of ice and snow. Most were avoidable but the ones that weren't were super slippery. Our trail runners did not perform well on the ice and we were glad to know in advance that this may be something that could cause problems while in the Sierra.

At the saddle we sat down and made ourselves some bean burritos. As we ate we listened to the hoots and hollers of what sounded like a group of teenage boys coming up the trail.

Sure enough, a group of six young men topped out onto the saddle and stopped near by. They were trying to decide if they could make it all the way to the summit or if they should "just hike to San Bernardino Peak." I know San Bernardino Peak is about 16 miles from here, one way, and I turned and asked if they had a map. Of course they didn't so I gave them as much information as I could about the area, and told them to take a picture of my map so they could refer to it later. Josh said I overwhelmed them with information, which I think was good since they decided not to attempt anything stupid like starting a 30 mile hike at noon.

 After they left, Josh found two bananas and some electrolyte tabs that they dropped in the ten minutes they were there and set them on the trail for their return. Josh wished he had a poison dart to put into the tent pole to shoot the unprepared hikers as they hooted and hollered away. 
Silly kids. 
They had a huge hand gun but no map, compass or water filter.

We started our descent back toward the trailhead and my knee started to give me fits! I used it as an excuse to stop and take more photos of the beautiful day.

As we neared the junction we spotted this marker. I am told it is an old mile marker with the distance to Poop-out hill, which used to be the start of the trail. It was here that we heard a loud gun shot, surely from the young boys on the top of the ridge. Hopefully they were shooting at a mountain and not into open wilderness where a trail might be.

Finally back on the main South Fork trail my knee was REALLY hurting. I haven't had knee pain like this in a long time and I resorted to using my poles like crutches. We took a short break at a creek and I tried to stretch it out.

As we started to leave the creek, we heard the hoots of a horned owl. We tried to locate her tree but were unsuccessful.

Back at Poop-out hill we were happy with our decision to call it a day. I don't know if my knees were hurting from not using the foam roller for months or if I jarred my hip on some scree on this hike, but either way it was not fun!

Once we made it to Horse Meadow we knew we were almost done. We planned to have dinner in Palm Springs and then head home to rest. 

It was a good hike, 15 miles and 3,100 feet of elevation gain / loss. It seemed unusually challenging but was a good test run on gear.

1 comment:

  1. I love the pictures of the kitty deciding where to backpack.