The Plan: 4/9's of the Crest
On a day where Southern California temperatures would steam and bake the San Bernardino Valley, our group of 7 hardy hikers motored up Highway 38 to the Forsee Creek Trailhead in the San Bernardino Mountains to hike to the San Bernardino crest to see what we could see. Actually, our objective was to do 4 ten thousand foot peaks: Shields Peak (10,680 ft.), Anderson Peak (10,840 ft.), San Bernardino East Peak (10,681 ft.) and San Bernardino Peak (10,649 ft.).
The San Bernardino crest/ridge’s array of 10,000 ft. peaks begins at its western end with San Bernardino Peak and is anchored at its eastern end about 5 miles away by the highest peak in Southern California, Mt. San Gorgonio (11,499 ft.). In between these two “book-ends” are 7 other peaks in excess of 10,000 ft. Thus, if you care to, you can do 9 ten thousand footers in one day. Today, we came mentally prepared to be satisfied with four and we got that accomplished.
As we ascended the Forsee Creek Trail going south towards the crest, the temperatures naturally got milder and milder. We enjoyed an average temp of about 70 degrees F. once above the trailhead. The Forsee Creek Trail runs into the San Bernardino Peak Divide Trail between San Bernardino East Peak and Anderson Peak. We took a left (east) at the Divide Trail to do the easternmost peak on our list first, Shields Peak.
Talus Summits, Grand Views and New Peak Registers
Big Bear Lake (about middle of photo) seen from Shields Peak Mt. San Gorgonio (middle with snow patch) in distance
For better or for worse, the summit of Shields is a pile of large undistinguished talus. But the views were grand. You could see Big Bear Lake to the north as a big spread of blue sitting on a terrace between mountain faces above and below it. Mt. San Gorgonio was to the southeast, still wearing a big splotch of snow near its summit. To the west was Mt. Baldy in the San Gabriel Range. Towards Palm Springs, Mt. San Jacinto was looking rather large in the hazy distance.
After Shields, we got back on the Divide Trail and went west to Anderson Peak. At 10,840 feet, Anderson is the third highest peak in Southern California. Further west about a mile or so was San Bernardino East Peak. From the East Peak summit, Mill Creek Canyon could be seen to the south snaking its way up to the intriguingly named “Mill Creek Jump-Off.” Galena Peak, south of the Jump-Off, is just under 10,000 feet and is the primo peak of several that sit atop what is known as the Yucaipa Ridge. We capped things off with San Bernardino Peak. All the peaks had magnificent views. One other thing they all had in common was relatively new peak registers solidly encased in green ammo boxes. The registers were identical with covers sporting a very decorative design; a woman’s touch I thought to myself, but I’m told that the Boy Scouts placed all the registers.
Far from D.C., We Encounter the Washington Monument
Instead of retracing our steps to get back to the Forsee Creek Trail we decided to continue west on the Divide Trail and go through Johns Meadow to get home. At a point where the trail turns north towards Lumber Pine Springs, you will encounter, believe it or not, the Washington Monument. It is actually a survey point at 10,290 feet erected in 1852. It was intended to serve as an east-west reference from which all future Southern California surveys would be taken.
The Elysian Fields
The route to Johns Meadow was delicious, visually speaking. A number of trail camps along the way offered spring water and good camping spots for backpackers. We skirted Johns Meadow and then went across Forsee Creek. The area surrounding our crossing point was brilliant with lush bright green foliage, including lots of fern, and other colorful wildflowers. I’m certain that this is the sort of setting where the nymphs and satyrs of Greek mythology frolicked and where Bacchus held his wine parties. Truly, the Elysian Fields and we were there.
Our trek, a little under 9 hours, had taken about 21 miles of wear off of our lug soles with about 5,000 feet of gain.
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