My 13 month old son bagged his first peak today :) With Mommy's help, of course! We hiked with my friend Sonya up to Zanja Peak, the highest in the Crafton Hills.
The Crafton Hills are an island of low hills tucked between Mentone and Yucaipa, CA. This is a great place to hike this time of year when the higher mountains in the San Bernardino Range are still snow-covered. The hills do occasionally get snow themselves, but more often than not are snow-free. In the springtime after Southern California has gotten a few good winter rains the Crafton Hills turn a brilliant shade of green and wildflowers are abundant. We timed our hike perfectly as we saw many flowers in bloom including: ceanothus, California lilac, California peony, Canterbury Bells, popcorn flower, fiddleneck, red maids, blue-eyed grass, blue dicks, baby blue eyes, bush poppy, black sage, vetch, and wild cucumber - along with a few as-of-yet-unidentified flowers.
We wound our way through oak-filled canyons and high along chaparral-covered ridgelines en route to Zanja Peak, elevation 3,546'. We saw a couple of cottontails, dozens of lizards, two Red Tailed Hawks, ravens, and scrub jays. The views of the higher still snow-covered peaks including San Bernardino, San Gorgonio, Mt. Baldy and San Jacinto were incredible! We spent some time atop the peak enjoying the scenery, stacking rocks on the summit marker, learning how to use a hiking pole, changing a diaper, and having a snack.
All of the surrounding peaks and the Crafton Hills themselves owe their existence to fault lines. The Hills were created by about ten active normal dip-slip faults collectively called the Crafton Hills fault zone or the Crafton Hills Horst-and-Graben Complex which stretches between the San Jacinto fault and the San Andreas Fault. When you look to the north from the northern side of the hills you can see where the San Andreas cuts a line between the hills and the San Bernardino Mountains and then follow the line southeast out towards Oak Glen or northwest out towards Highland and Cajon Pass.
The Crafton Hills were named after Crafts Ranch which was established in the area around 1861 by George Crafts. Today the Crafton Hills Open Space Conservancy (CHOSC) strives to protect in perpetuity the natural environment of the area for its significant watershed, ecological and aesthetic values, and other benefits to the public interest. Since 1992, CHOSC has preserved more than two thirds of the 4500 acres.
The hills are not only popular with hikers, but also equestrians and mountain bikers. Fortunately during the week you can pretty much have them to yourself :) We only saw two hikers (who turned out to be two of my coworkers!) and a mountain biker near the trailhead.
I've uploaded a few pics - but the rest are here: