The Summit RegisterThe Summit Register exists for the sharing of experiences in the San Gorgonio Wilderness and San Bernardino National Forest. Your favorite spots in the Wilderness, the wildlife you saw, the sublime or transformational experience you had on a mountain top, or just about anything you'd like to share that may be beneficial or inspiring to other wilderness visitors - tell us about it.

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10/15/06 Day hike to the summit of Mt. San Gorgonio from the Vivian Creek Trailhead. This was the first time up San Gorgonio's massive summit for my son and I. We were part of a larger registered group mostly composed of marathon runners who established the overall pace. Despite the pace we were able to capture the spectacular scenery in a collection of 85 photos shown in the link below. The beauty is just too hard to describe in words so we will allow the photos the honor of describing the hike above cloud line into the heavens.

Ed and Jonathan

Growing up as a child in southern California can both be difficult and quit rewarding.

Some of my fondest memories are from the times I spent hiking to the peak of San Gorgonio with my father. We made several trips over my teenage years, and I will never forget the beauty I discovered there.
Besides the sense of accomplishment, those years gave me something I think even more important for a young adolescent...the opportunity to explore God's wilderness in all it's splendor.
I look forward to planning a return trip this spring, with my fiancÚ, and having the opportunity to introduce her to this magical playground. 
Doug Rickenback


10/04/03  Day hike from the Vivian Creek Trailhead to the summit of Mt. San Gorgonio.  This past summer, I had hiked to two other peaks in Southern California--Mt. San Jacinto (from Humber Park) and Mt. San Antonio (from Manker Flats via the Devil's Backbone).  I found this trail to San Gorgonio Mtn. to be the most challenging of the three.  Nevertheless, when I finally made it to the summit, it was an exhilarating experience to reflect that I had climbed over a vertical mile and was standing on the highest point south of the Sierras.  It was a personal achievement for me.  During the final two miles of the trail, I had struggled and made very slow progress in the thin air.  (I think the altitude affected me much more here than during my hike to the top of Mt. San Jacinto, which is about 700 feet shorter.)  This effort was rewarded by a truly beautiful view from the summit.  It was mid afternoon, the skies were partly cloudy, and to the south, the sun was painting the western side of Mt. San Jacinto with streaks of gold.  Big Bear Lake was a silver shimmer to the northwest.  I ate lunch and did a quick art study of the southern view.  Ominous grey clouds started to roll in, so I packed up and headed down.  Unfortunately, it wasn't long before I somehow injured my right knee while navigating between rocks in the trail, and much of my descent was painful hobbling.  Fortunately, I had trekking poles that helped me absorb some of the downward impact with each step.  I saw an outstanding sunset from the mountainside just above the High Creek Camp, but that meant that the rest of the hike had to be done in the dark.  My head lamp saved the day (or night).  It was a day full of struggles, but an awesome day nonetheless, and I'm very glad I stuck with it.
Jeff Toman


6/12/03 Galena Peak via Mill Creek.  My hiking partner and I started up Mill Creek at 4:30pm.  From the parking lot it was hot so we went without shirts until the bugs came out.  We sprayed ourselves at 7ish and the bugs stayed away.  Halfway up the creek we stopped for dinner. We then flashlighted up the creek with the full moon rising behind the ridges - Great night!  We hit a waterfall and then proceeded to take a wrong turn up a long gulley of very loose rock and dirt. Fortunately, we found a bighorn trail that traversed us over closer to where we should have been. After "sliding" down the other gulley we ended up back on the right path. We took a break at some trees below the headwall debating climbing it or waiting. Since we were feeling loose and the weather was clear and the moon was bright we started the climb up the headwall at 11 or 12ish. It was the typical 1 step up 2 steps back, up the steep loose wall. Saw a few scorpions as the ground gave way (about an inch long with tail curved). We made it to the top of the wall after a careful ascent and camped on a patch of soft deep sand.  We were awakened by a herd of bighorn but they disappeared down the steep side before we could get a look. Then we made our way up to Galena on herd paths, pretty straight forward climb. On the way down we ran into some people who were looking for San Gorgonio but went up the creek instead. Other than that, no people, except some dayhikers on the way out. Great trip topped off by a female bighorn with young.  We were relaxing in the creek and they were crossing.  She stayed for awhile keeping an eye on us as the baby fed. I'd say we watched them for about 30 minutes foraging on the hillside. Awesome.
Mike Gavaletz

6/15/2000 one of the greatest trips so far started early am. my buddy using new boots ( what a fool). Left Jenks Lake for Dollar Lake, time we arrived at the cabin, friend has major blisters. change of shoes and back to the trail. arrived at dollar lake about 4:30 pm. dollar lake was stagnant, had to replenish water through the spring that  fills the lake, set up camp, and had a great feast! startled that night by several deer in the camp! the following morning headed toward dry lake view. my friend complaining of blisters, slowing our pace down, consuming most of the water that we had  for the day and night. we arrived early afternoon, he reassured me water was close at hand. he was unable to get to the water because of the addition of  blisters added to the family. we found some snow and begin the slow process of melting snow!! having melted the snow, having dinner, we called it a night, and for a full  moon night there were still a lot of stars. did i say my friend had blisters? we had breakfast, broke camp, and  headed for the summit. another beautiful day. the trail was fast and easy going. we  summited at about 3:30 that afternoon, set up camp in one of the rock wind breakers. there were three things that made this one of the greatest days of my life getting to the summit, seeing the sun set and the sunrise at the same time.  (the sun set) what a sight, greyback cast a perfect shadow of a pyramid on the  valley and mountains below, turning 44 years old on the highest point in so cal, life on a mountain is grand. the following day we began our decent to lodgepole. we had to cross a snow field on the south side of the summit, too cool. on the way down we came across an old crash site of a plane. long switch backs, but a nice trail over all. lodgepole's a nice site after the summit no wind.  because of the collection of blisters my friend had, we ended our trip early. unknown to me, he had three warm beers for us, in the truck to celebrate our safe and beautiful adventure.

I was out of shape, fat, 50 years old, and testing my athleticism, on June 22nd, 1999. My son-in-law (Matt), and I were going to go on a future backpack trip, and we wanted to see just how good of shape we were in to do this future backpack trip by attempting San Gorgonio Peak in one day, along with my daughter (Amy). Nice thought, if you are in shape. We were on the trail at 7:00 AM. I was huffing and puffing at 7:05 AM. Needless to say it took us (me) a whole lot longer to make it up the trail than it should have. It was about 3:30 PM by the time we could see the summit. It was at this time that I told Matt that we should start heading back, as we did not have a single flashlight between the three of us, nor did we have any overnight gear, but Matt, being frustrated at seeing the peak and not being able to make the summit was getting frustrated. So, we kept on going.  We finally got to the peak at 4:45 PM, and at this point I was so wasted I could barely remember my name. We stayed on the peak for about 45 minutes, as my daughter read the notes that were in the cache box. I asked her if there was anything interesting on the notebook, and she showed my one entry that said, "Yeah, I finally made it to the top! Thank you, Lord. Oh, and please tell my Mom I said hi." It was at this point that I started to get choked up and cried. This not like me. What's this???? My daughter asked me if I was okay, and I said, "Yeah, I'll be okay."

Well, we started back down the mountain, and after 3 miles it was pitch black. We couldn't even see the trail. We lost the trail twice, and had to retrace our steps to find it. After Amy and Matt crossed a dry creek bed on a log, I gave it a go. I missed the log and fell on my back, hitting soft dirt. It knocked the wind out of me, but I was okay after a good rest. When we finally got to the "Half-way camp" with a mile to go, when we saw some campers have a grand old time, and one heck of a bonfire. We told them our plight and asked if could borrow a flashlight, and they gave us two. They gave us direction to where their car was so we could return their flashlights to them. We thanked them and trudged on. This was the worst day of my overweight life. I didn't think this day would ever end. It finally 10:30 PM. Before we started driving home, I needed to call my wife to let her know that we were all okay. Matt went to the nearest cabin, and asked them if we could use their phone. They were very understanding and let him make the call. My wife was sweating bullets, and about to call the park service when the phone rang. She was soooo relieved, couldn't wait to see us. We made it home around 12:00 AM and had a great dinner that she had planned on surprising us with.......her famous "hot burritos." What a way to end a beautiful, but exhausting hike.

Now, Matt and I are going to backpack San Gorgonio Mountain this year (July, 2003). I am 23 pounds lighter, and in shape, and I can't wait.
Steve Ripka

Max Hazard, Mike Alberg, and I (Mark Lund) sat down last winter and wrote down some goals that we would like to accomplish over the course of the next few years. Hiking to the top of San Gorgonio was one of them. As we are 50+ school teachers we knew we weren't in shape to do this. We spent the last six months hiking in our Joshua Tree neighborhood. There are some serious mountains behind Max's house. We hiked and hiked, 2 or 3 days a week. We settled on June 7 & 8 for our journey. We got all the hiking paraphernalia that we didn't already have. We got the food and water we figured we would need. We knew that weight would be a serious consideration. We looked at the maps, we drove to the South Fork Trailhead to make sure we knew where we were starting, and we got the necessary permits. We got to the trailhead at about 5:00am and started our journey. The thin air was expected, but not to the extent that we felt it. On and on we hiked. We chose to go to the top by way of Dollar Lake Saddle and Dry Lake View. The level of difficulty we experienced was unexpected. We knew it would be tough, but not this tough. The snow drifts were also unexpected. We got to Dry Lake View and set up our camp there. Max and I decided to go to the summit. Mike was experiencing some difficulty due to the altitude. Even though we had our maps, the distance to the summit was much longer than we expected. We thought that we would be fairly close after we rounded the trail we could see from our campsite. An hour or so down the trail we ran into a group coming down and they told us that we still had more than a mile to go. We figured that since we had come that far that it would be ridiculous not to continue. At 5:05 we reached the summit. There were people up there and we had them take our pictures. With the binoculars we had we could see our neighborhood. It was a wonderful moment. After we returned to the parking area on June 8th, we decided  that had we known how tough it was we may not have done it. Having done it, though, we are glad we accomplished this very difficult and beautiful goal.
Mark Lund

First Mountain Climb- 3/22/03  Started at the parking lot at 3:30 pm Friday the 21st. Spent the night at Halfway camp. Proceeded up the mountain at 6 am 3/22/03. Wow, this is harder than I thought. Made it to high creek by 8:30 am . Saw my first look at the summit about an hour later. Cant believe we will be there before dark. After the hardest hike in my life we made it to the summit by 1:30. Its a clear beautiful day. Light winds at the top and not a cloud in sight. Strolled over to the north edge to look down at all those steep chutes I dream about when I'm working at snow summit (ski patrol). Wow the north side is REALLY steep. We don't plan on going down that side anyway. At 2:00pm we strap on our snowboards for our decent. It takes us about twenty minutes to ride down what it took to hike up in three hours. We are flying down the hill now, and will soon be at high creek. The snow was about 4 to 6 feet deep and no tracks for miles. We are a little late so in the exposed sun some spots are a little sticky but this sure beats walking. I guess lugging all this weight up the hill was worth it. Back at high creek at 3:30. Filled water bottles at creek without filters or boiling (no choice, dirty water is better than no water). Proceeded down the hill on foot to half camp, arrive at 5:45. Its getting dark and we still have to pack up the tent and get back to the truck. Start the final decent at 6:00 and return ,exhausted, to the truck. What a work out, I enjoyed and I'm happy I got to the top. Thanks Andrew.
Ray Ellis

02-16-03 / San Gorgonio Peak Solo Climb

 I had just completed my other three climbs (Santiago, San Jacinto, and Mt San Antonio) and had been eagerly anticipating climbing San Gorgonio. With over 16 miles and 5,700 feet of elevation gain…it is the most formidable of the 4. But I was not just going to hike it…I was going to go for a solo winter climb.

It had just stormed for the entire week prior to my climb and I kept an eye on the weather to insure that it would be doable by the weekend. 

I created my maps and read as much as I could about the trail itself. Unfortunately for me I couldn't find too many Gorgonio winter trip reports on the net…and the ones that I did read showed people turning back due to foul weather. 

I decided that if I didn’t feel good about any section of the climb I would turn back. I also gave myself a 12:30 turnaround time. I didn’t want to have to try and navigate any of the steeper snow slopes or the lower sections of the trail in the dark. 

I got a late start due to the fact that I missed the ranger’s station on my way in and I needed to pick up a permit. So I had to go back and get that taken care of. I didn’t get started until 6:35…almost an hour and a half after my desired start time. 

I got my gear ready and started up the paved trail which soon turned into dirt which soon brought me to the Mill Creek crossing. There was little more than a trickle going through the creek bed.

With a hop, skip, and a few jumps I was on the other side ready to start up the “grueling” 1000’ in a mile section of the trail. It seemed like no time at all before I was at Vivian Creek. I took some pictures, checked my altimeter and map, and headed up the trail to Half-way Camp at 8100’.

The hiking was fairly uneventful save for the scenery and running into a few snow/ ice patches along the way.

At about 8700’ I donned my snowshoes and made my way up to High Camp at 9200’.

The area is beautiful and soon I was faced with a decision…do I try switch-backing my way up the side of the mountain to the 10,000’ ridge or do I follow the steep gully that’s in front of me? Well, it’s my adventure so I started up the gully. Steep indeed. I followed the techniques that I had read about in books and seen in videos. Plunge the poles into the snow and ice…then step aggressively up with one foot then do the same with the other. Always having three points of contact and not making any moves until at least three points were secure. (I looked back and saw another team of two strapping on crampons to follow suit.) I repeated this up the gully to 10,120’. If my legs had been able…they would have kicked me in the butt for this. Little did they know that I had a whole new level of punishment awaiting them.

Ahead of me I saw a pair of climbers…I was quickly gaining on them and they let me pass. They would not see the summit today even though they left about 2 hours before I did. I was traveling light and moving as quickly as I could.

Soon my biggest goal was to get out from underneath all of the trees…they were dropping huge chunks of ice down onto me. The last thing I wanted to have happen was to have to turn back due to being conked on the head by an overly-aggressive tree.

It wasn’t long before I was above tree line and though I was away from falling ice…now I had to deal with incredible winds and bone-chilling cold. Not to mention the long traverse ahead on a 40-50 degree slope. I was nearing 11,000’.

There were no trees save for the ones below me…looking up as to beg me to slip and slide over 1000’ through snow and ice into their clutches.  I was not at ease. I kicked steps as I went along. My adrenaline was pumping so I didn’t feel like it was much of a struggle. Just a slow process. 

I looked at my watch…it was nearing 12:00. I had 30 minutes and a lot of ground to cover to make it to the summit. I altered my turn-around time to 1:00. 

I slowly made my way to the gully that leads up to the summit. By now everything was mostly hard ice. Working my way up to the summit I followed the same process as I had for the gully earlier. My mantra had become “Plunge the poles into the snow and ice…then step aggressively up with one foot then do the same with the other. Always having three points of contact and not making any moves until at least three points are secure.”

Next thing I know…I’m on the summit! 

It was incredibly cold and windy. I took a quick video. Then I looked down and saw the team of two, that were strapping on their crampons at the gully, coming across the traverse.

I headed back down and met them just as they finished the traverse. One guy thanked me for breaking trail and congratulated me with a “good work man”. I worked my way back across the traverse. But by this time with three pair of feet walking across,  the ice had become loose...too loose for my comfort so I headed uphill a little ways. It was a long ways down on a steep slope and I didn’t want to make any mistakes. 

I got back to the other side and at about 10’200’ I found a lone crampon. I picked it up figuring that it was probably one of the guy’s that I had passed earlier and perhaps that was why they did not try to cross. 

I did a lot of glissading back down towards the top of the gully. I started to glissade again…picking up too much speed I rolled over onto my left elbow and dug into the snow and ice…but I wasn’t slowing…so I took my right trekking pole and dug it into the ice…this slowed me down and I was finally able to stop but not before bending the lower section of the pole. Oh well, I thought, better it than me.

I caught up with the two climbers at about 8700’ and asked if they had lost a crampon…the guy nearest me regretfully said that he had. I turned my back to him as I had strapped onto the back of my pack and told him to take it. He was delighted and offered to send me money. I declined, took off my snowshoes, and made my way down the trail.

The rest of the downhill was pretty much a reflection of the morning. Looking back up the slopes to the ice covered trees…knowing that I had been there and above. I was happy.


25-27 July 2002
San Bernardino Peak Trail
Call it a pilgrimage. For the first time in more than 10 years I backpacked --albeit briefly -- in the San Gorgonio Wilderness. I wasn't disappointed.
In an earlier post, I've detailed my reasons for adoring that pocket of backcountry. Suffice it to say that I first experienced the joy of hiking and living self-reliantly on the trail while a teen-ager wandering the wilderness area with my Boy Scout troop. Later, as a college student and young urban professional the SGW was a quick escape when I needed the tonic of the outdoors.

It's drier up high than any time I can remember. (There's not a drop of water at the spring on Limber Pine Bench.) I recall times when a steady stream flowed through the south part of the camping area and patchy snow was still on the ground even late in summer. Not this drought-stricken year! Because of a mid-week itinerary, I hoped for solitude. I wasn't disappointed. I ran into one other hiker while ascending. He camped in John's Meadow, I kept climbing the hill. The rest of the time I had the whole mountain to myself. Maybe the low-water situation discouraged other hikers. I packed in 7 liters of water, knowing that it was a hot day. That was more than enough H20 for a two-day round-trip.
The weather was glorious, the views at night from Limber Pine Bench and in the morning from San Bernardino Peak were magnificent. Not much has changed -- the smog in the valley and the stacked-stone shelters at the campsite were where I last left them. But I am impressed with the cleanliness of the trail and camp (a testament to the good manners of my fellow hikers) and the excellent condition of the trails (maybe that Adventure Pass revenue is doing some good.) My only regret is I did not have more time. This trip was squeezed in while I traveled on business -- I hope work takes me back to California sometime soon!  

Paul R. Huard
White City, OR


August 11-12, 2001

My girlfriend and I went up to Fish Creek Saddle this weekend in hope of catching a view of the Perseid meteor shower.  Too bad the moon was too bright  and the humidity in the air seemed to cause a lot of light refraction.  Of the many people at the saddle Saturday night, I only heard reports of seeing about 3 or 4 meteors.

However, we did get visited by deer a few times.  The first one came walking around the camp around 6pm or so and pretty much just walked around everybody checking things out.  When I pulled my camera out to snap a shot, she was about 15-20 feet away, I expected her to bolt when she heard the lens opening as they often do.  However, as she heard the camera she turned and posed, almost the type of pose you would see on a hunting magazine cover.  Amazing.  She stood there and I got a few hopefully they come out. 

One of our camp neighbors said she woke up in the middle of the night to some sound outside the tent and checked it out.  Said she saw some deer wandering about so got out to sit and watch.  She said that one came right into the area she was sitting and sniffed around where they had been cooking she talked to the deer for a bit before it left.  It was rather cool to listen to someone who could still be so curious and amazed at something simple like that. 

We met a lot of interesting people along the trail, including the infamous ranger Teddy who camps out at the Saddle every weekend.

Before we got to the saddle, we ran into a guy who had met her earlier in the day.  When we asked if she was actually at the saddle, he told us "Yeah, and she's TWO HUNDRED AND TEN YEARS OLD...and rescuing boy scouts off the mountain three at a time, two regular people at a time."  We laughed.  He admitted he was embellishing a tad.  :-)

Once we got to the saddle, I met Teddy and had to relay the story to her as it was so humorous (and if she really is 210 years old, she's looking really good for it).  What a cool person to meet up there.  I figure I'll stop by to say "hi" anytime I happen to be in that part of the wilderness.  

We did pack our water in, however it was available at Fish Creek Meadows and the trail crossing above Fish Creek trailcamp.  

The only problem was when we got back to the trailhead and found that somebody had made the effort to throw dirt all over my truck.  As far as I am sucks to come off the trail to find a bunch of dirt and gravel all over your truck.  

Overall, it was a great hike.  A lot of friendly people out there this past weekend.


This summer was great, as a volunteer ranger I was able to summit San Gorgonio four times, and every time was just as good as the first. I would like to agree with Phil R. about what a great sight it is when the sun sets and throws a huge shadow in the form of a pyramid over the desert from the big GoGo. But just as beautiful is a sunrise from Limber Pine Bench as the shadow falls across the city.      James Schofer

July 23-25, a good friend (Ruben Murcia) and I set off for the first backpacking trip either of us has taken in the San Gorgonio Wilderness.  Both of us are from Escondido/San Pasqual Valley in Northern San Diego County. We went through a fair amount of planning, reading and preparation prior to our trip.  This was possible, in part, by the extra time given to us by our preoccupied wives who are happily involved in a quilting class together. Neither would join us on the trip.

Sunday, 23 July, 2000
We arrive at the South Fork Trailhead at around 0930 Our packs finally packed with everything we want for two nights on the trail we head up to Dry Lake.  About a mile into the trail we refill the quart of water (started  off with 7 quarts each) we've already consumed from our supply at the historic lodge at Horse Meadows where we met some of the volunteers.  Had a most pleasant conversation with Tony Raphael, an SGVA volunteer.  He told us a bit about the volunteer program.  And a lot of good info!!  We get to Dry Lake at around 1500.  Slow going!  After setting up camp, we're able to look around.  Checked out Lodgepole Springs.  The Creek comes out of the ground for a short ways, providing the Western Toads a nice little habitat.  The scenery is indescribable.  The sunset and sunrise - highlighting the surrounding peaks is nothing less than majestic.  It's warmer than we anticipated.  Could have saved weight on clothing - but you never know!!  Note to self: shoud've brought a pump/filter for water!

Monday, 24 July, 2000
0615   Food is O.K.  we Bear-Bagged it.  Saw no bears though.  Didn't hear'em either.  We did see some California Deer grazing on grass in Dry Lake.  Takes me awhile to re-pack my pack.  Ruben, who's taken a class in Backpacking, seems to have it all together - way before me!  I might also mention he is an Ecologist and is a Biology Professor at our local JC.  We head up the trail towards Mineshaft saddle around 0830.  The sun's a killer - Already!!  I'm starting to get concerned about water.  We make it to Sky High trail and the switchbacks on the eastern slope of Grayback.  Back and forth, higher and higher and we pause at the wreckage of the Military DC-3.  A few more switchbacks and the view is incredible.   The San Jacinto's peak out from the south.  Baldy is visible from the west and the southern Sierra's to the north.  We make it to the peak at 1300 and have lunch.  A couple of Glider Planes are climbing through the updrafts and soon are circling the 20 or so people gathered on the peak.  Looks like great fun!  The sun is awfully hot though. Should  have put on sunscreen.  We continue our course back to the peaks trail and westward towards the Dollar Lake Saddle.  By the time we get there, we're out of water.  We're dry, hot and very, very thirsty.  We trudge on, climbing the 500 or so feet in elevation back up towards our second campsite - High Meadow Springs - without water.  When we finally arrive, around 1900, our eyes are peeled for the source of water.  We both drop our packs, run down to the spring and fill our canteens and drink about a quart and a half each. Drank straight from the spring.  It was running well and we figured it was safe.  It was.  Suppertime fills our tummies with hot soup and we rest.  Shoulders - specifically my trapezias muscles ache.  Note to self:  Bring sunscreen and more water next time!!  also, a pump/filter.

Tuesday, 25 July, 2000
We wake and ready ourselves for a much anticipated return home.  Repacking the backpack has now become easier and we're off before 0800.  Back to Dollar Lake Saddle we go and down the hill we went!  Didn't see a Soul!! Except one man doing his "Henry David Thoreau" thing just south of the South Fork Trail split for Dry and Dollar Lakes.  We practically run through the Poopout Hill area and past the historic lodges.  Nobody is here on Tuesdays!!  We make the 8.1 miles from High Meadow to the Trailhead and car in just 3 hours.  Car is packed and we head down through Angeles Oaks and stop for a hearty lunch of Burgers and Fries and, Oh Yes, Big, Big drinks of soda.  Note to self:  Let's do this again!  Except perhaps pack a little lighter, carry more water, a pump/filter and sunscreen!  

Note For Hams
I carried both a cell phone and a 2 meter ht Ham Radio.  Along the way, 2m repeater access is spotty in the valleys with Keller Peak the most available if you can bear the traffic (or should I say   the sort of traffic?)  From the Peak, however, the access to repeaters is almost universal!!!  All of San Diego's, Riverside's and San Bernardino's, LA and Orange, too!  I wasn't able to raise Disney, though.  Had I spent more time, I could've gotten the repeater calls from the lower Sierra's.  Could have sworn I heard someone in Bakersfield too.

I'd like to thank the SGVA for providing such good information on the website.  It has pretty much everything a backpacker needs to prepare for a journey through the San Gorgonio Wilderness.  Without it,  the trip would have been a bit more tedious to prepare for.  The Photo Gallery is a very nice touch.  I now recognize a lot of the scenes.  Excellent work!  Excellent program! 

Bill Hamer, KE6LSX
Escondido, CA

adore the San Gorgonio Wilderness and hiked many of its trails as a Boy Scout and young man seeking alpine adventures. As late as the 1990s (before I moved to Oregon) my favorite quick trek was an overnight stay at Limber Pine Bench, followed by a hike up the rest of  1W07 to Mount San Bernardino peak. Almost all of my trips were solo outings, which allowed me to drink in the quiet beauties of the ridges, trees and meadows. One particularly vivid memory I have comes from a trip in 1985: I bivvied for the night at the Bench, where I sipped tea and watched clouds and haze flow like a tide through the San Bernardino Valley as the sun set. Smog is ugly, but it makes beautiful sunsets up high. The mountain behind me looked as if it was gilded, and the western sky turned a vivid orange and purple as the sun dropped below the horizon. I sure miss that mountain. My family and I will travel through Southern California this summer while on our way to Mexico and I'm already planning a return trek. See you there!
Paul R. Huard
Medford, Ore.

Thought I'd relay some information on a five-day backpacking trip through the San Gorgonio Wilderness.
My itinerary was this, hike to Whitewater River via the Kitching Peak Trail, explore the Middle and North Forks of the Whitewater River, and then exit South via the Pacific Crest Trail. This hike took place on the dates 5/17-5/22.

After reading the information on this website concerning that Kitching Peak Trail was restricted, I contacted the Mill Creek Ranger Station about obtaining a permit. They informed me that they had lost contact with their liaison with the Indian reservation and that I could proceed with my hike without a permit,(to gain access to the Kitching Peak Trail, you have to cross a reservation). Feeling somewhat daunted, I filled out an application anyway for a permit, a month and a half in advance. I never did receive one. Thus began my hike.

This area, as I was to learn from the Ranger I had spoken to, was extremely isolated, and supposedly very few people ever  venture there. As I was informed, the trail hadn't been maintained for seven or eight years. I found this to be true on the first day out.

There is a saddle on the trail in which one can hike to Kitching Peak or down to Whitewater, and the trail to Whitewater started out fine but slowly deteriorated. Knowing where I needed to go, I found my way down, even though the trail had completely disappeared. This section through a canyon which intersected the Whitewater River canyon was the most hellish hiking experience I ever had. I was reminded of an old classic movie entitled "The Naked jungle", in which Charlton Heston was besieged by miles of Army Ants. Though not as dramatic, the sun was setting, I was exhausted, and I wanted to get to the river. I finally arrived at Stills Landing. 

The next day, after breakfast, I was eager to hike up towards Middle Fork and beyond. Lazily contemplating my trek, I noticed something moving rapidly towards me. I froze when a huge brown bear [Ed: Black bears (Ursus americanus) may vary in color. There are no true brown bears (Ursus arctos) in California] was jogging up its path right towards me. Being only about thirty yards away, my heart stopped and my adrenaline shot through the roof. The bear did not notice me at all, so I shouted out at him, "hey!". It stopped dead in its tracks and stared right at me, I could see the glint in his eyes. I noticed it was so brown, the fur at its edges seemed to glint red. After about three seconds, it turned around and took off running through the brush like a scared puppy dog. It was quite an experience and I'll never forget it.

I encountered the same bear (I believe) two more times, the next two consecutive days. On each occasion, I shouted out before he got too close and he ran off just like the first time. I never did venture north up the river anymore, and exited on the Pacific Crest Trail because I was somewhat  worried about meeting up with that bear again.

It was a great hike and I hope someone can benefit  from my experience. If anyone needs any info. about the area in which I went to, you can e-mail me anytime.                                 



At about 6:00a.m. on Saturday May 25, my fellow packers and I had a once in a life time meeting with a large black bear.  We were just about to get out of my car and put our packs on when my friend saw something moving around in the trees near our car.  Within a few seconds a huge black bear came rustling out of the forest and walked within 10 feet of the passenger side of my car.   As it passed the bear stopped and stared at us.  We were frozen, partly by fear, but mostly because we were amazed to be that close to such a large bear.  The first thing that flashed through my mind was a story that I had read about bears in Yosemite tearing through the roofs of cars in search of food.  Before we could do anything the bear was gone.  This was just the beginning of a great trip.  We summited the mountain later that day and were greeted by the most beautiful moon that I have ever seen.  We are planning another trip very soon, and with any luck we might have a chance to see our friend from the parking lot again.

Christian Eggert

My wife and I took our first trip to the wilderness on August 15-16, 1998 and we loved it!  San Gorgonio is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. The only bad point of this whole experience was that it was way too short.

We went up South Fork Trail to Dry Lake and camped at Lodgepole Springs. That evening we had 3 mule deer come with in 100 feet of where we were eating dinner as they went to the spring for water. They seemed very inquisitive, as they would look at us and come a little closer every few minutes until they eventually wandered away.

The next morning we got quite a wake up call, as an earthquake shook the mountain at 6:30 in the morning! We have not lived in California long; it was the first earthquake for both of us.  As we ate breakfast, we joked about how we might not have a home to go home to anymore, not realizing that we were practically at the epicenter!

As we broke down our camp, we had two more deer visit us. They stayed further away than the ones the night before, but they still came fairly close to us.  After spending a little while longer at the lake, we finally headed down.

Eric Van Horn

In May of 1989 I took my family of six on their first backpacking trip. At the time the children ranged from 5 to 12 years of age, 3 sons and 1 daughter.  We entered the Wilderness from the Vivian Creek trail, which was a poor choice for my wife and childrens first backpacking experience. Going up the trail my wife and I felt like mother hens guarding their chicks, just knowing that at any minute one of our children would tumble down the mountain side. Needless to say it was a struggle for them but they made it to Vivian camp in decent shape. Watching my childrens faces as we explored the areas beauty reminded me of why I backpack.

That evening as we finished our dinner, a mule deer came within 30 yards of our camp and observed us for a while before wandering off. My wife felt that seeing the deer was worth the price of admission (that steep haul to Vivian). I didn't say a word, I just put my arm around her and enjoyed the moment.

Ken Hall


Our family has a cabin at Barton Flats, and thus we get to the mountains often. My favorite sleeping spot is High Meadow Spring. I remember one night awaking to the sound of a cracking twig and opened my eyes and looked up to see several deer grazing around me. Believe me, looking up at one from ground level a deer is really TALL. But what a great sight. My first time over San G. was 52 years ago.

Fred Edwards

It was on my second visit to the wilderness as a volunteer. Alice was with me on her second trip as a volunteer. We were camped at Jackstraw way down by where it drops off into the valley. There was just a bit of light in the sky to the east. I heard a noise and poked my head out of the sleeping bag. Alice, I noticed, was half out of hers and looking towards the east. Six doe, one buck, and two fawns all around us. The fawns were playing tag, and gave us no quarter in their game. They all moved on and she said she had heard a rustling sound before light broke the sky.

Jim Fuller

During the Summer of my fifth volunteer season, I was assigned to Trail Fork Springs. My partner had a family emergency, so I started out on Friday night instead of Saturday morning. I set my camp at Jackstraw Camp, and after a brief summer storm, strolled out to a rocky ledge overlooking the Santa Ana River Valley. The Sun was setting into a storm cloud off to the west, when I noticed a solitary Clark's Nutcracker perched on an old snag (dead tree) not more than twenty feet away, facing the sun. Within minutes, the snag had become a gathering place for some twenty four Nutcrackers, but the amazing thing was that they were not their usually noisy selves, but all sat watching the sun. Then the sun started to disappear into the anvil shaped cloud, and the Nutcrackers started off with a few scattered calls. The calls became more urgent with the diminishing sun, until it was ear-splitting, uncontrolled, almost panic stricken, until the sun set, and then like someone cut the wire, absolute quiet. Within a few minutes they started to fly away, one or two at a time, until the tree was empty. I returned to my camp to record the experience.

Jim Fuller

It was day two of my son's and my stay at Mineshaft Flats. After dayhiking up to the top of San G. we were sitting on a rock, enjoying a cup of hot chocolate. The view down the canyon to the desert as the sun set was great. My son glanced up at the top of the ridge to the left of us and poked me in the ribs with his elbow. Standing on top of the ridge were two Big Horn sheep. One was grazing around a bush while the other was turned facing down the ridge as if he was standing guard. We watched them for about fifteen minutes before they left. What a beautiful sight.

Dave Knapp

My son, Sam, and I were hiking to the Summit of San Gorgonio. I had seen some bighorn sheep a year earlier in the trees down near the Tarn and decided to walk down to the Tarn to see if we could see some more. We walked on to the Tarn near the west end and were about mid way across it when two ewe bighorn sheep went scrambling across the Tarn just west of us. They stopped and stared at us, about 30 yards away. Fortunately, I had my 300mm lens on my camera which was hanging around my neck and I was able to get a picture of them before they bolted. I got several more pictures of them running and another as they paused to look back at us as they ran up the hill on the south end of the Tarn. We now have some great pictures of bighorn sheep and some wonderful memories.

Bob and Sam Cannon

My first attempt at Greyback was at age 11 1/2 (August 15th or 16th 1966) from Poop-out Hill. We went up to a place called Slushy Meadows and then onto Dollar Lake. Dollar was as far as we got because the lure of the cool water was too much for a dozen little girls and we out-voted our counselors who gave in easily because it was so hot. We spent the rest of the day swimming and playing on floating logs in the lake. I have wonderful old black and white pictures of that day!

Linda Bromwell-Winter

The San Gorgonio Wilderness has a special place in my heart. It was the site of my first ever backpack (Dry Lake) which has become a life long passion of mine. When I was a child, I found peace in this wilderness at a time when I was not welcome at home. It is a place that helped bring stability into a life that had none. I spent many unforgettable summer camp adventures during my Boy Scout age at the rim of this wilderness always looking at the mountain with awe. It was the place were my then future wife spent our first of many backpacks together (Slushy Meadows). She proposed to me years later at Dry Lake after a bear visited our tent in the middle of the night. We have been married 14 years now and have re-visited this area many times. Some day I would like to bring my son (who loves to camp) here to let him know where a large piece of his father comes from.
Kevin Finney

The Summit Register' graphic generously provided by Hollan Holmes and Redpoint Graphics.