Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Hike 2013.036 -- Momyer and Alger Creek Trails, San Bernardino National Forest

Hiked Saturday, June 22. 10.6 miles.

Figured on hiking in the San Bernardino Mountains this day, but wasn't sure where. Kinda wanted to go up Vivian Creek again, figuring the creek would be shaded and scenic at this time of the year. However, the visitor center at the mouth of Mill Creek answered the question of where to hike quite succinctly: By the time I got there, the only wilderness permit opening left was for Momyer-Alger Creek trailhead. So that's where I went.
This trailhead is just past the town of Forest Falls. You need an Adventure Pass to park there.

No real plan for my hike. As I noted earlier, I hadn't even planned on hiking out of this trailhead. But I did have a San Bernardino National Forest Recreation map, which I bought a few years ago, during a previous visit to the Mill Creek visitor center. The map is labeled as from "Fine Edge Nautical & Recreational Publishing." I note this, not to praise the map, but to bury it. More on that later.
This map was a large-scale map, with the whole forest on a large sheet of paper. Trails had little detail and few landmarks labeled along the way. But it did show a stream crossing, not too far down the way.
In fact, as I looked at the map more closely, it showed a possible loop I could make: After crossing Alger Creek, I should be able to link up with another trail that would head back down to Mill Creek. I'd have to walk a mile or so along the highway at the end, but it would keep me from having to backtrack.
So that was the plan as I crossed Mill Creek. The creek bed here is white sand and large boulders, and not a lot of water. At least that's how it looked on the day I hiked. On the other side of the creekbed was a sign, informing me that the wilderness boundary was three miles away.
The trail begins a good climb as soon as you get into the forest. The forest, by the way, is surprisingly thick. Areas of pine and areas of live oak. Higher up are some other varieties of oak. Some yucca, too. And, before long, you've got a nice view over Mill Creek, with the mountains rising high across the way.
I eventually passed a junction for San Bernardino Peak. One day soon, if I have all day, I may try to conquer that peak. Unlike San Gorgonio, it seems to be a doable day hike for me.

No other signage along the trail until I reached Momyer Camp, which was just before the Momyer Creek crossing.
At Momyer, I found plenty of columbine, again. It's funny that I had started to miss this flower. But, after my Icehouse Canyon hike of a few weeks back, I've managed to meet my old friend on a surprising number of hikes.
I also came across some pretty, puffy, pale purple flowers, just like I had seen near the end of my Mt. San Jacinto Hike, from three (!) years ago.
Shortly after passing those flowers, I reached a junction that was NOT on my map. Then I started to panic, because I knew I was losing light. The plan was to do a loop back down to Mill Creek. But I was rapidly reaching the point of no return: If I didn't turn around soon, and still failed to find the trail looping back, then I'd end up walking back in the dark. So I turned around.
Good thing I did. When I got back home and looked at my Tom Harrison map of the San Gorgonio Wilderness, I discovered that, at least according to Harrison, there is no "loop" trail possible. Had I kept going, I would definitely have been totally screwed. So, lesson for all: Just 'cause you have a map doesn't mean you know where you're going!
Instead of coming down in darkness, I came down as the sun set over the hills south of Mill Creek. It was a gorgeous day of hiking. 10.6 miles, according to Tom Harrison, who is clearly more trustworthy than Fine Edge. A bit over 2,000 feet of altitude gain. And a perfect day for hiking.

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