Tuesday, April 8, 2014

HIke 2013.023 -- Miller Canyon Trail, Lake Silverwood State Recreation Area

Hiked Saturday, April 5.

The California State Parks website's Trail description is here.
When I was younger, my family used to go fishing quite often, and Lake Silverwood was a pretty good trout fishery at the time. Then the striped bass made it into the lake, and the DFG trout plants just became a really expensive way of feeding the striped bass. Also, I eventually figured out that I enjoyed being outdoors more than the actual fishing part. So it's been years since my last trip to Lake Silverwood. It was a familiar place, but one not recently visited.

Of course, on every drive to Las Vegas or towards the Mojave Preserve, there was the exit for Lake Silverwood. I'd been thinking about visiting for years. Finally did so on Saturday.

To reach Lake Silverwood State Recreation Area, take I-15 (probably north, unless you're already on the other side of the Cajon Pass), and exit at CA-138. Head east from there. The first four miles of CA-138 are surprisingly winding for a state highway, so take your time. After ten miles, you'll pass the "main" entrance for Lake Silverwood State Recreation Area.

To reach the Miller Canyon trail, ignore that exit. Instead, continue an additional four miles, to the signed Miller Creek group campground area. It'll be on your left.

As of this weekend, the camp-ground was closed, but there's a small parking area just 100 yards or so down from CA-138. There are several gated roads there, and one road that is not gated but that has a sign saying there's a California Department of Corrections facility down that road, and that no civilian traffic is permitted.

You are now in San Bernardino National Forest, by the way, and there was a sign indicating an Adventure Pass was required. However, at this parking area, there are no facilities, so I'm pretty sure that under current San Bernardino National Forest policy, this area does NOT require an Adventure Pass. I'll leave it to you to decide if you ought to display yours or not. I hung my tag, because I already have the American the Beautiful Pass, anyway.

From this little parking area, there's the gated road that's closest to a small structure (I assume where you'd be checked in for group camping). That road continues about 1/2 mile to a larger parking area, where the group camp is located. I followed that route.

The other road is about 30 yards further to the north. That one would provide paved access to Serrano Beach. As noted, both were gated. Both were on the left of the road you just came down on. Both also took you past "state park" boundary signs. I'm not sure if that means you'd need to buy a state park entry pass to park in those areas if those roads were open, or even if those roads are ever opened any more.

The road to the group camp is easy, though there were two stream crossings that required either a modicum of balance or a willingness to get your feet wet. The road also dropped and climbed a few times before flattening out near the end. Continuing to the west end of the parking area, I saw a very small "Trail" sign. There's also a paved bike path a bit to the north of this trail. That would be in addition to the other gated paved road I mentioned, meaning there are several biking opportunities here, as well as the the hike.

The water you've crossed is called "Miller Creek," a tributary of the Mojave River. The trail stays mostly on the north end of the creek, occasionally running right along the creek and occasionally rising well above the water line.

It's a sheltered canyon, which meant it was pretty verdant on this early spring day. Many wildflowers, most of which I could not identify.

After about 1/2 mile, I came across what looked like a wooden trestle bridge. On closer inspection, it was a wooden walkway. After I crossed under the bridge, I saw a use path heading up on the left, so I went up to the structure. One way led to a wooden decking, built atop a large rocky outcropping, and sitting maybe 60 feet above the water.

The water below is called "Devil's Pit." It's a possible swimming hole, and probably deep enough that trout could survive year-round in the water. Not sure if many live in the creek. I did not see any.

After enjoying my view, both down to the creek, and back up the way I had come, I crossed the walkway over the trail. At the other end, it looked like a barrier had been built on the walkway. A sign was facing the other way, towards the (closed, on this day) road. I leaned across the barrier to look at the sign, and laughed: It said, "Danger." The walkway was unsafe. Oops.

Walked back across again. Returned to the path the way I came.

Once back on the trail, I saw that about 20 yards past where I had headed up was an actual constructed trail that headed up on my trail's right. That one would have led me to the paved road, and to the entry to the bridge with the "Danger" sign.

The next significant landmark along the way is "Lynx Point." Like Devil's Pit, it's at a point where the trail and the road effectively meet. There's a small parking area and restroom (locked, on this day), with a small sign facing the road. As I noted previously, I don't know if this road is normally open or not.

Whether coming from the road or from the trail, there's a short incline to a clearing. From there, you've got a pretty impressive view in all directions. In particular, snow-capped Mt. Baldy was visible in the distance.

There's also a trail distance sign at this point. It says it's .9 miles forward, to Serrano Beach, and .4 miles back to Devil's Pit, and .8 miles back to Miller Group Camp.

I'm pretty sure the .8 miles is just to the actual group camp parking area, however. It's probably another 1/3 to 1/2 of a mile back to the gate, where I was actually parked. Definitely, it was less than half the distance between my car and Serrano Beach.

About 1/2 mile forward, the trail reaches a paved road, again. Bearing right at the road leads to Serrano Beach, where I was heading. Heading left would lead towards Sawpit Canyon.

There were several very pretty views of the creek in this segment.

After heading to the right, the lake is soon visible through the trees. I could see several people fishing along the shore. Not sure whether they came from where I came from or from the other side, or arrived by boat.

I soon passed another locked restroom, with an unlocked porta-potty adjacent to the structure.

The trail made another rise, going from near lake level on up about 20 or 30 feet. Looking down towards the lake, I saw several bush poppy. That was one of the more common flowers I saw on my drive towards the lake, as well.

Several waterfowl at the lake swam away from the shore once they saw me walking above them.

After another descent, I arrived at Serrano Beach. A large sign made it easy to know I was there. :D

There were picnic benches here, and an unlocked restroom. It's also got a dock, so I assume it's intended that boats on the lake may choose to dock here to eat lunch and/or relieve themselves without needing to head all the way back to the marina, on the other side of the lake.

Within a few yards of passing Serrano Beach, the trail had an "End of Trail" sign. There, the pavement ended. A footpath continued past the sign. I also continued past the sign.

After about 1/4 mile, the trail divided, with the clearer route heading down towards the waterline. A less distinct route climbed a bit and continued to the west.

Not long after that, the foot path became very indistinct. If I wanted to keep pushing on, I could have. But, by this point, I was getting hungry, so I turned around

Not sure about my total mileage for the hike. The state park site gives the roundtrip distance from Miller Group Campground to Serrano Beach as 3.4 miles.

However, with the campground closed, this adds another 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile roundtrip. And, continuing past Serrano Beach probably added 1/2 mile to 3/4 of a mile.

So I'm going to call it a five mile hike.

Despite my many fishing trips here as a teenager and before, I'm pretty sure I never hiked this path before. Given how much I've hiked the past four years, I'm always a little pleased when I manage to hike some completely new ground.

Incidentally, the previous hike I took (not yet blogged) was also over some new ground. So the past three weeks or so were really good for my hiking psyche: Many hikes, several new trails, and lots of scenery.