Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Mission Creek Preserve, Sand to Snow National Monument, CA

Hiked Friday, May 14. Mission Creek Preserve is located off of U.S. 62. From I-10, exit towards Yucca Valley. Somewhat before US 62 reaches the Morongo Canyon, and before it intersects with the road to Desert Hot Springs, Mission Creek Road heads off to the west. Follow that to the end of the road. A gate will stop you at the picnic area, unless you get the lock code from The Wildlands Conservancy. Being able to open the gate gets you another 1.6 miles further up the desert.

The Wildlands Conservancy owns and manages dozens of preserves, all over the state. Several are in southern California, but I had only been to two: Oak Glen Preserve, above Yucaipa (many times) and Whitewater Preserve, north of I-10 (about five times), just before the US 62 offramp.

The first time I hiked Whitewater, I hiked all the way to the edge of the main Whitewater watershed, so I could peak over into the Mission Creek Watershed. On several occasions, I thought I would like to hike from the other side, to link those segments. Additionally, on a previous hike, I had come over from the Haugman-Lehman side, walking the Pacific Crest Trail, from the south, over into the Whitewater watershed. And, finally, I had once hiked from south of the actual Preserve trailhead on the Canyon Loop.

Apparently, it's been over six years since my last visit to Whitewater? That seems nuts! But I guess it's because it gets so hot in the summer time, that if I'm not careful, I miss the spring or fall windows, then I don't want to hike here. There have also been fire closures and flood damage closures, however.

With the initial intent of just making it to the watershed from Mission Creek Preserve, I was going to just hike from the locked gate. But then it occurred to me, "Hey, if I get the gate code and drive the additional 1.6 miles to the Stonehouse, that reduces my hike by 3.2 miles, which means I could then hike some north, on the PCT. So I e-mailed the Wildlands Conservancy, got the code quicker than I expected, then decided I would hike here on a Friday, then continue on to Yucca Valley after the hike, then take another hike in the area, the next day, before heading back home.

This turned out to be a good idea. Although, after attaining the Whitewater watershed, on the way back, I saw the sign saying 1.2 miles to the San Gorgonio overlook. The sign had no arrow indicating the direction, however. I assumed (incorrectly) that it just meant to go along the PCT. In fact, I think you're supposed to peel off to the left (west) pretty much at that sign. But there was no obvious trail there, so I stayed on the PCT.

I don't regret the choice. While it's not the "correct" viewpoint, as the trail climbs out of the west fork of Mission Creek's watershed, you do get some nice views up towards Mount San Gorgonio. Even better, it's likely along a strand of the San Andreas Fault. It's also the "poster child" picture of Sand to Snow National Monument, at least for the Pacific Crest Trail Association.

I continued a bit further past that view, hoping to get myself a view back into the Coachella Valley. Didn't quite attain that. But I did get a view back towards where I came from, in the Mission Creek Preserve. Then I suddenly felt tired, so I gulped some sports drink, rested a bit, then made my way quickly back to my car.

Good day of hiking. My Alltrails app tells me I walked 9.1 mies, and gained 1253 feet of elevation on this day. Just under four hours of total time on the trail. Wouldn't have been possible to get that wonderful view if I hadn't "cheated" with the gate code. Thank you, Wildlands Conservancy!

[After that weekend, I made a fairly large (for me) contribution to the Wildlands Conservancy. That's because, the next day, I hiked out of their Pioneertown Mountains Preserve. And I'm still hoping to hike in their Kern County preserve (Wild Wolves), and the Santa Margarita River Trail Preserve, near Fallbrook, and the Bluff Lake Preserve, near Big Bear.]

No comments:

Post a Comment