South Fork Loop — Page 12

South Fork Trail

XII. Closing the Loop

Shadows are starting to lengthen as Trevor and I reach Dollar Lake Saddle, elevation 9960 feet, and yes, it's a little disheartening to know we still have 3000 vertical feet to go.

A big chunk of that vertical will be dropped on the stretch ahead, from the saddle to South Fork Meadows some 2000 feet below, making this perhaps the steepest section of trail on the whole hike today. I always liken the process of hiking downhill to tenderizing meat—because that's what it feels like.

Charlton Peak and San Gorgonio Mountain
Dollar Lake Trail
Ferns and Shadows
Andy and Trevor back at South Fork Meadows

The trail and the rocks and the vertical just pound your body in submission, and after so many miles on trail thus far, I'm already feeling well tenderized myself. I'll be sore tomorrow, I know. Heck, I'm already sore right now.

From Dollar Lake Saddle we have a close look at Charlton Peak's northwest face, which looks to offer one of the steeper and more cliff-bound chutes on this side of San Gorgonio.

Also visible now is San Gorgonio Mountain itself, and its big north face, a big shield of grey granite glowing in the afternoon light. It's a little startling, actually, seeing how far away the summit is from our present position.

We've come a long way.

And there's a long way yet to go. Back on the trail, we hike probably a bit faster than we should, but we're both looking forward to reaching South Fork Meadows and the junction of the Dollar Lake and Dry Lake trails, thus officially closing the "lollipop" portion of our loop.

So down, down, down we go, and as we descend, the landscape grows progressively greener.

As I've mentioned, each of Southern California's three major ranges has its own distinct character, and we've gotten a rich sampling of the San Bernardino Mountains, and the San Gorgonio Wilderness, today. Thick greenery sprouts as we descend now, passing the turnoff to Dollar Lake, continuing down the trail's long switchbacks. There are ferns here, and pocket meadows carpeted with tall grass.

San Gorgonio's grey face appears now and again through clearings in the trees, watching over us. There is a lot to explore here, I'm realizing, and I haven't seen nearly enough of it. I resolve to visit more often—winter and summer. Is that the junction ahead? Yes, we've made it. Trevor and I stop to commemorate the weary moment with a photograph.

How many miles is it to the car from here? Well, I could check the map—but I think I'll just keep imagining that cheeseburger instead...

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Andy Lewicky

ANDY LEWICKY is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer who enjoys good books, jasmine tea, long walks in the rain, and climbing and skiing the big peaks of the California Sierra. email | follow



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