South Fork Loop — Page 2

South Fork Trailhead

South Fork Trailhead

Permit issues resolved, we leave the ranger station and head up the winding highway 38 passing first the Vivian Creek turnoff, some time later finding our way to Jenks Lake Road and the South Fork Trailhead.

Hat, boots, sunscreen, sunglasses—you know the drill. Before we lock the car, Trevor and I briefly discuss our water options. I've brought a SteriPen, so we decide to carry light and rely on the SteriPen to purify natural sources as we find them. And then we're off, civilization at our backs, on the trail again.

Redwood Trees Trail & Scrub Oak

Right away we enter a mini-Redwood grove, hidden in a small shady nook. Yes, there are scattered patches of Cedars to be found in the Southern California ranges.

When I spot them I tend to think of these trees as lottery winners—somehow over their history they've managed to escape the tag-team combination of a mercilessly dry climate plus close proximity to loggers.

Past the redwood patch the vegetation dries out, becoming a scrubby oak mixture. From the trailhead we start around 6,800' in elevation—one advantage to the South Fork approach.

We'll be crossing through a lot of life zones today, each with its own distinct appearance. This is certainly one of the more obvious differences hiking in the San Gorgonio Wilderness compared, say, to the much drier San Gabriels. It's green here! You'll find real Alpine meadows, and fern-furnished forests in which to frolic.

Perhaps that's why preservationists expended so much energy here. It's easy to see the San Gorgonio Wilderness as wilderness, rather than just land to be exploited, and it's also easy to imagine an alternate future in which eager Southern California developers succeeded in transforming it into a very different place from which we find today.

next: Poop-Out Hill

About SierraDescents

When there is snow, SierraDescents is Andy Lewicky's California backcountry skiing and mountaineering website. Without snow, sierradescents becomes an ill-tempered hiking and climbing blog.

Pray for snow.