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Sugarloaf Mountain (all the way!) and Onyx Peak #1

7 September 2001

By: Karen Isaacson Leverich

Doris Duval and I determined we'd try Sugarloaf Mountain one more time on Friday, September 7th. Doris had already attempted this peak twice, and been turned back. I'd only tried once, but was determined even so. Ingeborg Prochazka and Brian Leverich joined us after deciding there'd be time to do some other peaks, not realizing that Doris and I, perhaps lacking in imagination, perhaps simply fond of the route we'd started on last month, were intending to do the ten mile Route 2, along the Sugarloaf Trail.

No matter, we all four set out on a pleasant Friday morning, retracing the route of last month's nature hike. It's interesting how much has changed in less than a month -- the flowers are mainly gone, there's more (not less) water in the stream, and the willows and other brush are dramatically larger. Not at all what I would have expected this late in the summer.

Not stopping to sort out flowers (there being very few) meant we fairly quickly reached the top of the ridge. After a brief break, and noting how the intersection looked so we'd recognize it upon our return, we headed west along the ridge, up and over the bump with the slate, past the dramatic junipers, up steeply to a lodgepole forest on a plateau. This was where we'd turned back last month, sure we were almost there.

Wrong-o. It's a really good thing Byron turned us back. We weren't all that close at all. I now understand why folk who've done this peak remember it as being nearly endless, with one false summit after another. They've got it right. It's nearly endless, with one false summit after another. There's even an annoying saddle you have to dip down into and back out of, and then when you finally are sort of on the right summit, it still straggles on and on, before finally surrendering at ridge's end, with little in the way of views, and a sign in a rockpile:

Was this the register? Note that Buster Keaton signed in during 1923.

Actually, the register was in the regulation red can, at the base of the sign. But someone had sealed it with superglue or something. Brian finally had to use violence, and maybe his knife, to get it open so we could sign in. Here I am with Ingeborg and the sign, and the recalcitrant can:

Doris, Ingeborg, and I, in front of what passes for a view on Sugarloaf:

I'm being a bit unfair about views. While you can't see much except forest on the summit (so it made a wonderful venue for lunch), there are good views coming and going on the ridge. Here is San Gorgonio to the south:

And the Lucerne Valley (I think!) to the north, with some interesting rocks on Sugarloaf's north side:

Doris was satisfied with Sugarloaf Mountain, so headed for home. Brian, Ingeborg, and I huddled, decided Heart Bar would take too long (it was getting a bit late in the day), that Constance was too far away, but hmmmm, weren't we pretty close to Onyx Peak #1 when we crossed Onyx Summit? Of course we didn't have adequate maps (don't tattle to Byron!), just the Climbing Guide. But that sounded pretty easy -- take the left fork, then the right fork, stop at the locked gate, walk up the road to the peak.

The only problem was ... when we got to the locked gate, it was wide open, with a truck disappearing up the road. Brian wanted to just drive up to the peak, but Ingeborg and I proved more cowardly -- we were concerned we'd end up on the wrong side of a locked gate. Better to walk, was our take. Brian thought we were crazy, but indulged us, and up we went, meeting the truck as it left near the peak.

It's actually an interesting walk -- there's a weather station next to the road near the beginning, and the forest of junipers continues to intrigue me. After going around several switchbacks, knowing that Byron and Mars wouldn't have put up with them but feeling no choice without a map, we eventually arrived on the top, an odd mix of juniper forest and communications facilities. Here are Ingeborg and I, enjoying our second peak of the day:

The view to the north:

This fence is even nastier than the on on Bertha:

When we got back to the gate, it was closed. But (for those lazy peak baggers reading this), it wasn't locked. There was no lock! All you have to do is swing the gate open, and drive on in!

Of course, if you're only looking for a single drive up, it is a bit of a drive to get to Onyx Summit in the first place. And the road's a bit rough. Caveat hiker!

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