A Spring Fling Outing led by George Wysup and Maggie Wilson
My and co-leader Maggie Wilson's plan for Sunday was to bag the 5 peaks along highway S1, starting from the southernmost peak on the HPS list, Sheephead Mtn, and ending at little Garnet Mtn. Our group of 25 strong and eager peakbaggers left Foster Lodge in our vehicles packed more with weekend travel essentials than with people, since we did not have the option of returning to the lodge (the gate would be locked at 2 pm).
The first necessity was to divest ourselves of some autos since many of the trailheads would not easily accommodate such a fleet. We drove a short distance to the large, paved lot at Red Tailed Roost, just opposite the dirt road turnoff to Cuyapaipe Mtn. and parked some unnecessary ones, then proceeded down Hwy S1 toward the Sheephead turnoff. Oh, alas, alack, and some stronger epithets. A less than auspicious start. The gate was closed. This would require that we walk an extra 3 miles on road. This was not out of the question in itself, but there was not enough space to park all the cars off the pavement. Abort mission #1! On to Cuyapaipe.
We had received the necessary permission from the Cuyapaipe Band of Mission Indians, on whose reservation the mountain is located. Our long line of intrepid mountaineers located the use trail up the mountainside and climbed through the class 2 rocks with glee and nary an incident. We met the Schwitkis/Holchin party as they descended. They had noted the Sheephead gate closure and aborted as we did.
After we made short work of this mighty massif, we noted that there was an amazing variety and number of wildflowers here, as everywhere in the area. We were fortunate to have naturalist Ginny Heringer in the entourage. The flowers challenged even her expertise. Back to the cars, on to Monument Mtn #1.
We hiked to this antenna-encrusted peak via the standard route starting where the Big Laguna trail crosses S1. No sweat. We encountered Tom Hill and his gang of four adding to their collection of pathfinders by hiking the summit from Foster Lodge. We ingested a spot of lunch on the summit and returned to the cars.
Several of the group, presumably worried about our leading, decided to boogie back home at this point. 15 remained, still a substantial mob. I queried said mob about their inclination to hike pathfinder routes to the Garnets, not caring what their answers were. There was a fire last year and the brush is gone -- it's pathfinder time!
The 5 remaining cars drove about 0.8 mile NW of the usual parking area for Garnet Peak, a spot that I had scouted on the previous day. We easily made our way along an old road, barely recognizable as such, through forest cover and wildflowers, heading NE and East to the burned area. We crossed the PCT, climbed a steep but easy enough slope to the Garnet trail not far from the summit. After the fire, the peak looked entirely different (a blessing). We also noted the change in character to the wildflowers growing prolificly in the ashes of the former almost impenetrable brush. As it turned out, the pathfinder route is shorter and easier than the trail. 2 enjoyable miles round trip.
We climbed the afterthought, Garnet Mtn, directly from S1, from the west. We required 14 minutes for the round trip, thanks in part to the absence of day packs and water bottles.
The time is now about 4:30. It seems to met there is time to revisit Sheephead. We have a hard core group of 8 motivated (read: obsessive) peakbaggers wanting to do this, even though it likely means hiking the road back in pitch darkness with flashlights (there are those who think this is fun).
As the remaining 3 vehicles reach the turnoff... voila! The gate is now open. Suzy Hermann's prayers have been answered. We quickly reached the peak and had time to play on the interesting summit rocks.
I considered the day, verily the weekend, to be an unqualified success. Can't wait until next May, but I will.