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Mount Russell, Rouse Hill, Thomas Mountain, Indian Mountain

16 November 2003

By: Tom Hill

There is encouraging news (posted Saturday Nov 15 at 2pm) from Cleveland National Forest on their forest closure. It seems that only two areas -- but very large areas!! -- are closed to public entry due to the fire damage: a Cedar Fire Closure Area in the southern portion of San Diego Co and a Paradise Fire Closure Area near Mt Palomar. I find the maps of the closure areas very helpful. A key point that "most areas of the Forest are open to public entry" is buried in the end notes.

This news arrived too late for Sunday's planned outing to five Orange County peaks. Instead, we first visited Mt Russell (2704') on the Great Lower Peaks List. The peak is found in Moreno Valley at Lake Perris State Recreational Park. We followed the route as described in the LPC peak guides, which has an interesting feature: about half of the 5 miles round trip involves skirting the northern shores of Lake Perris and its marshlands. At this time the mountain has only sparse brush due to wildfires in the past few years. The register is found near the long pipe at the foot of the summit rock table. Our only company was a self-described rabbit hunter, complete with impressive rifle, who shared the flatlands with us.

Three nearby HPS peaks were then "conquered" in the afternoon. First, Rouse Hill with its 14 miles of ever-so-slow-and-will-this-never-end 4wd road. Second, Thomas Mtn, which we ascended on a pleasant short climb from the abandoned Thomas Mtn Campground on the north side through 1-2 inches of newly fallen powder snow, shared with various and sundry snow bunnies from the burbs. And finally Indian Mtn via the dreaded tunnels of paint-devouring buckthorn on a road suitable now for motorcycle passage.

The leaders Tom Hill and Virgil Popescu were joined under friendly skies by a pleasant group of companions James Carden, Janet Howell, Larry Hoak, and Ingeborg Prochazka.

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