Meeks Mountain and Deer Peak – May 2020

My plan was to hike Meeks and Bighorn Mountains, 2 of the 5 outliers of the San Bernardino Range. These outliers are on the far northeast side of the San Bernardino’s. Both are cross country hikes but would appear to be mild desert-like bushwhacking, so Dorie decided to go. We didn’t know the drive out was 2 1/2 hours!
About an hour out we turned onto the dirt road approach. This turned out to be a 9.5-mile 4WD adventure in itself. There were a few places I had to shift into 4WD Low and there was a lot sand areas and many series of rolling bumps. Well, hiking the 2 peaks became out of the question so we settled on the shorter hike to Meeks Mountain. At the trailhead was an old abandoned Studebaker which was interesting. There was not much left but a shell. An old cabin foundation was nearby so someone may have lived here at one time. The climb was very steep, but the bushwhacking was not bad. There was no trail, but enough cairns it could be classified as a braille trail. About 2/3 way up, Dorie decided to wait it out as I made the summit. I’ll have to plan a Bighorn Mountain summit later.
A few days later, Deer Peak was the next adventure. It’s located northeast of Lake Arrowhead. This turned out to be another long 4WD approach. The way out to the trail head was not that bad, but returning, I was in 4WD low most of the way due to the steep uphill climb. I picked a nice parking spot and headed down. About a ½ mile from the trail head I had to cross Deep Creek at Devils’ Hole, but because of the rainfall and snow run-off, it was more of a river. I searched for about 20 minutes to find a crossing and the one I found was boulder hopping using Uwe-size steps. Jumping and landing on the boulders was challenging. After making it across, I faced a very steep ¼ mile climb with about 400 feet elevation gain. There was not much exposure, just a long slippery slide down to worry about. The Summit was littered with rusty 5-gal canisters for what purpose I don’t know. The view of Shay, Hawes, Little Shay and Ingham Mountains to the East which Uwe and I hiked in 2016 was impressive.
On the way down I kept thinking about the creek crossing. As I slowly descended the steep slippery scree, the roar of the rapids became louder and I worried, can I find the crossing again? What about tired legs hopping boulders? Wet slippery rocks with poor footing? Poor traction of wet boot soles? As I pushed though a grove of willows at my crossing, I scared the bejesus out of a fly fisherman. He asked Where did you come from? I told him about 3 miles back out in the wilderness hiking Deer Mountain. He’d never heard of it and asked me to find another crossing because I was disturbing a fish he was trying to catch. I told him I’d wait and to go ahead and try to catch the fish, but this was the only crossing I could make. After some very precarious boulder jumps, I made it across getting my foot wet on the last jump to the shore. At least I provided some amusement for a fisherman.
I thought the adventure was over, but on drive back out, I came across 5 Mexican teenagers hiking down the road. The flagged me down and asked where the creek was, how far was it and was there anyone swimming. I told them it was about 3 miles down a very steep road and I saw no one swimming in the rapids. And as often the case, they had no water, no food, no map and were lost. I gave them a map, but they couldn’t read it. They asked if I could give them a ride for the 3 miles back up the mountain. So, I piled 3 in my cab and 2 laying in the back of my truck, gave them water and Gatorade, and got them off the trail accomplishing a rescue like we have so often in the mountains. Overall, a good day hiking 4.5 miles and over 2,000 ft elevation gain. (Click on any picture to see slides)

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