Jack jumped through the hoops and got a permit for this adventure. So John, Klaus, Srisuda, and I joined him since the he already had taken care of the hardest part of the hike 😉
On the drive up we passed a massive warehouse fire right next to the freeway. We later learned that it was the Amazon distribution center in Redlands. We drove up to the trailhead and started the hike at about 8:15. We took the dirt roads and later the faint use trail up all the way to a couple hundred feet below Birch Mountain’s top. Here we left the use trail and headed up the gentle slope to the top.
The marine layer was heavy that day and we only started to poke through the clouds above about 6400 ft. It was fun to see the high points of the 3 local ranges sticking out of the clouds all on the same hike: San Jacinto – San Jacinto Mountains, San Antonio (Baldy) – San Gabriel Mountains, San Gorgonio – San Bernardino Mountains. Weather conditions where perfect otherwise also with quite moderate temperatures.
One the way down from Birch Jack, John, and I made a quick detour to Allen Peak while the others proceeded down to the trailhead. We had a short section of dirt road before we had to start the climb in earnest. Right at the point where we had to leave the road we noticed very fresh bear and mountain lion tracks. A grader had been over this road very recently, probably earlier in the day and conditions for leaving tracks were ideal.
Jack pushed the pace up the climb to the top, John and I had to dig deep to keep up. Not much too see from the top since this peak was under the cloud layer so we turned right around after signing in. On the way down John took the lead and just before getting back to the road he called out “bear”. Jack and I didn’t see it, but John saw a big bear coming up the trail towards us. The bear immediately turned back down when he heard/noticed John. We waited a little to give him time to clear the area. As soon as we started moving though, we heard him again and then saw him run a short section down the road that we needed to take down. The bear then stopped and stood by the road as if he wanted to let us pass. We called out to him to move along and give us more space :), but he just stood there. We slowly started to move and the bear took that as a hint to go over the edge of the road and down the slope.
The remainder of the hike and drive home was uneventful. The warehouse was still smoldering with some flames as we passed it.
It was really good to spend a great day on the mountains with friends after COVID-19 had kept us from this kind of activity for a few month.
Hike stats: 13.9 miles, 3950 ft elevation gain,
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