31-Aug-2007 -- What a difference a year makes. Exactly one year ago on this last evening of August, I made an attempt on this same confluence. Last year, I was forced to turn back at sundown, and the attempt was one of the roughest I have experienced, requiring a hands-and-knees crawl through thorny chaparral vegetation. Tonight would be a story with the same vegetation, the same time of day, but with a different ending.
Our education team was gathered at the headquarters of the largest Geographic Information Systems company in the world, ESRI, to the west in Redlands. I departed at 4:45pm and was soon moving as fast as the slow traffic allowed eastbound on Interstate Highway 10. With a nervous glance I noted that the entire "confluence ridge" in Calimesa was under a very dark cloud. One doesn't want to be on those exposed ridges during a lightning storm. This is chaparral country, prone to frequent lightning strikes and wildfires. Pushing on, I reached County Line Road that divides Riverside to the south from the largest county in the continental USA to the north, San Bernardino, and turned due east toward the hills.
I was determined to act smarter than the year before. This time, rather than parking at the very end of the new subdivision, I parked down the hill, to the west of where I had been the year before, near the entrance to the lane that leads to the water tank. I thought that by choosing the correct ridge trail, I could save myself some of the steep traverses up and over the ridges that I had encountered one year ago. I waved at the lady sitting in her garage who was quietly enjoying the summer evening. After discreetly changing out of my nice clothes in the back seat, I set off down the trail that warned something to the effect that hikers were on their own and wild animals were in the area.
A light rain turned to a moderate one, and the trail, which turned into a 4-wheel drive road, became decidedly slick and muddy. However, no lightning could be seen, and the sky was quite clear to the west. I climbed higher, making what I hoped were the correct choices each time the road forked. After a bit, the road turned back into a trail and climbed steeply up one of the ridges. Looking ahead to the east atop the highest ridge, where I thought was just one house the year before, now stood three. I was hoping that this area would always remain open to hiking, but it was Southern California, after all. Still, I could take comfort in the fact that despite 10 million people living in the cities not far from me, I was hiking without any other person as far as the eye could see.
After 35 minutes, I was high on a ridge, due north of the confluence. The rain ceased, the temperature climbed, and I donned sunblock. Fortunately the rain brought the 108 F temperatures the area had been experiencing for several days down at least 10 degrees. With 200 meters to go, I doubled back and took a different trail down, then cut cross-country down to the bottom of the gully to the south. I climbed the opposite bank and arrived at a large shrub that ended up being the confluence point. I was very thankful that I had turned around at sundown last year. I could see now that I never would have reached this point in the time allotted in 2006, as it is one complete steep ridge and one gully south of where I stood last year. I would have been stumbling around in the dark, and it would have not been wise.
The confluence lies on a 45-degree slope, sloping down to the northwest, about 30 meters up from the bottom of the gully. No animals or birds could be seen, although I saw two deer on the return hike. The temperature now stood at 95 F (35 C) and was humid after the rain shower. The views are spectacular, especially to the west. Due to the steep slope, I had difficulty keeping my balance, as is evident in the video I filmed. I have quite a collection of California confluences now--a few along the Nevada border, about a half dozen in the Bay area, and 3 down here in Southern California. I packed up my belongings and left the site, but only 1 meter away, I spotted a geocache under another bush. I spent time filming the geocache, signed the log book, and examined the contents.
I hiked back the way I had come in to save time, although the entire area is a wonderful hiking ground. It was a bit slippery after the rain, but the setting sun lit up the entire terrain quite beautifully. When I arrived back at the vehicle after a 90-minute hike, I had an amiable chat with the lady, still sitting in the lawn chair in her garage. She told me that periodic meetings are held about development in the area, and doubted that, despite the trails, the area would remain undeveloped for long. Therefore, I became doubly glad I visited the area twice now. I drove out the way I came, this time into the setting sun.