11-Dec-2011 -- When I started logging confluence visits, I had assumed that 10 years later, my most frequently visited point would be the point nearest where I live. Not so. The most frequently visited point of mine is 34 North 117 West in southern California. I travel here frequently for work and today was as fine a day near the winter solstice as any--perfect for visiting the point before I needed to get some work done. However, this time I was keen on doing what I had never done before--approach the point from the east, instead of from the northwest as I typically do.
And therefore, after landing at the Palm Springs airport, arriving in the area for a series of GIS education meetings, I discovered that the day was absolutely magnificent. This was the type of day that must remind people why they moved to southern California, particularly while watching relatives and friends chipping ice from their car windows in other parts of the country. After finding a huge bottle of water at the Palm Springs Albertsons for one dollar, I drove west on Interstate Highway 10 to Beaumont, and exited the highway. As I drove north, I silently thanked the early settlers, who had planted a series of regularly spaced magnificent spruce trees along both sides of the road. They stretched on for miles along Beaumont Avenue and Oak Glen Road. I was enjoying myself so much that I missed the turn to the west, along Wildwood Canyon Road, and had to double back. As I did so, the ridge I aimed for was straight ahead. It looked quite large and I wondered if I could make it to the top. I drove into the housing subdivision along Morningside Drive, and was happy to find that two teenagers waved at me: Refreshing in this day and age when so many seem so suspicious of everyone else. I drove south on Mustard Seed and Meadow View, and left on the short and steep Toucan Court. The folks who lived here had a wonderful open space set of trails right outside their doors. Surprised to find no other hikers' vehicles parked here, I stopped on a steep part of the street, forgetting to turn my wheels into the curb. I thought about that while on my hike, hoping the vehicle had not rolled and that the parking brake would be sufficient. Gathering supplies, I set out.
Immediately upon hiking up the narrow road that led to the water tank, the road was incredibly steep, as I knew it would be. I thought for the first 15 minutes of the hike that I would just do a reconnaissance from the ridgetop without actually visiting the point today; I was not sure if I could make it. But, I kept plodding along and eventually thought I would actually give it my all. I exited the road before the water tank up the trail, which was in decent condition, though at times it was so steep that I had to gingerly step to avoid backsliding on the loose debris. The day was magnificent, over 60 degrees F, and I was soon wearing only a long sleeved shirt on top. I should have brought a hat, though. My backpack weighed me down heavily with the large water bottle, but I was glad to have it; and I even remembered my sunblock. I carried a Garmin GPS and my iPhone, on which I was making my first-ever test of the Motion X GPS application. Up to the top of the ridge I hiked, with the application reminding me of my progress every five minutes.
Once on the top of the ridge, things became a bit easier, although the ridge itself had some very steep saddles. The best parts were the magnificent views in all directions and the fact that not a soul was hiking but me. Incredible, given the millions of people who lived in this area of southern California. I passed a trail to the west and later thought I should have taken it, because I ended up taking a steeper though shorter trail to the west instead. Even this was not the trail I should have taken, in retrospect, as we shall see later. Once committed, though, I gingerly picked my way down this spine of the ridge to the flatter part just south of the confluence. Fortunately, it was not muddy. I then paused for the first time before striking off down the slope without the benefit of the trail.
Here, things could become quite difficult, as I discovered earlier this year after impaling my palm on one of the thorny bushes here in the chaparral. I was fortunate that the ravine I followed down largely was covered by soft grasses and loose dirt, but was surprised to find, once reaching the bottom of the ravine, that nothing looked familiar, and I was still 200 meters from the confluence. I hiked up a ridge and into the next ravine, and still nothing looked familiar. Once more, up and down, and this time I recognized the familiar scene. As I had done several times before, I stepped gingerly around the steep terrain where the confluence lay, well inside the 100 meter buffer but as in the past, finding the zero-zero elusive given the bottom-of-ravine situation of the confluence and the lack of satellites. I took photographs of both devices I brought with me and a video. I was about 1 hour and 15 minutes into my hike, so about the same amount of time as my treks from the west had been, perhaps even a bit shorter.
I saw no animals or people. After about 10 minutes at the scene, I decided on a different way out. I love circular hikes to see new things. Plus, I wanted to maximize the trail time and minimize bushwhacking. I climbed the ridge to the south and took that trail to the east, to the top of the ridge. This proved difficult but was preferable to the thorny off-trail hiking. Once there, I found a stick with survey tape waving in the wind, and took note of the ridgetop house to the north. Amazing that they could construct it up here. I hoped the rest of the ridge would always remain house-free and in open space. I hiked south-southeast along the ridge, arriving at the place where I had left the ridge a short time before. Two crows followed me and I truly enjoyed my hike. In fact, this was my favorite confluence trek of 2011, along with 43 North 94 West near a beautiful lake and county park in Minnesota a few months before.
Despite a slow decent back to the vehicle, I arrived there with a total hike time of 2 hours and 15 minutes. Later that day, I uploaded my Motion X GPS track to ArcGIS Online: The resulting map from my track is on ArcGIS Online, which clearly shows the to and from route, and a few photos linked to waypoints. I want to return from the ridge one more time, because I believe that if I try a different trail to the north, and use the trail north of the confluence both ways, I can reduce the hike time and still experience the magnificent ridge. I left the area by driving through Wildwood Canyon through Yucaipa and on to Redlands. A short but very exhiliarating hike and beautiful day! Get out there and explore the Earth.