Kaweah Group Heads Up Sierra Peak For The First Outing of The 2019 Wilderness Travel Course!

  • Updated: February 10, 2019
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

February 10th, 2019
Sierra Peak (3,045')
15 miles, 3,000'

Those that follow this site know that I'm a volunteer instructor for the Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course down here in Orange County. I run Kaweah Group which is one of three groups in the area and so my schedule tends to be dominated by the class in the January to April timeframe.

The class began on January 22nd and we have had three of the ten Tuesday night classroom sessions so far but we'd yet to actually get outside with the new crop of students. That all changed this weekend with a full day hike excursion to Sierra Peak.

We'd originally planned on Mount Wilson from Sierra Madre but the seemingly endless series of storms we've been experiencing this year resulted in temperatures in the 30s, high winds, and 3-5 ft of snow up top. That the prospect of a steep trail with a big drop off to the side less than ideal so we ended up changing at the last minute.

So off we went to Sierra Peak with a forecast of temperatures in the high 40s, high winds, and rain pretty much throughout the day.

The goal of the full day hike is to get everyone out and test both their fitness and their gear.

It was already raining on us when we met at the park and ride at 5 am so obviously that gear test was going to involve a solid assessment of everyone's raingear.

I've done Sierra Peak once before from the north but this time we were headed up from Corona along the Skyline Drive Trail. Trailhead parking is along Foothill Blvd and the start of the trail is a paved path leading behind a housing community. By 6:36 am we were hiking.

This soon turns into the hardpack dirt roads that I associate with the Santa Ana Mountains.

The area burned during one of the numerous fires the area has experienced likely the 2017 Canyon fire.

Rain soon started in earnest and everyone threw on pack covers and rain layers. Since we were hiking uphill it wasn't too cold as long as you stayed dry.

The sun kept coming and going and whenever it was out and we had any sort of view things looked spectacular especially with all the fresh greenery.

And we ended up seeing the first of many rainbows which literally ended right off the side of the trail.

This was an attempt to get a group shot in front of another rainbow which you can just barely see on the right hand side. Sadly it had faded a bit in the time it took to get 30 slightly soggy hikers lined up for a shot.

Once the trail gaines some altitude you get spectacular views of Orange County and Riverside laid out beneath you.

Of course it was raining more often than it wasn't...

The Oak Flat radio station is where the trail joins the Main Divide Road. There used to be the remains of an old station you could access on the northern end but with the wind and cold we just continued on.

Our longest break on the way up was huddled behind this tree to get out of the worst of the wind. Everyone was in high spirits but no one really felt like dallying thanks to the mud.

Our view was pretty much non existent along the summit ridge as the rain started up again in earnest.

We were on the summit by 10:30 am and found some cement behind the burned out ruins of one of the buildings to have lunch.

The doors of the building were all unlocked and there were still burned out electronic remains inside.

The rain wasn't so bad but the mud it created in soft spots around the road was a bit of a pain.

We started down at 11 am.

We had a short break in the rain as we arrived at Oak Flat so we held everyone's most stressful conditioning hike activity: the name game!  Basically we stand in a big circle and everyone has to say their name and the name of everyone who came before them.  As you can imagine this becomes a bit of a challenge at the very end which of course is Bill and I as the group leaders.

The rain started up again just as we were wrapping up but by now everyone was quite comfortable tromping along through the mud.

We even had another rainbow visible over the city.

We finished at 2:30 pm just as the weather broke above the trailhead.

Afterwards most of us went to Knowlwoods for a well earned burger.

And then a few of us continued on to the nearby Left Coast Brewery where we took part in a strangely tense game of jenga.

The next class outing will be in two weeks when we visit Joshua Tree National Park for navigation and rock scrambling! (Assuming the government doesn't shut down again that is...)

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