San Jacinto Peak via Deer Springs
What a perfect time of the year to hike San Jacinto Peak. Well, truthfully, there’s no such thing as a perfect time to hike the peak. Any time of the year is fine. However, when there is snow, it becomes something totally different that only locals appreciate to a great deal. What a great place to play in the snow in the middle of March!
Our plan was to park our cars at Humber Park, shuttle over to Deer Springs, hike up to San Jacinto Peak and return to Humber Park by descending via Wellmans Divide. It was supposed to be a straight forward, 18 mile hike with an about 5,500 feet elevation gain.
Altitude may get to a hiker, but not difficult. And we did the same hike last year, with a short hike to Tahquiz Peak added then, which ended up being 22 miles or so, and it was nothing but fun. Although every hike is fun, because the fact that I had enjoyed it quite a bit then and that there were going to be many familiar faces that I would catch up with, I was very much looking forward to it.
However, it turned out that it was nothing like the last one. Not even close.
First, I had no idea that there was so much snow everywhere. It was literally a beautiful winter wonderland. Considering the fact that we just had the first Monday of Spring past week, it was surreal to see so much snow. Yes, we were expecting to see some snow patches here and there, but not like this. Especially when we just had a heat wave last weekend when many marathoners at the LA Marathon were having hard time finishing.
It was an excellent call bringing microspikes although some of us ended up not using them. I found that they were perfect for the hike.
Because we started early, although it was not as early as one would start in summer, and the lower parts of the trail were still stayed pretty much shaded, it felt quite cold when we stopped to take a break at Strawberry Junction. However, once the sun was up high enough, it got warmed up, and naturally our layers came off one by one.
When we looked at San Gorgonio, it was quite clear from a distance that it still has a lot of snow at the top. However, I learned how deceiving it was for San Jacinto.
But one thing was certain. As we ascended, the views of Temecula and beyond were seen clearly as usual, and Santiago Peak loomed.
As we were getting close to the San Jacinto Junction, the snow hid many parts of the trail and left many of us puzzled. Considering how popular the peak is among local hikers, one can only suspect that the trail must have been well packed down by now, since it was not fresh powder. Those who had GPS devices fished them out of their pockets and referred to them as to where they were and navigated themselves out of the snow covered off trail areas where their feet sometimes sank knee deep.
Everywhere we looked, all we see were trees, snow and blue skies. It was just perfect.
I made a conscious effort to stop and appreciate the views. And took some shots. I felt the mountains looked a lot greener now than how I remembered it from last year. Then, I realized that I have never snow hiked in San Jacinto Mountain. And I was seriously enjoying every minute of it.
As challenging as hiking in the snow was, it was quite exciting to reach the junction. And by the fact that the bottom of the sign was still buried in snow, it was clear to us that we would definitely see snow at the peak as well.
The view of San Gorgonio mountain with its snow capped peak was even more spectacular. Such a gorgeous day brought nothing but accomplishment, pleasant company and subliming moments yet again.
The view from San Jacinto is the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth! – John Muir
What a great place to spend a Saturday at! Just pure pleasure. A bliss. Happiness.
Till the wind picked up and we couldn’t sit around at the peak any longer. We decided to descend.
It was rather warm in the open with no shades while descending, and it made me wonder how hot it was going to be this summer.
Some of us didn’t go down via Wellmans Divide. Instead, we came back down via Deer Springs because we lost last two hikers. I joined the organizer to look for them, and we found them lost in snow on our way down on Deer Springs.
We ran into a few small groups of hikers while descending, and the last one at the Deer Springs/Marion junction with which we chatted a bit distracted us from noticing the Marion Trail sign. By the time when we realized that we were not on Deer Springs, we assessed the situation and decided to come back up to the junction to get back on Deer Springs than keep going down on Marion and walk back on Hwy 243 to Deer Springs Trailhead. Considering Marion being the steepest trail in San Jacinto, it was not a piece of cake after bagging San Jacinto Peak earlier in snow.
Nonetheless, it was a great hike, which confirmed yet again that being in nature makes me happiest.