July 25, 2017 at 8:17 pm #389703
Hiked up to third campground as a “recon” hike for a potential longer one to Cucamonga with Phil from this site.
We did the “trace” trail up and main trail back. The “trace” trail was aptly named – we lost the trail in a couple spots. There were a few cairns for marking, as well as a fast-flowing stream with slippery rocks, which ate half of one of my trekking poles – the bottom snapped off as I had extended them to cross. It was long gone within seconds! There shortly after was a thick clump of poison oak completely covering the trail, so we had to traverse through it. More taking off my gear wearing disposable gloves (I now keep a pack in the car), double washing clothes and pack, and scrubbing my boots with Palmolive to remove the oils that can last for years…ugh!
This is not a trail for you if you hate rocks and are uncomfortable with scree. It was just about all rocky and often slippery surfaces and tested and further built my scree and scrambling skills. The trail went through steep scree hills as a very narrow and faint path, and in one section very tiny me who tread oh so carefully caused a small rockslide after I passed. This was in the area of the trail that clearly had a major rockslide likely this winter or spring.
Because of the loose surfaces and scree slopes, it is not safe to trail run, and poles are almost a necessity. Good shoes too as the stream crossings were slick, and ones with good soles for all the sharp and pointy rocks. The switchbacks were in parts steep, and we honestly were both pretty done after 8 mi and 7.5 hrs on a hot day, going at a good pace but stopping a lot to document conditions and also losing the trail and going “off road” a few times on the trace trail. The regular Middle Fork trail was well maintained, and the only spot we saw the poison oak was near the stream on the trace trail.
If you go, the first/last part of the main trail is exposed and can get very hot. The rest has mostly tree cover and some nice primitive campgrounds to stop and have a nutrition break at (basically the only flat spots). The trail is a good workout and excellent rock, boulder and scree training. But for sure too dangerous to scree ski!July 25, 2017 at 8:22 pm #389705
Also the road in is definitely a rough gravel one with numerous deep ruts. We took Phil’s truck and it rocked and rolled a few times for sure! As we were leaving, we saw a family coming to camp in something like a Honda Civic, and we were amazed they got up the road – the dad said “We prayed a lot!” It was very slow going on those few miles of road – plan for that and be sure to use an appropriate high-clearance vehicle.
I parked my car at the Lytle Creek Ranger Station and it was just fine. It is a nice station and people there were great!July 26, 2017 at 3:03 pm #389759
I do think if you take the main trail and not explore and document as we did, you could cover the mileage in much shorter time. Phil put more directional details in his report; mine gave a general feel and observations. This trail is longer to get to than Icehouse as it approaches Cucamonga somewhat from the “back” and not via Mt. Baldy Road. So that plus the rough entrance road makes for very light crowds. Much of the trail is shaded with beautiful trees; only the first part is the one fully exposed to the sun, and it seemed to heat up quickly.
The switchbacks were longish ones and were manageable; some times they were traversing a mountainside that from a distance looked unnavigable. A fun day of adventuring, more rock/scree skills building for me than hard out climbing, but still decent elevation gain for the distance. All in all a pretty and great day!July 28, 2017 at 11:01 am #389850Natalie CParticipant
Phil’s details ware great and so are yours. Between the two of you and all this info we can all learn to push the ‘boundaries’ of our comfort zones into further exploration. Thank you!!
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