The elevation changes in Southern California are actually quite dramatic – the highest peaks like San Gorgonio (also called “Old Greyback”, probably because of its bare, rocky summit plateau) are well above 3000m.
My friend Hans told me that Dry Lake might be a worthy hike, especially after the very wet La Nina winter of 2010/2011. Dry Lake lies at the foot of San Gorgonio, in the San Gorgonio Wilderness section of San Bernardino National Forest. From San Diego, it’s a two-hour drive, and pretty much what used to be my limit for a day-hike back in Germany. In addition to the drive, the hike is about 14 miles (22.4km) out and back, turning the whole outing into quite a long day (well, at least for me, personally, and little Toni).
After getting our Wilderness Permit at the Mill Creek Ranger Station, we continued on Highway 38 to the South Fork trailhead. Typical for Southern California, the forest is bright and wide open, and it was pretty warm on the first part of the trail – a bit too warm for furry little Toni, so when I heard the rushing sound of a creek nearby I soaked her with cold water until she was dripping wet, and that really worked. She happily marched all the way up to Dry Lake with us.
On the way up we met a patrol that checked our permits and they told us that Dry Lake was filled to the brim, which of course spurred our eagerness to get there. Once arrived, the temptation of the fresh and cold water after the hike was irresistible – we hopped in and swam a little bit to cool down (including Toni again), then rested and had our lunch. We continued the short loop around the lake before making our way back down to the car, which we reached just around sunset.
Some photographic impressions from the day are in the gallery below. It was a bright and clear blue day and we hiked midday so the conditions weren’t really great for photography. In fact, I hiked lightweight, with just the camera and a single lens, no tripod or other heavy accessories.
UPDATE: in late Spring 2015, the so-called “Lake Fire” burned in that very area. I’ve only seen maps of the fire’s total perimeter online so far and it includes everything you see in the photos above. I hope that it was not a high-severity crown fire that took out everything.
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