T. Chester's Trip Reports For Dripping Springs Trail: 1999 - 2000 Season

12 September 1999
25 November 1999
9 December 1999
4 January 2000
18 January 2000
21 January 2000
12 March 2000
28 March 2000
29 April 2000
11 June 2000

2000 - 2001 season

See Dripping Springs Trail for a general introduction to this trail. These comments relate only specifics appropriate to a given hike. All mileages below are referenced to the Detailed Trip Log.


Trip Reports

12 September 1999

I hiked from Dripping Springs to about one mile from the top of Agua Tibia Mountain, 10:23 a.m. - 5:41 p.m. My pedometer read 11.27 miles.

This was the fourth time I had failed to make the summit. The three previous failures were due to time constraints, but today was due to heat. It was a fairly constant 88-91° throughout all of my hike, except for a short time at the start. The addition of the relentless sun on my waterbottles made my water virtually too hot to drink within a few hours, except for a bottle protected inside my backpack. Maybe that's why it is called Agua Tibia!

At least there were virtually no bugs at all bothering me when I hiked. There were only a few when I stopped for lunch near the top, and a few in the campground itself when I stopped at my car to take off my boots.

An unusual vandalism incident happened sometime between my last hike on 3/28/99 and today: some moronic miscreant used a pry bar to dislodge ~10 large rocks, many that would be too large for a person to pick up, along the edge of the trail, and on the slopes above the trail. The incidents occurred a bit above the Wildhorse trail separation up to 3/4 mile from the trailhead. One can only hope that this vandal suffered an injury in the course of his irresponsible behavior.

Plants in bloom: Blooms are in short supply, with even the buckwheat finished here, having only brown flowerheads, except for some plants near the trailhead that have half brown, half-white flowers, which are quite striking. However, the golden-brown dead chamise flowers give good color to the landscape, especially when looking over the still-quite-green north slopes in the middle part of the trail.

In addition, there were a number of everlasting firmly in their dried flower phase along a lot of the trail. Near the trailhead only, a few asters still bloomed, and a few star thistles were in their thistle stage.

Trip Log.


25 November 1999

This time, I knew in advance that I was not going to make it to the peak, since I started late and had to be home in time for Thanksgiving dinner. So I took pruners and improved the trail a bit in two spots. The first was just above the streambed above mile 3.8, and the second was just north of the crest of the last ridge before Agua Tibia at mile 5.2. Maybe clearing these spots will help increase the chances I will make it to the peak someday!

The weather was pleasant, with a temperature of 70° at the start of the trail at 10:30 a.m., cooling to 61° at 1:00 p.m. at the last ridge before Agua Tibia. No bugs bothered me until just above the campground on the return.

The atmosphere was exceptionally clear, and I could easily make out all the prominent peaks in the San Gabriels, such at Mt. Lowe, San Gabriel Peak and Mt. Wilson.

Plants in bloom: Only a few buckwheat stems had some white flowers left, and some everlasting were in their dried flower form. Everything is waiting for the magical first rain.

Trip Log.


9 December 1999

I got up early enough today to finally make it to the top of the trail on my sixth hike on this trail. I went about a half mile to the east on the McGee - Palomar Truck Trail, and was amazed at how nature has almost completely reclaimed that former road. My legs were sore that night from the constant brush scraping across them and showed numerous scratches the next day from it.

On the way up, I was again able to clearly see the peaks near Mt. Wilson.

On the way down, I pruned the worst overhanging branches for a distance of ~2 miles between the top of the trail and the crest of the next ridge down.

The temperature was cool and dropped steadily as I climbed:

TimeAltitude (')Temperature (° F.)
10:00160060
11:30370058
1:30450054
3:00390051

No change in plants in bloom from the previous trip.

Trip Log.


4 January 2000

Decided I would start systematically pruning the trail from the bottom up, now that the worst sections of the trail have been made more easily passable. The trail was completely clear up to mile 1.5. Pruned mile 1.5 to 1.7 today. Got one tick on the slope just below the stream crossing.


18 January 2000

Pruned just beyond where I ended last time, mile 1.8 to 2.1 from the bottom. The trail is now clear up to just beyond the beginning of the switchbacks up the first major ridge with the stream crossing. Again, got one tick on the slope just below the stream crossing.


21 January 2000

Stan Rohrer, Beth Cobb and I blasted to the top of the trail, and then Beth and I explored west. As near as we can tell, there is no trace at all of a trail or the former jeep road west of the intersection of the Dripping Springs Trail with the McGee - Palomar Truck Trail. Large trees grow where the trace of the road must have once been, and serious bush-whacking is needed to go any distance.

I haphazardly pruned about 0.5 mile centered about 1 mile from the top of the DS Trail.

I noticed a number of dead manzanita and black sage plants about 0.8 mile above the stream crossing.


12 March 2000

What a different some water makes! Instead of seeing plants that were clearly suffering from the long interval without rain, I saw thriving healthy bushes, at least below ~2400'. And there was water, actual water, in the Arroyo Seco. I don't recall seeing any at all in the River last year. Crossing the Arroyo Seco was easy on the highway of rocks along the trail. Would that all stream crossings were so easy!

At the trailhead, there is a new display board devoted to the native American history of the area, including a picture of women grinding acorns in ~1895. By coincidence, while I was hiking, Jane Strong found a page on Luiseņo Ethnobotany which states that acorns made up 25-45% of their diet. There is also an informational sign about the arroyo toad.

Plants blooming: a single yerba santa (the 10' high variety) was beginning to bloom at ~1800', a single wild cucumber was in full bloom at ~2700', and a few tree poppies were beginning to bloom at ~3000'. The hoaryleaf ceanothus has lots of buds at ~1800', but no buds evident at higher altitudes. Several times there was a wonderful odor in the air very reminiscent of a sweet-smelling flower, but I could never locate the source of the odor. And for the first time, in tick heaven, the fern-like plants on the rocky cliffsides along the trail were alive and green. True to form, I picked up one tick there.

I pruned from mile 2.1 to 2.4. The Trail is now clear up to about two-thirds up the first switchbacks. I brought a new folding saw, which served well to eliminate the thicker beheaded branches near the trail left from this and previous prunings.

The rain didn't help the hoaryleaf ceanothus and scrub oak bushes which had died, located above the bottom of the first switchbacks. But it did save some bushes that were near death, which were growing again despite a high percentage of dead leaves. The chamise was uniformly green everywhere.

The stream crossing above tick heaven actually had a trickle of water in it, and I turned back after resting on the other side. During my break there, I noticed that the 3329' peak to the north was split and wondered if this was related to the ridgetop splitting investigated by James McCalpin. See McCalpin's interesting work on the origins of closed depressions, troughs, and scarps on top of ridges in the San Gabriel Mountains: Ridgetop Splitting, Spreading, and Shattering Related to Earthquakes in Southern California.


28 March 2000

Dripping Springs Campground is ablaze with blooms. Shinyleaf barberry outside several of the restrooms is simply beautiful with its yellow cluster of flowers at the end of the stems, contrasting with its holly-like leaves. Nevin's barberry, a rare plant, has clusters of yellow flowers all along its stem. But the star of the show is the redbud, which made my heart ache because it was so pretty. There's a bush outside one of the restrooms, and a tree farther south in the campground. Manzanita and an orange-red-flowered bush I don't know complete the roster of blooming plants in the campground.

Water still flowed in the Arroyo Seco, willows along the stream were full of new light-green foliage, and mule fat blossomed along the banks. Budding Blue dicks and a zillion small California poppy plants grow in the lower parts of the trail. Patches of the woolly-leaf yerba santa produce good shows of blue blooms. But wild cucumber is the star of the show all along the trail - I can't recall seeing so many plants in such full bloom on any other hike, from just past the Arroyo Seco crossing to at least 3000'.

A bicyclist had ignored the No bicycles sign and ridden the first mile or so of the trail.

Hoaryleaf ceanothus is just beginning to bloom. This trail should be spectacular in a few weeks, and an olfactory delight with the pleasant scent from those blooms. The tree poppies continue to produce a handful of blooms near 3000', and I saw a single deerweed in bloom there.

My 30 minutes of pruning cleared only 0.05 miles of trail this time, just enough to round the second-to-the-last southeastern switchback below the 3329' peak at about mile 2.6. It still is hard for me to understand why it took so long to prune such a short area of trail. It was probably due to pruning plants with many small stems growing into the trail area, compared with simply pruning off a few number of sturdier branches in previous prunings.

Once again I turned around at the stream crossing. Once again there were new cigarette butts that some inconsiderate smoker had left there. It's a real oddity for a smoker to make it that far along any trail, and even more unusual to be so environmentally unaware as to leave their butts on the ground. On the way down I picked up my usual single tick along tick heaven when I brushed against some branches.


29 April 2000

Dripping Springs Campground was closed! This is a new restriction due to the arroyo toad. Fortunately, one can still walk through the Campground to get to the trails, which are still open.

Dripping Springs Campground is still ablaze with blooms, but they are all different from a month ago. The barberry is nearly finished, the redbud is completely finished, but now the ground is covered with sun cups and the California lilac is in bloom.

Although I missed the peak bloom of hoaryleaf ceanothus at lower altitudes, the trail today is more stunning than any of the ~20 trails that I have hiked in 2000. In fact, it is more stunning than I ever imagined it could be! Popcorn flowers line the trail along much of its length. Near the beginning, they are joined by scads of small poppies, wild Canterbury bells and sun cups, all lining the trail in different spots. This section then passes to fields and fields of black sage, interspersed with fields and fields of thickleaf yerba santa! At 2900', these shows give way to good displays of tree poppies - I've never seen them so lush. Just beyond the tree poppies are hillsides of wild Canterbury bells.

And then, oh! the whitethorn ceanothus. I had to trim my way through countless branches of blooms, leaving the ground a carpet of flowers underneath a tunnel of flowers! Numerous wild peonies were blooming underneath the whitethorn. And then, farther up, the hoaryleaf ceanothus is in full bloom.

For comparison, last year, the poppies, for example, never even bloomed - they died before blooming! The ceanothus had a good bloom last year, but I don't remember the other blooms being such standouts.

Here's a more thorough report of the hike along the trail:

In addition to the dominant sun cups in the Campground, the air was filled with cottonwood fluff, which collected on the road like slush. Purple nightshade and whitethorn ceanothus bloomed at the end of the campground.

There was no water running across the trail at the Arroyo Seco, although there was flowing water just upstream that disappeared into the sand. A beautiful bush lupine was in full bloom on the other side of the creek, followed by a captivating bush full of white flowers that I didn't recognize.

Other blooms in the first mile: purple sweet pea, wild Canterbury bells, popcorn flower, ground pink, hoaryleaf ceanothus (ending), blue dicks, deerweed, black sage, wild peony, California poppy, yerba santa, morning glory, mustard, yucca, chia, pink stinging lupine and wishbone bush (California four o'clock).

The landscape then largely becomes fields of black sage and fields of thickleaf yerba santa, both in full bloom.

Going up the first set of switchbacks, golden eardrops and milkweed were just beginning to bloom, followed by whitethorn ceanothus and tree poppies in full bloom just before tick heaven. Other flowers: lotus, baby bush monkeyflowers, and even one single chamise with one stalk in full bloom. (Many other chamise were just forming buds.)

Above the stream crossing, the hoaryleaf, whitethorn and hairy ceanothus were in full lush bloom. I pruned my way through the whitethorn ceanothus from just above the stream crossing to the end of this patch 0.2 miles later.

Near the top of the second ridge, at about mile 5, the lovely Grinnell's penstemon was beginning to bloom, even as manzanita was ending. Near that point, 3-4 2" diameter tree trunks had fallen across the trail, pushing a fair amount of chaparral onto the trail. These "tree trunks" are probably the remnants of the "20' high giant manzanita and ribbonwood" that resulted from ~100 years without fire. However, their origin is difficult for me to deduce eleven years after they were burned in the 1989 fire. Someone had previously cut out the portions of the tree trunks that had blocked the trail, and I pruned the worst of the chaparral off the trail. More work needs to be done here.

Apparently, both the growth of the whitethorn and falling giant manzanita trunks are yearly problems for the trail.

On the way back, the black flies began to be a bit troublesome, making a rest stop somewhat unpleasant. I met a non-rattlesnake with its head down a hole along the trail that didn't budge as I passed by.

All in all, a simply stunning hike.

The pictures linked above are also referenced in the trail description: index of pictures.


11 June 2000

A variety of reasons, including many days of heat (high temperature over 90°) in the Temecula Valley, kept me from the trail in the last six weeks. I wanted to try to get in one last hike before the season ended, especially to check out the uppermost section of the trail.

Even though the predicted and actual Temecula high was 85°, and by starting at 9:30 a.m. the air temperature stayed between 76 and 80° as I climbed, it was a grueling experience due to too much heat, too much sun and far too many bugs.

The sun was essentially at its maximum elevation, only nine days from the summer solstice. The extreme lack of shade on the trail meant that every nearly every photon emitted by the sun in my direction contacted my skin. The intense sun, coupled with the lack of wind for much of the day, made the perceived temperature much hotter. Even that I could probably have survived if I could have spent some time in the few shady spots on the trail.

But the shady spots were denied to me by the large bug population. There were a variety of bugs, including nearly every species of fly, ranging from the buffalo gnats (black flies), to household flies, to horse flies, to the very large black flies that fly quick circles around you before landing on you. There were black beetle-like flies and I think there were even some mosquitoes thrown in for good measure.

The bugs were annoying as I hiked, but stopping produced an order of magnitude more bugs, driving one onward. The bugs also were more numerous in the shady spots. In the first significant shade at the stream crossing at (5.7 miles, 3760'), so many bugs descended on me that I finally turned around there. On my scale of 1 (no bugs) to 10 (the worst possible bugs), with 6 equal to the density that sends me packing to go inside, the bugs were a 3-4 until the first stream crossing at (3.8 miles, 3120') where they became a 4-5. The bugs kept getting worse until they jumped to a 7 rating where I turned around. That experience considerably hastened my trip downward to achieve my single-minded goal to get away from the bugs as quickly as possible!

This was a shame, since the trail still remains beautiful with flowers. The California buckwheat is in full glorious bloom, with hillsides covered with its soft white flowers, especially along tick heaven, accompanied by chamise in full bloom there. Some lovely yellow Mariposa Lilies with fringed edges of the petals, along with sunflowers, were scattered along a considerable of the trail. Woolly Blue Curls lined a portion of the trail through the ceanothus above the first stream crossing.

I was able to do some pruning on the part of the trail above the first stream crossing up to the point where I turned around. Some new ceanothus branches had intruded onto the trail after being weighted down with their seeds, and I removed all the major offenders.


2000 - 2001 season


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Copyright © 1999-2001 by Tom Chester.
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Last update: 6 February 2001.