I had hiked the trail to the top many times from about 1990 to 1994. In fact, I had the good (or not) fortune to have camped at the top of trail during a snowstorm. I had opened up the trail at the top enough to make it fair easy to get through and not get lost. I came back to the area again 1999, but the top part again was overgrown. Nearly got lost, which is a terrible feeling since you can not bushwhack in that country.
I rarely ever saw anyone on the upper portions of the trail. In April or May of 1994, I climbed to the top with a friend and our dogs. We were sitting right at the end, a few yards down on the Palomar-Magee, when a hiker approached. Our dogs started barking at him. We both thought they were barking at a squirrel, but when we saw it was a person, we both jumped up to grab the dogs. The hiker was mad. He said that he had been bitten once by someone's dog while hiking. We exchanged words. He then continued on, entering the Dripping Springs Trail and started down. I thought maybe he was going to tell the Rangers at the bottom and in fact, there was a ranger at the end of the campground, but they were taking a break and not interested in us. Anyway, I always felt bad about that exchange. It was very unlike me to not understand his fear and anger. If that hiker happens to be reading this, I apologize.
In December of 1996, I camped out at the top. Here is something I wrote right after that trip:In coming up the Dripping Springs Trail, in the Cleveland National Forest, I notice the absolute beauty of the semi-arid terrain. It is just as I remembered it from my last hike, over two years ago: the same landmarks, the burnt-out hillside which is just above 42 plateau; the trail marker I put in place to mark where it crosses the gully; the rockside along the trail, no higher than man-height, but the geology I'm sure, says something incredibly interesting; I just don't have the knowledge to read it.
Still higher I climb. I round the knoll and see a glimpse of the top of the trail and the white domes of Palomar Mountain Observatory. In the deep and hidden ravine, I can hear the water of a stream that is feed from the mossy ground below the trail top. The next knoll shows me the old dead Coulter pine tree. It is huge and still standing even after 7 years since the fire that killed it. At this point I know the top of the trail is near. Marcy I think knows it too.
Twenty more minutes of moving up the trail, through thick brush. I finally breakout into the live oak grove. Marcy knows this part well as she races ahead. There is the old sign. Still barely up. I'm surprised the Forest Service has not replaced it.
Later that evening, my tent up, finished eating the MRE meal, I strolled up the trail. The Moon is already out and is big and full. It is twilight, as we use to say on the ship. Time to start shooting stars. On this beautiful, soft evening, the Moon is lighting up the entire countryside. Marcy certainly is enjoying it. She is running way ahead, then runs back, crisscrossing into the woods. As the night inevitably deepens, the stars become harder in their brightness.
Marcy is my Australian Shepherd dog and 42 Plateau is on the topo. I didn't know what else to name this area.