Reply To: John's Meadow

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chris in redlands

Well, it’s not exactly the article, but if you expand the OCR text link at this page you can read an article from the September 18, 1973 edition of the Redlands Daily Facts. I suppose you could swing by the library and see the article itself, or start a trial subscription to the service on that page. Here’s some of the relevant text. Interestingly, it sound like in 1973, you had to scramble up forsee creek to get to it, as there’s no mention of the johns meadow trail. what the author describes doing in this piece sounds a lot like what i did a few weeks ago, even including crossing a giant cedar that formed a bridge across the creek. From the article:

“When my friend Don Bauer, the head ranger, sent me the new Forest Service map of our mountains I knew that I had to make a pilgrimage. Printed on the north slope of the Mt. San Bernardino massif were two new words: “John’s Meadow.” “Thus a new ‘official name’ has been born,” Don explained. “This is the first one to be approved for a feature of the San Gorgonio Wilderness since the enactment of the Wilderness Act in 1964.” “John” was John B. Surr— San Bernardino attorney, Redlands resident, and a mountain-loving man. While climbing Mt. San Bernardino by the Forsee creek ridge trail on October 6, 1971 with Dr. Gordon Witter of Redlands and Al Spencer of Camp Angelus, he died of a heart attack. His meadow, “John’s Meadow,” is not on that trail but, rather, approximately two miles west. Sunday morning Gordon and I drove up Route 38 to Forsee creek—24 miles from Redlands and four miles beyond Camp Angelus. Descending from the road to the canyon bottom we were walking through great clumps of red monkey flowers. Almost instantly the canyon shut in on either side and this was the true Forsee creek— a deep, narrow chute for the waters draining the central and westerly summits of Mt. San Bernardino. (That peak is the great pyramid that dominates the eastern skyline of Redlands.) We picked our way through waist-high currant thickets, climbed over dozens of logs that lie like jackstraws across the stream, and frequently climbed up on the steep sides because there was no other way. Where a great cedar log fell across the bottom, forming a high, natural bridge, we passed a yellow, backpacker’s tent. A smiling young man, bare from the waist up, and with shoulder length hair, emerged to chat for a minute. The bot’tom grew steadily steeper until the canyon made a sharp turn. Ahead of us was a waterfall about 20 feet high, and beyond, another of perhaps 40 feet. From there on we- scrambled up and along the canyon sides, finally mounting a high ridge. Suddenly Gordon said: “There is John’s Meadow.” We were looking across Forsee creek at the junction of its west fork. There was a bench between the two forks, openly forested with Jeffrey pine, white fir and incense cedar. The meadow is not flat and grassy, but is on the slope between the bench and the creek. The wet ground is covered with rank growth- waist high grass, ferns, yarrow and some passe lupine. On the bench we found two places where people had camped this summer. One party, we judged from the sleeping bag sites, might have had a dozen people in it. If they climbed the 1,200 feet of rise up Forsee creek they had quite a scramble. But they may have hiked cross country, following a “track” which is indicated on the Defenders map of the San Gorgonio Wilderness area. “How did John’s Meadow gets its name?” “Well,” Gordon explained, “it started as a sort of a joke. John took a bunch of us from Camp Angelus on a hike one day a number of years ago. Fran (Mrs. Surr) and Newt Williams were in the party and they weren’t used to hard going. “Fran and Newt were getting bushed and John kept telling them about this meadow that was just ahead… a little ways . . . just over the ridge … a thousand feet more.” By the time they reached the meadow, the credibility of the guide was at low ebb. Ever after when the hike was recalled, Newt would grin, and with mock scorn allude to “John’s Meadow.” When John died on Mt. San Bernardino, his son, John V. Surr of Washington D.C. took to the idea of making “John’s Meadow” official. Since John B. Surr had played an influential role in establishing the Wilderness.-and keeping it that way in the face of attack, Don Bauer and others joined the movement. The U.S. Board of Geographic Names made it official. So there it is—an intimate bit of meadow and benchland . . a tiny Shangri La of the mountains, a reward for those who are willing to climb “just over the ridge … a thousand feet more.””

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