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Interestingly, the San Gabriel Mountains Discussion Board started a new thread, CairnsOnly, dedicated to posting photos of cairns. Evidently there are tons of them in the San Gabriel Mountains, mainly big ones on summits, and they seem to have their enthusiasts. Not directly related to what we have been discussing here, which is cairns at least allegedly erected for route-finding purposes.
I am very much in agreement. I understand the use of cairns, signs, rock and branch barriers, etc. to keep people on the true trail, and support it. Perhaps that is why the giant cairns on Mt. Langley were erected by the USFS/USNPS, since that route lends itself to people wandering about. I wish something would be done about the proliferation of use paths on Baldy. There seems to be no equivalent of SGWA there. And I believe that off-trail cairns are unsafe to rely on.
Understood. I thought you were referring to East San Bernardino Peak, with which I am either not familiar or is lost to my memory cells. I am very familiar with the long switchback above Limber Pine Bench, and it certainly would not take much snow to cover it.
Route-finding in snow is certainly often a problem, though less so today with GPS. I can see that a few cairns could be helpful. But they could also be covered by the next storm. And they suffer from the same problem as following other people’s tracks in snow: who laid them, where were they going, did they know where they were going?
If I am opposed to cairns, I must be opposed to trails? I won’t bother to comment on that.
I have made plenty of route-finding mistakes in my time, costing me time, effort and aggravation, and in some cases being risky as well. I can’t say cairns have had much to do with them, one way or another. In the great majority of cases, there were no cairns. When I do see a cairn, I notice it, but I don’t particularly trust it. I regard them as more due to individuals who like to leave their mark on the wilderness, than as a navigation aid that can be trusted.
And, once again, we now have GPS. Whatever the arguments once were for cairns, GPS is far better, and easily available by installing an app and map.
I am curious, where were the cairns on the East San Bernardine Peak trail? Trails in the SGW are generally very clear, and the only error you can make is taking a wrong turn, something that can make a sign useful, but not a cairn. There are use trail spurs to summits, but Hundred Peaks Section route-descriptions and GPS are aids that can be trusted and leave no mark.
I climbed Langley in the mid-1970’s from New Army Pass. There were not only no cairns, I don’t recall a use trail, or any other sign of human passage from New Army Pass to the summit. Route-finding was absolutely no problem. And I am not a great route-finder.
I object to cairns for esthetic reasons. While they can be helpful for navigation, I don’t consider that to be a justification for their existence. Route-finding is part of the challenge of cross-country hiking and mountaineering. And now we have GPS.
Also I think it can be unwise to trust them for navigation, because you often don’t know who put them up. Some people simply like to mark their passage and imagine they are helpful, for reasons I don’t comprehend. The worst case of this I know of is on the Skyline Trail in Palm Springs, where twice someone has painted markers on the rocks in recent years, and in places where the trail is perfectly clear.
I am with you. I am a cairn-hater, and always have been. And there is no need for them today with GPS. Same for stone wind shelters on summits. I admit to having sheltered in them on windy days. But I don’t think they should be there.
Second what Mike said, and suggest a day pack. Not what you would call a particularly short and and easy hike from Dry Lake to the summit and back, and plenty to carry: water, lunch, extra clothing (it can be cold and windy higher up), headlamp, map, phone, wallet, keys, etc.
- This reply was modified 6 months, 2 weeks ago by Ed.
I have only hiked Duck Pass in the summer. Not so fond of the lower trail, even in the summer, but love the upper trail, the view from the pass, and the territory beyond. Sounds like quite a battle with spring conditions.05/20/2021 at 9:48 am in reply to: 10k Ridge Loop: Possible Marijuana Grow Fish Creek? #5248
Second what Dave said about balloons. They send me off in a way that few things do. So many end up in places where they are difficult to retrieve, and they are so glaringly out of place.
One more comment. Theft might be more of a problem in the Vivian Creek camp area, than at the higher camps. Since I have never backpacked San Gorgonio, I would defer to the opinions of others on that subject.
Second what others have said. The Tom Harrison map is perfect, because it has elevations of key points on the trail and the distances between them. You can find it at any of the REI’s in the San Diego area. There is also a digital version. It works with the free Avenza app, and is available for both iPhones and Androids. I recommend the digital version for cross-country and snow trips, because you can locate yourself quickly on the map, but it is not necessary for trail hiking.
The Vivian Creek camp area is low compared to Halfway Camp and High Creek, but has advantages: roomy, shady, and water right there. Makes sense for the three day trip from San Diego you outlined. But the mosquitos can be bad in the evening! I would take mosquito repellant, and suitable mosquito-proof clothing.
Shawn had a post, under SGW Reopening?, which I believe is a well-stated version of his understanding of the official reasons. There is a hint there that they are following a protocol. If it is mandated from a higher level, it would make it more understandable, but I have never seen that said anywhere. They seem to be completely uninterested in justifying what they do to the public. I have never had any luck communicating with the forest service, and I think it is clear they are not interested in our views. What they are doing is completely consistent with what they did with the Mountain and Lake Fires, and those closures were for years. I expected that the Mountain Fire closure would have serious pushback from the PCT hikers, but that never seemed to happen. I think it would take pushback from organized groups and media coverage to reverse their policies.
This national forest has a history of closing large areas for years after a fire, for briefly-stated safety reasons which seem highly questionable to many users. I think that invites speculation and criticism. Some of it may be unwarranted, but it is very natural and predictable. These are areas where people die every winter, and the national forest does not even issue a few pages of advice on winter safety. The idea that they suddenly become so unsafe that entry must be banned because the chances of a tree falling on someone has increased does make one wonder about how decisions are being made.
All the experts agree that population increase and spread, drought, and climate change are major factors. The related issues of fuel and forest management are far more controversial than is often represented, particularly as represented by CalFire, the USFS, and the logging industry. For example, see this page and many others from the California Chaparral Institute for a different point of view.
The CCI is in favor of community protection programs, but presents plenty of evidence that forest management is ineffective to harmful. I would not describe myself as a total convert to their point of view, but the evidence they marshal is impressive. On the practical side, I simply don’t see how you can manage the forests once you are any distance from communities and roads. Not at any price the public is willing to pay, regardless of whether the price is measured in dollars or loss of wilderness.
Can’t say I am a forestry or wildfire expert, and I believe there are debates among the experts over these issues. But it did occur to me that the many downed trees referred to may be due to higher temperatures, drought, insects, etc., rather than not enough fires. The trees become weaker, and more likely to go down in a winter storm. I certainly don’t remember the many downed trees across the trails after every winter that are normal now back in the 1970’s. Also, mature forests don’t usually have much brush on the ground, they tend to be more park-like, because of the weak sunlight. I would like to know the sources for some of the comments made.