Destination: Coon Creek Jumpoff
After yesterdays heat, we all rose early today. We had a tough but fun day ahead of us. Today we were going up Mission Creek Canyon. We were also shooting to climb close to 6000 feet in elevation, to regain much of what we lost coming down from Black Mountain Road to Interstate 10.
Rising early we started our climb up Mission Creek. The ascent up the low flowing creek allowed us over 25 crossings as we bounced between the east and west sides of the small canyon. While some can get irritated by the numerous crossings, I enjoyed the constant demand on my brain. Finding the appropriate rock hopping path across the creek can keep the mind from getting bored (which lends itself to harder hiking).
The canyon offered us great shade late into the day, limiting the amount of sun exposure. Our ascent through the granite gorge was filled with alder, willow and cottonwood, interrupted by various cacti and yucca plants.
Reaching an elevation of nearly 6000 feet, and leaving Riverside County for San Bernadino County, we began seeing the incense-cedars, and Jeffrey pines that generate a softer tread for walking on. The trail continued to climb, as it crossed a few quartzite rockslides, which generate a strange sense of music underfoot, as the rocks grind across one another, one can almost picture the sounds mimicking a symphonic orchestra tuning up for a rehearsal.
We continued our ascent to Mission Creek Trail Camp, where we planned to do lunch. At this point we had already gained a little over 4000 feet, which can be tiresome in one go. I decided to lift everyone's spirits a little. I fabricated a story about the history of Mission Creek. I went into a detailed story of Father Uza, a missionary who assisted on the transcontinental railroad. After being discollared by the vatican for stealing alcohol, he retreated to these hills, where he and a collective of follows sought spiritual enlightenment through alcohol consumption.
At this point, I pulled out a bottle of tequila, a lime, and salt, that I had hidden in my bag for the last few days. I wished everyone a happy Cinco De Mayo. We passed the bottle around, taking shots in turn. This was made even better by the fact that Apricots had said earlier, "man, I would have sacrificed some food weight to have a little tequila for the holiday."
After lunch and shots we looked over the next leg, which was said to have steep snow chutes. We knew that crossing the chutes in the morning would be dangerous, so we opted for trying to get as much done as possible today. We packed up our bags and continued our climb into the mountains.
Reaching an elevation of over 8500 feet, we were given excellent views of San Gorgonio peak between the pine trees. As the sun was setting, wind picked up, and we were getting cold. Unfortunately any decent flat spot was fairly exposed, and would result in a very noisy cold evening. Besides, several of us agreed to hike all the way to Coon Creek Jumpoff, where it was rumored to have a shelter.
Making a gradual descent down a road to where we planned to camp, we found a note from Uncle Tom. Apparently there was a shelter. Apricots, Train, The Mayor and I were delighted to find a large cabin with a plume of smoke billowing out of a chimney. Once inside we dropped our bags and treated ourselves to a double dinner, as we had excess food.
Shelter tonight, steady downhill walk tomorrow. It's great how the days unfold with magic all about.
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