I never thought I would find anything likeable about Los Angeles, until last week when I discovered the San Gorgonio Wilderness. Ok, this is really about an hour drive outside Los Angeles, but hard to believe an area so beautiful is near the smog city.
The San Gorgonio Wilderness is situated in the San Bernardino National Forest and it shares its name with Mt. San Gorgonio, rising from the south of the Wilderness and the tallest peak in southern California.
As I was visiting my sister in the area, we decided to hike the South Fork trail, one of the many trails in this wilderness. The trailhead with a large parking lot is already at 6,000 feet or so, but the to reach the summit at 11,500 feet, one must still hike about 9 miles and it's a relentless climb the whole way.
Since we had started the hike late (around noon) we knew that reaching the summit wasn't in the cards, but we managed to hike up about 6 miles before turning around to beat the dusk. According to some info I had read, South Fork is supposed to be the most popular trail from the group. I had dreaded running into big crowds, but surprisingly people were sparse, giving us a peaceful and serene hiking experience, being greeted with one splendid scenery after another.
The only excitement we had was spotting a black bear after we were about 2 miles into the trail. Not accustomed to seeing bears roaming freely, we were startled and decided to quietly retreat. After collecting our nerves we returned and fortunately the bear was nowhere in sight. Apparently we were the only ones who saw this magnificent animal.
As we wrapped up the hike, we vowed to return to this place and possibly the same trail, this time with the intention of reaching Mt. San Gorgonio's summit. Of course that requires a bit of will power to rise early to stretch our available daylight hours. Considering the reward, that shouldn't be an issue.
If you are in the area and want to give the San Gorgonio Wilderness a try, you'd need to obtain an adventure pass and a separate wilderness pass prior to visiting the area. While it's an inconvenience, these permits directly fund preservation projects and they are used to control the flow of the crowds in an area where open space is such a rare and fragile commodity.