Posted by: David and Deirdre Hayward | February 3, 2012

Pineknot Trail – Big Bear

January 12th 2012

6.7 miles       1,300′ elevation gain

There is a lack of snow in Big Bear so not much skiing going on. This means we were able to get a good deal on a cabin for two nights mid-week. Yesterday, on arrival, we hiked the Castle Rock Trail, a mere couple of miles made slow and difficult in places by the layer of ice frozen on top of some remaining snow patches. Today, we will be a little better prepared and will go up the Pineknot Trail to Grand View Point. We last did this in July of 1999 with Dee’s sister, her husband and my nephew all visiting from England. Today it will be a little cooler than then, mid-20s overnight and 39 degrees as we leave the cabin.

The trail begins at the Aspen Glen Picnic area which is just a short hop from the cabin and no problem ( for tomorrow we had planned to take the Siberia Creek Trail to Gunsight but the forest road to the trailhead is closed for the season). We park in the empty lot and as we put on our packs a dog walker passes and asks ” Going for a hike?” Astute fellow! The trail from the parking lot is well-marked and being wide and open is a mixture of slush and ice. As we progress into more shaded areas the trail itself has a thick layer of ice on top and we skirt around where possible on the softer snow at the edge of the trail. Progress is slow, enough of this, we put our traction “chains” on our boots.  We cross a frozen creek, then enter a snow and ice-free area as the trail climbs gently through the trees. It appears that Dee’s “chains” don’t match and we try to remember where we bought them. After a while I realize that she has one on back-to-front! We hesitate about taking them off, but decide that we might encounter additional ice and so having made the necessary adjustment, we plod on. As the trail switchbacks around we are treated to a view of Big Bear Lake. The trail straightens out as we climb gently through the pine forest, and yes we are glad we kept our boot grips in place. They seem to work very well, although we try to avoid the worst of the ice, only to sink in about a foot of snow at the edge of the trail. We pass through some meadow areas where the track is less well-defined under its smattering of snow, but on reaching Deer Group Camp we know we are on the right route.

Not too far beyond the campground we cross a flat open area and reach the junction of 1E01 (our trail) and 2N10. Here at a saddle, and the trailhead for the Seven Oaks Trail, the view is magnificent and we pause for a while to enjoy it. The sun and wind have combined to eliminate most of the snow here. We climb the remaining 1/2 mile to the aptly named Grand View Point. The view is magnificent from the 7,784′ rocky outcrop. I descend a little farther for an even better view, unobstructed by trees. What a place for lunch. Dee is reluctant to scramble down, so I return to the rocky outcrop which is a fine substitute. The view across the basin of th Santa Ana River to Mt. San Gorgonio and the surrounding peaks is stunning. I have read that Catalina can be seen on a clear day, but clear though it is we cannot see the island. Our lunch includes a welcome flask of hot soup but just as we are beginning, our peace is broken by two dogs who seem interested in our snack. They are closely followed by their owners, a young man and woman, who apologise profusely and then move down to the lower view point. After lunch I want to revisit the lower rocks to take pictures and the dogs and owners obligingly reappear on their return journey. We chat for a few minutes and enlist the young man as our photographer – saves setting up the gorilla tripod!

After taking our fill of pictures we retreat the way we came, stopping again at the saddle for additional photo taking. We have not really been cold in spite of the mid-40s temperature but stop at the campground for our flask coffee on the return. Here there is an interesting solar toilet, but the drifted snow within suggests that the toilet seat is not solar heated! The descent is enjoyable, if uneventful. Aided by our boot accessories, we are more confident on the ice, which is melting in places ready to refreeze at night. Back at the car, the temperature is 44 degrees. We return to our cabin for warm drinks.

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