By Bob Jacoby
It was a bright, sunny Sunday morning as 23 vehicles gathered at the beginning of the old Swarthout Logging Road in north San Bernardino. Since the average number of people per vehicle was well over two, this may have been one of the largest groups we have ever had on a single trip. We were very fortunate to have Nick Cataldo along on the trip. Nick probably knows more about the history of this area than anyone and was very informative throughout the trip. After introductions, sign-ins and the resolution of some mechanical problems, including an undiagnosed problem with Betty Wallin’s vehicle, the group got under way. The Swarthout Logging Road, which is now a Forest Service Road, was surprisingly scenic as we worked our way up the mountain. It was a relatively clear day, and the views of San Bernardino Valley below were exceptionally good. Our first stop was at the Jedediah Smith Monument atop a peak a good distance up the mountain. This monument commemorates Smith’s incredible journey through this area in, I believe, 1826. Smith was on his way from the San Gabriel Mission back to the Rockies. Our group was so large that when we stopped to visit the monument the line of vehicles stretched for a very long distance along the trail.
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We then proceeded on another very scenic forest service road down the other side of the mountain and were treated to a variety of views of Lake Silverwood down below. Things were much greener in this area than we expected, and the scenery was surprisingly interesting.
After traversing a horrible mile on pavement (Highway 138) we turned onto Cleghorn Road and started heading back toward the west. Cleghorn Road is infamous in the annals of my dirt road history as it is on this road where I rolled my Landcruiser and had to rescue it a week later with the assistance of none-other than Neal Johns. This time no one had any problems as we kept away from the nasty side roads and stayed on the main dirt road. After about three miles or so, we were able to see the actual Cajon Pass. I-15 does not go close to this site. However, Cleghorn Rd. offers excellent views of the actual pass along with the endless number of trains which are constantly going up and down the pass. We found a suitable lunch spot in this area, and everyone enjoyed lunch while taking in the scenery.
After lunch we headed down to Highway 138, and unfortunately had to drive on it for about a mile or so before we made a right turn on an obscure macadam road which turned out to be the original National Trails Highway. This was the forerunner to U.S. 66. We followed this road across the RR tracks and on up to a site where the group could view the remnants of John Brown’s Toll Road. The Toll Road was in operation by 1861 and offered a way to get wagons, etc. down the pass. The route of the Toll Road is still quite visible in several places.
With such a large group of vehicles the going was slow, and we were already running well behind schedule. But we pushed on and headed down a dirt road parallel to I-15. This was quite an interesting road as we eventually went under both railroad tracks and under both sides of I-15 as we headed for the Baldy Mesa area. After climbing the switchbacks up Baldy Mesa, we were offered more spectacular views of the Cajon Pass area down below from a totally different angle. We were very lucky it was a clear day.
One of the reasons for taking this road was to find the route the Mormons took when they entered Cajon Pass in 1851. We think we found the spot where they lowered their wagons. It must have been quite a challenge to get through this barrier! We then continued down a series of steep switchbacks and came out once again on our old friend Highway 138. At this point it was already nearly 4:00 p.m. and all but seven cars decided it was time to head for home. The rest of us meanwhile traversed over dirt roads to Lost Lake. Lost Lake is a sinkhole right on the San Andreas Fault. It has recently been “discovered” by the locals, but it is still a very unusual geological phenomenon. In the same area, we could clearly see the existence of the fault. We were glad there was not quake at that particular time.
Even though we had identified more interesting roads, it was late in the day and that proved to be a fitting ending to the trip. A good time was had by all, and the general feedback was that we should have more one day trips.
Editors Note: Betty Wallin’s truck problem turned out to be a small water hose ($1.50) and $166.00 to replace it.