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2000 Trip Report - Cajon Pass Day Trip

Cajon Pass Day Trip

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.